Update June 2012: detailed photos on how to make a Rainbow Cake are here.
Update April 2010: the activities and games I planned for M’s party are described in a separate post here.
At the end of her birthday party last year, M announced that she would be having a unicorn party for her next birthday. I didn’t realise that she was absolutely serious about this. I thought, “It’s a whole year away – she’s bound to change her mind.” But no, for a whole year M has stuck to her original intention and has been counting down the days until her unicorn party.
You could argue that I’ve had a whole year to prepare, so why the sudden rush to get everything ready last week? Well, M may have had a solidly clear idea of the grand theme for her party, but she left the finer details entirely up to me. Not wanting to disappoint, I threw myself into turning our house into an enchanted forest in the hope that any passing unicorns might be tempted to pop in on the big day. We made glittery trees and rainbow streamers while M’s big sister created a welcoming poster for the front door.
Last year, M set her heart on a cake she saw in a book by Debbie Brown (here’s a warning to parents – only ever let your children see pictures of cakes that you’re happy to make yourself). Four being so much more grownupperer than three, M has now thankfully entered the chocolate frosting and smarties stage. I’m not so very far removed from the icing sugar cloud of despair that I miss those fondant modelling sessions yet … I’m quite happy to be doing chocolate and smarties.
I couldn’t resist giving the birthday girl a little surprise, though. From the outside, M’s cake looked perfectly normal (in a homemade sort of way) – a magical plastic unicorn standing amid swirls of white chocolate buttercream and scattered smarties. M’s seven little party guests looked on dutifully as M blew out her candles and I took a knife to cut into the cake.
Hesitating before plunging in to make the first slice, I asked them all, “Do you know what happens when a unicorn stands on top of a birthday cake?”
“No,” they whispered with wide eyes.
“He makes a rainbow,” I told them, cutting into the cake.
The next day, M sidled up to me and asked, “Mummy, how did the unicorn do that to my cake?”
Well, if there’s by any chance anyone left in the blogosphere who hasn’t come across a rainbow cake before now, I’ll explain my own take on the concept … just in case a unicorn happens to pass by and stand on another little girl’s birthday cake .
I’m not sure who had the original idea – there’s a box-mix version doing the rounds that appears to have started with this thread in the dubiously-named ‘Something Awful’ forums. Rejecting the layered box-mix and diet soda variety however, I based my own rainbow cake recipe on Farida’s beautiful Zebra Cake (stay tuned for more from Farida in an upcoming post).
I followed Farida’s instructions to make a yellow cake batter (whichever basic cake recipe you choose, it’s important that it’s one in which the batter doesn’t mix about too much during baking or you’ll end up with a muddy brown cake instead of a rainbow). Then, instead of dividing it into two parts and colouring one part with cocoa as Farida did, I divided the mixture between seven bowls (roughly 4 tablespoons of batter in each) and used my fondant paste dyes to colour each portion a different colour of the rainbow.
I then poured each rainbow batter in turn (starting with red) into the centre of my prepared cake pan. As Farida says, don’t wait for each colour to spread out before starting with the next – just pour the batter into the centre of the pan, then pour the next colour right on top and then the colour after that without waiting for each to spread fully. The weight of each batter pushes the previous colour out further and, as long as you keep a steady hand with the pouring, they all sort themselves out.
And it’s as simple as that.
I found out in the school playground this morning that one of the guests has kept her special piece of rainbow cake carefully wrapped up since the party so that she can show it to everyone who visits.
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