How to make a Rainbow Cake

How to make a Rainbow Cake

This is a really simple surprise to rustle up for a birthday cake – I made this one for Dylan’s (one of my boys) birthday recently.   Having seen, and tasted, a great deal of things the boys are now quite difficult to amaze.  So, I made this cake in secret – think of me as you read the instructions – trying to hide cake mix, cooked cakes and decorate the blooming thing without anyone seeing!  And yes it was definitely worth it to see the look on his face x

 

Ingredients:

Cake

500g butter, softened

500g caster sugar

10 eggs, large

500g self raising flour

Gel colour pastes (Available from Lakeland and Amazon, these are heat stable and very intense so a little goes a long way, a set is definitely a good investment.)

Filling

70g butter, softened

200g cream cheese

400g icing sugar, sifted

 

Preheat the oven to 160c fan/180c/Gas Mark 4.

Gather together your tins for baking.  I was making this cake into Dylan’s favourite book so I wanted rectangular cakes.  I used a baking tray and a roasting tin the same size.

Using baking paper I folded a pleat in the middle of a large sheet used it to line each tin.  That way I could bake four at a time.  The quantities will work in round tins approx 7-8″ but if you don’t have enough then you will need to bake in stages cleaning and re-lining the tins in between.

So the tins are ready, time to make the cake.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs gradually one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with each.  Make sure they are mixed in well before adding the next.

Once all the eggs are incorporated fold in the remaining flour and mix until smooth.

Try not to beat it at this stage otherwise large air bubbles are formed which create pockets in the finished cake.

Take five bowls, recite Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain….

what a raggle taggle bunch of bowls!

I’m not adding the indigo or violet of the rainbow but feel free to go to six layers if you prefer!

Divide the cake mixture between the bowls.

Take a little of the red gel paste colour, recite Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain…. and mix well into the first bowl of cake mix,

Continue colouring the bowls the correct colours.

Now back to the first bowl, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain…, beat it well again and add it to the first cake tin.  Spread it over the base.  The layer is fairly thin so take your time.

Continue until all the mixture is in the tins, ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’….

Bake them in the oven for 18-20 minutes until cooked and springy to the touch.

Cool in the tins for five minutes before lifting out carefully onto a wire cooling rack.  If you’re doing double cakes like I’ve done then sliding them out from one end works best.

Allow to cool completely.  (Whilst making sure no-one sees them, even though they can smell cake deny all knowledge!)

Now to prepare the filling.  Dylan had requested a ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ book for his birthday cake so I’m covering it in sugarpaste but would be just as lovely completely covered with frosting if you prefer, in which case you will need to make a double quantity.

Beat the butter until super soft.

Add the cream cheese and mix until combined.

Now beat in the icing sugar.  If your frosting is quite runny chill it in the fridge before going any further.

Take the first cake for the base (Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain…. but backwards). My sheet cakes are fairly level and I will be cutting it into shape but if your cakes are round and have a dome on level them off with a serrated bread knife.

I use a flexi-type chopping mat for decorating cakes on and then transfer to a board later, if you’re just frosting then place it on the plate that you’re serving it on.

Spread with a thin layer of frosting and the stack the next layer on top (Richard Of York…you get the idea, but you might as well  join me with what runs through my head when I’m doing it!)

Another layer of frosting – not too much between the layers or they will start to slide around and be unstable.

Continue until you have all the cakes stacked together.

Before doing any trimming, chill the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours.  This helps when you come to cut it, the crumbs don’t rip and you will get a nice clean cut.

Trim the chilled cake into shape, using a bread knife.

Apply a thin layer of frosting to the top of the cake.

Now turn your attention to the sides working on one at a time.  Use a palette knife to spread the frosting over the side.  You are looking for a scant layer, putting it on and almost scraping it off until the whole side is covered right down to the base.  Work carefully  as you get towards the corners.  It’s a bit like plastering (well I imagine it is, I’ve never done it).  Work your way around the cake covering each side.

Turn your attention back to the top and smooth in the edges.

Place the cake back in the fridge to chill until the frosting is firm to the touch (a couple of hours).

Once chilled, the cake is ready to be decorated with sugarpaste or given a good thick second layer of frosting.

The finished birthday cake…? Here we go – Diary of a Wimpy Kid for Dylan, 9.

How to make a Rainbow Cake

How to make a Rainbow Cake

  
Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire

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151 Responses to How to make a Rainbow Cake

  1. Cookie jar says:

    Brillant. Bet the birthday boy was delighted with his cake.

  2. Jem says:

    I’ve been really keen for a tutorial on these since seeing a stunning one on Pinterest – lethal website but so lovely and worth checking out if you haven’t already!

    xXx

  3. Dragonfly says:

    Oh this is fab! I think I will be making it for my nephew who’s birthday is coming up, he’ll love it!

  4. lisa says:

    Wow, that looks brilliant!! I made my daughter a rainbow cake last year. It had 6 layers, & was covered in white frosting, she loved it. It was a total surprise when we cut into it. However I used liquid food coouring, so the colours werent bright like I wanted them to be. Guess I’l be investing in some gel pastes for the next one I make.xx

  5. Lauren says:

    You are amazing! First to have the idea, second to make it and hide the flipping thing, third to be so good at drawing. Thank you for sharing your ideas so generously, I hope everything is going really well for you.

  6. Kirstin says:

    Thanks for the How To. I have conned my flatmate into making one of these for my birthday and these instructions are way better than the ones I found on American sites.

  7. Tracey Jackson says:

    I came to see you last night in Brownhills to raise money for DiabitesUK and u mentioned the rainbow cake so thought i would find it on your website. I am going to have go for my little girl birthday. Just wanted to say i really enjoyed the cupcakes you abked and really enjoyed the demonstration.

  8. Bernice says:

    Looks amazing. got a four year daughter to make a cake for on halloween. I’ll keep you posted on how it comes out x.

  9. Love love love this! And love the thought of you secretly making all the multicoloured layers and hiding them from the kids :-) How did you manage? When I was little my brother always managed to hunt out any interesting food…even in the child proof cupboards! Bookmarked for when I have kids of my own :-)

  10. Emily says:

    Thanks for this – looks fantastic! Can you give us a tutorial on the decoration, too?

  11. helen says:

    i cant find the gel food colouring could you let me know what brand it is thanks x

  12. Dominic says:

    genius… stunning… fabulous… and you’re very brave with your ‘cooking four at a time’ throw away remark!… show off! xx

  13. Kezia says:

    Wow! What a cake. Was the book also made out of sugar paste?

  14. Nikki Thomas says:

    Wow! That is a cake with real wow factor – it’s brilliant! I am definitely going to give it a go

  15. Janice says:

    Cool cake. Not sure I’d like to eat all the colouring but nine year olds don’t have those kind of foibles!

  16. Mieke says:

    Wow, what a super-duper-mum you are!!!
    Them lucky boys ;-)

  17. mary jones says:

    what a great idea Ruth. it looks so good will certainly try it out for the grandchildren. All good wishes.

  18. Wow, what a fabulous cake to have for your birthday. Lucky Dylan to have a mum like you.

  19. Christine B says:

    This is awesome, what a neat way to surprise your son! The colours look so gorgeous. Well done!

  20. nicola says:

    That is fantastic! I’d love to try making a rainbow cake. I do have the gel pastes so no excuses! My boys would go crazy over this cake, they love DOAWK!

  21. Sarah says:

    I think this looks amazing. I’m going to try this with cupcakes. And spread a thin layer of each colour onto of each colour then bake together. I’m thinking that a swirl effect might happen. Thanks Ruth.

  22. Julie says:

    Ruth – it looks amazing and very well recounted here on your website. As ever you are so inspiring!

  23. Jessica says:

    Such an awesome effect! Will have to try it some time when I don’t mind doing a load of washing up! :)

  24. bethbutcher says:

    That’s such a good idea! I have a little boy and am struggling to come up with idea’s for his cake that he would like. It’s really effective :)

  25. Fiona says:

    Ruth, you must be a mindreader! My daughter wanted to make and decorate a rainbow cake as part of an art project. Think you may just have saved my “will to live!”

    Thanks

  26. EVIE says:

    Oooooh, I’m definitely going to try this, I have a sneaking suspicion that my son might love this just a little bit!

  27. Leanne says:

    OMG! Are you trying to poison your child???? Sooooo many chemicals! Pretty, but I wouldn’t eat it!

  28. Harriet says:

    This looks really awesome :)
    I might bake one for my friends birthday, thanks again for the recipe! x

  29. Abbie M says:

    Going to attempt the rainbow next week for my boyfriends birthday – he is 24 going on 10! I just have a quick question regarding quantities; roughly how much batter would you put in each tin if you are using 8″ round tins? Thanks!

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  31. kerry says:

    Ruth you are amazing, I am in awe of you. I would love to have the confidence to try this cake.

  32. Tamsin says:

    Wow! Looks fantastic! I was just wondering, could you use (eg the liquid food colouring instead of the gel pastes – would this mess up the consistency of the cake? Thanks

    • Normal liquid colours will alter the consistency of the cake mixture, also they aren’t heat stable so the colour can disappear during baking. The gel paste colours are intense and you only need a little bit – they’re the best for guaranteed results! Xx

  33. Paula says:

    I am stealing this idea for my twin boys’ 10th birthday at the end of December. That should give me enough time to pluck up the courage!

  34. Alison says:

    This is exactly what I was looking for for my soon-to-be 4 year old rainbow-mad daughter. Only thing is that I am having trouble locating the colour gel paste on Lakeland and Amazon. Is there a specific brand I should be searching for? Thanks!

  35. Alison says:

    Made this yesterday evening (only took 3 hours) and it was well worth it for the ‘ooh’s and ‘wow’s as we cut into it today. I split your recipe into six colours, in 8″ round tins, using the Wilton colour gels you recommended. Definitely think it is worth chilling it for ease of cutting. Many thanks!

  36. Christine says:

    I made this recipe today with 6 colours and the recipe divided easily into the six lots. I used ordinary food die, Queen brand that you get in supermarkets (in Australia). I made sure I put a fair amount in and it still looked great. The bottles only cost $1 each for 50mls. The cake looked great and certainly impressed the table!

  37. Jay says:

    Thank you – this is amazing. Whenever people see a rainbow cake, they freak out at the colours/chemicals/additives. BUT even without a rainbox cake, the average party has haribo, a dreaded pinata full of sweets, etc. etc. I don’t think there is anything wrong with sarnies, veg, fresh fruit and a rainbow cake. Also, I came across a blog/site which showed how to use natural ingredients to make food colourings if you are that way inclined (will try and locate). Probably wouldn’t look as fantastic, but would still give the effect (?).

  38. Laura says:

    Hi,

    I’m after some Pink Whisk expert advice! I treated myself to an 8 colour set of Wilton gel colours, and used it for the first time today. I was making a red velvet cake, and despite using 5 cocktail sticks dipped in the gel, i couldn’t get it above a murky brown colour which was very dissapointing. Do you think this is because the recipe also called for 50g cocoa powder (which was the only other colour substance involved) and you just can’t turn cocoa red? In which case how does everyone do it? I don’t want to be put off my new colours but the first go didn’t work as planned :( Thank you, any help would be very much appreciated!

    • Hi Laura, reds (and blacks!) can be a bit tricky and take more colouring than the others I tend to dip the tip of a table knife in and use that, however 50g of cocoa powder seems like quite a lot and combatting the brown of that will be difficult. Cocoa powder content on red velvet cakes tends to be about 1/6th the amount of flour in the recipe. Try taking the cocoa down to 30g, you’ll still get the taste through, and pick up a blob of colouring with a knife rather than using a cocktail stick and see how you get on! Hope that helps, Ruth x

  39. Laura says:

    P.S, I’m sorry for asking this Q here but it’s the only gel paste post I could find upon thinking ‘Ruth would know’! All the best xx

  40. beth says:

    I absolutly LOVE this!
    And this is exactly what I am looking for!
    My best friend and I share the same birthday, and she is Dr Who mad! I thought i would bake her a rainbow cake in the shape of a Tardis, so this is the perfect recipie for me as it happens to be of similar shape, an english recipe and the same colour! I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to ice it? Thanks! x

  41. Vicky says:

    Im planning on making this for my boyfriends birthday as it looks so amazing! What size rectangle tin would you use? Thanks x

  42. Ellie says:

    Looks amazing just tried making it now. Well its in the oven now *fingers crossed* itll turn out ok as i didnt use as many eggs and flour as the recipe said

  43. Kate Motyer Lowndes says:

    Hi, this looks fantastic and I’m just off to Amazon to order some gel colours.
    When you say ‘chill in the fridge’ do you cover the cake in cling film or anything, or else how do you stop it going really dry?
    Thanks.

  44. Freya Gamlen says:

    hey Ruth, I was wondering if I need to use dowling if I’m going to make this cake and then transport it in the car?

  45. Betty Ingarfill says:

    This looks so lovely. Will have to try soon :)

  46. Jessie says:

    Wow! Love this recipe!! It’s the first one of yours I’ve read but I’m a big fan already! :)

  47. Tammy Whyte says:

    Thank you for this, I made my daughter this cake but with a Rainbow Magic Fairy book cover, it was a huge hit!

  48. Slowlygoingmadukmum says:

    Thank u for this. My 6 year old is rainbow mad. Im waiting for the frosting to set as I type. It was so straight forward to do. Mine looks a bit leaning tower. But great taste and I hit so far with her sisters.

  49. Daphne Henderson says:

    would it be possible to make 2 cakes pouring
    mixture in centre on top of each other hoping it will spread

    • Hi Daphne, the mixture isn’t liquid enough to do the striped cake with the pouring method, you could try loosening it with extra milk but it does need to be fairly liquid x

  50. Tabby says:

    Hey Ruth :-)

    Made a full seven layer rainbow cake yesterday for my sister in law’s 30th birthday, using a complete mish mash of inappropriate tins in a thoroughly unrealistic timeframe… 1 hr 50 from start to finish so no time for chilling (literally or figuratively!) and the end product was a complete monstrosity – the mess I can make with seven uneven cakes, a ticking clock and a box of fondant icing is something to behold.

    Got a lot of ‘oo, isn’t she nice to try and make a cake’ from the guests but the reaction when the birthday girl sliced into it… well, suffice to say jaws dropped and I didn’t have to buy a drink for the rest of the evening! It tasted fantastic, too – my best sponge yet :-)

    Thank you for giving me the confidence to try all these things! :-) xx

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  52. Gilian Mortimer says:

    Hi Ruth. I’ve baked many of your scrummy recipes, including a 3-layer version of this cake for my sister in law’s birthday. My daughter is 9 this week and she’d love a Diary of a wimpy kid cake. My iced lettering skills aren’t great…any tips on how to get the lettering perfect?

    • I plan it out on a piece of greaseproof paper the same size as the top of the cake and then use the wrong end of a paintbrush or similar to trace it gently on to the sugarpaste on the top of the cake so that there is a guide to follow when piping – that always helps keep me neater! x

  53. natalie says:

    hi i would love to make this for my sons birthday im just wonderin how many servings would u get out your cake and what size tins did u use x

  54. zara says:

    hi, i have seen loads of rainbow cakes and this one is stunning! love it :) but i’ve got one query. i’ve seen loads of recipes saying to use a cake batter which is pale, and by looking at your pictures i can see yours is fairly pale. what type of butter did you use to acheive this? x

  55. Bea says:

    Hi Pink Whisk,

    Can I use this receipe for 3 layer cakes by cutting down the ingredients to 300gm self raising flour, 300gm of butter, 300gm of sugar and 6 eggs?

  56. Kat says:

    Hi, I’m planning on making this for my OH’s birthday at the weekend, but only have 8″ round pans, how tall will the cake be?

  57. Leanne says:

    Brillant receipe easy to follow and a amazing cake at the end this is the 3rd cake ive make with many people telling me how hard rainbow cakes are but this was no trouble at all. I used the same ingredients and measurements but did 4 layers making nice thick layers. My daughter and her friends loved it. Thank you very much for putting this on :)

  58. Anne Stuart says:

    Just came across your web page by accident it’s fab. I love the rainbow cake. I was looking up the net to find a easy way to make sugarpaste roses and found your page. This web site is fantastic so excited now I’ve found it. I have shared on Facebook

  59. Libby says:

    Thank you for this fab tutorial. I’ve spent the afternoon following it to make a cake for my 6 year old’s party tomorrow. I did 5 colours and made up 5 batches of mix rather than make one and try to divide into 5, which worked well. Frosting currently hardening in the fridge & then will cover with sugarpaste. Am looking forward to slicing into it tomorrow!

  60. june says:

    I am planning to make my daughters 21st birthday cake and want to make a pastel coloured layered cake. I have a 14 inch square tin, 3 inch deep. what would be the measurements for a Madeira cake and how long would i cook this and at what temperature?

    Many Thanks
    june

  61. saima says:

    HI!!
    LOVING YOUR RAINBOW CAKE AND ATTEMPTING TO MAKE FOR MY SON’S 10TH BIRTHDAY ON SATURDAY. JUST WANTED TO ASK IF THERE IS ANY ALTERNATIVE TO THE CREAM CHEESE FOR THE ICING? OR BETTER STILL ANY IDEAS FOR A CHOCOLATE BASED FILLING?

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  64. Laura Williams says:

    Thank you for such a straightforward guide with lots of photos :) I plan on making my own wedding cake for next year and am going to do a rainbow cake with pastel colours! Practicing it lots though as I have a lot to improve on still!

  65. sara Harrison says:

    Hi Ruth we are going to try a christmas rainbow cake, but please can you tell us how long it will keep once iced? many thanks x

  66. Jack says:

    This cake looks so wonderful. I am sure your son loved it.
    I love anything rainbow and often use it in my knitting. Yes I know a bloke that knits :)
    I love my hand knitted Rainbow socks the best.

  67. Mahmuda Gunner says:

    Hi Ruth, I was recommended this recipe by a friend who has made this as a round cake. attempting an 8″square decorated cutting cake and 14″ rectangular cake for slicing up later. How much sugar paste would you recommend is used for covering each? Blocks are 250g each. Thanks!!

  68. andre says:

    wow it’s cool, thanks for sharing.

  69. Amy McCarthy says:

    That cake looks amazing! Could you tell me what cream cheese do you use tho please?! Whenever I make it it seems far too runny, would I be able to cover in a buttercream instead?

    thanks x

  70. shelley says:

    im using your fab recipe to make my first ever rainbow cake today really looking forward to trying it :)

  71. india says:

    Hi do you a an eggless sponge recipe, I’d love to try this one out but have an egg alergy.

  72. Kellee says:

    I watched you on The Great British Bakeoff and you were AMAZING!!!!! I love your recipes so much :D xoxo

  73. sandra says:

    I want to make this for my twin girls b-day. Have a question though. How did you get the baking paper to stick to the tray? Did you grease it before???? thanks…………

  74. Tara says:

    Hi lovely cake but not sure what size tins you used for recipe given..

  75. Helen says:

    Hi Ruth can you make the cake in advance and freeze it to defrost and ice later?
    Re eggless cake – Good Housekeeping magazine website have one for an egg free chocolate cake that has been good for my son’s birthday cakes as he too has an egg allergy. Don’t know if it could be adapted for this.

  76. Alison says:

    Hi Ruth, this cake is Fab! I’ve tried looking for the gel colour pastes on both amazon and lakeland, are they the same ones used for colouring icing like the wilton ones or are they especially for cooking with? Thanks xx

  77. Sheila A Smith says:

    Hi Ruth,
    This is just the kind of cake I have been looking for!
    But I want to make it in shades of lilac – can you please tell me the best colour gels to use? And which colours to mix to achieve it?
    I have only just discovered your web site, but will definitely be using it again!

  78. Deniz says:

    Wow, amazing cake! Love it! I would love to try it but I’m not very good at cake decoration xD
    I would be delighted if I got this cake.

  79. Becky Sutton says:

    i am making your Rainbow cake now and the red and yellow layers have come out fantastic just waiting for the other colours to bake, then im making them into Merdia from disneys Brave, i have never made a doll cake before so fingers crossed it come out ok. Love this site, its going to be my new favourite baking site :S

  80. Zoe says:

    Hi Ruth, you have inspired me and I am giving this a go next week for my little one’s birthday! I am using a square silicone baking tray measuring 24cm and doing six layers as you did – do you think your recipe above will make enough batter (don’t want very thick layers)

    Also how much fondant will I need to cover the cake do you think please (first time fondant icing a cake aaargh!)

    Thanks ever so much! This site is sooooo helpful! :)

    • Hi Zoe – yes the batter will be enough for that size – it’s already a fairly tall cake and any more and it would be ginormous! For the fondant I would start with 1.25kg which is a large pack plus a bit – it’s tall and you need enough to work with so that it doesnt get too thin and rip for you x

  81. Zoe says:

    Thank you Ruth! :) x

  82. Sheila A Smith says:

    Hi Ruth,
    I decided to do the cake in shades of pink as it was for my granddaughter’s christening. Got sugarflair pink and it turned out brilliantly!
    Caused a huge ‘wow’ when the cake was cut.
    Thanks! x

  83. sheila says:

    hiya i dont no if anybody can help me but im a starter on making cakes and can never get a cake a diffrent colour :( when i used food colouring it tasted horrible and would not go red! and wih the gel it dont ever go a deep colour like your cake, help please x

  84. Thanks for the tip on the colour pastes. I tried making a rainbow cake for my children’s Christening, using food colouring and I was very disappointed with the colours that came out. X

  85. Rosie says:

    I have just baked my own small version of the cake as a practice run but yours looks much better. I shall be using the roasting tins. Can you use two in the same oven?
    Many thanks

  86. Melanie says:

    Hi Ruth, I love ur cake and have been wanting to make a rainbow cake for ages, it’s my sister’s 30th this month and we’re planning a surprise birthday picnic for her. I was thinking of making a 11″ or 12″ purple layered cake so I have enough to serve everyone, can I ask how much cake batter I would need to do a 11″ or 12″ round cake and how long to bake it for? Also if I was to make an 8″ round cake how much batter would I need for that? And how long would it need to bake for also?
    Thanks so much for posting this as there’s not a lot of English recipes for rainbow cake out there!
    Melanie x

    • Hi Melanie – for a 12″ cake you would need approx 3 x the amount of mixture. I don’t have timings so you would just need to keep checking it. For an 8″ cake you would need 1.5 x the amount of mixture!

  87. Ashley says:

    Hi do you use a certain type of food colouring as when i try to make this the colour never seems to be very bright :(

  88. Melanie says:

    Hi Ruth I’m planning on trying to make your cake later this week for my sisters 30th birthday and will donut in shades of purple. I’m planning in baking it in a 10″ round cake tin, what quantities if the batter will I need to fill the tins? X

  89. Claire says:

    Hi ruth I am making a two tiered cake for my little one bday and wondered if this cake is strong enough for stacking?

  90. Laura says:

    Hi Ruth,
    Can I just check with you that these are the correct colours as they don’t actually say gel on them?!
    Going to attempt this for Mother’s Day, a layer each for the mums in my family in their favourite colour :-)
    Love your blog!
    http://www.lakeland.co.uk/17519/8-Icing-Colours

  91. Rehanna says:

    I made this cake for my 3 yr old sons birthday pirate party. The cake turned out fantastic, not only did it look good, but it tasted good too! Everyone loved it! I have made a few of your receipes and they never fail! Thank you for sharing and making them so easy to follow x

  92. Helen says:

    Hi Ruth.

    I’m planning on making this cake for my boyfriends birthday. However like you it’s finding the time to do it all when he isn’t at home! Would I be able to freeze this cake for a week and then decorate it on the another day? I’d appreciate your advise. Thanks!

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