Last week my baby girl turned 4. How is that even possible? And, can I even call her a baby anymore?
From the first time I told you all that I was expecting to now, the years have flown by. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that Janna has four busy older siblings.
Anyway, we got to celebrate Janna’s birthday with family on Saturday. She had a lot of fun opening presents, visiting with family, having everyone sing happy birthday to her, and having a special cake.
For weeks Janna has wanted a different color of cake each day. Purple, pink, orange, blue, and polka dots had all been top contenders. However, in the middle of last week she decided that she wanted a rainbow cake.
I have to admit that I thought it was a brilliant idea because we could incorporate all of her favorite colors. The only problem was that I didn’t want to use a regular food coloring to make her cake.
For Janna’s 2nd birthday I used raspberries to color the icing for her cupcakes because I had been noticing that Joseph has having issues with food coloring. Having succeeded with that experiment, I decided that I was up for the challenge of figuring out 6 different natural food coloring options made from real food.
While the colors aren’t nearly as bright as they could have been, I think the cake looked enough like a rainbow to make Janna happy. Actually, I think she had more fun helping me make the cake than eating it because she was so excited about her party she hardly ate any cake.
As you can see I used white icing on the outside of the cake, but I could have easily used natural food coloring for that as well.
Natural Food Coloring
The first thing I did was to decide what foods I was going to use to make the colors for the layers of the rainbow cake.
While I think I would try things a little differently next time, I will tell you what I used to make this cake and then share what I would try next time.
- Red: 2-3 Tbsp. Beet Juice (I just used the juice from a can of sliced beets.)
- Orange: 3-4 Tbsp. Carrot Juice (I purchased carrot juice, but if you have a juicer that would work.)
- Yellow: 1/8 tsp. Turmeric (I mixed it with some warm water, maybe a Tbsp.)
- Green: 1+ Tbsp. Pureed Spinach with 1 Tbsp. Water (I used a can of spinach and pureed it in a blender.)
- Blue: 2-3Tbsp. Water from Boiling Red Cabbage (See note below.)
- Purple: 2 -3 Tbsp. Water from Boiling Red Cabbage (See note below.)
Note: To make the blue and purple I chopped up 1/4 head of red cabbage and put it in a pan and just barely covered the cabbage with water. For the blue, I strained out some of the water after the cabbage had only been boiling for 5 minutes. For the purple, I let the cabbage boil for a good 20 minutes and then strained out the juice.
While the blue and purple looked pretty, I was disappointed with how they looked when added to the cake batter. So, I ended up using some blueberries for the blue icing like I did when I used raspberries to make pink icing. For the purple I added a little bit of grape juice in addition to the cabbage juice.
If I were going to do this again I would still use the beet juice for the red. For the orange, I would try cooking and pureeing some carrots. To make the yellow I would either not add any water to the turmeric or try one egg yolk added to the batter.
I am thinking that spinach powder might be a better alternative to the pureed spinach. I could dehydrate spinach and use a food processor to turn it into powder, or I could buy spinach powder. (affiliate link)
For the blue and purple I am not totally sure what I would try. Maybe when our blackberries are ripe I will try using them for the purple and blueberries for the blue.
Making and Assembling the Rainbow Cake
After I figured out what I wanted to use for the food coloring, I had to make some cake batter. I chose a recipe from Add a Pinch called The Best White Cake Recipe Ever. Everyone seemed to like it, but I had take their word for it since I couldn’t try it myself because I am dairy-free.
I divided the cake batter evenly among six bowls. I think I had about 1 cup per bowl, maybe a little more. I honestly just eyeballed it by how much I scooped into the bowl with my big spatula.
I then added the natural food coloring and Janna helped me stir them up. I poured the cake batter into six greased and floured 8 inch cake pans and baked them until a toothpick inserted in the middle came out clean. I didn’t have to bake the layers as long as the recipe said because they were thinner.
I put the cakes on wire racks and made buttercream icing while they were cooling. I used my buttercream icing recipe. You can always replace the palm shortening the recipe calls for with softened, real butter if you prefer. You can use 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of real butter.
Once I had the icing made and the cakes were cool, I placed the purple layer on my cake plate and topped it with a thin layer of icing. I then continued in this manner layering blue, then green, then yellow, then orange, then red. (Just remember to go in reverse order of a rainbow or your rainbow will be upside down.) 🙂
Next, I spread a thin layer of icing over the entire cake.
Finally, I made the Prairie Homestead’s whipped cream icing recipe and covered the cake with it. I used a cake decorating knife to kind of blot the cake so that it had a “messy on purpose” look to it. I am sure there is some technical cake decorating term for what I did but I have no idea what it would be.
One thing I did for the party was to use some extra napkins, paper plates, and plastic silverware from various parties we have had over the years. While nothing really matched it all went with the rainbow theme and I didn’t have to buy any paper goods which was quite frugal.
The rainbow cake I made may be pastel instead of vibrant colors, but it was fun to make, made my little girl happy, and was much healthier than if I had used regular food coloring.
If you have any interest in knowing why I try to avoid artificial food coloring this post from 100 Days of Real Food is a good resource.
Have you ever made natural, homemade food coloring?