I wanted my last recipe of the year to be a good one, a spectacular one even. While considering what I wanted to cook for the conclusion of my 52 week challenge, I was reminded of something I had seen on the front of a magazine earlier in the year – a rainbow cake.
It was something that I had kept looking at longingly, but never got around to trying. So, I decided it was just the thing to finish off the challenge.
However, it turns out that with my last recipe I was going to learn something important – things don’t always go to plan in the kitchen.
You see, I had, wrongly it turned out, ignored all the dodgy comments on the BBC Good Food website about this recipe and decided to try it anyway. As it turns out, the comments were right and I will add my own warning – do not, I repeat, do not, never ever, use the rainbow cake recipe on the BBC website.
I tried it and while it looked ok, the cake tasted terrible. Me and Mr S had one taste each then threw the whole lot in the bin. It was dry, tasteless and rubbery. The cream cheese icing tasted marginally better but was runny and did a very bad job of coating the outside of the cake.
So, with all this in mind, it was probably a good thing that Mr S managed – accidentally, he swears – to delete all the photos before I’d had a chance to upload them.
It then gave me the perfect opportunity for rainbow cake take 2, and a proper, impressive, and – most importantly of all – tasty end to Lucy’s Kitchen in 2013.
Given my previous bad experience, I did some research to find a good recipe. Almost all I came across suggested using a cake mix base. So, I decided to follow suit and while some people may not like the idea of not making it all from scratch yourself, I can assure you this really is the best way for this cake.
I used Betty Crocker’s vanilla cake mix – two boxes will do the whole cake and gives you the perfect thickness of layers and the texture is great.
You may recall that I am a big fan of Betty’s chocolate cake mix and, it turns out, she is pretty good with vanilla cakes too.
I made the batter in two batches, using one box at a time and according to the instructions – which include adding three eggs, some veg oil and water. The whole lot was then mixed in my trusty Kitchen Aid.
The mixture was then weighed out into three equal parts per box of mix and put into separate bowls. For me, this was about 233g per portion, but I’d advise you to weigh yours just to make sure as it could be slightly different. Then divide it by three.
Now comes the fun bit – dying the mixture. On my first attempt I used gel food colourings bought from the supermarket. These worked but my colours were very pastely and not bright and bold. You also had to use a whole tube per cake to get even a hint of colour. The liquid ones you can buy at the supermarket won’t work.
For my second attempt I used professional, extra strength gel food colouring. For all you Jersey people these were bought from Le Lievres. You will get better results if you invest in some of these.
Start by adding a small amount and add more depending on the colour you want – around a teaspoon worked best for me. Remember also that when the cakes cook the colour will lighten so go bright and bold!
As I was going for a rainbow look I went for purple (made by mixing red and blue), red, orange (made by mixing red and yellow), yellow, green and blue.
I dyed my three bowls different colours then transferred them to three, greased 20cm cake tins, smoothed them down and popped them into the oven as per the instructions on the cake mixture. Mine took around 15-20 minutes to cook.
They were then removed from the tins and left to cool.
The whole process was repeated once more with the other colours so that I had six thin sponges all a different colour. If you only have two cake tins or even one you can still manage it, it will just take a bit longer.
Once completely cooled I made my icing. I went for a traditional butter cream as I knew this would be thick enough to cover the cakes well. Unless you have a good recipe for a cream cheese frosting that is thick I would steer away from trying these as they can be runny, a la rainbow cake take 1.
I made my icing – remembering I would need lots of it for both sandwiching the cakes and covering them – by combining 750g of icing sugar with 240g of butter in the Kitchen Aid.
Once well mixed I added 75ml of milk mixed with a few drops of vanilla essence a few spoons at a time, while mixing constantly. The Kitchen Aid was then turned up to full power and left to mix for five minutes. The key with this icing is that the longer you beat it on high speed the lighter it will become.
Once I had a big bowl of light and fluffy icing I began to assemble my cake. I started with a blob of icing on a plate and added my first cake. I started with purple but you can assemble it however you like. A layer of icing then went on the top and another cake was sandwiched on. This process was repeated until I had used up all my six cakes.
Finally, I smothered the whole lot in my icing. An icing smoother or scraper worked well on the sides to make sure it was all covered and a similar thickness all round. You can add as much or as little icing as you like.
And that was it – week 52, and my 2013 challenge, complete!
This cake was so much better than the first attempt. First of all, it was edible! It was also tasty, moist, soft and had a nice vanilla flavour running through. The icing was also delicious and held it all together really well.
The colours looked great, although if I were to do it again I would try and find a more vibrant red colouring and my orange one could have done with a bit of work too. The green looked the best – in your face, bold and bright.
Well done Betty, you did it again. And, it just goes to show what you can do with a bit of creativity, work and a good cake mix base.
If you have a good sponge recipe I am sure that would work well but I will unashamedly admit that if I do this again I will enlist Betty’s help once more.
An excellent birthday cake – kids especially will love the colours – or a cake for any occasion really. It is large and will feed a LOT of people. You also don’t need much to fill you up.
My niece is already talking about having a rainbow themed birthday party this year, and guess who will be making the cake?
Yumminess: 9/10 ‘A good end to a year of cooking’
Faffiness: 6/10 ‘Takes time and patience, but Betty makes it easy and fool-proof’
Mr S’s verdict: 9/10 ‘Much better than the first effort!’