Friday, May 27, 2011

Taste the Rainbow: How I Pulled Off The Rainbow Cake!

I won the cake category at this year's department bake off with this beauty and it is really simple to make if you are looking for a huge WOW factor from your guests. It's the perfect cake for your rainbow loving friends of all ages.

So, there are several ways to make it, but I am going to go with the most straight forward, boxed variety way. If you have a good homemade recipe for a white or vanilla cake, by all means go with that, freakin' Polly Perfect. This recipe is for the rest of us who have to work 50 hours a week, commute 2 hours, raise kids, and go to church on Sundays with the in-laws. Let's get started.

  • 2 - Boxes of cake mix in vanilla, white, or french vanilla flavors.
    • (The cake base has to be white so if you see another boxed variety that would normally produce a white cake on completion, by all means go for it and tell me how it works out for you.)
  • Whatever ingredients your cake mix says it needs to be made (usually eggs, oil, and water.)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Gel food coloring in blue, red, yellow minimum. Splurge for more colors as your budget allows. Gel works better than the cheap kind that you dye Easter eggs with. You will use less dye, and the colors will be more vibrant. 
  • 1- 4.5 lb tub of icing. I chose white butter cream, but you can really pick your flavor here. If you can't find a big tub like the one at the link, aim for about 9 cups of icing in smaller containers. You will seriously use it all. White gives the biggest contrast between the colors, so consider using almond, root beer, or lemon extracts as flavorings if you want a flavor. Look in your grocer's baking spice area for different flavors you can mix into a plain icing. If you must have chocolate or strawberry, who the hell am I to tell you otherwise? Go for it.
  • 1- 8" cake pan (though having four pans would really speed things up. I had 2 pans going at once and had to make the the cake in 3 batches.)
  • 6 bowls and spoons to mixing the colors in. Big cereal bowls work just fine.
Okay, first things first. Freakin' mise en place. Having all your stuff in one spot and ready to go will save you so much time. This cake took like 5 hours to make because of my ghetto stove and limited amount of cake pans. Do yourself a favor by having everything ready to go when you get started. I am going to assume that you only 2, 8" cake pans like myself. If you were smart enough to borrow some pans from friends, you are wicked smart and certainly have more forethought than me.

Have yo shit together!

Start by preheating the oven and making the batter of one of the cake mixes per the box's instructions. Once your batter is amalgamated you can use a measuring cup, or your good eye, to separate the batter into 3 of your bowls in equal amounts.

Next, decide whether you want purple or red as the bottom layer. Why you ask? Because if we cook the cake in the order we want to stack it, we can ice it as we go instead of waiting for the layers to cook and cool out of order. We are starting with purple on the bottom.

Grab your gel coloring and get ready to mix it in your separated cake mix. Now, how many of your remember the color wheel from art class? If you only bought the standard 4 color box of food coloring, you're going to need it to make purple and orange. If you bought the bare minimum of blue, yellow, and red, you will need to make purple, green, and orange. Here is a wheel to remind you how.

To make purple, you will mix red and blue together. Start with a small amount of dye, only a few drops of each, and stir stir stir. Keep playing with adding a little red or a little blue until your desired purple comes out, or you get close enough to be satisfied. For the love of God don't mix in any other color besides blue or red, or else you will get brown. Thoroughly mix in the dye so you don't have streaks when you pour the batter into the pan.

Next you will need to make blue. Simple, just use the blue dye and stir like a boss.

Then, you need to make green. Start with a just a few drops of blue and a lot of yellow, or else you will have a really dark green. Add one drop of blue at a time after that to get your desired green.

I paid attention in art class!

Now, pour your purple batter into one greased cake pan, and the blue batter into the other greased cake pan. Put in the oven. Now keep in mind that you are going to have a reduced baking time due to the fact that you have split your batter. My layers took between 18 and 20 minutes to cook. The box said it would take 45 minutes. I would have had a brown and black cake if I weren't paying attention. So check on your cake layers after about 15 minutes. You will know you are close to done when the edges of the cake start to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean. Don't worry if the cake gets a few brown spots on top, we'll take care or that later.

While those cakes are cooking, mix up your second cake mix per the box instructions. Separate into three more bowls. You will now need to make a yellow, orange, and red layer.

Red: Squirt red dye, mix. Yellow: Squirt yellow dye, mix. Look at that, already done.

Orange: Add one or two drops of red and like 5 or 6 yellows. Keep adding yellow or red until you reach your desired color. Remember, a little red goes a long way.

The next step is to check on your cakes! Did you forget about them in the oven? Pull them out if they are ready. Let them cool for 10 minutes before you flip them out of the pans.

After you have depanned the cakes, you will need to wash the crumbs out, dry, and regrease the pans for the next round of cakes. You will want to make the green and yellow layers next. Follow in same fashion until you have all the layers baked and cooled. In between layers, clean your kitchen or eat out of the tub of icing so you have the energy to carry this thing through to the end.

The next step is really, really important. If you don't remember, earlier this month I had a cake fall and slather chocolate icing down the kitchen wall right before a party. Why did that happen, you ask? Because I didn't take the time to level the layers before stacking them. All you have to do is take a serrated knife and carefully carve the domed top off each cake layer. This will carve off any brown spots that might have formed on the top as well. Jonathan took care of this because, as we all know, I can't be trusted with knives. All was well in cake land.

Carved and Chillin'!
After all your layers are good and cool, you can grab your tub-o-icing and get to work. I iced mine on a pedestal, so I laid down four strips of parchment paper in order to keep the icing off the edges. Put a medium sized glob of icing down in the middle of your plate to hold the bottom later still. Carefully pick up the purple later and place the bottom side down, and the carved layer up. This is important, pay attention Myrtle. Ice the purple layer, being sure not to mound icing towards the middle. We don't want a dome. Add the blue layer next, bottom of the cake down, cut layer up. Eat some icing to fend off exhaustion.


You will follow suit with the green, to yellow, and finally orange layers. Make sure to take your time and make sure that you are placing the layers center each time. You don't want a leaning tower of Pisa cake. That is for another lesson.

Now, you're probably wondering about the red layer. Why does it get special treatment?! Here's why. You want to put the red layer carved side DOWN so that you don't get little crumbies all over the icing. The bottom side will be better about holding its business together, especially if you let it completely cool like I told you to just minutes ago. Spread a thin later of icing on top of this layer as well. Here is the mash-up:

It was after 10 p.m. by this point
You will want to spread a thin layer of icing around the outer edge of the cake as well. It doesn't have to be completely covered at this point. In fact, you don't want it to be. You want it iced just enough to barely cover the layers. Now, you are going to put the whole damn lot in the fridge for 30 minutes and go take a shower or something. Why? Because your back will hurt from fussing over it, icing will be everywhere, and you will be cursing yourself for making this on a work night. Oh, and letting the icing chill will harden it up with the crumbs so that the final coat will cover everything nicely.

After the big chill, put your final coat of icing on and Voila! You have a secret rainbow cake. Now, don't be judgemental, because here is what mine turned out like:

Big and kind of deformed.
My cake had to make a 20+ mile trip to the office 90 degree heat, and I did not have a cover to put on this pedestal. What I did is put two dowel rods through the center of the cake to give it support. You can use drink straws if you don't have rods or skewers. (Thanks for the tip Nikki!) You'll notice the rods sticking out the top there. Then I used plastic wrap to make a sort of tent to cover it. The cake was then returned to the fridge for storage over night.

Jon and I woke up panicked every few hours wondering if it had fallen over. We each got up throughout the night to check on it.

The next morning we left the house at 6:30 a.m. to get me to the office on time. Jon had to drive me because the cake had taken on the weight of a toddler and could not make the trip without being held the entire time.

Once I made it to the display table, I SLOWLY pulled out the dowel rods and used a knife to cover the holes with icing. I was then chased off because judging was about to start. The contest officiators said there was a collective gasp when the cake was cut into. Who could blame them? This cake was truly awesome.

Taste the rainbow!

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1 comment:

  1. Just now reading this and chortling at the idea of you and the Husband arising frequently throughout the night to check on the baby.


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