Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(71 ratings)

Prep: 2 hrs Cook: 1 hr

A challenge

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)

easytiggerr1978's picture

Further to my last comment on friday. The cake actually went down ok. Everyone was impressed by the look of the cake. The sponges are a little dense and lack flavour so if i made it again i may add some extra flavouring to sponges. The buttercream icing I think helped with this and i may be tempted to also flavour that or use chocolate to improve the overall flavour of the cake. It wasnt completely inedible but it also wasnt the best cake ive ever made! The colours werent as vibrant as the picture but still gave a pleasing end finish.

mariananderson's picture

I made this cake for a birthday party and used the recipe in the magazine rather than on the website. I really wished I'd read the comments prior to making this! The cake tasted awful and the icing was very runny. I'm not sure if Cole has forgiven me yet!

magskearns's picture

I made this last week.
I didn't trim the sponges but it still looked amazing. As a result it was slightly on the tall side which made it difficult to slice but it tasted gorgeous (just like an ice-cream pudding) and looked amazing. I agree the icing was very runny but would recommend leaving it to chill overnight after which the texture was fine.
The sponge was quite dense but it the whole cake was obliterated in a few hours and all who ate it thought it tasted heavenly. Perhaps leaving the layers thicker compensates for the density of the sponge.

kirkyrigs's picture

I wish i had read all the comments before making this cake! I always make my friend a different cake for her birthday and thought the Rainbow cake matched her personality. Thank goodness she has a sense of humour as this will be going straight in the bin when the candles are extinguished! Really disappointed with this recipe and feel that Good Food should eat humble cake?? I'll be sticking with Mary Berry thank you.

stickytoffee's picture

Have to agree with other comments this cake looks good but tastes horrible - far too heavy and tasteless. I was quite embarrassed when I took this cake to work for a colleagues birthday - my cakes usually disappear very quickly but I ended up throwing a quarter of it away!

wallislb's picture

Awful cake, very disappointing. Cakes are flat, heavy and don't taste nice. Wasted a lot of ingredients by making 4 and gave up. Will try a normal victoria sponge with colouring.
I usually find the recipes on here are successful but this one is not. Wish I had read the reviews first!

loopylou156's picture

I agree with the majority of reviews on here. A waste of time and money. Used dr oetker and had a dense odd tasting sponge. A lot of effort wasted. May try it in the future (as another reviewer pointed out) using my own foolproof sponge recipe and some more expensive colouring but won't be in a rush to try it again.

lyndsey20's picture

I loved this cake although I always use my own cake recipe not the one above and I would never use the dr otker food colourings I only use the paste colours although expensive to buy they last ages and you only need a small amount to get the vibrant colours I also didnt like the idea of the cheese filling and covering so I used butter cream inbetween the layers and white fondant to cover the cake my daughter and the whole family loved it and I would definitely make it again!

kitten04's picture

Made today brill colours in cake using sugar flair coloured gel no probs

kitten04's picture

I haven't made yet but going to try all the commemts about colour you need sugar flair food paste or you will not get the colour and you need a small amount natural food colour just won't work

saccomani's picture

oh dear, I had no luck with this recipe - I understand all the logic about the need for flat and even sponges but these were awful. I bake a lot, so I do know what I'm doing with cake: my tins were correct size, I bought the colouring recommended, my oven temp is fine......and this did look amazing but what's the point of that if the taste and texture are so awful?
I've read the blog and seen the recommendations but I can't see that I've done anything wrong. Anyway, I will give it one more try but it's such a shame that so many people experienced the same disappointment.

goldiepony's picture

I'm giving this 2 stars. I'm a very experienced baker so read the recipe and made some changes. I bought Ateco gel food colourings from the USA which were much cheaper than the Squires ones recommended, but I knew that Dr Oetker ones wouldnt "cut the mustard" I found the cakes dense and strangely tasteless, next time I'll use a Madeira recipe instead. The icing (I used full fat phile) even with minimal mixing went very very runny so I kept adding more icing sugar till I got the required coating consistency. I will make a rainbow cake again but using my own recipes rather than this one. Thanks for the Idea GF mag but I wont be making this particular cake again. (I too dont find the troubleshooting terribly helpful, I know that tin sizes, oven temps etc are imperative...)

birdsam's picture

I made this for a birthday and was very pleased with it. The cakes didnt really rise but I was pleased about that as they had to be flat to be put together.
I am in Australia and used Wilton gel colours and kept adding until I had the colour I required.
The cakes aren't really sponge like but are lovely. I used a buttercream icing with mine.
Very pleased overall.

gingesarah's picture

I also tried this cake from the magazine. It is the worst recipe I have tried from good food.

1. The frosting never set, despite minmal mixing.
2. The Dr Oekter colourings were awful, I must have spent £20 on these alone to get dark deep colours.

This was a very expensive cake to make in the end. Because the frosting didn't work, I made a butter cream topping and that worked in the end.

Never again with this recipe.

murraygal75's picture

I made this for my daughter's 2nd birthday, it turned out beautifully and everyone enjoyed it. I followed the recipe to the letter except that I added 2 tsp of vanilla extract for each batch. I already had professional paste colours for all layers except the orange which was standard supermarket stuff as that's what I had in the cupboard and wondered if it would matter - well it did! I had to put in quite a lot to achieve the same strength of colour to match the other layers and it did not bake correctly - a touch too dense. All other layers came out well and stacked nicely and evenly. I would say overall it looked amazing and tasted good, but not great. I would make it again, but would buy the proper orange colouring to avoid messing about with the liquid quantities which clearly made a difference.

kathryndonna's picture

Agree with the others, I'm afraid the top tips really don't cut it, particularly as they are aimed at the "keen cooks" that the recipe is for. Disappointed in you Good Food magazine.

tinylily's picture

I was planning to make this cake for my birthday party on Sunday, so I made two test layers last night, which were awful. The texture is awful - reminds me of an overdone microwave cake (remember those?) and tastes synthetic, despite using good paste colourings.

As an experienced cook, I also don't need patronising reminders about cake tin sizes and measuring ingredients - with so many negative comments surely you must accept there is a problem with this recipe.

If I try this again I will definitely flavour the cakes, but I might just using victoria sponge and buttercream.

Two stars, really for the inspiration to make a beautiful cake - I do agree that it looks very impressive so it certainly fulfils that brief.

helen1907's picture

I made the rainbow cake for my daughters 10th birthday, I am a cook by trade and an experienced baker, but I have to agree the cakes came out dense and strange tasting with the texture of looked amazing, but who wants a cake that looks great but tastes horrible. The children picked at it, bless them, then then whole lot went in the bin :(

leane67's picture

I read all the comments before trying this cake and as such used a Victoria sandwich recipe. I also used gel food colouring which meant i could get very vibrant colours using very little gel and therefore no weird flavour. I also covered the outside with home made butter icing and layered it alternately with jam and butter icing. The cost was no more than any other cake I would make. Overall the cake was a huge success, I would definitely make it again albeit not using the recipe suggested on the site. Thanks for your comments, they made this cake a success for me. Definitely worth adapting the recipe and trying again.

pikolet's picture

I made this today for my daughter's school's spring fair baking competition and after reading the other reviews I was convinced I would come in last. However I won second place in both the appearance and the taste categories. I followed the recipe exactly except I used full fat cream cheese for the frosting. I was very pleased with the results. The cakes were very moist and the frosting delicious. And of course the colours were stunning.( I ordered the colours from squires as recommended). So I must have done something right. Thank you Good Food!


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