HOW TO: Make a DIY organic rainbow cake without toxic chemical food colors

Rainbow Cake & Vanilla Frosting Ingredients

Ingredients for cake

  • 5 large organic egg whites at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole organic milk at room temperature
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons pure Fair Trade, certified organic vanilla extract
  • 2 and 3/4 cups organic white flour, sifted
  • 1 and 3/4 cups organic granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 7 to 9 homemade natural food dyes

Ingredients for frosting

  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons of organic, unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure organic Fair Trade vanilla extract
  • 3 cups organic powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons organic milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 organic vanilla bean – scraped – optional

Step 1: Learn About Natural Food Dyes

Fake chemical food dyes have been linked to a number of health risks, but it’s not that hard to learn to make homemade food dyes. Once you’ve got natural dyes down, you can use them to make a number of colored baked goods, play clay, homemade sidewalk paint, other crafts and even dye your Easter eggs with them. There are a number of items you can use to naturally color your homemade organic baked goods, such as…

  • Produce: fresh or frozen berries and other fruits and fresh veggies.
  • Green tea powder: This fine tea powder, also called Matcha, results in light green baked goods.
  • Egg yolk mixed with milk: Results in yellow batter.
  • Edible flowers: Some edible flowers can be used to dye baked goods, but may result in odd flavors.
  • Herbs & spices: Many herbs and spices can be used to color food, but due to strong flavors, I don’t suggest them in cakes.
  • Natural store-bought colors: It’s fine to buy food coloring, so long as they’re natural. I like Chocolate Craft colors. Cost is a downside. Homemade colors are far less expensive.

Step 2: Make Natural Food Coloring

When making natural food dyes with organic produce, the idea is to extract the juice from an item (say berries or spinach), then use a few tablespoons of the juice to color your cake batter. You can use a juicer for produce such as spinach, carrots and beets to extract juice or you can *boil veggies, puree them and strain them with a mesh cloth. Berries are easy to extract juice from. Simply choose your berries, heat them up a bit to soften them, then place them in a strainer set over a bowl. Mash the berries down to get your juice. You can also use produce purees to color food, for example, beet puree, berry puree or carrot puree. To make a puree, simply puree fresh produce in your blender with 1-3 tablespoons of water. *NOTE – spinach is a special case and should never be heated before extracting the juice. Cooked spinach gives off a horrid color, whereas fresh results in a beautiful green. See the link below for a full tutorial about making your own homemade food dyes.

+ Make Natural Food Dyes for Organic Baked Goods Without a Juicer

Step 3: Whip Up the Cake Batter

This cake recipe is adapted from Sweetapolita and makes enough cake for one large six layer rainbow cake (use 8 or 9 inch pans) or two to three mini rainbow cakes, using 4 inch baking dishes. Oh, and if you like, you can use your own favorite cake recipe (such as vegan or gluten-free) in place of this one, just make sure it’s a white, not yellow cake recipe, so that the food dyes work better.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk and the vanilla.
  • In another bowl, combine all your dry ingredients, using a handheld mixer or spoon.
  • Add the butter and rest of milk to your dry mixture. Mix until just moistened. Mix for 2 more minutes.
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well.
  • Add your egg mixture in THREE separate batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.

Step 4: Color the Cake Batter

If making one six layer rainbow cake, divide your batter into six equal parts, into small bowls. If making mini cakes, scoop out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of batter per layer into small bowls. To color your batter, do the following:

  • Coloring with fruit and berry juice or puree: Start by adding one tablespoon (TBS) of color per bowl of batter and mix well. If the color is not right, add another TBS. In general, don’t add more than 3 TBS of produce juice or puree per one cup of batter, because it’ll make your batter too watery.
  • Coloring with green tea powder: Add up to three or four teaspoons of powder.
  • Coloring with egg yolk: Mix 1/2 to one whole egg yolk with a wee bit of milk, then mix into one cup of batter.
  • Coloring with natural store-bought food colors: Natural food dyes aren’t as bright as conventional, so you’ll need to use more than usual. I usually start with a full dropper of color and work my way up from there until I get the color I want.
  • TIP: If you have leftover produce juice or puree, freeze it in ice cube trays and save them for homemade smoothies or ice pops.

Step 5: Prep Baking Pans

Lightly grease the bottom and sides of your pans with a dab of organic cooking oil (I use organic olive oil). Place pieces of unbleached parchment into each pan. Grease the parchment a little as well with organic oil, then dust with flour. If you don’t have enough cake pans to make all your rainbow cake layers at once, be sure to re-prep your pans for each new cake layer.

Step 6: Bake the Cake

After coloring your batter, pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 14 to 20 minutes (depending on how hot your oven runs). Watch the cake VERY closely. The second you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven. Check your cake at about 14 minutes and if it’s not done, check at 1 minute intervals. I’ve made a few batches of this cake, and typical baking times vary by type of pan. When I used little crockery pans, the cake took about 20 minutes to bake, but in basic stainless steel pans, my cake was done at 14 minutes.

Step 7: Cooling the Cake

Place your baked layer, in the pans, on racks for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, carefully loosen the cakes using a small spatula, and place them right-side up on a lightly greased cooling rack. Allow the cake layers to cool 100% before doing anything else with them.

Step 8: Prep & Freeze Cake

If you’re making mini cakes, slice your 4 inch cakes in half length-wise and level them out if you like. If making a large cake, simply level the layer out, there’s no need to slice them in half. Then brush off any loose crumbs, wrap each layer separately in unbleached parchment paper (or wax paper) and place them carefully in the freezer for at least an hour. You don’t have to freeze your cake layers, but it will make your cake way easier to decorate.

Step 9: Make Vanilla Frosting

While your cake freezes, make your frosting. This frosting recipe is from Sweetapolita and it’s excellent – light, fluffy and delicious. Not too sweet or thick.

  • Use an electric mixer, hand mixer or spoon to whip the butter for about 5 minutes until it becomes very pale and creamy.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix for 6-7 minutes.
  • Use some of your natural food dyes to color your frosting, or leave it white.

Step 10: Decorating

Cake decorating is super hard for me, so I’ll direct you to Whisk Kid, who has some excellent tips about how to successfully decorate a layer cake. Mine still aren’t perfect, but Whisk Kid’s tips have really helped me. I do have one tip for you regarding cake corners. No matter how hard I try, I suck at creating smooth cake corners, so to offset the rugged appearance, I simply pipe on some extra frosting (as shown above). This is a nice trick to hide rough edges.

Step 11: Cake Storage & Variations

To store leftovers, place in a cake holder or wrap tightly in foil keep at room temperature for two days or in the fridge for up to 5 days. Layers can be frozen for up to 2 months. If you want to experiment with your rainbow cake, try some of the following…

  • Make a square cake instead of round (shown above).
  • Use a dark frosting instead of white for a cool color contrast.
  • Place your colored layers in real rainbow order.
  • Use a single color scheme. For example, make a shades of pink cake for a princess party, using darker and lighter pink, white and lavender layers.
  • Layer colored batter into reusable cupcake holders for pretty rainbow cupcakes.
  • Pour a few different colors of batter into one pan and use a clean knife to make a swirl effect.

Naturally Colored Organic Rainbow Cake Recipe

Ingredients for cake

  • 5 large organic egg whites at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole organic milk at room temperature
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons pure Fair Trade, certified organic vanilla extract
  • 2 and 3/4 cups organic white flour, sifted (or other flour of your choice)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups organic granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 7 to 9 homemade natural food dyes

Ingredients for frosting

  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons of organic, unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure organic Fair Trade vanilla extract
  • 3 cups organic powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons organic milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 organic vanilla bean – scraped – optional

Gather all your cake ingredients and make your homemade food dyes. Preheat your oven to 350°F. To make your cake batter, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk and the vanilla in a small bowl. In a second bowl, mix all the dry ingredients then add the butter rest of milk to your dry mixture. Mix until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the second bowl in three parts, mixing well after each addition. Color your cake batter then pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 14 to 20 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove your cake from the pans after 10 minutes of cool-down time and place on wire racks. Make your frosting by using an electric mixer, hand mixer or spoon to whip the butter for about 5 minutes until it becomes very pale and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix for 6-7 minutes. Use some of your natural food dyes to color your frosting, or leave it white. Allow your cake to cool completely, then decorate with your fluffy vanilla frosting. Wrap your cake and store at room temp for 2 days, in the fridge for 5 days or freeze layers for later for up to two months.

All images ©Jennifer Chait

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3 Responses to “HOW TO: Make a DIY organic rainbow cake without toxic chemical food colors”

  1. someone says:

    this is great, i just want to say something about your comment that “kids won’t even know the difference.” i think kids SHOULD know the difference. teach them about why this is better than the alternative, while they’re helping you bake it, show them that cooking, eating, living this way is a healthier and more sustainable way to live, let them become part of the process instead of keeping them blind to it. i know that’s not what you meant, but i just saw it as perpetuating the idea that we keep things from kids for some reason, but i think this is a prime example of what we need to be showing then really early on. even something as simple as a cake.

  2. nasim says:

    Hi I want ask about the taste of rainbow cake with natural food dye. Each layer mad by different fruit or vegetables. So that they had different taste when you used them together was it delicious?
    If you answer me I will be thankful.

  3. swinl says:

    Thank you for your sharing. Coloring n preservaties are scary nowadays. I would like those that eat my cakes to be healthy and happy eating them.

    1. Without putting any Colouring in your recipes will become white color ? I need a white colour in my cake.
    2. May I know how to make silver color ? Or even Gold color for future use.

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