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A Rainbow Bundt Cake to Celebrate

by Jean Van't Hul
October 23, 2012
rainbow bundt featured image
A Rainbow Bundt Cake

We seem to find a lot of excuses to make cake around here. Especially cake involving color and generous amounts of sprinkles.

Daphne, who turned three last month, finally moved from our bed to her own big girl bed (this transition was a tad overdue). In talking up the move, I told her we would have to celebrate once we set up her new bed, and she, of course, took that to mean there would be cake.

So, yes, there was cake.

Daphne Looking at Cookbook 2

Daphne took the cake selection process very seriously and discussed possible kinds at every opportunity. Should she have a three layer cake? Maybe one with a different flavor for each layer? A chocolate cake? Or a chocolate chip cake like she had baked for her birthday?

But she kept coming back to a rainbow cake, so a rainbow cake it was.

Baking the Rainbow Bundt Cake 1

We all donned aprons (and Daphne did the Rainbow Cake Dance).

Baking the Rainbow Bundt Cake 5

We mixed the batter and added food coloring to create red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. As you can see from the bowl sizes, we mixed decreasing amounts of batter for each color. The recipe is the yellow layer cake recipe from Baking Illustrated (by the Cook’s Illustrated editors)—the second most-used cookbook in our house after The Best Recipe (by the same folks). I’ll include it below.

Baking the Rainbow Bundt Cake 7

Instead of creating a layer cake as we had done before, though, I thought it would be fun to try to make each slice actually look like a curved rainbow. So we spread our colored cake batter in a bundt pan. I pulled each layer up the sides, which turned out to be completely unecessary because the layers closed in at the top. Instead I would just create a flat layer for each successive color but keep each new color closer to the center of the pan space. Does that make sense?

By the way, I thought this was such a unique idea, but I just googled “rainbow bundt cake” and see that it is not so unique. Oh well.

Baking the Rainbow Bundt Cake 8

Here’s the rainbow bundt cake, straight out of the oven. See how the red closed in at the top?

Rainbow Bundt Cake 02

I asked Daphne if it smelled like a rainbow.

Rainbow Bundt Cake 04

We used a cream cheese frosting, just because it was quick and easy to make and we had all the ingredients on hand. It was perfect. And, of course, it forms a lovely base for the requisite rainbow sprinkles.

Rainbow Bundt Cake 07

And the candles? Well, Daphne insisted they were necessary. We lit them and sang a Happy New Bed song to the tune of Happy Birthday.

Rainbow Bundt Cake 10

The candles were blown out, with a little help from big sis who is now sharing her room and has been wonderful during the (ongoing) transition.

Rainbow Bundt Cake 13

The cake was sliced and served to the appropriate oohs and ahs.

A Rainbow Bundt Cake Slice

And we declared that it mostly looked like a real rainbow. And that it was delicious.

Yellow Layer Cake

From Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine

Note: I modified the recipe below only to turn it into a rainbow bundt cake; but otherwise typed it out exactly (even though I don’t own a standing mixer and almost never sift flour).

Serves 8 to 10


1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) plain cake flour, sifted, plus more for dusting the pans

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces

Food coloring


1.  Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a large bundt pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2.  Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat the mixture at the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With the mixer still running at the lowest speed, add the butter 1 piece at time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added. Add the reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow steady stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.

3.  Divide the batter between 6 bowls, with slightly less in each successive bowl. Use food coloring to dye each bowl of batter red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Spread the red batter around the bottom of the bundt pan. Add the orange batter next, making it a narrower strip inside the red batter. Add the yellow, keeping it inside the orange batter so that now you see the yellow batter with stripes of orange and red batter on either side. Continue with green, blue, and finally, purple. Bake until a thin wood skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (The time for the layer cake baked in two cake pans is 20-25 minutes. I started checking the bundt cake at 30 minutes, but it took a full 40 minutes before it was cooked through.) Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake on the wire rack, jiggling a bit to loosen. Cool completely before icing.

4.  Frost the cake (we mixed 4 ounces cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 cups of powdered sugar in a food processor to create a quick frosting). Cut the cake into slices and serve.

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