I’ve seen rainbow cakes all over crafty blogs for months, and have been dying to make one (or two?). What better opportunity than the school Carnival Cake Walk? It was easy peasy lemon squeezy, I promise. A huge thanks to Kristin, who’s daughter won 1 of the cakes. I asked her send me a picture of the cake after it was cut. It’s hard to blog a tutorial without a finished product picture! I couldn’t cut my finished cakes and THEN deliver them, but I was tempted.
I used 2 white box cakes (I wouldn’t recommend vanilla; the base color has a bit of yellow in it), which I divided into 6 small bowls. I used Wilton food coloring, because honestly, I think if you used the drop liquid-y cheap stuff, you’ll be disappointed with your colors. I did a Roy G. Biv over 6 bowls, and baked them separately in 6″ (or 8″…I didn’t measure as per my religious convictions…too much math in crafting ruins everything) round cake pans. Here’s the thing: this cake takes A LOT of icing, so the bigger you make those rounds, the more icing you’ll need. And eventually, with 6 layers, you’ll need supports. It gets complicated, so smaller is better.
One of the handiest tools of cake baking is a cake leveler. It’s a thin, adjustable wire, stretched between two posts with a handle on top. That thin wire will saw through the moistest cake without destroying it. Once the cakes are cooled (and you can see that they all look kind of brown and icky on the edges…no worry, that will be covered with icing), I sawed off the rounded tops. How do round cakes look so…perfectly flat on top and round? Cake levelers. When I stack cakes, I place the exposed tops together, meaning the bottom of the cake is now the top. It’s perfectly flat, just like the bottom of the pan. The night I learned this trick in cake class, I nearly fell out of my chair.
Knowing I would never see the inside of the cake, I made this little stack so I could pseudo-visualize the final stack. These are true to life colors…oh Wilton. I’m sure you are far from organic, but you never disappoint in wow-factor. After I took off the tops, I used my cake leveler and cut every cake in half. Voila! I had enough to make 2 full cakes. With 6 layers of cake, I was sure a full cake would end up far too tall. Less of a cake, and more of a cake tower. For once, Lori Math was spot on correct.
The next trick is icing. Layering takes quite a bit of icing, but took all of 15 minutes. I stuck the leveled sides together as much as possible, but because the cakes were cut in half, I ended up with a raw top on a red cake. Yikes. Box cakes are insane to ice…unless you like rock-sized crumbs in your icing. The next technique I used is called icing a “crumb layer”. I always put a thin layer of icing on my cakes and let it harden for about 20 minutes. It will be a crumby mess, as you can see on the left cake. Then I put a fresh layer of icing on top of the entire cake, which won’t pull up the crumbs, now suspended in hardened icing. The cake on the right is after a final layering to demonstrate the difference. Another nice trick, which I didn’t have the time to do this round, is to wait another 20 minutes, and gently rub wax paper all over your cake. It will smooth out those ridges. These cakes took 5 and a half jars of commercial icing.
Greg is famous for eating my sawed cake tops, but he’s swearing off sugar during the week. Yikes! I’m pretty sure if I tried this stunt…I’d die immediately. I cut the tops into stars, layered them with dots of icing, and put them in the girls’ lunch boxes the next day. I think they were confused…or pleased. It’s hard to say.
I used a 2D tip and a freezer bag to put little stars around the bottoms. Ai ye ye…jar icing. You can’t shape that stuff to save your life, but hey, it’s fast. In a perfect world, I would have made a huge batch of buttercream icing, but at last check, I have given up “perfect” in exchange for AWESOME. Moving on. I was OK with boring white cakes, knowing no one would pick them until the end, and then thinking they got a lousy cake, would have gotten home and realized they got THE COOLEST CAKE EVER! Because that’s how awesome works. It jumps out and surprises you, just when you thought your ticket to Disappointment City has been punched. But, with that being said, my Daisy Scout Troop wanted a fighting chance at winning the cakes (I spilled the beans…no judging…they are terribly cute and very persuasive). So to mark them in a noticeable way, I hot glued a pennant banner of rainbow leaves on bamboo skewers on the tops of the cakes. The skewers acted as supports, which were probably a prudent decision. Did you know heavily-layered cakes are filled with sticks to hold them up? I might have learned this lesson the hard way, circa July 2001. Some cake disasters you just never forget. I wanted traditional triangle pennants, but with an hour to the deadline, I realized I didn’t have a Cricut cartridge with a triangle. WHAT? Again, moving on. I did have this odd 1970-ish leaf…OK, in a pinch, that will work. To make them, I cut fishing line, taped one end to the counter, held up the other end, and hot glued the back of the leaf, which I VERY GENTLY laid upon the fishing line. This was tricky. Thank heaven’s hot glue dries quickly. Then I put a tiny dot of hot glue on top of the skewers and laid the end of the fishing line into it. Trim and DONE. I delivered these cakes on a windy and very cold afternoon with the leaves just flying in the wind, but nothing moved. I could rule the world with 1 miniature hot glue gun. Tell me I’m wrong.
And there you have it: Rainbow Cakes. No one picked them, thinking they were plain white cakes, and then 2 Daisy Scouts nabbed them during the last rounds of the Cake Walk, and sent me the sweetest pictures from their sleepover, chowing down on the most colorful cake I’ve ever seen. You don’t get cuter than 1st graders eating cake, what with their partially toothless grins and wiry hair. It’s hallmark childhood, that’s what it is. Ha ha ha…I love it! Never judge a cake by its cover!