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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.

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  • Christina
    December 13, 2009

    Uh oh, I made these today & they taste great, but they did NOT turn out with the great colors. All of the colors showed up, but the blue dominated, surrounding the other colors (& the other colors sank to the bottom). I uploaded pictures to my blog – any suggestions? I’d love to be able to make them so they actually look like a rainbow. Great website, just found it today! 🙂

  • Darianne
    March 6, 2010

    These cupcakes are just so adorable.I saw them a few days ago in a magazine and I decided to make them for my 13th disco party today.They look amazing and the frosting tastes incredable! 🙂

  • Celia
    March 6, 2010

    I have just finished making these, and they require much more patience than I originally thought!
    I would really like to know how you got your colours so vivid!
    My looked a little more dull because the original mixture was a yellowy, so that kind of tinged the colours.
    Did you just add more?
    Anyway, a great recipe, haven’t tried eating them yet, but they sure are cute!
    Nicely done!

  • rolex replica
    March 24, 2010

    thank you

  • stacey
    March 25, 2010

    can’t you just use a pillsbury or bettycrocker white cake mix?

  • Tina
    April 7, 2010

    Yes you can use white cake mix and just make sure that you use EGG WHITES ONLY, the yokes will change the colors, I love doing these… But I use all six colors.. Have fun.. Liquid food color works great also…

  • Angie
    April 8, 2010

    Hey, i made these cupcakes and they turned out awesome, i was thinking of turning them into a 9-inch. six layers cake.. so do u suggest i double the recipe or triple it? thanx 🙂

  • mar muerto cremas
    April 30, 2010

    They look so cute, i am sure they taste good too, thanks for the recipe.

  • ToxicNeon
    May 5, 2010

    I did then yesterday but the color of the batter didnt spread :l It was just in the middle the whole time,,, but it made a crazy rainbow cupcake (: Thanks for the recipe !!!! its the bestt (: I♥Rainbow

  • 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.

  • They look lovely, it an easy recipe, even i can do it, thanks

  • Sneha
    May 27, 2010

    This was such an amazing recipe, it was so easy to make. The only complaint is that when I made the buttercream frosting, it didn’t stay white! ): But that’s all right. People were more focused on the cupcakes anyway.

    And they came out absolutely delicious.

    Quick and easy recipe, so thank you.

  • lynnie
    June 12, 2010


    If you use white vanilla instead of the dark vanilla you will always get white icing.

  • Tara
    June 16, 2010

    I made these for an Alice in Wonderland Tea Party and they turned out gorgeous!! I can’t wait to take them to the party <3

  • Danielle
    June 19, 2010

    Im looking for a great recipe to use to win our office bake off! each week somene from the office bakes and we all score it out of 10, we are all becomming competitive and its my turn to bake this week! these cupcakes look amazing and think i should get a 10/10 for presentation but im wondering if the taste once baked will make me win?!?!?!?!?!!

  • Resa
    June 28, 2010

    These are so cute!

  • Jillian
    June 28, 2010

    These were so easy to make and so adorable!!!! They also taste delicious! The only problem was i think the colors got mixed up together, but it looked cool!

  • Kimmy
    July 2, 2010

    I made these cupcakes and split the batter in half, made red and blue for the 4th of july. The cupcakes looked fine but the taste of the cake was not very good. Also, after I made the icing, it started to separate while I was piping onto the cupcakes.

  • selena
    July 28, 2010

    i plan on making these tomarrow for my friends party. can you taste the food coloring if you use alot??
    grr i hope he likes them :] its a rave themed party<3

  • Gabby
    July 31, 2010

    They came out colorful but not like the picture…i was very dissapointed..and the actual cupcake taste without the frosting wasnt great either..it was blan and not sweet enough…

  • Shamrock
    August 8, 2010

    I just made these cupcakes, and I have to say, they didn’t turn out as pretty as the ones shown above. Anyway, i guess practice makes perfect.

    I also added some coconut for flavor, which was quite a success.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    Btw, can anyone tell me if its possible to leave out the eggs?

  • Fern
    August 20, 2010

    I am using this recipe for a work bake off.

    I am so excited, and I don’t even really like to cook!!!

  • Kim
    August 31, 2010

    I’ve used a white cake mix & added a small box of *instant* (very important that it’s the instant) vanilla pudding for this, and used whole eggs, not just the whites, and it turned out great…more colorful than even your pictures because I used gel food coloring. (I use Ameri-Color, which I’m pretty sure you can get at any serious baking shop; I have heard Wilton’s is good as well.)

    The white cake mix I use already says it has ‘pudding in the mix’ but I SILL add the instant pudding.

    Oh, and I’ve never had a problem with my buttercream frosting staying white, which I believe is due to the Americ-Color gel colorants. (Can you tell I love them?)

    When making a bigger cake (I use 2 cake mixes & 2 small instant puddings for my half sheet cake pan), divide the batter UNEVENLY before adding the food colors, and the color with the most amount of batter should go on the bottom, followed by the next most plentiful, and so on. There is no need to swirl the batter, either — it comes out beautiful in the cut slices!

    Here is a link to one of the first rainbow cakes I ever made…as a tube cake! 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?pid=30547488&id=1467735883&ref=fbx_album

  • Alice
    September 19, 2010

    ok so i just looked at other recipes and you tube and it seems that its all American because everyone is using super moist white cake mix and gel food colouring which i can’t seem to find anywhere in the uk!!

  • Shelbie
    September 25, 2010

    These came out great for me and everyone loved them!
    Also, I used white liners and when you bake them they turn transparent. Makes them a bit easier to take out of the pan :]

  • Louie
    December 28, 2010

    so cute!! can’t wait to make them one day

  • Leslie Haon
    January 18, 2011

    These look so pretty and easy! My son’s 5th birthday is coming up and I would love to make these for him. It would make his transformers themed birthday extra special:)

    January 30, 2011


  • Nicole
    January 30, 2011

    Kharla – No, buttermilk and butter are not the same thing and you should not substitute one for the other. This post has some more information about buttermilk and substituting for it: http://bakingbites.com/2009/06/what-is-buttermilk/

    Hope that helps!

  • Alyssa
    February 3, 2011

    I am making these for my 18th birthday on Saturday! They look gorgeous I hope they taste great too 🙂 Here’s to hoping they turn out! Wish me luck! 🙂

  • Rachel
    February 16, 2011

    Just finished icing them and they look ADORABLE, and the batter tasted amazing so I can only imagine what the actual cupcakes will taste like!!

    Only complaint was that the frosting was WAY too runny for it to be frosting so I will definately cut back on the milk and probably won’t add until after adding the confect. sugar

  • izzy
    February 19, 2011

    I’ve made these twice, but I added a bit more vanilla extract and some more sugar to make it taste better. If you add extra sweet ingredients, you don’t need icing

  • HAnnah
    February 28, 2011

    You don’t use buttermilk for the icing its butter and milk

  • Kara
    March 14, 2011

    They turned out very cute and festive but the cake recipe was not good at all. Next time I will be using a cake mix, but super fun idea!

  • Jessica
    April 3, 2011

    Can not get my layers to stay straight and even. My first batch was an awful mess http://notebookchallenge.blogspot.com/

  • Kasey
    April 11, 2011

    We made these in food class at school and they were really good!(:

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