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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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  • Lisa
    April 14, 2011

    These were a super hit at my son’s preschool.Everyone enjoyed them.I topped mine off with tri-coloured cream cheese buttercream frosting with a bit of sprinkles.Will make again but next time, I might reduce oil to 3/4 cup when I double the recipe.Also I ended up with 15 cupcakes when recipe was doubled.Thanks!

  • Mardie
    April 25, 2011

    I Made These For A School Home echo competition and i won best presentation and best taste!! I Was So Happy With How They Turned Out and how All The Colours Worked!! Everyone thought they looked amazing and also tasted Amazing Thanks so much for the reciepe i will deffinently be using it again!! i was think i may actually go and cook some now !!


  • Joana
    July 3, 2011


    I’m baking these cupcakes for tomorrow’s 4th of july celebration (I’ll frost them tomorrow) I only used 3 colors, blue, white and red and they look so pretty and soft! Haven’t taste them yet but I’m sure they are yummy 🙂

    Keep the great work with baking bites!

  • Pinkie Pie
    July 28, 2011

    Oh wow, those look amazing! I can’t wait to make them, my cupcakes have always needed a dash of rainbow.

  • Lx
    August 8, 2011

    Is it possible for me to use plain or low fat yogurt instead of buttermilk?

  • Vivian
    August 16, 2011

    i did them with my friends and we loved it! we skipped the candy sushi and decided to finish the batter and eat the cupcakes! but instead of using the regular colors, i used neon food coloring and was wondering when will i eventually use them!

  • Rachel M
    October 21, 2011

    I made these tonight for my daughter’s 5th birthday party tomorrow and they came out awesome!!!!! I used gel food coloring and it worked out great!

  • Allison
    December 19, 2011

    On the recipe, it only has four colors. But it says divide into 5 bowls and fill with each color! Can someone help me ?

  • Nicole
    December 21, 2011

    Allison – You need to mix the red and yellow food colors to make orange for the fifth color. Most basic food coloring sets (that you can buy at the supermarket) do not include orange.

  • Talia
    January 16, 2012

    I had previously tried to make rainbow cupcakes using a different recipe, and they were disastrous! I had my doubts trying to make them again, but this recipe was perfect! The consistency was great and easy to make. I made a chocolate cream cheese frosting to top it with, and it tastes delicious. I will definitely refer to this recipe in the future!

  • Alex
    February 4, 2012

    I was a little hesitant to make cupcakes from scratch since my earlier ventures were not so successful but this recipe is great! I used “Low Fat Buttermilk” since I couldn’t find regular and “Canola Oil” because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store again, but they came out just fine. I’m going to try other color combos. All in all, this recipe was fun and only took me about an hour to complete

  • shuswapcakes
    February 10, 2012

    Thanks for the great tutorial! These cupcakes were fairly easy to make, other than dividing all the different colors, and turned out great. Thank you 🙂

  • Summer
    February 26, 2012

    These were pretty good. They were a little bland tasting though. I would suggest adding more sugar and vanilla extract, maybe double it. Overall they were a success.

    I would suggest doing different designs with the colours. My friend and I did polka dot ones and tie dye ones. They come out looking really cool after baking. It’s easy, all you have to do is splatter the batter from a spoon to do polka dots, and for tie dye you can swirl it with a tooth pick. 😛 You can always experiment by doing other things.

  • Beckie
    February 29, 2012

    Rainbow cupcakes: ) we made them And turned out perfect !

  • lior shapira
    March 17, 2012


    These were great for my girls birthday party, thanks!

  • Trickier than it looks
    March 18, 2012

    I made two batches of these and was disappointed. My first mistake was to buy shallow cupcake cups, I guess I missed the advice to use muffin cups — do it. I also made a purple layer. It was good enough to stand for purple, but not a nice color on its own — lol. When they baked, other colors rose through the red so the tops had spots. The layers were not evenly spread — hard to get the spoon down in the cup to smooth things.

    Overall, it was an adequate result. I’m glad it was just kids at my church eating them and sorry the cooks in the congregation got to see my amateur effort.

  • anna and madeliene
    March 25, 2012

    these turned out terribly. i don’t know what happened, but they were not beautiful or fluffy or tasty or anything. they were gross and flat and spongy and didn’t rise at all. and we worked really hard! well anyway, the frosting is good…

  • lalaloopsy
    April 5, 2012

    so cool!
    i am making these for my dads bday
    hope they turn out good

  • Crystal
    April 6, 2012

    Do you think I can double the sugar and add say 1/4 or 1/3 a cup of cocoa powder for chocolate one?

  • Nazreen
    April 23, 2012

    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 =))

  • maria
    May 3, 2012

    it so beautiful

  • AVC
    May 5, 2012

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

  • corn
    June 12, 2012

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

  • mini monster
    June 16, 2012

    soo yummy! i love the colours!

  • mini monster
    June 16, 2012

    i love it! the colours are soo cool!

    it’s cleaver how it works!

  • Jill
    June 28, 2012

    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!

  • Alex
    July 27, 2012

    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! 🙂

  • Jenna
    July 31, 2012

    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!

  • Chloe
    September 17, 2012

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

  • hana
    September 23, 2012

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

  • Katie Vella
    October 6, 2012

    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!

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