When Ella turned 4, she had her first big party (a million preschoolers running around Kids U). So to be fair, I asked Claire if she wanted to have a party somewhere for her 4th birthday. "No," she said. "I just want a party at home with my cousins." For the record, that's all she wanted for her birthday last year too. Sometimes I wonder if she is for real, or if this whole sweet and innocent thing is just an extremely convincing and highly effective act?
Since Claire's birthday requests are so simple, I always feel like I have to do a little something extra to make her day special. This year, since she loves drawing (or having me draw) rainbows and her little party just happened to be planned for St. Patrick's Day, I decided to have a rainbow theme. Nothing too fancy, just rainbow balloons, a rainbow candy jar, rainbow fruit skewers (thank you Pinterest), rainbow party hats, and the crown jewel... a rainbow cake.
If you happen to follow me on any form of social media, you probably saw (and probably got sick of) all my Instagram photos of the cake-making process. Now, I know the last thing the world needs is another rainbow cake tutorial (there are already about a thousand and one online), but here are my novice cake-maker steps for making a foolproof rainbow cake. Mostly I'm just documenting this because I can't believe I managed to make this without any major mishaps like the overflowing cake pan incident of 2010.
First, take two boxes of white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker SuperMoist Vanilla) and mix according to the directions. Of course, you can go the Martha Stewart route if you want and make your cake from scratch, but my primary goal was to have the cake look good, and I wanted to accomplish that in the easiest possible way. Thank you Betty Crocker.
Second, divide the cake batter evenly among six bowls (I just used six cereal bowls and they were the perfect size). I used a measuring cup to divide the batter and there ended up being about 1 1/2 cups of batter per bowl.
Third, add gel food coloring to each bowl. I used a toothpick to take a glob of gel out of the container and add it to the batter in the bowl. These were the colors I used:
and this is what it looked like when I was done mixing all the colors. Obviously, if you have an aversion to food coloring this is not the cake for you.
Fourth, add batter from one bowl to a 9-inch round cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Repeat for all the remaining colors. I only have two round cake pans, so I could only bake two colors at a time. Now, here is my secret weapon. Instead of greasing and flouring your cake pans, use this:
I have no idea what is in this, but it's magical. The directions say to use a pastry brush to spread it but somehow I have managed to reach 32 years of age without owning a pastry brush. I just used a paper towel and it seemed to work just as well.
Fifth, allow the cakes to cool. Then wrap each layer individually and put them all in the freezer for a while. I left mine in there for a couple of hours, but you probably don't need to keep them in there for that long. I'm not sure if this step is really necessary, but it didn't seem to hurt and I think it helped a bit with the assembly. When you are ready to assemble, take each layer out of the freezer (starting with purple) and carefully cut off the domed top of each layer with a serrated knife so that the top becomes flat. Then spread a layer of white frosting on top (I used Betty Crocker Whipped Fluffly White Frosting) and repeat for all the remaining layers.
Finally, you are ready to frost the outside. I did one thin layer first (a "crumb layer" - look at me getting fancy and using official cake baking terms like I actually know what I'm doing), and then added a final layer on top. I used an angled spatula like this one and it was really helpful in spreading the frosting. By the time I was finished, I ended up using four tubs of frosting. It was a lot. If I ever do this again I may consider making my own frosting. Maybe.
When it was all said and done, the cake ended up looking like this. Claire had been talking about this rainbow cake for weeks and the final result did not disappoint. She asked if I would make her a rainbow cake for every birthday, which I believe means that I can officially call the whole experience a success. And for the record, I told her I would make her a rainbow cake every single year - even when she is a grown up if that is what she wants - and I think that pretty much blew her mind (but I totally meant it).
P.S. If you happen to borrow a cake stand from a friend for this project, make sure the stand doesn't have a lip around the edge. Because if it does, you might realize mid-assembly that this lip will prevent you from cutting and serving the cake so that the inside stays perfectly intact (and of course, the whole point of a rainbow cake is the presentation when it's served). And then you might have a minor panic attack and send your husband to the mall at 8pm on a Thursday night to buy you a new cake stand. Just a little public service announcement. You can thank me later.