Vanilla Rainbow Bundt Cake


I wish I could say a child were involved in the making of this. It would be better for my ego.

But no, this one was all me.

As I’ve said before, I don’t decorate. I aim to make things that taste good, not look good. So why would I make a cake whose execution depends entirely on decoration? Why would I let this happen?

Nostalgia might be the best explanation. Kate and I got to talking about the PBS kids’ show Zoom, which we used to watch when we were children. We both recalled one episode in which Caroline made a rainbow cake, which Kate had always wanted to make, and which my eleven-year-old self actually did end up making not long after seeing the episode.

And then, just like that, we wanted a rainbow cake.


I’m pleased (or should it be ashamed?) to say that I took this cake to the next level. First, angel food cake is pointless, so let’s cut that out right now. I went with my favorite vanilla cake recipe instead.

Second, the rainbow cake on Zoom had only three colors. If I’m going to be ridiculous, I’m going to be very ridiculous. I chose to use six (I know there are seven colors in a rainbow, but indigo needs to get over itself. Blue is already represented. The rainbow doesn’t need you).



This meant that my batter was divided into six bowls. That I had to separate my frosting out into six different Ziploc bags (sorry, environment). That I had so many more dishes to wash.

But I’m an adult and no child is going to tell me how many colors my rainbow cake should have.


I used gel food coloring for this, which is why the colors are so vibrant (almost disturbingly so). Once cut open, the cake looked closer to a tie-dye experiment than anything rainbow-like, but you know what? It looked cool and it was fun to eat. Even if I did feel like I was eating Play-Doh (although I’ve eaten Play-Doh and I can attest that this cake was better.)

As I mentioned, I used the same recipe I used for my one-bowl vanilla cake. This recipe is meant to be baked in 9-inch cake pans, but as Cook’s Illustrated confirms it’s not much trouble to convert it to a bundt pan. You just bake it for longer–in my case, 45 minutes instead of the usual 30-35.


Of course, this actually makes two rainbow cakes because you have to cut the bundt cake in half to produce the desired rainbow shape. And I already exhausted what meager decorating abilities I had on the first cake. The show cake. The money cake.

What became of the other half of the cake, you may ask? Well, um. I smooshed the leftover frosting in all its assorted colors on top of it and frosted it with abandon. And then I rolled that monstrosity in plastic wrap and froze it. I knew Kate and I would get desperate enough to break into this shame cake. (And we did, just four weeks later. It was ugly but delicious.)

“Ugly but delicious”–you’d read that cookbook, wouldn’t you?


Vanilla Rainbow Bundt Cake

Source: Recipe from here; technique inspired by Zoom

Makes one bundt cake (two rainbow halves)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • Food coloring in six different colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt (I don’t sift but the original recipe says to, so go for it if that’s your thing). Add the butter, milk, and vanilla; stir until combined. Add the eggs and beat until ribbony and fully incorporated.

Divide the cake batter evenly into six bowls. Use the food coloring to dye the batter in one bowl red, another orange, another yellow, another green, another blue, and another purple.

Pour the red batter into the prepared pan, and then repeat one by one for the rest of the colors in rainbow order (orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet), taking care not to disturb the batter already in the pan when you pour in the additional batter. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (I like to take it out a little earlier–when the toothpick is almost clean but still has a crumb or two stuck to it–to ensure a moist cake).

Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for ten minutes; after ten minutes, turn the cake out onto the rack and let it cool completely.

When cool, use a knife to cut the cake across into two rainbow-shaped halves. Then frost each half with the frosting below.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • Food coloring in six different colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet)

Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and stir to combine.

Leave 2/3 of the frosting white. Divide the remaining 1/3 of the frosting into six small Ziploc bags or bowls. Use a color of food coloring to color each bag of frosting–I would just add a little food coloring to the bag and use my fingers to knead the Ziploc bag until the dye was fully incorporated. This seemed like less work than putting the frosting into bowls, but that’s an option, too.

Spread the white frosting all over each rainbow half of the bundt cake. Then pipe a thin layer of the red frosting in an arc across the front of each rainbow half. Repeat this with the remaining frosting colors in rainbow order (orange, yellow, green, blue, and then violet). Find a small child who can stand near you and take credit for your work. Cut into the cake and enjoy.


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