Friday, August 12, 2011

What's at the end of the Rainbow Cupcake experiment?

I am a day late in posting yesterday's baking project.  I decided to try Rainbow Cupcakes, which looked incredibly easy to do based on tutorials I've read and watched.  My experience, however, was a little different!  As a result, I ran out of daylight to photograph the last steps.  I am challenged in finding an appropriate spot in my house to take pictures of my baking processes...a place with enough natural light and bright background.  I've yet to come up with something, but I'll figure it out.  For now, the photos may not be ideal, but they get the idea across.  Okay, onto Rainbow Cupcakes:

Begin by mixing up your favorite white cake recipe (one blog suggested using a yellow cake to create more intense colors, but I did not go that route and cannot vouch for it).  You will need to divide the batter into equal amounts of however many colors you will be using.  I decided to use red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  I then ladled the batter into six plastic cups.

Once the cups were filled, I used McCormick Egg and Food Dye to color the batter.  Many of the recipes I resourced used gel dye, but I didn't have the right colors.  Next time, I will try the gel to see if there's a difference.

Once you have mixed the batter with dye to your desired hue, add cupcake liners to your pan.  Now it's time to layer the batter.  I followed the ROYGBIV scheme, beginning with red, and added a spoonful to each liner.  Next, I put a spoonful of orange on top of the red, repeating the process until all six colors are layered in each liner. After two layers, it became apparent to me that I was spooning too much of each color into the liners.  I kind of had to keep going once I started, since, unlike a solid color batter, it's not possible to spoon "just a bit" out.  Doing that would blend the batter, rather than layering it, and would not result in the rainbow effect I was going for.  By the time I came around to the purple, there was only room in the liner for a dollop.  At this point I knew, once baked, the tops would be overflowing and not very pretty, but this is a learning process! 

And I was right!  Here they are out of the oven, overflowing tops and all!  I let them cool for an hour, and decided to attempt the rainbow icing method.  I am not very experienced in the art of using icing tips or pastry bags to frost cakes and cupcakes, so I did not know what to expect for the final product.

If you spotted this in the woods perhaps it would be mistaken for a mushroom...but I assure you it's safe to eat!
First I mixed up my favorite Buttercream Recipe, shared with me by my dear friend Amy.  Next, I assembled the materials for piping:  piping bag, a coupler and large star tip, small paintbrush, and gel coloring.

Fold the piping bag down half way.  Using the paint brush, paint a 1/2 inch strip of color inside the bag.  Repeat for each color.  Once the painting is done, spoon white icing into bag, unfold the bag, and begin piping.

The first thing I note to myself is the "paint job".  The gel did not adhere to the plastic piping bag the way I've observed in tutorials (using parchment paper piping method...too advanced for me at this stage!), which did did not bode well for me.  Here is the look I was going for:

Image copied from "Rainbow Cupcakes by Anastasia on Cake Central" at 

This is what happened:

Not quite the same!  The colors did not blend into the white buttercream as it should have.  So, what have I learned? 
-Pace myself when filling cupcakes liners - be careful not to overflow!
-Experiment with parchment paper as a piping bag for solid strips when icing OR
-Rather than striping the pastry bag, add previously colored icing (several colors) into a bag at the same time.
-These are really fun, cute and worth perfecting.  I will be baking Rainbow Cupcakes again!!

UPDATE:  I made rainbow cupcakes again using a new icing technique.  Click here to see how well it worked!!


  1. Intersting comment on the icing...I actually thought the white with the stripes of color looked really cool :)

  2. Thanks, Elizabeth! I've had a lot of positive feedback about the icing, even though it's not what I intended it to look like. I'm still not so sure about all the white icing...but if others like it I'm happy!!

  3. These are crazy and psychedelic, I love it. I see what you're saying about the icing, but that is a really difficult method. At least your colors didn't all blend together like mine usually do.

    1. Thanks, Sunny - the tutorials for "painting the bag" I'd looked up produced much better results than I had! I haven't tried it again since, but one day will get my courage up, lol!!

  4. This is the type of frosting look I have been searching for! I am making m&m cupcakes and I wanted to jazz up the look of the frosting a bit since it's for a bake sale. I have seen tons of frostings with the colors completely swirled together, but I think the look of the white frosting with specs of color and a few mini m&m's on top will look better. Thanks!