Somewhere over the rainbow

A long while ago, I saw this cake, and it very nearly blew my mind. It began a bit of an obsession with rainbow cakes, and I realised that there are tutorials all over the internet. I particularly love the way the white icing makes the cake look very simple and unassuming, but then BAM! you cut into it and the rainbow joy is suddenly revealed. So I thought it only fair that I have a go at making one.

But when!? A rainbow cake is an attention-seeker, a demanding cake which can really only be made in honour of a very special occasion, when it can be oohed and aahed over by many people, preferably with clapping. But no suitable events cropped up, so I kept the idea tucked away, ready to roll it out at the best possible moment.

Then, last November, the time came to celebrate one year of our knitting club. We have a weekly meet-up at my house, where my friends gather to knit (or crochet, or embroider, or draw…), drink tea and chat. The group has always been a lovely staple of my week, and many new friendships have been made there between people who might not otherwise have met. So what better way to celebrate one year of knitting fun than with a PARTY! I planned to host an evening of games, balloons, pink lemonade, and of course, cake.


I began with the classic Victoria sponge recipe, courtesy of the inimitable Mary Berry. I mixed up one-and-a-half times the ingredients, though, as there would be six layers to the cake. So I ended up with this:

338g (12oz) softened butter
338g (12oz) caster sugar
6 eggs
338g (12oz) self-raising flour
3 level tsps baking powder

– Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/ Fan 160°C/Gas mark 4. Grease two 20cm (8in) cake tins.
– Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat until thoroughly blended.
– Divide the mixture into six bowls and, using food colouring (I used these and they produced good vibrant colours), colour each bowl of mixture so altogether they resemble the colours of the rainbow…

– Pour the mixture from the bowls into the prepared cake tins, two colours at a time…

Keep an eye on your cakes while they are baking; they’ll only need 10-15 minutes as they’re so thin. Don’t let them catch! Once all the layers are cooked and cooling, it’s time to mix your icing. I plumped for the awesome American-style frosting from the Hummingbid Bakery Cookbook. This icing may be a little too sweet for some people, but I love it and think it goes perfectly with the delicate plain flavour of Victoria sponge:

250g (9oz) icing sugar, sifted
80g (3oz) unsalted butter and room temperature
25ml (2 tbsps) whole milk
a couple of drops of vanilla extract

As you will be making enough icing to go in between each layer of cake, and also on the top and around the sides of the cake, I would recommend doubling this recipe to start with. Then you can always mix more as you go along, if needed. I also recommend trying to use an electric mixer for this. If you don’t have one, try to borrow one! It will make your life MUCH easier.

– Beat the icing sugar and butter together until well-mixed.
– Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.
– Once all the milk has been incorporated, mix at a high speed and continue beating until the icing is light and fluffy (for at least 5 minutes). The longer the mixture is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes (and the easier it is to spread!).

Once mixed, assemble your cake from the bottom up: start with your purple layer, then spread on some icing, squash on the blue layer, then icing, then green, and so on…smooth the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. To finish, I mixed some granulated sugar with red food colouring to make edible pink glitter, which I sprinkled over the top of the cake. Done, and ready for the party!

This cake is certainly a labour of love, because it may well take you all day to bake and assemble, with many cups of tea in between. But it is worth it. At our knitting party, the cake was met with appreciation and interest, its smooth white exterior provoking many questions about its insides. Everyone knew that something was up, but what? This cake may be an attention-seeker, but boy does it deliver. When I cut into it, everyone was watching, waiting…and when the first slice was lifted out, all that effort was totally worth it. There were oohs, aahs, and yes, even some clapping.

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