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Square pink rose ombré cake by Sarah’s Pastries & Candies 

Round burgundy ombré ruffle cake by Sarah’s Pastries & Candies

Fade In, Fade Out

Inspired by the runways, one Chicago pastry chef is translating the season’s hottest fashion trend—ombré, or color fading—onto bold and beautiful cakes.  

From color-faded frocks at Louis Vuitton to shaded sheaths at Etro, on the runways, ombré is all the rage. And the look is translating to beauty trends, too: Drew Barrymore, Jessica Biel and Julia Roberts have all been seen sporting graduated hair hues.

So it makes perfect sense that this fashion-forward fading effect, with its seamless mix of layered color, would eventually find its way into the world of weddings—and onto cakes.

Sarah Levy of Sarah’s Pastries & Candies first started getting requests for ombré cakes earlier this year. “It’s fun because you can do so many different things with it,” says the pastry chef, who prides herself on decadent desserts (one of Levy’s cakes won a $10,000 prize on the Food Network Challenge last year). “Ombré is a contemporary design that lends itself to a range of colors and shapes.”

To make the most of the color treatment, Levy, with her head cake designer, Sunny Lee, likes to pair the ombré look with another on-trend cake embellishment: fondant ruffles. “Combine the two and you get an abstract floral look, almost like a giant rose that’s petals are being peeled away,” says Levy.

But while the end result has an effortless quality to it, the process is anything but. “Since it’s all done by hand, it’s very labor-intensive,” says Levy, a graduate of the French Pastry School of Chicago. “There are no shortcuts, and you have to get it right the first time.” To create the ruffles, thin strips of rolled fondant are adhered starting at the top of the cake, with each one carefully thinned out at the ends with the fingertips. Once attached, an airbrush is used to apply the color—slower, more frequent rotations for darker shades; faster and fewer for the lighter.

As expected, the hours of work put in on these colorful confections do affect the cost of the cake. A couple can expect to pay $15 per person for a cake similar to those shown here. But, “it’s well worth it,” says Levy. “This isn’t just a bright pink cake.”

Next month, Sarah’s Pastries & Candies will be moving from Oak Street into its new, larger location at 1165 N. State St., 312.664.6223. Also available at Macy’s, 111 N. State St., 312.781.3004