This Four-Layer Rainbow Cake Recipe is a bit nostalgic for me.
When I was a classroom teacher, I ended the year with a very special celebration! I loved taking an opportunity to recognize all of the hard work my students had put in throughout the year.
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I invited the parents, prepared special student recognitions, and put together a feast of sweats and treats for everyone to enjoy.
While a slideshow of pictures played along with a song that will always bring tears to my eyes (Fingerprints of God by Steven Curtis Chapman), everyone feasted on the snacks I’d prepared.
This Four-Layer Rainbow Cake was always a hit – the perfect special-occasion cake!
Why You’ll Love This Four-Layer Rainbow Cake Recipe
- It looks amazing! I’m a big fan of color, and this cake is perfect for a springtime special occasion. The outside of the cake looks like a sunny blue sky, and then you cut into the cake to see rainbow layers separated by sunshiny yellow frosting.
- It has the “wow factor” with minimal effort! This cake looks fantastic, but the frosting job isn’t fussy. There are no piping bags, no fiddling with different tips. The colorful layers are the main attraction, and that’s as simple as adding Jell-O mix to the cake batter.
- It’s delicious! Each layer of the cake has a slightly different fruity flavor, and the sweet, creamy frosting is decadent.
- It comes together quickly! I’m all for using ingredient shortcuts when I can. Making delicious food is less daunting when I know I can rely on cake mix, Jell-O powder, and premade frosting. It tastes delicious, and it actually gets made.
Ingredients You’ll Need for this Four-Layer Rainbow Cake
- 1 Box of White Cake Mix – You’ll have enough to juggle with all of the different colored layers, so use a box of white cake mix to get you started.
- Eggs – You can’t make a cake without cracking a few eggs. Follow the directions on the back of your specific white cake mix box. (Same with the oil.) Use room temperature eggs so that your batter is more consistent throughout.
- Vegetable Oil – Likely, the back of your white cake mix box will call for vegetable oil. You can substitute many ingredients for vegetable oil – such as coconut oil, sour cream, applesauce, mashed bananas, yogurt, and butter – your choice!
- Jell-O Mix – You’ll need four different flavors of Jell-O gelatin mix. This will not only tint batter to the different colors of the rainbow, but will also give each layer it’s own distinct flavor! (Quick Tip: Avoid purple.)
- Frosting – You can use canned frosting for this rainbow layer cake recipe. You’ll need two 16-ounce cans – one yellow and one white. If all you can find is white frosting, you can always use food coloring to get the yellow color…or just stick with white. Of course, if you have a buttercream frosting recipe you’d prefer to use, go for it.
- Food Coloring – The frosting of this cake resembles a bright blue sky, with puffy white clouds. So, you’ll need blue gel food coloring to get your frosting a nice sky color. Liquid food coloring can work too, but gel food coloring gives you more vibrant colors.
How To Make A Delicious Rainbow Layer Cake
Making this rainbow cake is less daunting than it appears.
Here’s what to do:
- Prepare your round cake pans, then mix up your box of cake mix according to the directions on the package, using an electric mixer or a stand mixer.
- Divide batter evenly into four small bowls.
- Mix a tablespoon of Jell-O powder into each bowl, with each separate bowl getting a different color. To get an extra bright color, use more powder.
- Pour the cake batter into your four (greased, floured) 8-inch cake pans, with one color per pan.
- Bake the cakes, and allow them to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the pans. While they’re baking, you can prepare your frostings.
- Now it’s time to assemble! Spread yellow frosting between each of the layers. (If you’d prefer to just use white here as well, that works, too.) I like to place the layers in rainbow order. Then frost the outside of the cake with blue frosting. Use a rubber spatula to add dollops of white frosting clouds.
Top Tips For Making this Homemade Cake
- You can use any flavors and colors of Jell-O that strike your fancy, but trust me – don’t use the grape flavored one. I like to use cherry, orange, lime, and “berry blast”.
- For a beautiful cake with even layers, you need each cake to come out of its pan easily. To do this, you need to prepare your cake pan properly. Nonstick cooking spray probably isn’t going to cut it. Use butter to grease each cake pan, then put a tablespoon of all-purpose flour into the pan. Next, move the pan around and tap it so that the flour coats the entire greased inside. Then knock any excess flour out. By greasing AND dusting your cake pans, your cakes should come out easily.
My mouth is watering just thinking about this cake!
- Do your cakes tend to dome up in the middle? It’s all tasty, but it’s hard to have even cake layers when your cakes aren’t flat across the top. Domes form when the outer edge of the cake bakes before the middle. We’re baking at a low temperature, so lowering the oven temperature isn’t going to help much here. Instead, you can use cake wraps, which go around the outside of your pans to even out the temperature. Or, even your cake only has a moderate dome, turn it upside down to cool. The weight of the cake will somewhat even out the dome.
- Don’t go overboard with the frosting. Each slice of cake will have five layers of frosting on it. Use a thin layer of frosting between each of the individual layers. It’s not so important that those layers completely cover any crumbs. When frosting the top and side of the cake, you’ll need to use a thicker layer of frosting. This is the part that shows. Use an offset spatula to help you spread the frosting evenly without needing to use a large amount.
- If you’d like to use less frosting, you can use Cool Whip for the puffy clouds on top of the cake. Just be sure not to add the clouds until right before serving the cake. You don’t want the whipped cream to start to melt.
A Delicious Buttercream Frosting Recipe
You can absolutely use canned frosting for this rainbow cake. I typically do!
But it also doesn’t take much time to whip up a batch of homemade buttercream frosting, and you can do it during the time the cakes are baking.
Using a stand mixer, mix a softened stick of butter with two tablespoons milk and one tsp vanilla extract.
Then, slowly added confectioners’ sugar until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.
Go back and forth adding small amounts of milk and sugar until you reach the thickness you want.
Either way, we hope you have so much fun with this recipe!
Four-Layer Rainbow Cake
- 4 8-Inch Round Baking Pans greased, floured
- 1 Oven
- 1 Box White Cake Mix
- Eggs Follow Cake Mix Box Instructions
- Vegetable Oil Follow Cake Mix Box Instructions
- 4 Boxes Jello-O Gelatin Mix Your choice of flavors – Don't use grape!
- 2 Tubs Frosting 1 Yellow, 1 White
- Food Coloring
Preparing the Cake:
- Pre-heat Oven to 350 degrees.
- Prepare cake batter according to directions on box.
- Evenly divide batter into four separate bowls.
- Add 1 tbsp. of Jell-O Gelatin Powder to each bowl and stir. Use a different color for each bowl – You choose the colors, but definitely avoid grape.
- Pour each bowl of batter into a different greased/floured cake pans.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow your colorful round cake layers to cool, and then remove them from the pans.
- Stack your cake layers, spreading yellow frosting between each layer.
Preparing the Outer Icing:
- Scoop most of the white frosting into a bowl. (Set a little extra to the side for the clouds.)
- Add six drops of blue food coloring to the frosting. Stir until blended.
- Use this mixture to cover the outside of the cake.
- Take the remaining white frosting you side aside and make cloud formations on the top and on the sides of the cake.