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Tutorial: Rainbow Cake with Homemade, All-Natural Dyes

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It’s the ever-popular rainbow cake… with a natural twist! One of our creative HWTM Community Members – Kelsey Hilts of Itsy Bitsy Foodies – is here today sharing her clever tutorial for a Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes! The rainbow colors are achieved using colorful fruits, veggies, and egg yolks. Thanks so much to Kelsey for sharing this creative recipe with others that want to avoid regular food coloring and still eat their rainbow cake too. ;)

THE CHALLENGE

From Kelsey: “Rainbow cakes are everywhere these days. I made one last summer and my family and guests loved the bright, vibrant colors. But in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think of the negative discussion and controversy surrounding chemical food coloring. My husband was actually the one to challenge me to make a rainbow cake with natural food dyes.

My son, who is my toughest critic, ate it (while exclaiming, It’s beautiful, Mommy!) The rest of my family concurred that surprisingly it tasted just like cake and that it seemed much more palatable than the typical bright rainbow cake made with synthetic dyes. So, I considered the baking experiment a success. I would much rather serve my loved ones a beet or carrot-colored cake than an artificially-colored alternative.

A rainbow cake made with natural dyes can be an incredible and fun learning experience for your kids. They can brainstorm fruits, veggies and other colorful foods and then experiment with creating a beautiful and natural rainbow. Not only is it educational but it can also help your kids learn to appreciate the natural beauty of foods. And the process can be translated into many other cooking projects or non-edible projects such as homemade finger paints and homemade playdough.”

Rainbow Cake with Homemade, All-Natural Dyes

by Kelsey Hilts

INGREDIENTS:

::
NATURAL DYES:

– 1-2 Tbsp beet juice
– 1 Tbsp carrot juice
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 Tbsp spinach juice
– 1+ Tbsp blueberry juice
– 1+ Tbsp blackberry juice

WHITE CAKE {Courtesy of Cooking Light}:
– 3 1/2 cups flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1 3/4 cups sugar
– 1/4 cup butter
– 1 1/2 Tbsp oil
– 2 egg whites
– 1 2/3 cups milk, divided
– 1/2 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
– 2 1/2 tsp vanilla

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
– 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
– 1/2 cup butter, softened
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 3 Tbsp milk

WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING:
– 2 cups heavy cream
– 1/4 cup powdered sugar
– 1/8 tsp salt
– 1 tsp vanilla extract

*****

STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS:

::
NATURAL DYES:

Red: Juice beets in a juicer or use the liquid in canned beets.
Orange: Juice carrots in a juicer or buy carrot juice.
Yellow: (you’ll use an egg yolks for this)
Green: Juice spinach in a juicer.
Blue: Microwave roughly 1/4 cup frozen blueberries in 30 second intervals until they start to burst, straining out 1+ Tbsp of blueberry juice.
Purple: Microwave roughly 1/4 cup frozen blackberries in 30 second intervals until they start to burst, straining out 1+ Tbsp of blackberry juice.

WHITE CAKE {Courtesy of Cooking Light}:
1. Cream the butter, oil and sugar. Add the egg whites and beat well. Add the vanilla, 1 cup milk and yogurt alternately with the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
2. Pour six 1/2-cup portions of cake batter into separate bowls. Mix the natural dye into each bowl {2 Tbsp beet juice, 1 1/2 Tbsp carrot juice, 1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp milk, 1 Tbsp spinach juice, 1 Tbsp blueberry juice and 1 Tbsp blackberry juice, adjusting the color by using more or less dye}. Reserve the remaining batter for a different use. {You will either need to add roughly 4 1/2 Tbsp milk to the remaining batter or the equivalent in natural dye.}
3. Pour each 1/2 cup colored batter into a greased and floured 5 1/2-inch cake pan.
5. Bake the cakes for 10-15 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Let the cakes cool for five minutes in the pan and then gently slide a knife around the edges and invert the cakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

{You could also make cupcakes by layering the colored batter into each lined cupcake tin.}

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
1. Mix the ingredients and beat for several minutes until a smooth, creamy frosting forms.
2. Adjust the consistency by adding more powdered sugar or milk.

WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING:
1. Beat the cream, sugar and salt at medium speed until stiff peaks form.
2. Fold in the vanilla extract.

RAINBOW CAKE:
1. Assemble the cake once the layers have completely cooled.
2. Place the purple layer on the serving cake platter.
3. Spread a couple of spoonfuls of buttercream frosting over the top of the layer, smoothing it until it is even.
4. Place the blue layer on top and repeat the process until the red layer is on top.
5. Place the layered cake in the freezer for five minutes to let the icing set so that when you ice the exterior of the cake the layers won’t slide around.
6. Using a knife, generously coat the top and sides of the cake with buttercream frosting, smoothing it with a spatula or a table knife, making sure that it is completely covered but getting rid of excess frosting.
7. Then spread the whipped cream frosting on top for a finishing coat, either spreading it smooth with a knife or spatula or pulling it into soft peaks using a knife or the back of a spoon.

Then serve your beautiful rainbow cake!

By |2018-02-12T09:41:40+00:00April 7th, 2012|Free Printables, Sweets|

About the Author:

Jennifer Sbranti is the founder of Hostess with the Mostess®, a creative living and party planning resource established in 2006. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Sonny, and daughters Macy (8) and Rylie (6). Sbranti’s work has been featured in media outlets such as Good Morning America, The Today Show, Real Simple, People, InStyle Weddings, and Extra! TV. She has designed creative content and unique live events for several well-respected brands, including Mattel, Coca-Cola, The Hershey Company, Toys”R”Us, Pottery Barn Kids, and Starbucks.

54 Comments

  1. Kate @ A Creative Cookie April 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you so much for this! My family is all about organic meat, milk, etc. Plus, this is such a pretty cake! :] I pinned it!

  2. Kate April 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    My daughter (13) is all about dying food colors and loves rainbow cake, red velvet cake, etc. I am so showing this to her and making her do some experimenting of her own! Thanks

  3. Brie April 7, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Thank you! My daughter is allergic to food dye, so this is perfect!!!!

  4. Connecting Four April 8, 2012 at 3:07 am

    Wow.. that is so neat… and healthy :) My sis loves to make cakes so I’ll be sure to mention this to her!

  5. Sarah April 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I am so impressed! This is awesome. :D

  6. Niki April 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Inspiring! Beautiful photographs!!!

  7. Junhi April 8, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    This is great! My aunts, family and friends used to make all natural seaweed gelatin with rainbow of color from leaves and fruits. Oh boy childhood memories! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Melanie April 10, 2012 at 3:11 am

    I am wondering the best way to get the juice of the berries without utilizing a microwave, we haven’t owned one for years. Possibly lightly blanching or boiling them?

    Thanks so much for the recipe!

    • Anri April 18, 2012 at 12:13 am

      This is soooo awesome, absolutely got to try it! So in love with the idea of homemaking the food dyes – thanks so much for the recipe & inspiration! ♥
      The photos are absolutely gorgeous, btw.

      @Melanie: I made cranberry sauce from fresh berries a few times and what you do is that you simply slowly heat them in a pot while stirring once in a while – without (!) adding any water (you were to add sugar but I’m assuming that was only to make them less bitter). After a little while, the berries would pop open by themselves :)
      I don’t own a microwave either (simply have no use for it) so that’s how I’m going to try to do it with the blue- and blackberries, too.

  9. ki April 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    everything sweet and nice, but how did you get a blue tint out of blueberies? for me they are blue only by name, and juice is in fact purple. or do you have different blueberries there in us?

    • Luna July 11, 2014 at 9:38 am

      I was thinking exactly the same! The blueberry juice I know and make is a deep purplish red, never blue. Is there a variety that actually produces blue juice?

    • Sarah August 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      Inquiring minds also want to know. Thanks :D

    • Lauren January 5, 2015 at 10:22 am

      I read elsewhere to boil some red cabbage leaves. The resulting juice is red-purple, but when you add baking soda to it, it turns bluer. (Has to do with pH, if you’re curious about the science.)

    • Simone April 2, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      I found when I made this cake that the blueberries made purple & fresh blackberries made blue juice.

  10. Chris April 16, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Beautiful!

  11. Kiri April 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Thank you so much for this post, I recently found out that all the gel food colourings in the UK have tartrazine, to which I am allergic.

    On another note, do you know what I could use for yellow food colouring for use in icing for example?

    • Marie July 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      Stale tumeric or saffron

  12. Ulya April 24, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Wow, that’s exactly what I wanted! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  13. Mary May 4, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I am so happy to see this cake. Every time I see a young mother’s blog with a rainbow cake I absolutely cringe at the thought of those precious children eating all the harmful dye.

    What a wonderful solution!

  14. R Madison May 5, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Love this! I refuse to use food coloring (red velvet cake – arghhhhh!) in my baking, preferring only real food as garnishes (berries, lemon slices, chocolate curls, etc)….don’t even like colored sugar on Christmas cookies. Thanks for the recipe!

  15. cathyjiang May 7, 2012 at 1:07 am

    I am in love….

  16. TO May 14, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Okay, this picky mom is impressed. I can now make an organic, natural, beautiful birthday cake for my daughter…. thank you!

  17. Sonja June 3, 2012 at 2:55 am

    Just what I have been looking for-l so want to make a rainbow cake but my youngest child is allergic to food coloring. I am definitely up for the challenge of trying out this cake. Can’t wait to do it. Okay, I’m off to buy a couple more baking tins.

  18. lillelarsen June 21, 2012 at 5:01 am

    ooooh this is beautiful!!
    Actually I’ve never seen a rainbow cake before, so I’m really amazed! Just found my perfect birthday cake!

  19. megan June 21, 2012 at 7:26 am

    is the oven temp 350?? i can’t seem to find this . . .

  20. Nora Sihanikhom July 1, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    What is an oven temperature for baking a cake? 350F? Thanks

  21. Mei Chio July 2, 2012 at 9:47 am

    But the layers of the cake don't taste like the ingredient used? I mean, carrot, spinach..

  22. Tracy Jansen July 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Wow! What a fun idea. I have a checkerboard cake pan set that would really mix the colors up.

  23. elle July 21, 2012 at 3:06 am

    this turned out like pancakes….are u sure it shouldn’t read 2T Baking powder??

  24. Darla Grant-Braid July 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    This looks amazing, and the idea of natural food dyes is fantastic, but I have to wonder about the taste. I mean egg yolk, blueberry and blackberry ok, but spinach?

    • Ayelet Levine July 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      You could do the green layer lime instead… Will prob taste better :)

    • Darla Grant-Braid July 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      Yes, but lime isn't likely to give you the vibrant green that spinach will.

    • Vera Halina August 17, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      use spinach and squeeze in some lime for flava….mmmm

  25. Darla Grant-Braid July 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    This looks amazing, and the idea of natural food dyes is fantastic, but I have to wonder about the taste. I mean egg yolk, blueberry and blackberry ok, but spinach?

  26. April October 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I made this for my daughter’s first birthday in August, and it was SO good! No one could believe the ingredients that I used to dye the layers because you couldn’t taste any of the flavors. It just tasted like white cake! I didn’t have the small cake pans that you used, so I used the entire batter and regular sized pans. I baked them for a shorter amount of time. My layers were really thin, but still beautiful. Thanks for the recipe. I was so excited to find it because I really wanted to do a rainbow cake, but hated the idea of using standard food coloring.

    • jenn s. October 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      So happy to hear that, April! Thanks for sharing :)

  27. Michelle Davis October 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Wow, this is amazing

  28. Auna Laisa Bjornstad January 19, 2013 at 3:13 am

    Okay so I followed the recipe exactly and my layers turned out in beautiful colors but each layer baked into a pancake. Completely flat. I am an amateur, so can anyone help me to figure out where I may have went wrong?

    • Mei Chio January 19, 2013 at 3:22 am

      Maybe is for the royal, or you whip up the mix too much

    • Jay Webb January 19, 2013 at 3:31 am

      are you still at a higher altitude?

    • Auna Laisa Bjornstad January 19, 2013 at 4:17 am

      Jay Webb I am not but I may have whipped the ingredients too much. I baked each layer at 350 for 10-15 minutes. I also used cake flour as suggested by my mom. I really want to make this cake the right way!

    • Ashley March 1, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      You prob did the same thing I did and used regular 9″ baking pans. I think it is DEFINITELY worth noting, highlighting even, that this recipie uses 5 1/2″ pans. Otherwise, you get pancakes! ;-)

    • Jessie Mae April 8, 2013 at 10:19 am

      Hi there! I’m going to try this for my daughter’s first birthday. Should I alter the recipe for altitude? I live in Colorado at 5000 feet. LOVE that there is an option for color without it being artificial! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  29. Auna Laisa Bjornstad January 19, 2013 at 3:13 am

    Okay so I followed the recipe exactly and my layers turned out in beautiful colors but each layer baked into a pancake. Completely flat. I am an amateur, so can anyone help me to figure out where I may have went wrong?

  30. Susan Alexander April 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I don’t have a juicer – do you think I could blend the spinach in a blender??

  31. frillypants May 31, 2013 at 12:23 am

    That is just great! I have shared this on my facebook page which is about low chemical eating (both unnatural and natural). Thank you. It’s really great.

  32. Winnie Chai June 2, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Thank you so much for this recipe. Your photos are beautiful. This morning, my daughter wanted to make a rainbow cake. I looked at the recipe and it used artificial colouring. I then browse for an alternative natural recipe when I came across your webpage. I was so excited when I saw how brilliantly coloured your cake looks. My daughter and I had fun making the cake today and it turned out really nice. I did not have spinach at hand and used rockets instead and it turned out to be a beautiful apple green. The peppery taste of the rocket was fortunately undetectable although I would use spinach if I make it again. I never use food dye and cringed at food that are obviously intensely artificially coloured. This recipe of yours is a great inspiration to me.

  33. esperanza gonzalez July 8, 2013 at 8:20 am

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  34. Steponme Blaque January 23, 2014 at 4:17 am

    You really can't taste the spinach much. It's like making a green smoothie… it's there, but not.

  35. Pris February 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Dehydated fruits and vegetables that are ground into powders also make wonderful food colorants. You can’t achieve a vibrant color, but still a wonderful color nonetheless; more of a pastel. You cannot taste them unless you add too much. Beet, carrot, pea, and spinach are wonderful to use. Tumeric is also a good color for yellow. I haven’t tried dehydrated kiwis, but have heard they are good to use. You can dehydrate and grind yourself or buy online. I like using a coffee grinder to make them into powders. Thanks for a wonderful article and recipe :-)

  36. Pauline Abello February 17, 2014 at 5:02 am

    I love the idea…and it's truly awesome for the eyes…but I wish more "natural" minded folks would begin seeing sugar for what it is…a chemical, processed, poison. a few drops of artificial dye pales in comparison to the damage the sugar causes to the body. It has gotten the rep of "natural"–but it is no more natural than the chemical dyes. Just "food" for thought. We've got to find a way to make cakes without it AND the chemical dyes.

  37. isabelle October 17, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Mine didn’t rise and the colors didn’t turn out.. Followed recipe to a T. There is some missing information… What do you do with the 2/3 cup milk left over? It only says to add 1 cup. My batter was way too dry even with the dyes mixed in. Also, what temp should it be baked? I’m going to have to start over….but I will have to chose another receipe my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow.

  38. Betsy February 15, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I made this cake and it looked exactly like the picture. Colors were perfect! I had the wrong size cake pans so I divided all batter evenly and added double the coloring agents. Used 9 inch pans. Worked great! Tasted fabulous! Thanks for a great recipe!!!

  39. Rhia Moorhouse July 26, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    If you don't want to eat sugar, don't eat cake. Or Fruit. Water is also a chemical. Everything is toxic in the right dose, get a grip and stop scaremongering on this really great and informative recipe!

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