Sunday 23 June 2013

The Epic Rainbow Cake Extravaganza!

Part I

in which the idea is conceived, and the epic adventure into rainbow cake making takes it's first small steps.

I’ve always been a fan of baking cakes, or generally messing about in the kitchen. I am not a huge fan of eating cakes, which, I suppose you could say, is kind of abnormal behaviour. I mean, I like cake. Cake is an awesome invention. Cake is the nectar of the gods etc. etc. But it is just… it gets boring fast, y'know? Cake has to be seriously and out of the ordinarily good and well made, for me to want to eat more than a piece, or even finish the one piece I have got. And furthermore, I don’t generally care for cake right out of the oven. Day after cake, now that's what I'm talking about. The crafting of cakes is fun though, even if the batter usually tastes better than the actual cake. I mean, even I was a kid once, and the licking of the spoon was one of the few things in my life, that made me happy I was an only child. 

I had come across a rainbow cake on the old internet, and was immediately fascinated with the vibrant colors and the thought of making such a cake myself. Even if I knew in my heart (or thought I knew) that it wouldn't ever happen. I don’t keep a whole lot of standard cake making ingredients about the house, because the need and/or occasion for me to bake a cake is rare and far between. And besides, I shouldn’t be eating too much cake anyway. So when I went to my mom’s house for a few days, I figured it was time to try and get that rainbow cake moved from the realm of things that existed on paper, to the realm of things that actually physically existed. My mom has an affinity for cake-making too, and I knew convincing her a rainbow cake was what was missing in our lives, wasn’t going to be hard. On top of that, my grandmother, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, was at my mom’s house too. In her late years, my grandma has reinforced her sweet tooth in a big way. She is now at the point, with cancer and old age, where she just doesn’t give a fuck about health issues (can you really blame her?). If she could have cake and ice cream and candy from her little eyes opened in the morning, and all the way until she hit the pillow at night, she’d do it, no ifs, ands or buts. So she’d welcome the thought of a sugar and butter laden cake.

Before starting out, we had a few bananas laying around, that needed to be used, so the warm up the proceedings, a banana cake was crafted. It wasn’t too bad, especially not after it had been resting for a few days. But I knew I had bigger fish to fry. As predicted, mom was immediately smitten with the image of the fabled rainbow cake. It had been featured on Martha Stewart’s program, on whose homepage I found it. Admittingly, I haven't ever actually watched Martha's program, but I'm aware of her existence. My mom, however, doesn’t have a fucking clue who Martha Stewart is, so that wasn’t really a selling point for her. Rather, it was all about the colors and the lurking challenge. An also about the really ridiculous amounts of sugar and butter involved. It even came with a disclaimer for the obscene amounts of stuff needed. That’s how rainbowy that damn cake was.

Butter, sugar, eggwhites. Nuff said!

After the customary fiddling about, for my mom, with the recipe, having to set it up properly in a word document, with a little picture and printing it out in several different versions (it’s an obsession), we had a general idea of what was needed. The whole project still had a sort of mythical quality to it, and we were sort of in a state of limbo between wanting to make the damn cake, and being a little weirded out by the sheer quantities of butter and eggwhites and sugar needed. Did I mention a lot of butter and sugar was needed for this cake? That’s because it’s out of this world. And it became the cake’s ultimate undoing. At least for my sake. But more on that later.

The project lingered in our collective hive mind for a day or so. I, at least, had been determined from day one, that this was something that needed to happen. But I also knew, that without mom on my team, the project would be a lot harder, and I’d perhaps end up shelving it as another “would be fun to do, but…” project. And that shelf is already crammed to the edge. When we went shopping one day, it was mutually decided that the project was go for launch. Operation Rainbow Cake was on, motherhumper. ON! Eggwhites and butter in near incomprehensible quantities were bought, and it felt like the laws of physics buckled a little. I was on the verge of a fit of giggles (ok, I'm not really prone to fits of giggles. But I was kind of giddy. A cake project of this magnitude had never been attempted by yours truly before). Rainbow cake... Even the concept seemed weirdly flamboyant, like something out of a Tim Burton movie. At home, grandma scoffed at our efforts, calling us crazy and other similarly slandering adjectives. On the face of things, she had written off the whole project as totally loco. But I believe she secretly harboured a desire to go to town on that rainbow cake. Her sweet tooth notwithstanding, the mere thought of sweet sweet rainbow cake must have gotten her a preemptive sugar rush. We ignored her disbelief, and set about our journey towards, what was henceforth known as, the epic rainbow cake extravaganza.

I have, as the keen reader will have noticed, included links to both the original recipe, as well as Martha Stewart's take on it. My version is not hugely dissimilar, but we did omit a few things, and modified a few others. I’ll spice it up with images of the process, along with a final verdict. And I might even throw in a picture of my mom’s cat, for those of you so inclined, out there. Anyway, without further ado, the epic rainbow cake extravaganza!

Batter beginnings. Looks plain enough. Enter food coloring!

Part II

in which layers are made, and the definition of the word vibrant is questioned

We needed to start off with the 6 layers, made with the 6 colors: red, blue, yellow, green, orange and purple. Mom had some potent food coloring around, that was brought out. I started measuring ingredients. We fiddled around with cup to gram conversion scaling, until we found, that it had already been done in the recipe we were following. Hello. The trick was to make a large batch of batter, then divide that into 6 equal parts, separate those 6 parts and make 6 individually colored portions of batter. So far so good. The batter was made, and it tasted heavenly. Amusingly enough, while grandma mostly stayed out of the process (apart from a few backseak cake maker comments that were largely ignored), when it came to batter tasting time (and that's what making cakes is really all about), she was hovering around that bowl like white on rice. And of course we had to fight her off, when she was ready to go in for thirdsies. Interesting fact: 25 years ago, the reverse was probably true. Mom and grandma would be baking cakes, largely ignored by me. But when they were done, and it was spoon licking time, I was there like it was a deal with the devil. I guess it really is true, that you grow younger mentally, as you grow older physically. Of course, I don't have a clue what I'm on about, so disregard the last three-four sentences. 

So the batter was made, and the scale was brought forth under much pomp and circumstance. The Kitchen Scale, hooray! I had used my newly acquired math skills and subtracted the weight of the bowl (which I had conveniently written on a post-it, and stuck on a kitchen cupboard), from the overall weight of batter+bowl. I had then gone a step further, and divided the resulting number by 6, thereby informing us how much was needed per layer. Now, at this point I should have been clever, and included the need for a little leeway. But I thought 'Hey, that’s a problem for future me. Present me is caught up in the frenzy of making a rainbow motherfucking cake'. Sound thinking had gone bye bye at this point.

I had :D painted on my face everytime I looked at this color.

Layer one was separated, and blue color was mixed in. It looked fucking amazing. Blue cake batter. The concept alone called for a moment of silence. We had brought up two round forms, normally used for making… well.. round stuff, either cake or pudding or meats. Today, they were to be used for making layers for a goddamn rainbow cake. They were Teflon coated, meaning that no additional greasing should really be necessary. In, what alcoholics refer to as, a moment of clarity, I suggested they be greased with butter anyway, because hey… how could that hurt? Well, it turned out, it couldn’t. But it also turned out it wasn’t enough. We had poured the blue batter (!) into the form, and made another sixth of batter green (unbelievably, this turned out to be even more awesome than the blue), which was correspondingly poured into a second round form. They were both tossed into the oven, and 12 minutes was set on the clock. A quick argument broke out, over whether the food coloring was good enough, since the recipe called specifically for gel food coloring, stating that liquid coloring wasn’t going to be vibrant enough. It turned out, after a bit, that the argument was really moot, and had started because my mom wasn’t clear on the actual meaning of the word vibrant. After the argument was settled (we agreed that the liquid coloring was sufficient (partly because it probably was, and partly because we had no alternatives), excitement began to build again, until that glorious moment when the clock went DING.

Before things went haywire. So yummy. 
We yanked the forms out, and surveyed the result with gluttonous eyes. It wasn’t bad. Wasn’t bad at all. Very blue, and very green respectively. But we soon ran headfirst into problems; the forms, even while Teflon coated and greased with butter, would not really let go of the layers. Also, the layers were really thin at the edge, but thicker in the middle. Turned out, the edge of the batter had sort of latched on to the side of the form, and the sugar had melted, and kept the edge from rising like the middle. We fought valiantly to get the layers out of the forms and onto a cooling area, and while we managed to do it somewhat successfully, our spirit had taken a beating. The coloring was really awesome, but the shape and success in extracting the layers from the forms had left step II of the rainbow cake extravaganza a little deflated. What was happening? I immediately assumed the fetal position, and mom wandered desolately about the garden, mumbling to herself. Was the epic rainbow cake extravaganza going to come to a premature halt? Could the team not fight their way through hard times? WAS THIS THE END? Thankfully, no, it wasn’t. Through the always welcome aid of my guidance animal, Herbert the Lukewarm Dungbeetle, I snapped out of my daze, shook mom back to reality, and we hi fived our way back into the game, now even more ferociously hell bent on making the best goddamn rainbow cake since sliced rainbow cake bread.

The decision, that for now, blue and green layers, even in their weakened state, would have to make do, was made. And yellow and red layers were quickly initiated. A sixth of batter for each, leaving a somewhat small amount of batter in the large bowl. Alarmingly small amount. The error of my batterdividing ways slowly emerged from the mist of my rainbow cake making frenzy, but I waved it aside. I had no time for failures at this point. Surely, whoever coined the phrase, the show must go on, never had two layers of an epic fucking rainbow cake practically blow up in their faces. But the gist of that phrase still rings true. The rainbow cake show must go on. Red and yellow, more specifically. The issue now was how the forms should be prepared. The debate went back and forth. Greasing it up even more? Would that work? Voices were raised, emotions ran high. Eventually it was decided, that we would cut out a round piece of thin baking paper for each form, so the layer was easily removed from the form. A method, it soon become apparent, would pave the road to success. The layers were removed from the form effortlessly, and turned upside down on the resting area. With the paper removed, we now stood over 4 brightly colored cake layers. One blue, one green, one red and one yellow. They were all amazing to behold. Very vibrantly colored, even without gel coloring. However, looking from the yellow to the red to the blue to the green, our previous disaster with the first two layers became painstakingly apparent – the blue and the green layers just weren’t up to the standards required of a project of this magnitude: the epic rainbow cake deserved more. It deserved the absolute best. We would have to remake those two layers.

Look at them. So peaceful. They don't know of their impending doom!
Onwards and upwards, like the good so and so used to say. We pressed on, and made the orange layer. It was so bright and so... orange. Amazing. Really the most vibrant of the bunch, and easily the most appetizing layer. Thick and rich in texture, it was baked to absolute perfection. The orange layer. Still sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. We had also understood the error in turning out the previously two layers from their paper, seeing how much more difficult it had become to move the layers about without the paper. Live and learn. The orange layer, so perfect, so mushy, so orange stayed in it’s paper home.

It hurt our souls, but it had to be done: green and blue were out
Purple time. I silently cursed my batterhandling, because it was now obvious, that the previous sloppy measuring, had left the purple layer crippled in terms of amount of batter available. Oh Lord, why hath thou not reacheth down to stoppeth me, before I doth blah blah blah. In short: blame a malevolent deity for any and all wrongdoings. Nobody can prove me wrong anyway. We scraped the bowl dry, and managed to make a somewhat decent layer. It was about 50 grams lighter than the others, but we determined it to be fine. At this point, we baked the layers separately, because trust in the oven had dwindled. It hadn’t quite baked the other layers evenly, and caution was taken, to ensure maximum quality of the rainbow cake. It was THAT important. And the purple layer, being the last, might have suffered a little in the pre-oven kerfuffle, but it still turned out to be pretty awesome looking. Not quite orange layer, but the color purple was still vibrant and very appealing.

Does looks cool, does it not?

At this point, I had started tossing together another batch for a new and improved green and blue layer. The old green and blue were tossed on a plate, and offered to the masses for casual snacking. The taste left nothing to be wanted, denoting a rare occasion, where the baked product tasted as well as the batter. Also, combining the blue and green layers on one plate, in a mix, proved to look pretty cool. The second batch of batter was a little hard to get as creamy and liquid as the last batch, and it showed on the final product (the baked layers). It was a little too thick, so the batter didn’t quite distribute evenly in the forms. But they were good enough, and whatever inconsistencies they had could be compensated for, with frosting. We now had all 6 layers finished, looking smooth as ice! Very vibrant, very appealing. Looking pretty cool. The next, and perhaps hardest, part of the epic rainbow cake extravaganza, had come to a pretty successful conclusion.

6 layers in all their glory

Part III

in which much butter is used, and complications with liquids arise.

With all 6 layers made, it was time for a break. Amusingly enough, the break was spent eagerly discussing the creative process of the 6 layers, lamenting the two lost layers, and vigorously debating how much butter was actually fecking needed in this cake. The final part, or part III as we refer to it here, called for two batches of buttercream made. One for in between the layers, and one for covering the whole cake. It would end up creating a 9 inches tall cake. 9. Nine. Inches. It seemed out of this god damn world, if you asked me. Even for a rainbow cake. I wasn’t on board for a 9 inch cake. So we decided then and there, that we would make do with just the one batch of frosting. Turned out it was just enough to fill layers AND cover the whole thing.

Notice how my watch is totally casually turned inwards? No? Well now you will.

I started with the eggwhites and the sugar in a pan, stirring like there was no god damn tomorrow, getting it all smooth. We were working in mom’s kitchen, which is relatively small and compact, meaning most things have to be cleaned away immediately after use, lest the kitchen become an inferno of used stuff and no table surface to work on. A misunderstanding had caused all the bowls to be shelved, with mom erroneously thinking the frosting was to be made in a pot exclusively, when it wasn’t really. After that misunderstanding had been sorted, we were once again back on track. Eggwhites and sugar, now a smooth as shit liquid, was poured into a bowl, and copious amounts of butter was slowly added, with me stirring the thing continuously. It was pretty liquidy, and that wasn’t a good thing. Beads of panicky sweat appeared on our collective foreheads. Was this whole project to end here? Were we not good enough for the epicness of the rainbow cake. Armageddon scenarios flashed , in rabid succession, before my inner screen. 

Butter. Sugar. Eggwhites. Again. More. MORE!
We tossed it in the fridge, hoping against hope, that it would solidify and become more manageable. As it were, it would not be suitable to glue 6 epic layers together. The minutes ticked by slowly, with mom feverishly fidgeting with knickknacks, me pacing the floor restlessly, and grandma quietly reading a book, not a care in the world. We kept eyeing the fridge, as if it was going to jump up screaming, when the buttercream was more solid. The bowl was taken out several times, and inspected carefully, but it didn’t solidify as much as I had wanted. We were running out of patience, when grandma finally stepped in, with the problemsolving suggestion: powdered sugar. And there it was. It was all so obvious. Of course, powdered sugar would help solidify the cream, without compromising neither taste nor color. We made it happen, and it worked beautifully. Grandma stepped up the plate, took a swing, and knocked the fucker right out of the park! The buttercream was now pretty solid, and it was time for final assembly. The time where all the day’s efforts would come together in beautiful harmony, or die trying!

Purple started off the game. Colors really are vibrant!
We sat around the final assembly table, in revered anticipation. Even my mom’s cat had sensed the epicness about to go down, and was prowling the area, in search of stray petting. It wasn’t going to happen. There was too much at stake to waste time petting cats willy nilly. Purple layer went first, with a layer of cream. Smearing the cream on proved difficult at first, until the technique was mastered. No ruffling of the layers, no destroying the perfect surfaces. Then the blue layer, and cream. Then the green layer, cream. A quick argument over which layer was next. Then the yellow layer, then the orange and finally the red, with the corresponding cream in between. There was enough cream left, to add to the top, and then smear around the cakes perimeter, effectively hiding the layer colors from sight. It was done. The epic rainbow cake was assembled, and upon immediate inspection it looked just like any other large white frosted cake. But underneath the innocent white frosting, was kept hidden an inferno of colors, just waiting to be unleashed upon a suspecting world.

So close. SO CLOSE!
Mom brought forth some sugar flower ornaments, she had around for some reason. We decorated the cake with extra ornaments, just because fuck it. The cake was now officially done, and tossed into the fridge, mostly because it was just too god damn scary to start slicing and dicing it right away. We needed a break. We needed space, and while the emptiness of not actively crafting a rainbow cake was blatantly apparent, it also felt good to know it was right there, behind a refrigerator door, just waiting for us to expose it for what it was (rainbow cake).

We cooked a proper dinner afterwards (some 7 hours had been spent on the rainbow cake, all in all), because in the aftermath, hunger had arisen. Ground beef cooked into burgerpatties, with peas, beans and potatoes. Classic dish! We ate and chitchatted, with fleeting glances towards the fridge. It loomed, let me tell you. That rainbow cake meant business, and we fucking knew it. The crucial moment was soon upon us. And it was decision time: with the darkness creeping up (it was 10pm at this time), I was reluctant to cut the rainbow cake, because I had originally wanted daylight for the magic event. But on the other hand, I wasn’t keen on going to bed that night, without having cut upon the magic shitkickingly awesomeness that was the rainbow cake. I knew I would toss and turn all night, in silent agony, if I did not get to view the insides of that damn cake.
It looks unassuming. Almost makes you forget, it's a FUCKING RAINBOW CAKE!
We decided to cut it. The cake was brought forth, placed on the table. A big ass knife, and a thin cake palette knife was also procured, so as to extract a perfect triangular slice from the cake, without fucking up the frosting, or the layers. It had to be perfect, because there was entirely too much time and too many resources, and too much love poured into this project, to start being careless. I inserted the knife, with cameras rolling, and slowly but deliberately cut a sweet triangular piece out, and managed to put it on a separate plate. A screaming silence filled the room, and everybody stared at the slice of cake, and then at the whole cake sans a slice. It was like a dream, one where you don’t want to wake up, yet are still clawing at your mind to bring yourself into coherence, because what is happening is entirely too overwhelming to compute. There it was. A motherloving rainbow cake, just like in the picture on the internet, only somehow better. It wasn’t as tall, but I daresay it was near god damn perfect anyway. 6 supervibrant layers with white cream in between. So colourful, so perfectly layered, so nicely done. A swelling sense of pride filled our hearts, and we spent a moment in perfect shared enjoyment of the whole process.
A single slice, towering majestically.
After worshipping the moment of rainbow cake encutment, it was time to ingest said rainbow cake. We knew just how much butter was in this damn thing, so I was a little reluctant to just dig in, because I am not particularly partial to butter, if it isn’t scraped fairly thin over bread. So we took that one piece we had cut, and split it into three smaller slices, which we then ate. It was good. But, there was way too much butter in it for my taste, and I was nauseous when I finished my relatively small slice. I had to wash it down with a raspberry soda (seems weird, but it worked). Grandma, in true form, was the only one to effortlessly finish her slice. Had she been served another slice immediately after, she would probably have vacuumed that up too. She doesn’t take shit from any sugary cake substances.

A rare look into the deep underbelly of a rainbow cake.
Conclussively it was a helluva process. Fun, interesting and educational. Several harsh lessons were learned, and plenty of amusing arguments were had during. Emotions ran high, but the end product more than made up for it all. Even if it was, at least for me, inedible. I simply couldn’t eat all that buttercream. We took several pictures, and my mom reactivated her sort of lost Facebook account, just so she could post pictures of the rainbow cake, and harvest those oh so coveted likes and comments. And people were very positive with their responses to the rainbow cake pictures.

And here I am, writing a 6 page walkthrough of the process of making an epic fucking rainbow fucking cake. Of epicness. An effort I will hold dear to my heart for a long while, and the result of which I can proudly display. Enjoy!
For those of you who didn't care about the rainbow cake, but made it all the way here anyway... a cat. 

Secret part IV

in which the modified recipe is revealed and almost nothing else happens.

Like I mentioned, liquid food coloring was plenty enough to make luscious vibrant colors. Generally, the layers were the same color when baked, as the batter had been. We skipped the one smaller batch of frosting altogether, and made do with the 9 eggwhites one. Like you can see from my pictures, and the pictures in the original post, the frosting layers in my cake, are a lot smaller. This was intentional. There really is copious amounts of butter used, and it seems necessary. I know it was originally done for the visuals, but even so, I daresay we made a cake that was striking visually, without compromising anything. Even so, our cake was still so buttery, it made me a little sick. The layer buns tasted really awesome though, and it is my intention to make another rainbow cake at some point, when I can dream up another frosting, that is actually edible. Then, and only then, will the epic rainbow cake be truly complete! 

I went home, and left mom and grandma with half a cake. I had, after our first taste, figured the rest of the cake would have to be tossed in the trash, because honestly... there was no way the two of them would be able to gnaw their way through the whole thing. Even with grandma at the top of her sugaringesting game. I brought a few pieces home with me, because... well it's so damn fascinating, it's hard not to look at it all the time. Also, my roommate wanted to see/taste it. It turns out mom had a few visitors over, after I left, and the cake made it's rounds, to general applause and reverence. And rightly so. It IS, as you can see, pretty effing epic. 


  1. yummi or spooky, I'm not sure?

  2. Yummi depends on your affinity for butter. I didn't think it was that yumyum, but others, apparently, loved it. Spooky? Only in the sense of spookily difficult to look away from!