Rainbow Cupcakes

Rainbow Cupcakes

These rainbow cupcakes are, hands down, some of the cutest cupcakes I’ve made in a very long time. The colors make the cupcakes vibrant and fun – and, frankly, they’re just too cute NOT to eat!

Although they look complicated, the cupcakes are actually very easy to make. First, you need to mix up the batter for plain vanilla or white cupcakes. Divide it evenly into 5 small bowls, then add a generous amount of food coloring to each one to create the batters for the red, orange, yellow, green and blue layers. Vibrant colors are the best thing about these cupcakes, so don’t be afraid to add a little bit extra food coloring if you don’t think that yours are strong enough. The colors should be added to the cupcake cups one at a time, working one spoonful at a time. It’s a little tedious when you compare it to a single-color cupcake, but it still only takes a few minutes to get everything into the pans.

I used a cupcake recipe that calls for oil, instead of butter, and has a fairly thin batter. I like to use this cupcake recipe for a few different reasons. First, the cupcakes are very moist. Second, since there is a relatively high ratio (compared to some, but not all other cupcake recipes) of fat to flour, you don’t need to worry too much about overmixing and making the cupcakes tough when you stir in the color. Finally, these cupcakes don’t brown too much in the oven, letting those rainbow colors really shine through. I also did not use paper liners for these cupcakes so that their colors would immediately be apparent when you looked at them. Paper liners will work fine, of course, but I would opt to grease the pan and go without, or to use silicone cupcake liners instead.

Although it has nothing to do with the color, it’s also worth mentioning that these are not too sweet, so you can pile on the frosting to top off the rainbows.

Rainbow Cupcakes in progress

Rainbow Cupcakes
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
red, yellow, green and blue food colorings

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 10 cups from a 12 cup muffin tin (or line with paper cups).
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Pour in dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Divide batter evenly into 5 small bowls; each should have a little more than 1/3 cup batter (approx 6 tbsp or so for each).
Add about 1/2 tsp food coloring to each bowl to make red, orange, yellow, green and blue batters. Stir well, so no streaks of plain batter remain. Add additional food coloring if necessary.
Starting with the blue batter, add a small spoonful to each of the 10 grease muffin cups (just over 1/2 tbsp in each). Repeat with all remaining colors, working from green to yellow to orange to red, adding each subsequent spoonful on top of the previous color. Do not attempt to spread the layers of color out (as it can cause layers to combined), but allow them to spread on their own.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.

Makes 10

Quick Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
approx 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, beat together butter, milk and vanilla. Gradually add in the confectioners sugar until frosting reaches a thick, spreadable consistency. You will probably use 2 1/2-3 cups.
Pipe or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.


  1. correct me if i’m wrong kays…is this the recipe for classic basic sponge if u exclude the food colourings..? just wanna be sure… =) response will be much appreciated =))

  2. it so beautiful

  3. I tried these cupcakes and OMG they were a HUGE hit!!

  4. these look delicious but can you just use boxed mix for the basic batter?

  5. soo yummy! i love the colours!

  6. i love it! the colours are soo cool!

    it’s cleaver how it works!

  7. Great recipe, I’ve seen photos of rainbow cakes but never a recipe and I thought they would be a lot more complicated to make because they look so good. Will definitely give this a try and hope they look as good as the ones in the picture!

  8. I just had a HUGE rainbow cake disaster and followed this recipe to make a batch for a bbq tomorrow and it saved me. Figures Betty Crocker fails me and from scratch doesn’t. Thanks for sharing! :)

  9. Hi everyone, I know I’m not the author of this post, but I happen to know that you can use a cake box mix if you want. Make sure you get the white mix though because then the dye shows up better than in a plain yellow cake. I’m not sure if this helps, but I hope so!

    And by the way, the frosting is a great recipe!! So simple. and sooooo yummy!

  10. I tried this recipe it was so beautiful !!!!!

  11. What milk to use for the cupcakes? Is it full cream milk like Dutch Lady brand or what? Please specify. Thanks!

  12. wow!those cupcakes are sweeet!when i made them they were finished befor tommorw and there were 37 cupcakes!guess what!i made a living selling these cupcakes!

  13. Hi. What kinda cooling was used? Liquid food coloring?

  14. So they didn’t all come out as differant colored layers but theese were still awesome. Mine look like tie dye or rainbow camo I bet it would be cool if I made some. Camo next time but theese were a great hit in my family and I have been meaning to give someone a birthday gift (ok so his birthday was a month ago ) but theese would be great.

  15. little miss bakers

    for the icing can u replace the butter and milk with buttermilk? i need this by saturdy feb 09 2013

  16. I made these a few years ago for my 3 year old and his friends they LOVED them and so did their moms. I used plastic ziplock lunch baggies to mix the colors with the batter. I snipped the tip off the bags and added the mix evenly to the cupcake holders. It was easy and the cleanup was a breeze. My daughter is using this recipe for her how to speech at school! Loved it!!

  17. These turned out AMAZING! First time making them…. And I couldn’t be happier with the results! I used six colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) and had just enough for 6 cupcakes. Instead of a Crisco-like vegetable oil, I used extra light olive oil and they came out moist and superb. Also, for buttermilk i added 1 tbsp. lemon juice to my milk and let stand for 10 minutes before adding it in.
    My zebra print liners turned into rainbow zebras!! I topped these off with my own recipe cream cheese frosting, and it paired perfectly.
    Thanks for an awesome recipe and I will for sure be using again!

  18. i love making this cupcake! it fun

  19. These turned out wonderful. I doubled the recipe and managed to make 5 colours of cupcakes but I didn’t put the icing on because it is 40 C. here and no icing would have held up. Instead I quickly made some coloured sugar and dipped the cupcakes in the sugar after they had cooled. They taste so light and fluffy!! Thank you for a great recipe!

  20. I forgot to say – I didn’t actually make the cupcakes ‘rainbow’ I just made 5 colours of cupcakes. It was too hot to mess with putting the 5 colours in each paper liner!!

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