It's possible to get professional results with less-than-professional equipment -- or at least come close enough. Here are some tips we learned in trying to replicate Ross Sveback's Shades of Love cake at home.
• Sveback used Americolor gel food coloring for his shades in increments of Soft Pink and Electric Pink for the cake tones, and Holiday Red and Tulip Red for the frosting. Or you can use a red food coloring in varying amounts to create four shades of pink.
• Instead of using and cleaning a pastry bag between each frosting color, we used plastic sandwich bags. Just make sure the tip fits snugly into the hole you snipped in the corner.
• Sveback likes the look of a tall 6-inch cake (it took us back to days of Easy-Bake ovens), but should you not want to buy new ones, the more common 8-inch pans will work, too.
• The frosting recipe makes about 7 cups, which is more than the 5 to 5 1/2 cups you'll need for the cake. If you are baking 8-inch layers, you'll want the extra frosting. Otherwise, freeze it to use on cupcakes or a sheet cake -- or even put it between graham crackers to create a snack for the kids. Our recipe here is actually half of Sveback's recipe, who says if you're going to spend the time making frosting, you may as well make a lot.
• Using an offset spatula, which bends where it meets the handle, makes frosting easier.
• Sveback says the cake holds well up to a week if kept chilled and the cut surface wrapped. If you have a large enough bowl (we used the one from our salad spinner), invert it over the cake to cover it.