Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(71 ratings)

Prep: 2 hrs Cook: 1 hr

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: per slice

  • kcal601
  • fat29g
  • saturates18g
  • carbs73g
  • sugars47g
  • fibre2g
  • protein11g
  • salt0.6g
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You'll need 3 x these ingredients for six sponges

  • 125g butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 3 medium egg (very important to use the correct size)
  • 1 tsp baking powder

    Baking powder

    bay-king pow-dah

    Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making. It is made from an alkali…

  • 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


  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.

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Comments (136)

taizen's picture

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!

RainbowCake7533's picture

I thought it was fantastic! The way I made it certainly didn't look the part! I am only 12 years old, but I made it without help and it tasted fantastic, and it was fun to make. :) I recommend this recipe!!!!

wollyhatson's picture

I thought this cake was great to make, really quick and easy - managed to make it with just 2 tins within an hour. Used a mix of Dr Oetker gels and liquids and came out fine and didn't effect the taste. Light and fluffy, although I used insant buttercream from a tin rather than making it myself!

hurra03's picture

Don't make this cake. The colours were vibrant, and I used a cookie cutter to cut the middle out of the two middle cakes, and filled with smarties. It certainly looked the part, but I've never tasted such a horrible cake.... Heavy, rubbery, bland. If I did it again, I'd use a standard 4-4-2 sponge recipe. Next time I'll read the comments.

woodylass's picture

I read all of the comments but decided to follow the recipe anyway with one exception, I changed the plain flour & baking powder for self-raising flour.
The cream cheese frosting whilst lovely was too runny, when I bake this cake again I'll choose an alternative. I used sugar flair colouring, a tiny amount needed for very vivid colours and no taste.
Both myself and my family loved this cake.

fetherstonhaugh's picture

Having read the comments i was skeptical about this recipe and found the alternatives in the comments complicated so


search this sight for GRANNY'S VICTORIA SPONGE, double the recipe and then divide by 6, colour each batch with your food colouring and bake 2 at a time as you would the two halfs of the Victoria sponge recipie.

Scrap the cream cheese icing, get 500g soft butter and electric whisk with 500g icing sugar to make your icing - that sounds a lot but it is a BIG CAKE. when the sponges are cool layer them with the icing and then spread all around it as in the rainbow cake picture. chill in the fridge so the butter icing sets. x

last edited: 11:34, 12th Sep, 2013
mamawoody's picture

I loved the look of this cake but was put off my some of the comments, so instead of following the recipe I decided to use a basic Victoria sandwich recipe which I flavoured with vanilla. I used slightly less egg than usual and added a little milk to get the right consistency as I didn't want it to rise too much. I coloured the layers with paste colouring rather than the liquid type and the colours were really vibrant even though I only used a tiny amount and they didn't affect the flavour at all. I also used a vanilla flavoured buttercream instead of the cream cheese icing. I was really pleased with how the cake looked and it tasted great. My 3 year old daughter was thrilled to have it as her Birthday cake and everyone was really impressed. It was really simple to make, the only thing that took time was mixing the pastes to get the exact shades I wanted, as I only bought the primary colours to save on the cost! I'd definitely make it again.

gilliandeller's picture

We decided to make this cake for a family get together as my son was impressed with the picture on the cover of the mag. I should of listened to my inner self saying no, too much work and expensive ingredients. The sponge texture was quite heavy but the colours were terrible, we used a mixture of food colours we already had in the cupboard and some I could get from the supermarket, the pink and yellow came out best but the orange and purple we mixed and the came out brown and marroon/mud colour the blue came out green, we used whole bottles of the stuff (except the pink Dr Oetker )and the whole thing smelt strongly of vegetables it tasted really odd .The icing was another issue this was completely runny, we tasted the cake but it was such a disaster our chickens and geese ended up with it. I couldn't understand why it went so wrong as I've used other recipes from Good Food with success. Lesson; listen to your inner self!

RainbowCake7533's picture

Yes, that may happen sometimes. I would recommend using powder food colouring that you can mix in with the batter instead of liquids. :)

Kerry Cooks's picture

Sorry to see so many of you have had issues making this cake. I think the main issues are definitely the type of colouring used (NEVER Dr Oetker - only use wilton, sugarflair or americolor) and the flour - it should be self-raising.

I created my own rainbow cake recipe, which has worked very well for hundreds of people who've made it - check it out

stephthecook's picture

Very time consuming but a good result in the end - although the picture shown doesn't give a relative idea of size as this cake is massive! (Which is why I don't understand people wanting the layers to rise?). Invested in a set of Squires food pastes which was pricey but only a small amount was needed to provide a bold colour, and they didn't affect the taste/texture. Having read other comments, I tried to enhance the taste of a few sponge layers by adding grated orange, lemon and lime to the orange/yellow/green sponge mixtures which seemed to work. Had to trim down the sponges but the real problem was the icing. Found it impossible to 'briefly' beat together as there was so much sugar - it did split and became lumpy but tasted good, although you could see the sponge through it and again, it looked nothing like the picture shown! (Should've used butter icing & maybe jam to stick sponges together). It was a hot day when I did this which may have affected the icing and it did need a lot of room in the fridge!.

gingerviz's picture

My son wanted this cake for his 8th birthday. I spent a whole afternoon making it... Firstly, the red and orange layers used an entire tube of Dr Oetker colour each and were still pink and peach. I dread to think how much colour was added to get the bright colours in the photo above. The cake was heavy (like eating dough) and was far 'too much' to eat in one slice, added to that the taste wasn't good. We however had no issues with the frosting, it was good. My 8 year old tried to eat it but gave up. My 10 year old said straight out "it's horrible". It ended up in the bin. Very disappointed.

kljansvjsnd's picture

A truly terrible cake. There was no flavour, the icing was horrible and runny. I used the Dr Oetker food dyes like many other people and the colours were just weak. It's a yellow mix because of the butter, so the red comes out pink, orange looks really faded, yellow is of course good, green looks faded, blue looks green, purple looks like lilac, and pink was actually decent. The mixture was incredibly dry also and I had to use milk to make it palatable. The mixture didn't rise either, although with 7 tiers the cake was always going to be large.
Very disappointed.

last edited: 12:22, 15th Jul, 2013
greenfingers1's picture

Was inspired by this recipe but wary of all the negative comments. So I improvised by using a standard victoria sponge mixture and colouring with sugarflair food colouring (only needed a small amount and the colours were vibrant). I made 4 layers - blue, green, yellow and red and put coloured buttercream icing between the layers. The cake certainly had the wow factor and it also tatsed good, clean plates all round at the birthday party. I didn't ice the sides of the cake so I trimmed them with a sharp knife as they seemed to come out of the oven a regular beige cake colour with the vibrant colour just beneath the surface. Fairly time consuming but got lots of positive comments so would make again for a special occasion.

stia_616's picture

I used Dr Oetker food colour gel. The colours don't come out as bright in the picture here, but they still come out pretty well. They don't seem to leave the after taste that so many people have complained out, even though pretty much the whole tubes were used in each layer to achieve a bright colour. DO NOT use the Dr Oetker liquid food colour (in the bottles like the essence) as these WILL leave an after taste, especially the red one.

sucrecakesbymaly's picture

For those who are asking for the best colours to use....I'm a professional cake decorator, and the best colours are colour gels/pastes....Wilton and Americicolor are beautiful colours and you use a tiny amount, and it goes a long taste, minimal amounts,vibrant colours....looking at the recipe, there's not enough baking powder to flour ratio. Especially if its being passed as a sponge. I suggest omitting the plain/all purpose flour + baking powder and replacing with self raising flour if your not experienced in baking more so balance of flour/baking powder quantities. As flour+baking powder=self raising flour anyway, so save yourself the headache and just buy it. Or if you must make it add 2 & 1/4 teaspoons of b.powder to the 225g flour. With that cream the butter first for 5mins til light/pale in colour, add sugar, add an egg at a time, til thick/pale and increased in volume, add flour+dry ingredients in 1./3 a time, in between liquids in 1/3's also. So 1/3 dry, then 1/3 wet and repeats after mixing in between. DON'T over mix when flour is in!, just get it incorporated then separate add colour pastes then bake...I guarantee a light airy moist sponge! :)
come say hi x hope this helps some of you!


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