How to make THE rainbow cake


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The rainbow cake.  It’s kind of a rite of passage for parents.  I mentioned to some acquaintances that Peanut was having a rainbow party.

‘Are you doing THE cake?’ they asked.

Ummmm. I wasn’t ready to make that decision just yet.

I almost didn’t do it.  I almost stuck with the cupcakes, and considered banging together an old-school marble cake.  I’ve pulled too many all-nighters decorating birthday cakes, and I thought this one was going to trump them all.

I almost didn’t do it because I was scared it wouldn’t be perfect.

But I was pleasantly surprised.  After finally committing myself to the task I started making it at about 8pm on the night before the party.  Typical.  But I had all the cakes made by 11pm ready to assemble the next morning.

I used this recipe; the one that was featured on Martha Stewart and started the whole rainbow cake fad.  I wasn’t going to use it because of all of those egg whites but I’m glad I did – the layers turned out lovely and flat and even.

rainbow cake rainbow layer cake martha stewart

My best tips for this cake:

  • It is absolutely essential to use gel colouring.  I used Wilton brand and did some creative mixing to get all the colours.
  • Weigh the mixture in six identical bowls to make sure each layer is the same size.
  • Each layer is thin!  Like, the mixture barely covers the bottom of the pan.  But it all evens out in the end, and seriously, you have six layers – they have to be thin.
  • I used a silicone cake pan for these which worked wonderfully – removing the thin cake from a solid pan might be tricky.
  • After each layer is cooked (which doesn’t take long, thank goodness, as I only had one 9″ pan) allow it to cool, wrap it in plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer.  The cake is a lot easier to assemble if the layers are firm and frozen.

I used the recommended icing recipe and I’m so glad I did.  It is so white and so easy to work with.  My new favourite icing, for sure!  Again with the egg whites, though.  You might want to buy some chickens.

My tips for the icing:

  • This icing goes through some scary stages as you whip it.  Just stick with it – it takes a long time to reach the right consistency.  For a while it will look like it has curdled, but it gets past that, and then you need to keep going further until it gets beautifully fluffy.
  • Don’t be tempted to try to make both lots of icing (the filling and the topping) in one batch.  In fact, I doubt you’d fit it in the mixer bowl…
  • Again, measure your icing as you fill the cake – about a cup for each layer.  This way it will look much more even.
  • Extend the icing right to the edges of the layers, and even a little bit over, to avoid edge-droop.
  • Do crumb coat the cake i.e. once all the layers are assembled, cover the whole cake with a thin layer of icing and then refrigerate until firm.
  • The cake cuts much nicer if it has been refrigerated once finished.  My cake was a little warm when we cut it and the layers were more crumby than when it was cool.

Considering how much visual impact this cake has, it is comparatively simple to make.  Time consuming, but not difficult.  If you’re considering it for a child’s birthday party I would  absolutely encourage you to go for it (or your own – I’m kind of bummed I used it for Peanut’s cake.  I think I’d quite like it for my own birthday.)

Have you made THE rainbow cake?  Would you like to?  Does it scare you?

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6 thoughts on “How to make THE rainbow cake

  1. I’ve been planning to do a rainbow theme for ash and gems birthday this year and was contemplating doing the rainbow cake but not sure as I like to do two cakes. Your tips help a lot though, still considering.

    • Two cakes is a good challenge! Do they like them to be different? You could have some fun with that one – can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  2. Your cake looks amazing! I would love to give this a go someday, although it does scare me…but maybe sometime soon I’ll be brave and jump in, with my fingers crossed that my cake looks something like yours!

  3. I made a version for my daughters birthday last year and did 4 layers as she was 4. I didn’t let her see the cake while I was making it and she loved the cake once we’d cut it. For her 5th I made a rainbow swirl cake. Not as pretty to look at but took less time to make.

    • I did the rainbow swirl cake for my eldest’s birthday last year, and it looks fab too. I love that you surprised your little girl with the layers! I loved the looks on people’s faces when the cake was cut – they didn’t expect the colours!

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