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Monday 11 January 2010

Rainbow Cupcakes

These cupcakes may look normal, but they are hiding a pretty exciting secret.

I don't know if you have ever seen 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show', but I do know that if you haven't, you really need to - when I was younger, it was one of my favourite films (which may explain a thing or two, come to think of it).

I loved the craziness of it all, the bizarre characters and the glittering costumes. And most of all, I loved (and still adore) the music. Richard O'Brien really is a lyrical genius! My favourite part (save the scene at the dinner table, where Brad, Janet et al realise that they've been eating Eddie for dinner) was always where Frank N. Furter brings Rocky to life in the lab. I used to LOVE the way the fluid in the tank containing Rocky turned all the colours of the rainbow as the crazy, high-heeled and fully made-up doctor added various chemicals, creating the 'secret of life itself'. Looking at it now, it's hardly the most exciting of special effects, but it's still quite something to watch.

But what does all of this have to do with cupcakes? Well, not a lot. Not if you're talking about regular cupcakes. But that is not what these are. No sir, these are RAINBOW CUPCAKES!

You still might be thinking this has nothing to do with Rocky Horror,
but hopefully the photo shows where I'm going with this: the graduated rainbow
colours you can make out through the cupcake
wrapper are just like the colours in Frank N. Furter's tank, no?

I made these for Katy (she of azuki bean stew fame). She has a December birthday, which I always equate to being a bit rubbish. My step-brother has one too, and I have seen what happens time and again: birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper (inexcusable!), joint Christmas/Birthday presents (lame!) and even joint parties. Hardly the way to make the birthday boy/girl feel special.

Anyway, I wanted to take some cakes to her party, and figured that rainbows were pretty far from what most people think of as Christmassy. Plus, like me, Katy's a child of the eighties, so there's always the Rainbow Brite connection for those who wish to make it. They were simple to do - just regular cake mixture, split six ways and dyed accordingly - and a fun way to spend an hour on a cold, dark afternoon.

Incidentally, I know that it's now January. I just forgot about the fact that I'd made these until now. Probably something to do with holiday hustle and bustle (and my sieve-like memory).

Whatever. I should say two things:

  • I stole the idea, shamelessly, from Aleta Meadowlark. But since I worship at the Alter of Omnomicon.com at least twice weekly, I know she won't mind. Plus, her rainbow cake is a layer cake - I have never seen cupcakes made like this before. Which brings me to point number two:
  • Apart from Lucy and Rich's wedding cakes, nothing I have baked has ever caused so many people to tell me I am amazing. I'm not pointing this out to big myself up - I'm just letting you know that you'll rock whatever party you're going to if you take along a dozen of these little twinklies. This is a fact.
Let's just have a quick run-through of the RAINBOW CUPCAKE making process, shall we?

First, you tint the cake batter in rainbow colours. We're lumping indigo and violet
together here - I didn't fancy mixing different shades of purple. (Yes, those are rice bowls)

Then you layer the batter into the cupcake liners...

And bake for 20 minutes, before cooling on a wire rack.

The surfaces look like craters on some far away rainbow planet! To me at least.

The Anatomy of a Rainbow Cupcake

I made them lemon flavour. This is not just because lemon is officially the best flavour cake can ever be, but also because the icing is cream cheese and I think the tastes marry quite nicely. You can make them whatever flavour you like though. People are more likely to notice the colours than the flavour anyway. Unless you think of a flavour to match each colour and add it to the coloured mixtures accordingly. I did want to do that, but it seemed like too much work. I concede though, that a six-flavour cupcake really would be a party in the mouth.


You will need:

175g butter
175g granulated sugar
175g plain flour, sifted
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 lemon, juiced and zested
food colouring in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple

100g cream cheese
30g butter
400g icing sugar, sifted

hundreds and thousands to decorate

  1. Make the cake mixture following whatever method you normally use. I recommend, as always, the all-in-one; place the eggs, sugar, butter and flour (all at room temperature) in a large bowl, along with the baking powder and bicarb., and mix using an electric hand whisk until combined. Add the lemon juice and zest, and mix again.
  2. Divide this mixture equally into 6 bowls and tint each a different colour of the rainbow.
  3. Line a 12-bun muffin tin with paper wrappers, and add a teaspoon of each colour to each liner in reverse rainbow order. That's purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. (Clarity is important in recipes, after all.)
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180°C, until a tooth pick inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean.
  5. Cool on a rack. DO NOT COOL IN THE TIN unless you want soggy cupcakes.
  6. Make the icing: mix the softened butter with the cream cheese, then add the sugar. You might not need it all - stop at the consistency you like. I like it thick and shiny, so add it all.
  7. Use the icing to frost the cakes - a palate knife makes pretty swirls. Finish with hundreds and thousands, and remember: less is more. You want the cupcakes to look sweet and innocent, so that the rainbow is a surprise.
Don't forget to Re-Invent the Lamington! Deadline 26 January.


  1. WOW- sooo cute, and i love your blog. I want a cake shop just like le bon!,

  2. Sarah - thanks! It was pretty fun work. Much like creating 'the key to life itself!'

    Asteroshe - We all want a shop like that! Thanks for your comments. I love blogging, and am glad you enjoy! :)

  3. Very creative, colourful & beautiful!

  4. For my 16th birthday my best friends made me a rainbow cake, but they topped it with all sorts of ugly novelty items like flies, doggy dunnit, spew etc! The cake was delicious;) I like that YOUR cakes are understated on top - the most subtle of hints as to what lies within:) They're beautiful Mr P! Fortunate friend you have - and my personal fave cake filling is orange....lol just in a case you ever wanted to bring cupcakes to MY birthday party:P

  5. WANT! So cute and I love lemony cake! I love making rainbow cake- I had a phase when all I made was rainbow cake. I miss the phase... I think it's rainbow time again!

  6. Sanjana - Rainbow lamingtons? Just sayin...

    Coby - The next time I'm in Oz, I'll bring some round :) All I'm thinking is Australian cake right now. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say that I am using a famous Aussie chocolate bar for inspiration. How's your entry thinking going? :)

  7. OMG! I'm soooo tickled by these!

  8. I'm going to have a go at these for the next visit to the nephews house. They look great and I'm sure the kids will love them.

  9. Glad to know this works for cupcakes. I did red, white and green like this for Christmas, but i have been too chicken to try it out with the full rainbow. I love this effect for cake! I know I will have to make this for my little girls birthday now :)

  10. Thank you so much Mr P for visiting my blog while I was away! Sorry for coming so late to visit your, but I only got back two days ago!

    I also glad you came cause it gave me the chance to discover your very nice blog... which I'll surely come visit again!

    A very happy new year to you and your family, and what a great way really to start it... than with amazing rainbow cupcakes! Niiiiice!

  11. Yippee!

    Mr. P - these photos? Amazing.

    This recipe? Fantastic.

    This blog? Great success.

    My favorite yet... plus the Lamington idea has had me working all week on my version!

  12. These are adorable! I love them!!

  13. Mae - that's so exciting that you're planning something cool.

    I can't WAIT to see it. I get excited every time I see the word lamington!

  14. Gorgeous! I have always wanted to make something like this.

  15. soooo pretty and adorable!:) i am in loveeee!

  16. ~Awww!! I make these! But i have a thign about things that are too brightly coloured! so when i make my batter i just chuck in some sugarstarands and get little flecks...!!
    oh i love cake...cake loves me.

  17. Hello Mr. P! Your blog is rather entertaining, and full of deliciousness, I am salivating onto my keyboard. :P I love the idea of such a colorful cupcake. I was thinking of doing something similar, but layering flavors--chocolate, peanutbutter and banana!

  18. FuriousFeng - I LOVE that idea. The natural rainbow. Of chocolate! If you do, you have to send me a picture!

    Love your blog by the way - beautiful design!

  19. These are quite beautiful -- and the intricate process you had to go through to make these "rainbow" cup cakes is amazing. Beautiful job!

  20. These are amazing.1st time here on your space.

  21. Thanks Joy! It was time well spent though, as the decorating was EASY.

    Simply food - Welcome! Hope to see you around here again :)

  22. Oh man, those look awesome. I taught myself to cook ages ago as a defensive measure, but baking scared me. This may be the recipe that makes me try.

  23. Those cupcakes are BEAUTIFUL!!!!!
    My girls would absolutely love them...
    Are they as time consuming as they look?

  24. Very cute! I really like your photos, especially the ones of the unbaked batter. Fun!

  25. I've seen various versions of these in the last year of so popping up all over the fellow bloggers blogs, and am looking forward to having a go myself.

  26. My kids will love these - but think I will call them tie-dyed cup cakes!

  27. Mike - Do it! Baking = Happiness.

    CeeCee - That's another cool idea. And I don't know how old yur children are, but losing the Rocky Horror connection may be a good thing... :)

    Miranda - If you aren't trying to take pretty photos at the same time, they're pretty quick to do. I was in the kitchen for about an hour and a half. But without photography, I reckon 40 minutes max. If you use the all-in-one method.

    Thanks Hungry Dog! :) They're my favourite too.

    MangoCheeks - do. And send me a link!

  28. saw these on photograzing and had to come see the full post! TOO CUTE! I made rainbow bunts once before, it is TOO much fun .. sooo many dishes though.

  29. very nice....will make if for my sons birthday ..

  30. LOL... "Don't dream it/Buttercream it..."

  31. Oh my god, Chickenless Chick: That is singlehandedly the most wonderful thing anyone has ever written on my blog. Thank you! :)

  32. The rainbow cupcake is very neat, love it!

  33. my daughters would LOVEEEEE this.

    I'm reinventing Lamingtns, worry you not. They are a super amazing discovery.........even if recent for me (from Mowie!)

  34. Like the rainbow cakes Mr P. Will have to show the recipe to Mrs F.

  35. Wow Peter.... I love these cup cakes....!!!!! I will try this recipe!!!! well done darling!!! you are very good!!!

  36. I just lost two hours reading the original Something Awful rainbow cake thread. All I can say is, I have to do this.

    Rose/orange/yellow etc tints my world?

  37. Nicoletta - DO! You should make Rainbow Tiramisu. You know, the Italian touch!

    SilverMoon Dragon - Another RHS reference. I ♥ it!

  38. Awwwww !!! I LOVE your blog !! Those cupcakes look LUSSSSSHH !! Going to bake them tomorrow with my baby princesses .... I don't think they will turn out as good as yours but they do say ' pratice makes perfect '
    Keep up te good work Babes xxx
    ""*•.¸ (*•.¸♥¸.•*´)¸.•*""

  39. i just stumbled onto your blog from not so humble's blog, and came across this post. i also tried making omnomicon-inspired rainbow cupcakes, but mine turned out super hideous, nothing like your beauties. oh well, i'm going to have another go at them this week, so hopefully practice makes somewhat less hideous cupcakes. :D

  40. Hey Mr. P,
    In one of those exciting, serendipitous cosmic moments, I made rainbow cupcakes on the same day that my friend shared your blog's link with me. I did not get a chance to peruse until later in the day, and you can imagine how excited I was to see your published (and beautiful) photos of what I had just done in my very own kitchen! I got the idea from a random site online (I believe as the result of a google search?) but will say your entry on them is far superior. I can't wait to explore the rest of your site and try more recipes. Love it.

  41. awesome. I love rainbow cake. And having managed a cupcake bakery this combines two things that are particularly worthwhile to me. :)

  42. I love these, just made some myself! Check 'em out at http://dafoodieadventures.blogspot.com/ I wish I had thought about sprinkles though!

    Great Blog!

  43. Love the photo of your paint pots of cake batter, we have featured them on http://partycupcakeideas.com/

  44. I love how cute the cupcakes look on the first picture and then seeing what's inside!! I totally will make these someday. :)

  45. Hi! I've been staring at your blog all afternoon- its awsome! These cupcakes look great, I actually already made something just like that(lemon flavored, rainbow, and made in the same way; happy minds think alike, huh?) , they were really pretty, but didn't actually taste that good, yours look much yummier!

  46. Rainbow cake! Amazing!

    I will definitely have to give these a go :)

  47. First visit to your blog - noticing the dates of other comments, I don't know if you are still writing it? Anyhoo...thanks for the explanation of the ingredient ratio for the LEMON BIZCOCHO cake - had got the recipe from another site but didn't trust it until I saw your pictures! Also, find your little comments quite amusing :D


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