Now Reading
Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes

Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes

Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes

Appreciate the natural beauty of colorful fruits and vegetables by making this Rainbow Cake with natural dyes.
By Kelsey Hilts

Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes

Rainbow cakes are everywhere these days.  I made one last summer and my family and guests loved the bright, vibrant colors.  But in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think of the negative discussion and controversy surrounding artificial food coloring.  My husband was actually the one to challenge me to make a rainbow cake with natural food dyes.

Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes
Natural Dyes
Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes
My first experiment with natural food dyes was when I was a child.  While making blueberry muffins I inadvertently realized that the more I stirred the batter the more the berry juice bled, making blue muffins.  Fast forward to two years ago and I completed my first intentional experiment, coloring Easter eggs with natural dyes.  I was intrigued with the beautiful colors that resulted from using everyday fruits, veggies and spices.  I have since dabbled in cooking experiments, including using spinach to make Green Eggs and Ham and coloring buttercream frosting with natural dyes.

I have to admit that coloring sweets with natural dyes can get kind of tricky.  There are lots of ingredients that would make great dyes but many of them drastically alter the taste, often introducing an unwelcome flavor to the baked good or treat.  I know what you’re thinking: dyeing eggs with spinach might work because it is not uncommon to combine spinach and eggs, but spinach juice in a cake?!

Well, now I can confidently say, yes, it’s ok!  You end up using such a small amount of the vegetable juice that the flavor of the dye will probably go completely unnoticed for most people, especially when you add some frosting.  My son, who is my toughest critic, ate it {while exclaiming, It’s beautiful, Mommy!}  The rest of my family concurred that surprisingly it tasted just like cake and that it seemed much more palatable than the typical bright rainbow cake made with synthetic dyes.  So, I considered the baking experiment a success.  I would much rather serve my loved ones a beet or carrot-colored cake than an artificially-colored alternative.

Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes

As with the Easter eggs and other natural dye projects, a rainbow cake made with natural dyes can be an incredible and fun learning experience for your kids.  They can brainstorm fruits, veggies and other colorful foods and then experiment with creating a beautiful and natural rainbow.  Not only is it educational but it can also help your kids learn to appreciate the natural beauty of foods.  And the process can be translated into many other cooking projects or non-edible projects such as homemade finger paints and homemade playdough.

I used a basic Cooking Light white cake that I have used for years and a vanilla buttercream frosting.  I then coated the exterior of the layered cake with a whipped cream frosting.  Combining the dense buttery buttercream frosting with the light and fluffy whipped cream is one of my new favorite frosting techniques and provided the perfect combo of richness and sweetness for this cake.

Initially, I did a batch of cupcakes to experiment with different natural dye options and then I selected the six rainbow finalists {indicated with an asterisk} based on a combination of color and flavor.  For reference, I have included my notes on the other ingredients that I tried because depending on your project they could work well in other scenarios where flavor isn’t as important of a factor.  When I made the cake I reduced the amount of milk so that the addition of the juices wouldn’t affect the consistency of the cake batter as much.

Red: *Beet juice; pomegranate, strawberry and raspberry juices were more muted in color

See Also
Natural Buttercream Frosting Dyes

Orange: *Carrot juice; pumpkin puree also works but imparts more of a flavor

Yellow: *Egg yolk; saffron gave an unpleasant flavor; orange and yellow bell pepper juice produced a more vibrant yellow but had a strong peppery flavor; orange juice had a strong orange flavor; golden beets, despite their brilliant color, produced an earthy brown juice/dye

Green: *Spinach juice

Blue: *Blueberry juice

Purple: *Blackberry juice; grape juice concentrate gave a great color but a strong grape flavor.  If you choose grape juice, be sure to use one that doesn’t have artificial coloring.

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon

Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.9 from 8 reviews

  • Author: Kelsey Hilts {Itsy Bitsy Foodies}
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8+ 1x


Appreciate the natural beauty of colorful fruits and vegetables by making this Rainbow Cake with Natural Dyes.



Natural Dyes

  • 12 Tbsp (1530 mL) beet juice
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) carrot juice
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) spinach juice
  • 1+ Tbsp (15+ mL) blueberry juice
  • 1+ Tbsp (15+ mL) blackberry juice

White Cake {Courtesy of Cooking Light}

  • 3 1/2 cups (348g) flour
  • 2 tsp (7,5g) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2g) baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups (335g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (57g) butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (20g) oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 2/3 cups (394 mL) milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup (60g) plain, fat-free yogurt
  • 2 1/2 tsp (12 mL) vanilla

Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 3/4 cups (488g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) milk

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups (473 mL) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (33g) powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp (0,5g) salt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract


Natural Dyes

  1. Juice beets in a juicer or use the liquid in canned beets.
  2. Juice carrots in a juicer or buy carrot juice.
  3. Juice spinach in a juicer.
  4. Microwave roughly 1/4 cup (25g) frozen blueberries in 30 second intervals until they start to burst, straining out 1+ Tbsp (15+ mL) of blueberry juice.
  5. Microwave roughly 1/4 cup (25g) frozen blackberries in 30 second intervals until they start to burst, straining out 1+ Tbsp (15+ mL) of blackberry juice.

White Cake {Courtesy of Cooking Light}

  1. Cream the butter, oil and sugar.
  2. Add the egg whites and beat well.
  3. Add the vanilla, 1 cup (237 mL) milk and yogurt alternately with the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
  4. Pour six 1/2-cup portions of cake batter into separate bowls.
  5. Mix the natural dye into each bowl {2 Tbsp (30g) beet juice, 1 1/2 Tbsp (20g) carrot juice, 1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp (15g) milk, 1 Tbsp (15g) spinach juice, 1 Tbsp (15g) blueberry juice and 1 Tbsp (15g) blackberry juice, adjusting the color by using more or less dye}.
  6. Reserve the remaining batter for a different use. {You will either need to add roughly 4 1/2 Tbsp (67 mL) milk to the remaining batter or the equivalent in natural dye.}
  7. Pour each 1/2 cup colored batter into a greased and floured 5 1/2-inch cake pan.
  8. Bake the cakes for 10-15 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Let the cakes cool for five minutes in the pan and then gently slide a knife around the edges and invert the cakes on a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. {You could also make cupcakes by layering the colored batter into each lined cupcake tin.}

Buttercream Frosting

  1. Mix the ingredients and beat for several minutes until a smooth, creamy frosting forms.
  2. Adjust the consistency by adding more powdered sugar or milk.

Whipped Cream Frosting

  1. Beat the cream, sugar and salt at medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  2. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Rainbow Cake

  1. Assemble the cake once the layers have completely cooled.
  2. Place the purple layer on the serving cake platter.
  3. Spread a couple of spoonfuls of buttercream frosting over the top of the layer, smoothing it until it is even.
  4. Place the blue layer on top and repeat the process until the red layer is on top.
  5. Place the layered cake in the freezer for five minutes to let the icing set so that when you ice the exterior of the cake the layers won’t slide around.
  6. Using a knife, generously coat the top and sides of the cake with buttercream frosting, smoothing it with a spatula or a table knife, making sure that it is completely covered but getting rid of excess frosting.
  7. Then spread the whipped cream frosting on top for a finishing coat, either spreading it smooth with a knife or spatula or pulling it into soft peaks using a knife or the back of a spoon.
  8. Serve the cake immediately.
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
View Comments (43)
  • Beautiful cake:) thanks for the recipe
    We use a lot of pandanjuice (fresh pandan leaves blended/or pounded with a little water. Not only is the colour bright green(best to use a strong blender) also the fantastic aroma is so suitable for all cakes. Annato seeds are beautiful yellow. One of our clients is Chr. Hansen , the leading company in the world on bright natural derived colors obtained from hibiscus, turmeric etc.
    Nice article , keep up baking and enjoy

  • Thanks, Alexia. Priya, I love your idea for a rainbow cheesecake. And Michael, thank you for all of the other natural dye suggestions. I am especially intrigued by the pandan juice and the annato seeds!

  • Dear Kelsey, THANKS so much for this recipe and all your ideas, I will definatelly use this kind of natural colourings, I’ve been looking for an alternatives to syntetic colours for a while and you just made my day!!!! My next rainbow cake is dedicated to you!! <3

  • Hi Kelsey. It’s my 1st time on this site and I really like the rainbow cake recipe (and my husband too).
    I’ll do it to my little 6 years old brother.

    Sorry for my English, I’m from Argentina.

  • Love your rainbow cake, just wondering if this can be made the day before a bday party? Would you ice the cake the day before?


  • Thank you for sharing this recipe. I am gonna make it for my sister’s birthday. im wondering, can i use purple sweet potato juice fo the blue/purple color? thank you..

  • Oh i forgot this. in this recipe are you using regular tablespoon, or tablespoon in the measuring spoon? thank you in advance

  • I have not worked with purple sweet potato juice so I’m not sure if that will work or not. When I’ve tried sweet potato/yam the color was very faint but I would love to know how it turned out for you for blue/purple. I use measuring spoon Tablespoons.

  • Thank you for posting this!! I’m excited to try it. I was actually going to buy one for my daughter’s first birthday, but no bakery would make it for me! They actually were very offended by my request! Do you know why that would be?

  • If I wanted to make more vibrant colors, could I sub some of the milk in the cake recipe for more of the juice – for extra color? Has anyone tried this?

  • Thanks for the recipe!

    I’ve tried an alternative cake recipe with buttermilk and whole eggs, I then used beet juice and carrot juice for red and carrot cake layers (I’m trying to make the rainbow cake for my sister’a tenth bday in 3 days) but they both turned out very yellow.

    I also baked with the convection baking option. I don’t think it’s the amount of juice because I’ve added about almost 5 tablespoons of each. Do you have any idea why the colours all went away?

    I’ll be trying your recipe tomorrow night for my next two layers! :) please if you have any ideas or tricks for keeping the colours in?

    P.s. I’ve never baked so many layers before! Haha

  • Love this cake! It tastes good and i so pretty with its delicate colors! I couldn’t quite understand part of the recipe though… It calls for 1 2/3 cups milk, separated, but the instructions only mention adding the 1 cup. Do you add the rest of it as well? I tried adding just the one cup and mine came out kind of dense, but I overbeat it too :)

  • Milena,

    I’m glad you like the cake. The additional 2/3 cup milk is the amount of remaining liquid that should be in the batter. The natural liquid dyes are used in place of that milk. For the size of cake rounds that I used there would be some remaining batter so you would either need to add 4 1/2 Tbsp of dye or milk to reach the right consistency. And just to note, this cake recipe is more on the dense side anyway. Sorry for the confusion!

  • Confused by a couple of things… 5 1/2 inch cake tin? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. Would make a rather small cake compared to the ‘usual’ 8 or 9 inch rounds. 1/2 cup of batter per cake? Does the batter spread out & flatten so that you don’t have a ‘hump’ in the middle? Also… 5 cakes at once in the oven (15 minutes), or 5 cakes separately (15 minutes times 5, plus tin cleaning in between)? Thanks!

  • Thanks for the recipe and instructions. I just made this today! A few notes: You forgot to mention what temp to bake at so I did 350 F. I also had bigger cake pans (9″) and feeding a bigger crowd, so I ended up tripling the recipe to accomdate the larger pans. Can’t taste the veggie juice in the cake at all! Thanks again for the post.

  • Kathy, I was given my Grandma’s 5 1/2 -inch round cake pan and I love it. I use it all of the time for the top tier of cakes. It was also perfect for this cake because I was just making it for a small group and didn’t want to make multiple batches of cake to fill the larger pans. However, you can double or triple the cake recipe as needed to fill 8 or 9-inch pans if you prefer that or are baking for a large group. As you can see in the pictures above, the batter did spread out and baked into flat layers. I gently tapped the cake pan with the batter onto the counter to spread the batter out a little bit and remove excessive air bubbles prior to placing it in the oven. Ideally, one would have enough pans to bake the layers all at once (a huge time saver!) but I only have one of this size pan so I baked them separately and washed the pan in between. So, it took me longer but fortunately the cake at this size cooks fairly quickly. I hope this answers all of your questions!

  • Denise, thank you so much for your comment. I am so glad you liked the cake and I’m happy to know that it worked in a 9-inch pan. 350 degrees is the correct temp — sorry I forgot to mention that. When I make it again I plan to make a larger version so now I know to triple the cake batter! :)

  • Thanks for the recipe! I multiplied by 6 for a wedding cake; possibly the longer cooking times were responsible for muted colours. The spinach was great, but the blue was grey and the red was orange and the orange yellow. Still looked great though, and I’m inspired to experiment further. Blackcurrant works as well as blueberry. I also enjoyed adding different flavours to each cake – almond essence,caraway and lemon etc.

  • Hi Kelsey, I googled “natural dye rainbow cake” and was so excited to find your page and recipe. I have been wanting to do this for some time so to have instructions to follow is fantastic! I’m planning on making two rainbow cakes for my twins’ first birthdays. I have the Wilton layer cake tins so can bake all layers at once. I was thinking of baking in advance, doing multiples of each colour, and freezing. Do you know whether the colours are stable and remain the same once defrosted? Thanks

  • Hi! Thanks so mu h for the recipe. I’m trying it now but am confused about the sugar: it says 3, 5 cups of flour and 1,3 of sugar, but almost 350g of flour and 335g of sugar; that means almost as much sugar as flour. Is that right? I was thinking of using my yogurt cup as a measure, it seems right for the amount of yogurt, but tiny for 100g of flour…
    Thanks in advance for your help and for the great recipe!

  • Thanks for the cake recipe! I made it today as a 5 layer cake and multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to make it a bit bigger so it could fit 8” springforms. The flavor and texture came out great. I used a magicbullet to blend the blueberries, blackberries, and beets and then strained them to get the juice out. The blue and purple looked closeish to your images but not as bright. The beets didn’t juice well in the magicbullet/straining approach so I guess having a juicer for those would be key. I added a tiny bit of water to get more juice out and the mixture looked really red before I baked it but when it was done baking it looked hardly light pink. Overall the cake was a huge success. I’m very happy I found the recipe and took the time to make it. The one major change I made was to make cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream but that was just because I prefer that flavor. The whipped cream came out super. Thank you!

  • I made this for my sons bday using you recommended dyes but a different white cake recipe. It was so cute!! I definitely should have added more carrot juice and beet juice (the beet really decreased in color when it cooked). My son loved it and it was so fun to use natural coloring. Thanks!

  • Have you tried red cabbage at all? The science in it is brilliant when you mix it with acid or Base substances like lemon juice or baking soda. But I’ve never tried it in baking, so I’m not sure how it would work.

  • Has anyone tried this recipe without sugar or a a healthier substitute like dates? I’m planning to make this for a baby birthday party.

  • I was unsure of making a synthetic rainbow cake for my mum’s birthday, who loves natural and hates chemical colouring, but this is perfect.

  • I am a vegetarian and don’t eat eggs . What can I use instead of the egg yolks for the yellow colour ?

  • Thank you for posting this INCREDIBLE cake!! This was the ONLY cake recipe that I found using pure vegetable juices. So grateful for your efforts! Thank you thank you. The cake was delicious ??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

Scroll To Top