real life test kitchen: easy rainbow cupcakes

A few weeks ago we celebrated Isadora’s fourth birthday. She didn’t make many requests beforehand, other than that there be lots of rainbows and hearts. I read about colossally tall rainbow layered cakes: beautiful, but my fear is that they’d turn into the Leaning Tower of Mush before our guests’ eyes. Then I did a seplace on YouTube and found this video for rainbow cupcakes:

(I am sure millions of people were watching because of the amazing simplicity of this technique, and not the cute girl in a halter top, right?)

The good news is that it looked like something I could handle. Here’s how it works.

1. Pick up a box of basic yellow cake mix, and if you’re extra lazy (or super busy) like me, some premade white frosting, too. You’ll also need some food dye. I used McCormick Dye because we had it handy. I was worried that I may need to use so much that the liquid would change the consistency of the batter, but that turned out to be unfounded. Just a few drops turned it a vibrant color. I had to mix my own purple and orange, but it was easy.

2. Make the cake batter according to the package directions and divide it equally into six cups. Using the food dye, make each cup a color of the rainbow. (Well, I skipped Indigo. Need a refresher course on the color spectrum? Watch this delightful They Might Be Giant’s video, R.O.Y.G.B.I.V., and you’ll never forget it.) I found that about four or five drops of dye per cup did the trick.

3. Pour the batter, one color at a time, into two prepared cupcake trays — to make 24 cupcakes. This is the tricky part, because you need to divide the batter evenly among all the cups. I found a little more than a teaspoon for each worked. Still, by the time I got to numbers 22, 23, and 24, I found I was really spreading it thin! Note: If you’re hoping for nice clean stripes, like the ones in the featured YouTube video, you’ll want to make sure that each color completely the covers the one underneath. Otherwise they do bleed around and create more of a tie-dyed look.

4. Bake according to package instructions.

5. Let them cool, and frost. Break open one of your masterpieces and ooh and ahhh at the psychedelic colors.

All of Isadora’s birthday guests were amazed by the rainbow cupcakes. They may not win any prizes for originality in flavor, but the eye candy is outstanding. These cupcakes would be great at a St. Patrick’s Day Party — or if you did some kind of hippie Woodstock-themed shindig as well. They’re a lot of fun.

Want something more ambitious? Consider this masterpiece from Not Martha, a leprechaun trap cake.

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