rainbow cake with vanilla buttercream frosting

Have you ever told someone that you’re going to bake your own birthday cake, and they give you a pathetic look that says, “oh that’s so sad, she has to bake her own birthday cake” before covering it up with a forced smile and actually saying, “Oh that’s great!”

That happened to me a few times this week.

I understand where they’re coming from, though. Unless you love to bake, the idea of spending your birthday in the kitchen must not sound too appealing.

But today I turned older, and I celebrated the best way I know how. By baking and devouring my favorite cake in the world.

White cake with vanilla frosting is my favorite dessert. I know, I know. It sounds pretty boring.

But this particular cake has a secret.

Rainbow Cake

Vanilla Cake recipe adapted from VegWeb

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2 cups vegan refined sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups plain soy milk
  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond extract (note: if you are going for a more vanilla taste instead of almond, only use 1/2 tbsp)
  • Up to 7 different shades of food coloring

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Recipe adapted from The Vegan Chef

  • 1 cup Earth Balance, softened
  • 1/2 cup plain soy milk
  • 6 cups vegan powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

This cake is very moist, so if you want to stack more than a couple of layers, you might want to search for another recipe. I think that this cake would also be great as a pineapple upside down cake, but we’ll save that one for another time.

To bake the cake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease two round 8″ pans.

Mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients in separate bowls, then combine and stir by hand until all lumps are gone.

Now is the time for the fun part! Are you ready?

Divide your batter evenly into smaller bowls. Grab your favorite bottles of gel food coloring and get excited because we’re going to rainbow swirl this baby!

I chose to use my 5 favorite shades of blue and purple, so I needed 5 bowls. If you’re using more colors, use more bowls, and vice versa. Add the food coloring to the batter…

and stir

I took the method for this rainbow cake from Omnomicon.

In one of your pans, pour the colors in one by one, using the most batter (about 3/4 of the total dish of that particular color) for your first pour and lessening the amount with each color you add.

Reverse the order of colors for the second pan, so that the color you used last in the first pan is the first color that you pour into pan number two.

Place both pans in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until done.

Prettiest mess ever?

Once your cakes are done, place them on a wire rack and allow them to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, combine all ingredients and mix with a hand mixer on low speed for about a minute.

Don’t panic when your cakes come out looking much, much darker than you had expected.

I promise it will be okay.

Is it your birthday, too? If so, throw some candles on there! Or just throw some candles on there anyway. Celebrate how awesome you are for surviving the holidays!

Now is the time to slice into it and marvel at the pretty colors!


I’m already on my third slice.

I probably won’t be around for a while since my husband and I are Kentucky-bound soon. I wish you all the best during this wonderful holiday season, and for those of you with December birthdays, I wish you very Happy Birthdays and many, many more!

19 thoughts on “rainbow cake with vanilla buttercream frosting

  1. This is a lovely birthday cake! I love the colors, all adorable! Never used food coloring before, I wonder if I can handle with the layers like you did. Happy Birthday!

  2. HOW FUN! I love, love, love this. Ok, where do I start? 1. I LOVE that you baked your own cake (but like recognizes like, no?) and 2. I LOVE that you made a rainbow cake, but bounded the colors to shades of blue/green/violet. How artistic! and 3. I love the candles and that the candles matched the color scheme of the cake! AND I love that you ate 3 slices! 😀 Happy Birthday and safe travels!

  3. Do you find that certain colors work better than others? I’m taking this to the next Akron Cooking Coalition party! What’s the vinegar’s purpose? Could you sub apple sauce as a levening agent, or is the milk & sod

    • Hi Lesli! I think that applesauce works if it is a dense cake or brownies, but for a fluffier cake the vinegar will work better. It helps the cake to rise and it’s tasteless. You can also use lemon juice + baking soda but I haven’t tried that yet. This cake ended up being pretty heavy even with the vinegar. As far as colors go, I think any will work great. My friend made a bright green and pink cake and those colors really popped. As long as it’s gel coloring it will be bright and beautiful.

  4. I’ve had this book marked for a few months…waiting for my hubby’s bday to make it! This Sunday is the big day! Just wanted to confirm, TWO TABLESPOONS each vanilla and almond? Seems like a lot, so I just want to be sure. Thank you! :)

    • Hi Lindsey!
      You definitely don’t need two full tablespoons, I just wanted a super almond-tasting cake that day. The original recipe called for 2 tbsp vanilla and 1/2 almond, and I think that would absolutely be enough if you’re not going for a super almond flavor. It will taste like a traditional birthday cake, vanilla on vanilla. Good luck!!! And happy birthday to your husband!! Also thanks for pointing that out, I’m going to go back and make a note about it on the site.

      • Oh but we LOVE almond flavor, so I will keep it as is! I wonder what a layer of marzipan would be like between the layers instead of frosting?? MMMM!

        Thanks, Nikki! :)

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