Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(89 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

    Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
    1st Aug, 2016
    My first practice run at his cake for my step-daughters 18th birthday was not very good so I bought the gel food colourings and used a Victoria sponge recipe instead. Considering it was also gluten free it came out perfectly. To make the cream cheese icing more robust I added butter. In the end it was perfect and everyone loved it and said how tasty it was. I would definitely recommend using the gel colourings not the liquid ones as they taste horrible (and the sponge will turn out a little less dense) and adding butter to the icing.
    4th Jul, 2016
    My daughter had insisted on a rainbow cake and although the sponge works well, I would avoid the cream cheese icing. The teens I served this too were not impressed with a cake that smelt of cheese! No amount of icing sugar will hide it and the outside will not look like the picture. I would advise that you use butter icing instead.
    1st Aug, 2016
    If you add butter to the cream cheese icing it comes out much tastier, more robust and doesn't smell so strongly of cheese!!!
    5th May, 2016
    I made this for my little girls 3rd birthday and it was fab! I was initially worried that the cakes were too dense and flat but it worked out so well when they were stacked up and iced. It's a real 'Wow' cake. She's already looking for it for her 4th birthday!
    16th Apr, 2016
    Absolutely brilliant. Have made three times now - once for my daughter's birthday as written and then twice more as ombre cakes with gradations of pink colour... Used Wilton paste colours and iced with buttercream. Great technique is making them in pairs and freezing wrapped in cling film as you can get them all out the night before the event to speedily ice and you're away. Can't speak highly enough - follow to the letter and you'll be delighted!
    31st Jan, 2016
    The cakes were really good but the icing was awful. We followed the recipe and it was far too runny and wouldn't spread over the cake so we had to make a last minute run to the shop to get some fondant icing. I'd completely recommend finding a separate icing recipe.
    1st Aug, 2016
    If you add butter to the cream cheese icing it makes it more robust and much tastier.
    25th Jan, 2016
    After reading some reviews I was scared, but I wanted to make this cake for my daughters 4 th birthday rainbow party and being a denser cake it was the only option in creating a really tall cake. And it was amazing. I did a test run initially weeks back and did the half measure but it was too fidly as thicker batter and even though I measured perfectly they came out uneven so I opted to make them individually using two thirds of the mixture (83g butter, 150 g flour, 100 g caster sugar, 2 eggs, two thirds teaspoon of baking powder and vanilla, still a pinch of salt). Made them over 2 nights, froze all of them and bought them out the day before for icing. Just needed to cut a little of the top to even it out. Cream cheese Icing was the correct amount however I only used a little in between as you need a lot to hide over the top and sides to hide the colours. I'm in oz so it was a very hot day so kept icing in fridge to keep cool and workable whilst icing. Using this amount though it is a huge tall cake, however everyone loved it. And the effect of the colours was amazing (used queen gel and you only need a couple drops which doesn't alter taste at all) Cut it into 2cm by 2cm pieces vertical and stuck a skewer stick down the middle for the kids so everyone got to have all the colours.
    Louise Campbell
    16th Jan, 2016
    I just made this for my daughter's birthday and decorated with rainbows and my little ponies. Thank you to everyone for their comments. I froze the cakes before icing them and made an icing with 2 packs of butter, icing sugar and a tub of marscarpone (which was delicious). I thought the cakes tasted great and I got lots of compliments!
    16th Jan, 2016
    I decided to make this cake as a surprise for my wife. I followed this recipe by the letter and wish I had read the comments beforehand. "Tip all the ingredients in, bake for 12 minutes". In my gut it didn't feel right but went along anyway. Cakes rose well but sank straight after coming out the oven. The cakes don't taste particularly appetising and are very dense. They're edible but you don't be l need a big piece to soon fill up! Mascarpone icing worked well in that it didn't turn runny and it set even better once the cake had 10 minutes in the fridge. It didn't look pretty though so covered it in ready to roll icing and added some decorative piped icing. It's quite a large cake and with it being so dense, it feels even bigger. I fear this one will be going in the bin. All in all, poor recipe with disappointing results.


    green cupboard
    3rd Nov, 2015
    I know it is good because I have masked it be for
    goodfoodteam's picture
    9th Feb, 2015
    Hi Clairecutecake, thanks for getting in touch and really glad you're thinking of baking this cake. We haven't tested this recipe using a larger tin so for perfect results we would suggest purchasing the correct size tin as changing the size could alter the structure of the cake drastically. We're hestitant to give estimated quantities as we wouldn't want you to waste ingredients. 
    27th Nov, 2014
    Is it okay if I don't use the ..instead use baking powder...????
    14th Aug, 2014
    I have added gel food colouring to cake mix now looks curdled
    Comablackmm's picture
    2nd Sep, 2014
    Whenever you make a basic sponge recipe, use soft butter and cream it first. Then add the sugar and mix for a couple of minutes until well combined and it goes a lighter colour. Then add your eggs and mix very thoroughly for a further couple of minutes. Often the mixture does curdle a little in my experience, but if you have the flour ready weighed out, sift a little in and combine. This stops the curdling process. Then continue to add your flour. It shouldn't make any difference providing it'd not left in the curdled state for a long length of time. Hope this helps
    11th Aug, 2014
    Does the quantity for the cream cheese icing have to be x3 as well? Thanks
    Comablackmm's picture
    2nd Sep, 2014
    No, this is for the whole cake. You only have to treble the cake quantities to make the 6 layers. I would recommend having extra cream cheese as well as the 3 tubs of 250g, though, as hiding the beautiful colours underneath is quite challenging!
    4th Aug, 2014
    Having to type again as posted in comments incorrectly. My question is why is the recipe described as having buttercream when the icing uses cream cheese?
    Sarah Dimech
    14th Jun, 2014
    I need to know exactly the amount used for the purple colouring because it always comes out grey or at most very light purple. Last time I tried making a dozen cupcakes using Dr O's purple but I was not happy with the end result of the colour... can someone help me pls?
    11th Mar, 2014
    I want to make this cake for my other half, birthday is next week (18th March)... I only have this Friday off, but I was wondering, does anyone know how long this would last? 4 Days before the first slice is cut? Would that be ok? Thanks for any help or advice.


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