Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(94 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 eggs (very important to use the correct size)
    • 1 tsp baking powder
      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, questions and tips

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    31st May, 2018
    This recipe DID NOT WORK AT ALL! I was appalled by the turn out of each pair of cakes. Dense pancakes! They only just doubled in size but seeing as there was barely enough mixture to cover the bottom of the pan I’m not surprised! I tried the last two with self raising flour and nothing changed. Next time I will stick to a sponge recipe that has the same amount of butter, flour and sugar!! The cream cheese icing was not good eaither! Really upset as I spent all day on it! Made me think I did something wrong but reading the comments, I will re think!
    Laura Bowker-ford
    18th May, 2018
    All of these bad comments are wrong, I've made this recipe many times and its a firm favourite with EVERYONE. I bake it for charity bake sales and any family party and its always gone really fast. I suspect the people who's failed maybe did it wrong or missed something out.
    Ellen Grace Hills's picture
    Ellen Grace Hills
    6th May, 2018
    pls bake this cake it turns out IF YOU do it right
    25th Mar, 2018
    DO NOT BAKE! This was an awful recipe, I spent hours baking in the kitchen to only be rewarded by the densest, most rubbery cake! Two days wasted, I tried to save it but after the cake being rubbish I used a different icing recipe. The texture was absolutely awful. I couldn't even eat an entire slice. The cake was impossible to spread in the tin. The mixture was like cement! The recipe calls for a 12 minutes cooking time, this was totally wrong. The cakes came out raw and any time longer made it even denser. The cake was practically indestructible and when stacked looked like pancakes. The layers were a centimetre thick. Don't waste your time slaving away. It's an utter waste of money and time. The only good thing was the colour and the icing which wasn't even this recipe. WASTE OF TIME!
    25th Mar, 2018
    DO NOT USE THIS RECIPIE!!!!!!! I spent a day with my friends labouring over this cake which amounted to no more than a good photo. Every layer was 1cm thick! And would be better off being an indestructible greasy frisbee!! The cooking timings given left us with pans of raw mix! Bake them more and they turn to rock! They didn't rise at all, in fact i think they shrunk!! Find another recipie pleaaaaase! For the sake of your own health, leave now! Don't waste your time or money! (But it does look beautiful)
    28th Nov, 2017
    For somebody who is not an expert in making cakes, this recipe worked really well. The differences that I incorporated were that I had to make it for potentially 40 people so instead of making 2 x 20 cm baking tins, I made the two into a single dose for a 30 cm (US 12 inch) tin. The resulted layers were perfect in density, and their thickness was also perfect for my purposes, i.e. having to offer it to many people, as it became ultimately tall, and I didn't even make the 7th pink layer! I reduced the sugar by 20 g per layer, and I mixed mascarpone cheese and cream cheese in 3:1 proportion. My guests loved the taste of the cake, and the look was spectacular. I was also very pleased with the taste of the icing, and it was also very nice, easy-to-spread consistency, definitely not runny but spreadable! The only difficulty I came across while making the cake was spreading the cake mixture on the bottom of the tin prior to baking it. Because the layers are meant to be dense, the mix is so thick that it doesn't on its own spread on the surface to reach the walls of the tin, but I had to spread it manually using first a spatula and then a knife, which was the biggest faffing during the cooking. I can also vouch that the layers freeze well, I made first test layer, red, to make sure that the double proportion will work well for 30 cm tin, froze it for 3 days when I made the rest. One couldn't tell the difference between the frozen layer and the rest. Generally, really good idea for a birthday cake!
    24th Nov, 2017
    Abandoned half way through process and am now making a red velvet cake. What is the point of a cake that looks beautiful but tastes disgusting? Unfortunately, I didn't read the comments, but I did read the guide and felt confident to have a go as an 'experienced' baker. Yes, I did use dr Oetker gels (and to me they are the good ones - who can afford to spend £4 plus for each colour????) and they were absolutely rubbish - the green and yellow being indisguishable (and that was a whole tube in each). Worst of all though is the vile taste. I am thankful I saw sense and cut my losses. Even so an expensive and time-consuming mistake. Please add some warnings to the actual recipe (not just veiled advice in the additional guide) and stipulate that you'll need to order these colours online unless you have a specialist cake shop on your doorstop. Also, the ridiculous 'weigh your cake mixture, then halve it whilst not wasting any!!! Many people use electric scales and if you weigh your bowl first you can just subtract it from the total weight to calculate the mixture weight. Rant over.
    millycameron98@gmail.com's picture
    15th Oct, 2017
    This recipe makes one sexy cake - I used dr oetker gel colours from tesco - I reckon I used a whole tube of each colour. Recommend crumb coating/icing a day ahead. I stuck an ice cream cone on top, made some liquorice eyes and buttercream hair and made it into a unicorn cake (and lots of edible glitter of course) Good luck :)
    16th Sep, 2017
    This cake was incredible! Baked all 6 sponges two at a time in about two hours on a Friday night after the pub (so they were easy enough!) and assembled and iced the following morning. Extremely impressive looking cake for amount of effort. We used Dr. Otkers gel colours which worked well but would recommend purchasing the purple gel colour instead of trying to mix it yourself with blue+red, we ended up with something close to grey for our bottom layer, though when the cake was assembled it looked close enough to purple. Followed the recipe exactly but found we needed to make more icing. Having read comments below that the cake might be a bit bland, we added fruit between the layers (halved blueberries, sliced kiwi, sliced orange, sliced strawberries, sliced mango) which made the cake taste like the rainbow as well as look it. We also cut out the centre of a couple layers and added some 'surprise' haribo and smarties. Cake was absolutely divine, looked gorgeous sliced and not a crumb was left after the birthday party.
    6th May, 2017
    This was a spur-of-the-moment bake decision when the cake my son wanted from a cake shop wasn't available. But given the short time I had to put it together, it's turned out rather well! I loaded the top with chocolate covered strawberries, added sliced fruit between the layers and layered the bottom of the outside with chocolate fingers; he was delighted. Had I had time to read the comments below it would have been better - I used liquid food colouring as that was all that was available in the supermarket and even though the batter was bright, the cake wasn't. But the layers are obviously different colours. I would have preferred a lighter sponge but realised that it needed to be denser to hold the weight - I creamed butter and sugar first though anyway. Sponge tastes fine, but it's definitely more for effect than Victoria sponge lightness.


    11th Dec, 2017
    Can anyone tell me if I need to triple the quantities for the icing, or just for the sponge? Thanks
    goodfoodteam's picture
    15th Dec, 2017
    Thanks for your question. You only need one quantity of the icing.
    13th Nov, 2017
    Can anyone tell me how tall this cake is when complete? I don't know how big a container I should buy to take it to the party..... Any helping points gratefully received!
    goodfoodteam's picture
    16th Nov, 2017
    Thanks for your question. We'd recommend a cake box with around 25cm height to allow for some clearance too.
    12th Nov, 2017
    Hello, can you please advise what to do if I need to make a bigger dose of the cake, lets say for a 33 cm baking tin? As I don't want to play with the egg proportions, I thought to just make your double dose for your 2x20 cm as a single dose for one of my 33 cm tins, or is that going to spoil the cake? I imagine it will just make it taller? Thank you!
    goodfoodteam's picture
    16th Nov, 2017
    Thanks for your question. Unfortunately as all our recipes are triple tested to ensure they work with the proportions and ingredients given we cannot give specific advice on quantities and timings if you want to increase the recipe.
    17th Sep, 2015
    I made this cake and it looked very impressive however I agree with many of the comments that the taste was not great. Not terrible but not great. Has anyone tried replacing the vanilla with lemon? I wonder whether this would make it taste any better?
    3rd Jun, 2015
    Can you use caster sugar or does it have to be golden caster sugar
    goodfoodteam's picture
    10th Nov, 2015
    Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. White caster sugar should be fine to use instead of golden caster sugar.
    7th Feb, 2015
    Hi guys! I really want to make this cake! But my tins measure 26cm x H6.7cm I am terrible at trying to work out measurements to adjust to me tin, and don't want to spend ages making a mixture that doesn't fit the tins :( I would be so SO SO GRATEFUL if anyone could give me the correct measurements for this tin size!!! :) hope to hear from well anyone soon!!! Xxxxxxxx


    Ellen Grace Hills's picture
    Ellen Grace Hills
    6th May, 2018
    do NOT open the OVEN while baking
    stia_616's picture
    28th Jun, 2013
    After reading the comments on here I still decided to make this for a birthday, and it's come out great . I did, however, make a few changes. I used a basic Victoria Sponge mix (found on this website also), making each layer with 100g selfraising flour, 100g butter, 100g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp of baking powder and a tsp of vanilla essence. You will have to trim the top of the cakes slightly before layering, but it's a small price to pay for a better tasting cake. 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. I will admit, I cheated with the outside icing, buying it ready made as I'm not overly great with icing, but with cost it worked out the same to buy ready made cream cheese flavour icing as it was to make it from scratch. I made a simple butter icing to sandwich between the layers, which could also be used to cover the outside, to save the issue of runny icing. Using these steps this cake worked like a treat and went down very well with everyone who tried it, even with the kitchen staff of the restaurant we used I hope these tips help anyone else thinking of making this cake for a special occasion.
    Kerry Cooks
    23rd Aug, 2013
    Hello everyone! I have developed a very successful rainbow cake recipe on my blog - see all the positive reviews from people who've made it for their kids parties! http://kerrycooks.com/2012/04/rainbow-cake.html It's just a Victoria sponge mix, with gel colours, and baked in disposable tins. The frosting is cream cheese, and the whole thing is DELICIOUS! Hope you enjoy, if you have any questions, leave me a comment on my blog and I'll try and help.