Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(64 ratings)


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Cooking time

Prep: 2 hrs Cook: 1 hr

Skill level

For the keen cook


Cuts into 18 slices

A stunning celebration cake of six or seven colourful layers and cream cheese frosting - an impressive showstopper.

Nutrition and extra info

  • Freeze un-iced sponges only
Nutrition info

Nutrition per slice

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You'll need 3 x these ingredients for six sponges

  • 125g butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs (very important to use the correct size)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • edible food colouring - red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, plus optional pink (see below)

For the icing

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 x 250g tubs cream cheese or mascarpone
  • 350g icing sugar

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  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease 2 x 20cm round sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Tip all the sponge ingredients, apart from the food colouring, into a mixing bowl, then beat with an electric whisk until smooth.
  2. Working quickly, weigh the mixture into another bowl to work out the total weight, then weigh exactly half the mixture back into the mixing bowl. Pick 2 of your colours and stir a little into each mix. Keep going until you are happy with the colour – the colour of the batter now will be very similar to the finished cake, so be brave! Scrape the different batters into the tins, trying to spread and smooth as much as possible – but try not to waste a drop of the batter – a rubber spatula will help you. Bake on the same oven shelf for 12 mins until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean.
  3. Gently turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool. Wash the tins and bowls thoroughly, and start again from step 1 – this time using another 2 colours. Unless you’re making the optional pink layer, repeat one more time to get 6 sponges, all of different colours. Leave them all to cool.
  4. To make the icing, very briefly beat the vanilla and cream cheese or mascarpone with an electric whisk until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar and gently fold in with a spatula. Be careful – the more you work it, the runnier it will get, increasing the chance of splitting.
  5. Smear a little icing on your cake stand or plate – just a splodge to stick the first sponge. Start with the red, then spread with some icing right to the very edge. Repeat, sandwiching on top the orange, yellow, green, blue and finally purple sponges. Spread the remaining icing thickly all over the sides and top of the cake. For more tips and expert advice on how to create the perfect rainbow cake, check out our tips, below.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, April 2013

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Comments, questions and tips

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Show comments
louiseholistic's picture

I was disappointed with this, especially after the amount of time spent making it. The cakes took much longer than 15 minutes to bake, the whole thing was very heavy and dense and the colourings (I used Dr Oetker) gave it a very strange taste. Although the colours themselves were muted, the cake looked really impressive when we cut into it, it's such a shame the taste doesn't deliver.

quilty's picture

Just thought I'd post to say that this recipe is excellent! After reading many of the negative comments I wasn't sure whether or not to go ahead and make it but trusted that the Good Food team would not have a recipe that didn't work.
It does work! The only difference that I made was that I ran out of plain flour after that first batch of cakes and so substituted Self Raising for the next ones. The cakes came out just as well. The colour was good, they were well risen but flat on top and needed no trimming. Layered up they looked amazing and tasted just as good as they looked.
I made this for my daughters' 21st Birthday and she thought it was brilliant.
I see that some people are saying to make a Victoria sponge instead but I don't think this would work as well. Victoria sponge has a totally different texture to these. These cakes are more squidgy and dense - but still good!
Please try it - they taste super!
One change I made to the cheese frosting is to make a normal buttercream first with butter and icing sugar and only then add the cream cheese. This results in a more stable icing that does NOT go runny.

ShurikenNinja's picture

This looks delicous :)

Denisemasr's picture
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Do not try this recipe!! I baked it and it was horrible! The cake was really hard!

I tried using an vanilla sponge recipe and adding colouring to it and it's much better..

andrea.maddin's picture

If I could give this recipe a 0 then I would. I made this twice as i thought I must have gone wrong but it tastes horrible. Very dense and doughy. I like to think I can bake and have made many cakes in my life but this recipe just didn't work. I would recommend that you adapt a victoria sponge recipe and go from there.

RainbowCake7533's picture

You must have done something wrong, because I did it and it tasted great!

veato's picture

"try Dr Oetker gel food colours in Bright Red, Neon Orange, Sunshine Yellow, Lime Green, Sky Blue, Ultra Violet and Hot Pink" -- Personally I wouldn't. I used 2 Dr Oetker tubes per layer of a similar rainbow cake and the colour was not very vibrant at all. Try Wilton or Americolor.

bakinggirl999's picture

looks great but tastes horrid

Kerry Cooks's picture

So rubbish that everyone is still having issues with this cake! If you want a more reliable one, try my recipe - check out the comments for all the positive reviews!

sabrinaduck's picture

After my earlier mishap with rainbow cake using the BBC Good Food recipe above, I decided to try your recipe. The result was perfect. Thank you Kerry.

kerielaine1's picture

I made this cake for my and my girlfriend's 6 month anniversary. I followed the recipe exactly, aside from the pink layer. I wanted a traditional rainbow. ;) I used Dr. O's food gels in red, yellow and green, mixing my own secondary colours. Even though each layer appeared a bit light, once put together they complimented each other nicely. If I wasn't a poor student I would have bought 6 individual gels for brighter colours but I was trying to keep the cost under 10 quid. The cream cheese icing was perfect. I stuck it in the fridge to chill and set up a bit because it was initially pretty runny. First time ever making sponge. First time ever making my own frosting and first 6 layer cake! It turned out perfect! She loved it, I loved it, the friends we shared with loved it. Thank you!

kerielaine1's picture

In terms of what I used, I used red, blue and yellow food gels. Mixing my own secondary colours. I used the cream cheese icing as the recipe called for, even using Lidl brand soft cheese as I'm a poor uni student. Wish I could attach a photo. The recipe was easy, first time ever making sponge. So happy.

kerielaine1's picture

Made this cake for a 6 month anniversary for my girlfriend and I. Followed it exactly aside from not doing a pink layer. She loved it and everyone who tried it thought it was beautiful AND delicious.

stravers's picture

My daughter wanted this cake for her 4th Birthday, we decorate with strawberries it looks fantastic but it is quite filling and heavy.

taizen's picture
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My mum made this cake for my sons 5th birthday. She said it was quite simple to make. We used Americolor pastes and it turned out just like picture. AMAZING. And it would have to be one of the best cakes I've ever tasted. DELICIOUS.

JennyJamie's picture

I wish I'd read the tips on types of colourings to use - I used supermarket - brand colours, which were fine when mixing into the cake batter, but once cooked, had almost faded completely from the sponge, leaving a weird looking cake, not resembling a rainbow at all. The colours also left the sponges with an odd, unpleasant flavour. I'm just glad it was a practise-run: my children won't be having a rainbow cake for their birthday now. So my top tip is: don't use supermarket brand colourings!

kt675's picture

worst cake ever very heavy and really think i followed the recipes to the letter and it did not look ant think like the picture colors were wishy washy i was making this for a mates bday cake so now got to make a different one cos this was TERRIBLE next time i will look at the comments DONT MAKE THIS CACK U WILL BE WASTING YOUR TIME !!!

Linnyma's picture

This is the worst cake I have ever made and I love making cakes. The food colourings came out wishy washy the cake texture was heavy and not tasty. I used mascarpone and icing sugar instead of butter cream, which was a big mistake as it was to slippery between the layers, a nightmare to cut.

Dien's picture

I would love to make a cake like this! I think it is very well explained, thank you!