April Anderson’s Rainbow Cake

published Jun 1, 2021
Pride Bakeshop
Rainbow Cake

This colorful cake is easier to make than it looks, which means it's perfect for just about any celebration.

Serves12 to 16

Makes1 (8-inch) cake

Prep20 minutes

Cook22 minutes to 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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rainbow cake slices on table with glasses nearby
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: CC Buckley; Prop Styling: Stephanie De Luca

This recipe is part of our Pride Bakeshop package, featuring five of our favorite queer bakers and the celebratory dessert that’s bringing them joy right now. Check out all the amazing treats here.

My wife, Michelle, and I co-own a bakery in Detroit called Good Cakes and Bakes, where we serve this beautiful rainbow cake for Pride. We think it’s the perfect recipe for Pride because both experienced and novice bakers can make it for their friends and family. Our Pride cake is a constant reminder of our proud community, and we love it because it represents the rainbow flag — and it’s delicious!

This Pride cake, with its symbolic hues, asks us to be intentional about how we treat people. It invites us to stay actively involved in combating the stigma and inequities that many of our LGBTQIA+ family continue to face. This cake reminds us that we’re all part of the rainbow, regardless of gender, race, or who we choose to love. 

Honestly, our hearts “feel” with joy when we think about the support that we have received from the LGBTQIA+ community. We also love how this cake makes everyone else feel when they see all those layers of color, and then their response when they actually taste the cake — it’s a wonderful experience for us. 

If you make this cake, we would love for you to look up a brief history of the rainbow flag (maybe while the cake is baking). It speaks not only of pride for our community, but it also relays a story of hope, visibility, and unity. And lastly, make sure that you have others around to share this cake with!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: CC Buckley; Prop Styling: Stephanie De Luca

Rainbow Cake

This colorful cake is easier to make than it looks, which means it's perfect for just about any celebration.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 22 minutes to 25 minutes

Makes 1 (8-inch) cake

Serves 12 to 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake layers:

  • 3 sticks

    (12 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 9

    large eggs

  • 3

    large egg yolks

  • 1 1/2 cups

    sour cream

  • Cooking spray

  • 4 1/2 cups

    cake flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 3 3/4 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 2 cups

    plus 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1 to 3 tablespoons

    each red, blue, yellow, green, purple, and orange food coloring

  • Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages

    full-fat cream cheese

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 6 cups

    powdered sugar, plus more as needed

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place 3 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 9 large eggs, 3 large egg yolks, and 1 1/2 cups sour cream on the counter. Place the 2 packages cream cheese and 2 sticks unsalted butter for the icing on the counter. Let everything sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

Make the cake layers:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Prepare as many 8-inch round cake pans as you have by coating each one lightly with cooking spray and lining the bottom with a parchment paper round. You will be baking 6 different colored layers, but they can be baked in batches, reusing the cake pans.

  2. Place 4 1/2 cups cake flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Add 3 3/4 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons canola oil to the butter in the stand mixer. Beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 6 to 10 minutes.

  4. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks on low speed one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next, about 2 minutes total. Beat in 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract. Starting and ending with the flour mixture, alternate beating in the flour mixture in 4 additions and 1 1/2 cups sour cream in 3 additions. Do not over mix. Use a silicone spatula and scrape the bottom of the bowl by hand to combine well.

Dye the cake layers:

  1. For each cake pan you have, transfer 1 pound batter (about 2 cups) into a small or medium bowl. (For example, if you have 2 cake pans, you need 2 (1-pound) bowls of cake batter.) Dye each bowl a different color by adding 1 tablespoon food coloring and stirring to combine. Add more food coloring as needed if you desire deeper colors.

  2. Transfer the dyed cake batters into the cake pans. Pick up each pan and gently bang against the counter to remove air bubbles and smooth the batter out.

  3. Bake for 17 minutes. Rotate the cake pans and switch their positions. Bake until the cakes are set and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes more. Meanwhile, portion out and dye the next cake layers.

  4. When the cakes are ready, place the pans on a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Flip the cakes out onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper, and flip again so that they are right-side up. Wash and dry the cake pans. Repeat baking the remaining dyed cake layers, coating the pans with cooking spray and lining the bottoms with parchment paper rounds for each round.

  5. Let the cake layers cool completely. Meanwhile, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl and paddle attachment.

Make the icing:

  1. Place the softened cream cheese and butter in the stand mixer (or a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the paddle attachment on high speed until smooth and creamy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 6 cups powdered sugar in two additions, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined.

  2. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and beat on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. For a thicker icing, beat in an additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Build and frost the cake:

  1. Place the purple cake layer on a serving plate or cake turntable. Top with about 1/3 cup of the icing and spread into an even layer, going all the way to the edges. Repeat stacking and frosting each layer in the following order: blue, green, yellow, orange, red.

  2. Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of about half the icing. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to let the icing set. Frost the cake with the remaining icing. Decorate with rainbow sprinkles if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The finished cake can be loosely covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Leftover icing can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 5 days or frozen up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator then beat for a few seconds until creamy again.