Recipe for Rainbow Cake

March 29 2009 - 5:26 PM

Over the weekend, I did something completely out of character: I baked a rainbow cake. This is striking because I am pretty health conscious and strive to cook things from scratch, eschew the use of processed or packaged ingredients, and usually don't find a dish interesting unless it has some sort of esoteric ingredient, like sumac or harissa. Also, I hate baking and generally avoid it because it's very precise, error-prone and does not allow for creativity. (At least, I am not knowledgeable enough about baking to be creative with it.) At any rate, for this cake I used boxed cake mix and leaned on my buddies Red 40, Yellow 5 and Blue 1 for help.

Some recommended uses for cake:

  • Centerpiece for your 3-year-old's Care Bears party
  • Relive the '90s with a Lisa Frank sticker and stationery swapping bash
  • Celebrate the discovery of the end of the rainbow
  • Coming out party for your angsty teen
  • Mark the release of the latest Radiohead album
  • Offer your dieting guests a slice of the infrared spectrum cake; it's calorie-free

Armed with some tips from this post, I set out to make a cake more colorful than Candy Mountain. I followed the directions to make batter for one box of white cake mix, then split the batter into six equal parts (about half a cup each). For coloring, I used Betty Crocker gel food colors (located next to the icing), which are cheaper than regular food coloring, give more vivid colors and result in less dilution of your recipes. Straining to recall the color wheel from elementary school art, I concocted an array of batters.

 Next, I scooped the batter into a greased, 9" round pan. The proper technique is to pour each color directly into the center of the pan, on top of the previous color. Don't worry about spreading or mixing it; as each layer gets added, it will push the previous layers out to the sides quite nicely.

With 40 minutes of baking at 350 degrees, this gave me a nice single-layer cake round. After allowing the cake to cool, I threw on some innocuous white icing to hide the surprise underneath. In an effort to recover my cooking credibility, I did make orange cream cheese icing from scratch. This was done by creaming 3 T of softened butter with an 8 oz package of cream cheese, then adding 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 t of vanilla extract and zest of 1 orange. The finished cake is below:

The final product turned out quite well, with each color clearly visible in every slice. And as someone who hates icing, this frosting was a perfect complement to the cake, not cloyingly sweet, with some citrusy notes for depth. Our waitress at dinner was so taken by the cake that she asked if she could try a slice. Needless to say, it was demolished by the end of the night.