Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

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(139 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 a dairy product made from separating whole milk or cream into fat and…

    • 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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    Sophie Burgess's picture
    Sophie Burgess
    9th Dec, 2019
    I made this cake for my sister's birthday. It took me around 3 hours probably because I made some errors. But it does need patience. The cake was a little flat and dense but it probably needs to be because it's so tall. In the end, I had to skip the red layer because the dye wasn't good enough. I recommend getting food coloring and not gel if you want that vibrant look. I also recommend getting a smoothing knife and a spinning table because it would have taken me twice as long to do the icing without those tools. Overall it was worth the try but I don't think I will be making this again.
    Liana Heywood's picture
    Liana Heywood
    1st Dec, 2019
    It was amazing and would definitely recommend!! I made this cake for a 7th birthday party and it turned out just the way i wanted it! After reading some of the comments i was unsure but still went ahead and soo glad i did. The cake turned out perfect texture and tasted lovely. I put a tsp of orange essence in the orange layer and a tsp of lemon essence in the yellow layer to give it some extra taste which worked well. I used butter cream (around 350g butter, 700g icing sugar and 2tsp vanilla essence) for the layers and around the sides and top. Some of the layers i also put blackcurrant jam instead (didnt want too much butter cream) and that also worked really well! I used “cake decor rainbow cake colour gels” (£2.50 for 5 in the range) which also made lovely colours and also used dr oetker purple which wasnt as good but not bad. Would definitely recommend this recipe!!!!
    The Brady Bunch
    28th Oct, 2019
    Made this cake at the request of my daughter. I'd done it before and it was a disaster, so was very reluctant. But.... this time it worked a treat and she was very pleased with the result. I followed the recipe exactly and used Dr Oetker gel extra strong food colouring from Sainsbury's. Take your time with this recipe and don't get distracted, as it requires your full attention. Definitely more of a challenge and not my "go to" cake for any occasion, but worth the effort for a happy daughter on her 16th.
    11th Sep, 2019
    I made this cake for my dad and he LOVED IT!! He is a coeliac so I cautiously attempted this same recipe with Sainsbury's plain gluten free flour and it came out exactly the same! I was totally impressed, this recipe is perfect!! I swapped the cream cheese for vanilla buttercream and it tasted equally as yummy! 100% recommended and will definitely be making this again!!
    24th Jun, 2019
    I made this cake this week and it was fab! I used Dr Oetker extra strong gels and the colours were great. The cake went stale quite quickly so I would make it the night before if I were you. I used the hummingbird recipe for cream cheese frosting as I prefer it with butter. I also used a couple of dowling rods as the 7 layers meant it was tall. And I did a crumb coat before the final coat, which meant I had a lovely finish! I would make again!
    Amber.wright's picture
    11th Apr, 2019
    WOW! Such an amazing recipe, the cake came out as perfect as the picture with light airy sponges and a lovely soft cheese icing I will 100% make this again.
    Michael Abbott
    21st Mar, 2019
    I am so confused about the bad 1 star comments on here. We are making this for the 5th time tomorrow and the four previous have turned out as advertised and gone down really well with kids and parents alike. The sponges are meant to be reasonably slim but they always turn out soft and moist. Make sure you use the correct size tin, maybe that’s where some go wrong? The icing IS unique for a traditional birthday cake but as long as you don’t work it too much it’s perfectly thick and workable, and personally, delicious! Follow the instructions and I don’t see how it could go wrong. Big thumbs up from a seldom baking family of five.
    6th Mar, 2019
    I have made this cake 5 times. They have always turned out really well. I use Wilton food colouring and I think that is what may make all the difference. You can buy Wilton food colouring in packs of 6 off Amazon. The price may seem steep but the colourings are very vibrant and last forever. The cakes themselves do come out the oven fairly thin, but once all 6 layers are stacked on top of each other, it actually is quite a tall cake. To ice the cake I make buttercream icing.
    2nd Mar, 2019
    I wish i’d read the other comments before making this. The cake mixture has really odd proportions and makes a lot of solid, dense, tasteless disks. Such a lot of effort for a really disappointing cake. Great shame as was for a birthday too. Infact I ended up binning and making dash to supermarket for alternative!
    jeyaram jeyabalan's picture
    jeyaram jeyabalan
    10th Feb, 2019


    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


    Liana Heywood's picture
    Liana Heywood
    1st Dec, 2019
    I put a tsp of orange essence in the orange layer and a tsp of lemon essence in the yellow layer to give it a bit of extra taste. Also used jam in between some layers for more taste and buttercream on the others, which also made made colours!
    11th Sep, 2019
    Using gel food colouring is recommended as it gives a stronger colour and doesn't change the consistency of the mixture.
    pollyarty's picture
    9th Aug, 2019
    I've made this successfully a few times, and I would suggest two things: Use concentrated food colouring so as not to make the cake mix runny, and secondly use buttercream to ice it - the cream cheese frosting is just too unpredictable!
    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.
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