It usually starts with a plate; I can’t count the number of times a pattern has inspired a coordinating baked good, often a cake, but sometimes cupcakes or cookies.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a most forgiving “paint”. All it takes is a box of gel colourings, a palette knife, patience, and voila! Edible centrepiece.

The melon-coloured frosting base was a bit more rustic than I would have liked, but let’s pretend it’s Tuscan plaster.

Once the bodies of the dancing hares were in place, it was simply a matter of adding some flowers and grass.

Though there were several different animals from which to choose, I stuck with just the hares for this cake, but the owls on a turquoise base could be fun next time!


To add visual and gustatory interest, I made two layers of white cake—one orange and the other English toffee-flavoured. The chocolate layer is a separate batter.


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Dancing Hares Cake

The inspiration for this cake was a set of plates by Starla Michelle Halfmann—the psychedelic colours and abstract watercolour depictions of dancing hares, owls and foxes appealed to my bizarre sense of humour.



For the two white cake layers

  • 85 g or 3 oz unsalted butter
  • 200 g or 1 1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 240 g or c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 183 g or ¾ c milk
  • 3 drops LorAnn Orange flavour plus orange gel food colouring
  • 3 drops LorAnn English Toffee Flavour

For the chocolate cake layer

  • 30 g or 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 50 g or ½ c hot water or coffee
  • 100 g or 7/8 c all-purpose flour
  • 200 g or 1 c granulated sugar
  • 50 g or ½ c cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 56 g or ¼ c vegetable oil
  • 120 g or ½ c yoghurt

For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream*

  • 150 g egg whites (from five large eggs)
  • 300 or c granulated sugar
  • 454 g or 1 lb butter cubed and at room temperature
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 5 ml or 1 tsp vanilla

Speciality items

  • LorAnn English Toffee and Orange flavourings
  • Gel food colouring (I use Americolor)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have all ingredients at room temperature.
  2. Butter and flour three 7” cake pans, or if you’re using baking spray, apply just before filling the pans. Add parchment to the bottom of the pan you will use for the chocolate cake and spray or butter the parchment. Tip: add wet cake strips to the outside of the pans; this will give you lovely flat layers.

Make the vanilla cake layers

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, egg whites, vanilla, yoghurt, and milk. The batter will look curdled; this is normal. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Do not overmix the batter.
  3. Using a kitchen scale, divide the batter evenly into two batches.
  4. Add the orange food colouring and three drops LorAnn orange flavouring to one portion. Transfer the batter to one of the prepared cake pans.
  5. To the other, add the three drops LorAnn English Toffee flavouring. Transfer the batter to one of the prepared cake pans.
  6. Bake both layers for 30–35 minutes, or until they begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and the centres spring back to the touch.
  7. Cool the layers in the pans for 15 minutes before removing them and letting them cool completely.

Make the chocolate cake layer

  1. In a small bowl, combine the chocolate with the hot water or coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Tip: secure the bowl over a bowl of ice to bring down the temperature more quickly.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the eggs, vanilla, vegetable oil and yoghurt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Do not overmix the batter.
  4. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan and the centre springs back to the touch.
  5. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan and invert the cake onto a rack. Carefully remove the parchment paper and let the cake cool completely.

Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl (I use stainless steel) and whisk until combined. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Continue to whisk until the mixture reaches 160°F or until it’s not grainy between your fingers.
  2. Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with a whisk attachment until you get glossy, room temperature peaks. Tip: hold a couple of bags of frozen peas or corn against the outside of the bowl to bring the temperature down quickly.
  3. With the mixer running on medium-low, add small chunks of softened butter, one at a time. Take your time with this—let the butter incorporate fully before you add the next piece (5–10 minutes). Don’t panic if the mixture gets soupy. Just keep beating. You can’t overbeat it, and it will come together in the end.

Assemble the cake

  1. Place the chocolate cake layer on a turntable. Fill with a layer of frosting. Top with the orange cake layer; fill with a layer of frosting. Top with the English Toffee layer and crumb coat the cake. Refrigerate until firm (15–30 minutes).
  2. Set aside about a cup of Swiss buttercream to be tinted into various colours to decorate the cake. Colour the remaining frosting into a deep melon; frost the cake with it, thoroughly smoothing the surface. Refrigerate until firm (15–30 minutes).
  3. Using the back of a rimmed baking sheet as a palette, tint a portion of frosting grey/blue. Use a palette knife to make the ears and bodies of the dancing hares. Tint small portions of frosting in different colours and add layers of coloured to the hares. Continue adding the parts of the hares that have some relief, like the arms and legs. Add the flowers and grass. Chill the cake thoroughly before serving.


*adapted from Preppy Kitchen



  • Author: Helen Kain