Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(60 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

Additional 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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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 http://kerrycooks.com/2012/04/rainbow-cake.html

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 way....no 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 www.facebook.com/sucrecakesbymaly x hope this helps some of you!

xxkayla's picture

Really disappointed with this cake. Made it for a birthday party and everyone really enjoyed how it looked but it tasted aweful. It should state in the recipe not to use ordinary food colouring and to find better quality ones. It really ruined the cake.

emmatopsom's picture

I also just used buttercream icing!

emmatopsom's picture

I made this but didn't really follow recipe. I used a usual Victoria sponge recipe and added a little vanilla for flavour. I used Dr Oetker colours but had to put whole tube in for each colour. It turned out beautiful, sponge was light and you couldn't taste colour but using all 7 colours it was a giant!! I think next time I might use less mix.

JudithWeir's picture

I have just read all the comments and feeling nervous about how this will turn out taste wise. Also had issues getting the colour vibrant as in the picture, used mixture of dr otker and silver spoon colours and gels, silver spoon was brighter and didn't need as much of the bottle. I also found icing runny and have totally rearranged fridge to fit it in! No room for the other party food! Looks the part and hoping it tastes half decent. It's for my 2 year old so he won't care but really want this to taste as good as it will hopefully look when I slice into it tomorrow! Will report back. Reporting back post party.....cake looked the part, colours vivid enough to know which is which but very dense compared to my usual cakes and a very very big portion. Was fine but doubt i will make it again.

squamoid's picture
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I've made this cake 4 times and I've had very little problem with it. I invested in some Sugarflair colour pastes which I think has probably made the difference as you really don't need very much for a vibrant colour. Yes, the sponges are denser but I thought they still tasted lovely. My only issue would be with the icing, as it does get a bit runny, even with minimal mixing. Because of this, I do tend to keep it in the fridge until it's needed. I think I'm going to try what someone else suggested on here - buttercream on the outside and alternate layers with jam in the middle.

ehb102's picture

The sponges I made were really not good. Dense and rubbery. The Wilton gel colours looked amazing, but a slice is too big for anything but dessert.

treggy23's picture

My mum made this for my daughters party. Like many of the comments, a whole bottle of food colouring went into the each layer. The cake was very dense, and not very enjoyable which was a shame as she put alot of time, love and effort, not to mention the expense, into this cake. Whilst the colours weren't as vibrabt as they should have been, it still did look fantastic.

eftygang5's picture
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I have given this cake 1 star as it kept my daughter entertained for an hour or so whilst she made it. In agreement with the majority of the other reviewers this cake was a bit of a disaster. Extremely dense, no rise whatsoever and a very strange taste, in fact my portion went in the bin! I wasn't around when the ingredients were weighed out or I would have definitely changed the plain flour for self raising, it is a sponge at the end of the day. Don't waste your time and effort with this cake, think you may regret it....

ruthmum's picture
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I made this cake for my daughter's birthday - the cake itself was lovely but, as posters have already said, people either loved or hated the taste of it (most of the kids preferred to eat chocolate fingers). My problem was with the icing, which looked like melting ice-cream - if only I'd read the comments beforehand! I would happily make the cake again but would buy a blue paste this time - all the other colours were fine but the blue came out green - and would definitely use mascarpone.

babyocho's picture

I am planning to make this and just for the Dr Ottaks from so will be returning those.

What is a good brand of colouring to use?

maplesyrup's picture
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I made this for a children's birthday party - it looked amazing but unfortunately the cake itself was quite rubbery and my little boy refused to eat it - very disappointing given the time and expense it took to make the cake.

meeshy77's picture
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Having read the other comments I was very apprehensive about making this, but my daughter had seen it on the cover of the magazine and asked for it for her birthday cake.... I was really pleased with the result. The cake was moist, tasted good and looked amazing. I had so many positive comments about it. I used the dr oetker food colourings and they worked very well, the colours were great and very distinct from each other. I did ave trouble with the frosting - despite following the instructions to the letter it was too runny. I did use it to sandwich the layers together, but covered the cake in ordinary butter cream. My daughter loved it and it was a big hit. Would definitely make it again, but the trouble with the frosting means I can only give it 4 stars.

irenelodge's picture

I also found this very disappointing. I agree with the comments about Dr. Oerter food colouring. It was very weak,used whole tubs which spoilt taste. Sponges very dense and icing runny