Double (Rainbow) Guest Attempt: Rainbow Cake

Is there anything (at least momentarily) more hopeful than a rainbow? Yes, you guessed it: Double rainbow!

(via Martha Stewart) Whisk Kid's version:
photo by Kaitlin Flannery of Whisk Kid

Sara's version:
photo by Sara Moe

Evin's version:
photo by Evin Watson

Sara's photographic recap:
Evin's recap:
My two year old daughter insisted on a rainbows-and-polka-dots themed birthday. Our friend, Jodi found that Martha Stewart had the perfect solution, a six-layer rainbow cake. I laughed when I saw the photo.

I have no real cake-making skills. The ridiculous height didn't concern me, however the color; the essence of the rainbow; how do you get those colors with that crappy, gnome shaped grocery store food coloring? The answer: gel food coloring. That is lesson number one and maybe the only one learned from this recipe, but its effect on me is immeasurable. There is no mixing liquids and ending up with dull colors and stained fingers. You just buy the gel food coloring that matches the color you are going for. Simple. And there are millions of colors to choose from. It can't be found at the grocery store, but William Sonoma seems to have it on their website, and I'm sure it is common in any baking specialty store. I got ours at this amazing baking store called NY Cake. (There is also a location in LA.)

The recipe instructs you to make the batter for all six layers at once, divide it evenly, and then add the colors. After adding the coloring, the vibrant batter immediately reminded me of that multi-colored custard they had the food fight with in Hook. Remember? They don't have food or parents, but the lost boys use their imagination to fill their bowls with roasted meat and colorful custard.

Once you've added the color to the batter everything else is straightforward. I have to say we were really impressed with the result. We didn't manage to get the icing between the layers to go on as thick as we wanted. The bands of white in Martha's cake look so good. I don't think it worked because the layers didn't cool all the way before we iced. (We don't have wire cooling racks. Those might have come in handy.)

In the end the end, we stuck to the recipe as best we could. The only thing different is the lack of sprinkles on the outside, which would have made a lot of sense. Because what is better than one rainbow? DOUBLE RAINBOW!!

OK, so I stole Evin's double rainbow joke for the first line of this post, but stand by the theft as I feel that the double rainbow joke needed to be doubly mentioned. Also: a big thank you to Evin, Keeley, Sara, and Sean for sharing! You guys are amazing. 

And lastly: this post feels a little awkward coming after what has happened and is still happening in Japan. I think Tim from Lottie + Doof summed up this confusion and awkwardness quite nicely here. And while making rainbow cakes and milk punch certainly can't hurt, I hope we can all finds ways to help. 
UPDATE! Another way to help: Heath Ceramics is donating 25% of online sales now through March 24th to Architecture for Humanity's rebuilding efforts in Japan. Check it out here.

Recipe via Martha Stewart via Whisk Kid!
Makes one 9-inch-round six-layer cake.

vegetable shortening
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/3 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple gel food coloring
Lemony Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush six 9-inch-round cake pans (or as many 9-inch cake pans as you have, reusing them as necessary) with shortening. Line bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper; brush again and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Slowly add egg whites and mix until well combined. Add vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Add flour mixture and milk in two alternating additions, beginning with the flour and ending with the milk. Mix until well combined.

Divide batter evenly between six medium bowls. Add enough of each color of food coloring to each bowl, whisking, until desired shade is reached. Transfer each color to an individual cake pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 15 minutes (working in batches if necessary).

Remove cakes from oven and transfer to a wire rack; let cool for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a wire rack; re-invert and let cool completely.

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the purple layer on the cake plate. Spread a scant 1 cup buttercream filling over the first layer with a small offset spatula so it extends just beyond edges. Repeat process with blue, green, yellow, and orange layers.

Place the remaining red layer on top, bottom-side up. Gently sweep away any loose crumbs with a pastry brush. Using an offset spatula, cover the top and sides with a thin layer of frosting (also use any of the excess frosting visible between the layers). Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
Using an offset spatula, cover cake again with remaining frosting.


Matthew said...

Where were these when I was a kid??? They both look amazing. AND I had the pleasure of enjoying a piece (or two) of Sara's cake and it was kind of the best cake in the world -- somehow better for being rainbow colored.

Unknown said...

Oh God, did anybody else see all the colours and think about how hyperactive that would make them? Am I the only health food fanatic in the audience?

That said, few things make me happier than colours. Really, when I was in India last month, I bounced around a few fabric stores freaking out about all the colours and getting some really strange looks. So hooray for rainbows. Hooray for food colouring hyperactivity. And pretty pretty cakes. Well done on the layering, too :).

Brands family blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brands family blog said...

I LOVE this. I'm going to make it with natural food coloring. It may not turn out as vibrant, but I'll be happy to avoid artificial food coloring and my kids are going to love this. Wish me luck on my experiment. I love this blog, thanks.

Natalie (NJ in L.A.) said...

I've wanted to see someone actually making this, thanks for sharing! Looks so sweet and fun.

Sprinzette @ Ginger and Almonds said...

Oh wow - what a gorgeous cake. So colourful, such lovely pictures.

Meister @ The Nervous Cook said...

When I first encountered this cake (probably through Martha, because G-d help me I love some Martha), my jaw just dropped. It's so "simple," and yet absolutely perfect. What a delightful way to surprise and treat a little one on her birthday!

I love this post. Double rainbow!!

Jessica said...

Gorgeous! Your friends are super talented. Love the Martha successes. I need to go eat some cake.

sara said...

i actually apologized to everyone at the party before serving the cake due to all the food coloring.

however...when a much more militantly natural/organic/non-gmo/anti-things-that-come-in-a-box than me friend listened to me debate making this and said, "it's ONE cake, and it's his birthday!" i realized it was time to let it go and give the kid his birthday wish.

and, i will say he is STILL talking about the moment when, after guessing it was a vanilla cake and sprinkling 'magic' rainbow sprinkles on top, we cut into the behemoth and showed his friends what was really inside.

beth anne!!! said...

i only eat rainbows.

Megan Taylor said...

I love that "HOOK" makes an appearance in this post :)

Sherry said...

Oh man, the colors are amazing! My little boy would flip if he had a cake that colorful.

I'd not concern myself with the shape of the cake or the height either. It would also look nice in pastels with lighter colors I bet.

Great job!

bon appetempt said...

@sherry: pastels!! hadn't thought of that. for Easter/Spring? that would be SO pretty.

@Rebecca & @BrandsFamily: soooo funny! I was so taken by the rainbow effect that though I consider myself at least a semi-health freak, didnt even THINK about the artificial coloring! it's just SO pretty. but i would love to see how it turns out with natural dye. let us know how it turns out!

@sprinzette & @meister & jessica: THANKS! Sara and Evin are the best.

@beth anne: LOLLOLOL

@sissy/megan: totally forgot about Hook. let's watch?

Heather Taylor said...

this is sooooo sick in it's intense cuteness. little winter kills me. and yes sissy/amels - let's watch hook!

The818 said...

Dude - I wish I could have tried Evin's and made it a bake off, because hot damn that was a burst of tasty color!

Andrea said...

This might be making an appearance at Isabel's birthday party. I'm not at all concerned about the artificial food coloring on such a special occasion, and for such a beautiful effect!

Mark and Marsha said...

Who needs a pot o' gold when you can have a Rainbow Cake? It looks like so much fun. Happy St. Patty's Day.

Keeley said...

Winter (the birthday girl) has been to two birthday parties since hers and each time a cake has been cut she turns around to me and says "no rainbows?".

I am pretty crunchy when it comes to the food my daughter eats, and the quality of the food coloring didn't even occur to me. I mean, it's her birthday and she's going to have a cake anyway so why not make it the cake of her dreams!

Kartik @ Bakeology 101 said...

Holy cow! Wow! That cake is so ridiculously good looking. I really feel like quoting Zoolander here.

Kristen said...

This is beautiful and inspiring! I can't wait to try this at home for the boys. I might experiment with different colors though.

Anonymous said...

i just saw a chocolate rainbow cake the other day! it was so massive that the cake cover wouldn't fit. it looked so good. and this looks so good!

Mary Anne said...

Adam loves that cake and he said that if someone made that cake for him he would see those rainbow layers and think, "This is going to be my best year EVER!!!"

birthday cakes girl said...

What a great post! You made me want to run straight to the kitchen and start baking (have to get home from work before though...). Thanks for the recipe.