Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(86 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.
    3rd Jul, 2015
    Showstopper of a cake!!!! Made this for daughters 18th birthday buffet for family & friends and it was a great success. Having read the previous comments I was a bit nervous - I'm not very good with cakes usually. Followed cake recipe exactly and although it's a bit time consuming it's very straightforward. I used Wilton colouring gels from Lakeland and the colours were fabulous with no taste to them. Made the cakes the day before, wrapped them in clingfilm & stored in tins over night before assembling just before the party. I used mascarpone for the icing - absolutely delicious but could have done with a bit more. Also used full fat as have been advised that the low fat is more likely to split & get runny. The one thing I would suggest is that you ice the cake in 2 goes - by the time I had assembled it and covered the top, the icing was very soft for doing the sides. Could have done with re-chilling but I was running out of time. However, no-one but me seemed to notice the inexpert icing! The cake is denser than a victoria sponge - but it wasn't heavy or dry & the balance with the sweet creamy icing was perfect. Would have been a 5 with more icing! Don't be put off by bad reviews - this cake is a real winner!
    28th Jun, 2015
    I made a quicker version on my blog with ordinary buttercream. Looks and tastes great! http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=2308
    14th Jun, 2015
    I made this cake for my daughters 1st birthday party, & was absolutely thrilled with the results. It looked so impressive, and tasted lovely too. I only did 6 layers, but it still resulted I a tall cake! I used the Sugarflair gel colours which give wonderfully vibrant colours, but without needing to use too much of it. I will definitely make this cake again
    30th Mar, 2015
    My son made this without help, when I saw the plain flour out I thought he had made a mistake but no that's what the recipient says.... Self raising would make more sense . Then the timer went off ...said to bake for 12 mins ?? Not long enough,20 mins more like ! Made a very dense cake , not light and fluffy like a sponge should be . Would be better off coloring a Victoria sandwich recipe or ANY other recipie but this one to make a better cake .
    28th Feb, 2015
    I made this a couple of years ago, found it relatively easy, looked beautiful, but like many other reviews it tasted disgusting! My daughter is desperate for me to make it again, I used the Dr Oetker colouring gels last time, an am wondering if all of the bad reviews were because of this, and the Wilton colouring pastes don't cause the bad taste?!
    17th Feb, 2015
    Cakes worked well - colouring wasn't exactly as I was hoping, use more than you expect. Icing was an epic fail - I had two attempts, both of which failed and turned runny, despite being very careful when mixing it. Find an alternative! (Note every other cream cheese frosting recipe has butter in it).
    3rd Jan, 2015
    Not as difficult to make as I expected... I don't think the amounts for the icing were sufficient and I can still see the colours if the sponges through the the icing a wee bit - I'm going to add multi-coloured sprinkles to it, though, to hide it (don't have time to go to the shops to get more cream cheese!!).
    4th Oct, 2014
    I wanted to reassure anyone who is thinking of making this cake but is put off by the reviews. I made it for a 30th birthday party and I was overjoyed at the result. I am by no means an expert, in fact I only started baking six months ago, so it's not particular expertise that made this work. The sponge is denser than cupcake/Victoria sponge, but was still moist and tasted good - and all the cakes were flat when they came out of the oven. This is what I did, in case it helps anyone: * when I made the sponges, rather than throw it all in together I creamed the butter and sugar then added eggs one at a time, followed each time by a bit of the flour and scraping down the bowl after each addition. * I used Wilton Icing Paste colours from Lakeland. They are just as excellent in sponge as they are in icing, you need only the tiniest amount to make beautiful colours - I probably used no more than a quarter of a teaspoon of colour in each sponge, if that. Dip a knife into the colour, then into the batter. It will surprise you how vibrant the colours are. * I baked each sponge layer for 10 mins - they were done by then, 12 mins would have been too long in my oven despite using the temp suggested and not having a fan. I think those that have ended up with rubbery sponge may have overcooked by accident. * rather than cream cheese icing (which I love but is hard to transport and this cake had to survive a car journey!) I used the chocolate buttercream recipe from Nigella's chocolate fudge cake recipe - it's my favourite - it has real dark chocolate in rather than cocoa powder :-) it went really well with the cake and stuck the layers together nicely. It was such a lovely feeling hearing everyone say "oooooooooh" when the cake was cut, and I got so many compliments. Don't worry - make this cake and trust the recipe!
    Sweet Sticky Ra...
    22nd Sep, 2014
    Talk about your voluptuous rainbows! My wife's birthday is coming up. This would make one heck of an ambitious venture she won't soon forget. I will have to leave out the frosting since she does not care for that.
    22nd Sep, 2014
    I made this cake with the extra layer and it turned out great. I used mascarpone and made it very decadent. I would advise thin slices when serving. I will also invest in better colours Dr Oetker gels weren't enough.


    goodfoodteam's picture
    24th Mar, 2014
    Hi there. We wouldn't advise making the cake that far in advance, 1-2 days would be much better.
    2nd Mar, 2014
    I'm rubbish at baking but my sister-in-law wants me to make a cake for my nieces birthday in September. I'm thinking of doing something like this but can this be covered in fondant icing? She's mad on The Little Mermaid so was going to use aqua/purple/pink layers and then do some sea themed decorations on the fondant but will it work?
    goodfoodteam's picture
    10th Mar, 2014
    Hey there, thanks for getting in touch. Yes, those layers sound great - it should work well. Hope it turns out nicely.
    1st Oct, 2013
    If you're making the pink layer, how do you half 3 eggs?
    goodfoodteam's picture
    10th Mar, 2014
    Hi there, thanks for getting in touch.  In this case, we'd beat three eggs together, weigh the total and then halve it. You can freeze the leftover eggs for another time or eat them for breakfast.
    29th Jul, 2013
    Hi, I am hoping to make the Rainbow Cake for my son's 1st birthday, I've had my heart set on it so have taken on all the feedback here and remain determined!! I was just wondering if anyone who used the Sugarflair colours would have the time to tell me which shades they used? Thanks x


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