Rainbow Birthday Cake

rainbow birthday cakeHere’s a way to dress up a white cake for special occasions. The layers are colored and the frosting is white, so when slices are cut it’s the inside that stands out.

I was inspired by a picture I clipped from a magazine ages ago that showed four layers in graduating shades of blue. There was no recipe, if I recall — just the picture. But it was easy to copy using my existing recipes for white cake and buttercream frosting.

My son requested this cake for his birthday with four layers, each in one of our favorite colors. That was orange, green, red, and pink. I can foresee making this on holidays — shades of red and pink for Valentine’s Day, pastel colors for Easter, or red, white, and blue (maybe with another layer of white containing sprinkles?) for Independence Day.

The white cake recipe above yields two 9-inch round layers. I made the recipe twice to get four layers. Each time I made the recipe, I divided the batter evenly into two large measuring cups and tinted them with gel colors before pouring into the baking pans.

I also doubled the buttercream frosting recipe above.

Now, you’ll see from the picture that the cake is missing the red layer my son requested and has a brown one instead. That one counts as a lesson learned. I decided to use some red beet powder as a natural red food coloring — I had used it before to tint frosting — but this time, the cake turned out the color of whole wheat bread. I looked it up and it seems that the baking process, and maybe a reaction to the baking powder, turned the red beet powder brown. Oh, well. I know for next time.

A note on the frosting: For this cake, you want the colored layers to stand out, so you shouldn’t put a lot of frosting between them. Put just a small amount to act as a glue to hold the layers in place. The thin ribbon of white you’ll see between each layer when you cut the cake is also just enough to show off the colors.

White Cake

This is the perfect recipe for a cake you want to cover with frosting and decorate. It’s easy and delicious, but the flavor of the cake stays enough in the background so you can highlight the sweet frosting on top. (See this recipe for a good buttercream frosting here.)

I used this as the base for the Cookie Monster Cake. This recipe is for a double-layer 8- or 9-inch round cake. Halve the recipe for a single-layer cake of the same diameter, though I used half in a 6-inch round cake pan and it turned out well.

I clipped this recipe years ago from the newspaper. It said it won an award at the 1997 Boulder county fair for a woman named Jan Bentley. I feel I ought to give her credit for such a delicious creation!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 egg whites
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C degrees. Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Blend in shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, mix egg whites, milk, and vanilla. Add liquids slowly to the flour mixture and mix by hand, scraping the sides of bowl, until blended. Beat with the mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes until tops are golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Don’t worry if the top is turning dark and you’re still waiting for the toothpick to come out clean, because you’ll slice off the top later.)

Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and place on wire racks until cool completely, about 2 hours.