In April, I showed you my food gels and asked you what you thought I was doing with them. Maybe if I had lined them up in rainbow order, you would have had a better idea.
Because I bought those gels at the craft store with a very specific purpose in mind.
Rainbow Cake. And you should have heard me squeal when I sliced into this baby. Just ask Cari Faye, she was there.
And she was equally excited. Who wouldn’t be? A six-layer cake with gobs and gobs of cream cheese frosting? Ask yourself whether life gets any better.
This baby has been all over the internet, but I first found it through Meg about two years ago. Like the latest Lady Gaga song, rainbow cake was instantly stuck in my head. Once I = ran out of all the other crazy cake ideas I had amassed online, I was left with but one. The Rainbow Cake. I knew I would take the boxed-mix (versus from-scratch) route because I’ve never made a cake taller than two layers, and I didn’t want to be playing around with a new cake recipe to boot. This cake was not just for my own benefit, this had to feed other people. Ergo, it had to be edible.
It all began on Thursday evening, two days before we were expecting company. Since I’m not a big apron-wearer, I made like Lilly Pulitzer did when working at her roadside juice stand, and put on the brightest apparel I owned. That way, if things got out of hand, and gel was haphazardly flung about, you wouldn’t know it to look at me. Now I could wipe my hands on my pants without fear.
Next, I lined up my beloved Parker Bowls in rainbow order (with a couple of Pyrex mixing bowls thrown in), and set to work making the cake. Start time, as you can see, was 8:30. I worked, not so diligently, being distracted by necessary evils like Twitter and Facebook, and had the batter divided, and all the colors mixed by 9:00.
It was too fun adding the gels and seeing just how bright the colors looked when everything was mixed up. Then I greased and floured my two, 8-inch round cake pans, and started baking in rainbow order. Each layer took 12 minutes to bake, which is about how long you need to let a layer cool before you take it out of the pan. Translation: Once you get going, you will find yourself in a nice groove of one pan in, one pan out, so that your oven is not on longer than it has to be. I finished the baking and dishes by 10:30. Have you ever seen dishes that are more fun?
Then, I used a large serrated knife (the kind with teeth) to gently even out the tops of the layers, which were quite lumpy and bumpy. Sous Chef Lauren would have done this with painstaking accuracy. I did not. I took a shelf out of my fridge, threw a piece of parchment paper between each layer, stacked them on a cake stand, wrapped the whole thing in foil and kissed the cake goodbye for approximately 36 hours. Goodbye little cake. See you soon.
Hello Saturday morning at 7:00. Yes folks, I’m an early riser. Now you know why you see so many pancakes here on the weekends. What else is there to do at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday? Run? Please! I whip up cream cheese frosting.
I unstacked all of the layers, and frosted the cake, placing the layers back on the cake in reverse rainbow order (starting with purple). Anyone who knows me will know how difficult a task that was for my scatterbrained mind.
Frost the tops of all the layers and stack, stack, stack (stack, stack).
At this stage in the game, things get really exciting. You start realizing that you’re about to pull it all off.
Finish frosting the sides and there you have it. Yes, there are crumbs in my frosting. No, I do not care. I rarely use boxed-cake mixes, but when I do, I cannot complete the process without getting crumbs in the frosting of the cake. Shockingly, no one I’ve ever served cake to has complained.
Confessions: I don’t like cake that much. Cupcakes, yes. Cake, eh. We sent the leftovers home with friends and I’m slightly ashamed to tell you I threw the rest out. I debated making cake pops with the leftover chunk plus the bumpy tops I had cut off before, but that seemed like a lot of trouble. The rainbow cake had already served its purpose.
To make a cake that will wow your friends for all eternity, you will need:
- 2 boxes white cake mix and the necessary eggs and oil called for on the back.
- Wilton food gels in the colors of the rainbow, available at craft stores like Michael’s and A.C. Moore, or Target if you have a good one. (I’m sorry to tell you that no, you cannot use food coloring. Gels are concentrated so you’re not adding any liquid to the batter when you add them. Food coloring is so watery that to use enough to turn the batter the right color would turn your cake into a watery mess).
For the icing:
- 4, 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 C butter (2 sticks), softened
- 2 lb. powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
- 1 T vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the (double batch of) cake batter in a large mixing bowl. Set out 6 smaller bowls. Divide the batter evenly among the bowls. I started by filling each with 1 C batter, then added just under 1/2 C to each bowl. Add no more than 1/8 tsp. of food gel to each of the bowls. It helped me to go in order, so I added red to the first bowl, then orange, yellow, you get it. Stir each (I used spoons because who has 6 whisks?) until the batter is completely mixed. Make sure you scrape, because I found some white batter hiding in the bottom of each bowl. Grease and flour the bottom of as many 8-inch cake pans as you have (I had two). You could use parchment here, but I’m not the type to cut out that much. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for…well, I’m not sure. That’s going to depend on exactly how much batter you have. Recipes I saw said between 10-15 minutes, and my layers took 12. I would check on your cakes 10 minutes through, and add time as necessary. The cake is done when you stick a tester (toothpick, knife, what have you) in the middle of the cake, pull it out, and it has no crumbs. Set the cakes aside to cool. After about 10 minutes of cooling, loosen the edges of the cake by running a knife around the pan, and remove the cakes from the pan. Repeat this process if you don’t have 6, 8-inch pans, and have more baking to do.
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use your electric mixer and a large mixing bowl). Slowly add the sugar, about 1 C at a time. When things start looking a little dry, add the vanilla. Then, keep going with the sugar, scraping down the bowl when things look lumpy.
Start stacking the cake, with the purple layer on the bottom. Ice the top of the layer, then add blue. Ice the top of that, then add green, ice, add yellow, ice, add orange, ice, add red. Ice the top of the red layer of cake and work your way down the sides.