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

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    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.
    2nd Sep, 2014
    I am 13 and made this cake i added the extra layer and my cake turned out brilliant! I had no help and i cant believe how well this turned out.
    Comablackmm's picture
    2nd Sep, 2014
    I made this cake for my daughters first birthday party and I was thrilled with the result, as were the guests. Firstly, I did a trial run to see if I'd need to make any alterations to the recipe before making the real deal. I did a four layer version (two batches of batter) using Dr.O gel food colourings. These were not suitable for a vibrant cake! I used the entire tube, plus adding some liquid food colouring and it was just not sufficient. After this trial run, I purchased a set of Wilton food colourings and these turned out perfectly. The cake is moist, and though a heavier and more dense sponge than a classic Victoria, it was delicious all the same. I was glad I used the cream cheese frosting instead of a buttercream as I think it'd have made it too sweet, but the cream cheese balanced it wonderfully. From my personal experience with using this recipe, I would suggest allowing more time than 3 hours for baking this particular cake. It takes time to weigh everything out, achieve the correct colour, wash everything up and to allow cooling time. Also, once I had baked each of the cakes, I leveled them out all to the same height, wrapped them in clingfilm and froze them. I found it much easier to ice them this way. The night before my daughters party, I unwrapped them all and iced them before putting the cake in the fridge. Then, I took the cake out of the fridge to finish defrosting before putting candles on it and slicing it at around 3pm. Extremely pleased with this recipe, will use again!
    8th Aug, 2014
    Tastes okay but the colours got completely messed up. Will find gels next time as I used bottles.. purple turned grey, green turned yellow and red turned brown. Looks like a cake from a faded photograph!
    4th Aug, 2014
    Why does the recipe description state that it's a cake with buttercream when the icing is made up with cream cheese?
    20th Jul, 2014
    Great recipe! I enjoy baking but I admit I am not the best. I was little put off by all the negative comments but I had a go. Looked and tasted great. I have three tips. +make the icing first and put it in the fridge. +to add flavour I added lemon zest which was really successful. +small slices!!!it is very filling but delicious. SMALL SLICES
    10th Jul, 2014
    Firstly - what colours did I use? I used Wilton colour pastes - about 1/4 of a jar for each layer - which made for a really vibrant colour without any bitter taste. The cake mixture was great I thought. It is quite dense - nothing like a Victoria sponge - but if you smooth it well when you put the batter in the tin, then you will get a fairly flat cooked cake. It does not dome in the middle as it rises in the oven. The denseness of the cake also means that it lasts well and does not go stale quickly. The place where I really came a cropper was the icing and if I did it again then I would use a butter cream. I would say that you have to put the mixed icing in the fridge for at least 3 hours before you have the remotest change of getting a 'thick' layer over the side of the cake. Also with the cream cheese icing you do need then to keep the cake cool - which as it is s big necessitated removing a shelf from my fridge to fit it in! On the whole a great success though.
    6th Apr, 2014
    After reading the comments I sought out Sugar Flair gels at a local craft shop as I could only find Dr Oetker colours at the supermarkets. Other than that, and using normal buttercream icing instead of the mascarpone one I followed the recipe to the letter. It took a good few hours but was not in anyway complicated, the finished cake looked and tasted amazing.
    16th Mar, 2014
    This was a fairly straight forward recipe although I did add more sugar than suggested and had to cook for a lot longer ( but I think this was due to not have a fan assisted oven) I used the colour pastes that were suggested on the tips page they worked a dream - I got vibrant colours with altering the taste! Thanks for the recipe and the tips!


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