Sunday, 2 December 2012

Famous Faces’ Favourite Fancies – Rainbow cake


I didn’t realise it at the time, but there was a definite theme, particularly for the ladies I wrote to for my Famous Faces’ feature.  I can only describe it as they all are women I would be delighted to sit down, share a pot of tea and cake, and have a right good natter with.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that I wrote to world famous author Jilly Cooper.

I love Jilly Cooper – I hope she won’t mind me calling her a true English eccentric (I mean it as a compliment – they are always my favourite people!) and an animal lover.  She’s also written moreinternational bestsellers than I’ve had hot dinners (NB.  That is a lie.  I am not known for skipping hot dinners.  I am using hyperbole to indicate that she has written lots of books!) I’m sure you will have heard of them ...particularly if you were a teenager in the late 1980s and desperate to read something a little racy (how we struggled in those pre-internet years!).  Riders?  Rivals? The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous? Polo?  Admit’ve read at least one!

Jilly sent me a lovely response in which she reminisced about something called Rainbow cake that she had enjoyed during the (second world) war years.  She remembered it being pink, yellow and golden brown and described it as fascinating and haunting her, not least because she couldn’t imagine its ingredients during rationing!  I had a hunt for this recipe but found nothing, so hope that Jilly will be pleased with a modern rainbow cake.  I’ve wanted to make one of these for a while but the necessity of food colouring put me off, until I found the Dr Oetker natural gel colours.

I used disposable foil tins to bake my cakes and it meant I could prepare them all together rather than bake two cakes, wash the tins, bake the next two etc.  They came out well.  I kept the layers of sponge thin to stop it becoming the world’s tallest cake, but it still came out large...but as long as it fits on a cake plate, I consider it acceptable!

You might all have realised this yourself and roll your eyes as I share my latest discovery, if so, pretend I’m not the last person on the planet to work this out: tall cakes are a nightmare to cut and the layers can slide.  This is a cake that’s kept in the fridge – because of the cream cheese frosting – so cut slices straight from the fridge as the cold cake is far more stable and rigid.  Put the cut slices on their serving plates and let come to room temperature.  I can’t believe I’ve been baking every weekend for over seven years and have only just thought about doing that!  Oh well, better inspiration strike late than never......

Even the crumbs of rainbow cake are pretty:

For the cake:
375g unsalted butter, at room temperature
330g caster sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 eggs
120ml milk
450g self raising flour
Natural gel colours in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet – I used Dr Oetker gel colours
For the frosting:
270g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g icing sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
675g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
Line six 20cm round disposable foil tins with a disc of baking paper.  If you have six loose bottomed sandwich tins then use those.
Weigh your empty mixing bowl.  I know this sounds weird but you will be glad of it later!
Start by making the sponge: Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as this is when you get lots of lovely air into your sponge.
Beat in the eggs gradually, add some of the flour if it looks like it might curdle.
Beat in the milk.
Stir in the flour until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
Weigh your mixing bowl full of batter.  Deduct the weight of the empty bowl to find the weight of your batter.  Divide by six to find how much batter to allocate to each tier – this will ensure even layers.  This was my calculation:
Empty bowl – 789g
Bowl full of batter – 2,429g
Therefore batter weighs – 1,640 (i.e. 2,429-789)
Batter divided by 6 – 273g.  Each colour needs 273g of batter.
Weigh the batter out into six small mixing bowls – I used my cereal bowls.
Add the colours to each bowl – you will find you need more of some colours than other.  For strong colours like red and blue, I needed the whole tube.
Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean. Another good sign is if the sponge is just pulling away from the edge of the tin.  I could only fit four tins in my oven at a time, I did the remaining two afterwards – there didn’t seem to be any issues from the batter sitting around.
Leave to cool completely.
Now make the frosting: beat together the butter and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl (I used my kitchenaid).

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Beat in the cream cheese, adding it a spoonful at a time, until your frosting is smooth and well combined.

Use about half the frosting to sandwich together the layers of sponge.  Make sure you get them in the right order – from the bottom up: violent, blue, green, yellow, orange, red.

Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides. 

Refrigerate until you wish to serve, ideally removing from the fridge about 30 minutes beforehand.  Here’s my top tip for getting a crisp slice from such a tall cake: take the cake from the fridge about 30 mins before you wish to serve and cut it while it’s cold.  Place the slices on plates and leave to come to somewhere between cool and room temperature.  It’s so much more stable to cut when cold.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.



Gloria said...

look delicious I love it!!

Nom! The Indulgent Baking Blog said...

beautiful! And it sounds like she's describing an angel layer cake? I love how strong the natural gel colours were as I wasn't sure if I trusted them as much as the evil fake ones xx

Laura Loves Cakes said...

Wow Jilly certainly didn't make it easy for you...but your cake looks bright and colourful. With the natural colours this would make a perfect birthday cake for a child! A surprising choice from Jilly perhaps! :-)

Debs Dust Bunny said...

WoW... that looks fantastic! It defies gravity, it's SO tall! : ) I love Jilly Cooper,too. But don't tell her, I've never read one of her books. She has been brilliant in all the interviews I've seen. She's a national treasure.

Kate@whatkatebaked said...

What a lovely reply to have had from Jilly Cooper! Now that must have been a fun piece of post to receive... I love the fun and cheery-ness of the layer cakes and what a great idea to bake them in disposable cases

Cakeyboi said...

I love this cake - I have been dying to make a rainbow one myself. Will have to make that a priority next year!!
Love the idea of keeping it in the fridge - nothing better than cold cake and a piping hot cup of tea!

Kit @ i-lostinausten said...

I LOVE all those beautiful colors of this cake! LOVELY :)

Susie @ Fold in the Flour said...

Absolutely beautiful, and I love the fact you've used natural colours. Great tip about keeping it refrigerated, too!

God, I used to love my Jilly Cooper books. Although you're making me feel old as my teens were a little before 'the late 80's'! My favourite was Rivals. Haven't read any for ages, so must revisit them. :)

Miss C Flash said...

This looks soo stunning. I may have to make a similar cake myself x

Anonymous said...

The cake looks amazing! Where did you buy the foil tins?

Cakelaw said...

Wow, what a fab cake! And I love that Jilly Cooper responded to you - a true lady.

Katie said...

Wow what a fabulously tall and striking looking cake. I've never attempted one of these. Great tip about chilling the cake and letting only the slices come to room temp.

Lauren Roffey said...

Looks fab - I have also been put off making colourful cakes because of the food colouring but will now keep me eye out for these natural food gels. Thanks for sharing :)

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Anonymous

I bought the tins in Tesco - they came in a packet of 5. Any general store with a baking/kitchen area such as Wilkinson, Home Bargains etc will stock them.

Happy baking


Recipe Junkie said...

Ah - I cannot tell you how much i LOVE Jilly Cooper - I would have failed all my A levels if it wasn't for her books to act as light relief - in fact I remember much more of Rivals (probably my fave) than most of the books I studied for English Lit. Great cake - looks like fun to make.

Soo said...

That is the happiest looking cake in the world. I love it!

And I've read a LOT of Jilly in my time. They are fabulous, funny, OTT stuff. So happy to see she took the time to reply.

Georgia said...

There is something very satisfying about making a rainbow cake. Unless you make the layers super thin (which I'm fairly sure is illegal) they are always stauesque to say the least; and it is almost a magical moment the first time you cut through the snowy white frosting and reveal the beautiful jeweled layers in between. Such a happy cake.

Lucy said...

Such a pretty cake! I love the contrast between simple white outside and the bold cake layers within.

Kristall said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. I live in western Canada and even I have heard of Jilly Cooper. I devoured all of her Rutshire Chronicles in about a year and am so happy you've featured her favourite cake! She is such a special lady. Her books got me through some really tough times. When I'm stressed out, I just whip out Polo (my favourite) and start reading!

Love your blog to bits, by the way. Keep up the good work! :)

The Caked Crusader said...

Thanks Kristall

Glad that you enjoy my site!

Happy baking!

The KitchenMaid said...

So lovely that Jilly replied! This cake looks incredible - such a good idea to use the foil tins and those colouring gels sound great. I wonder if we could get them here...

Jo said...

Wowee! A tall, beautiful cake! I'm always reluctant to put cakes in the fridge as I don't like how it changes the texture, so I tend to end up with unphotogenic wobbly cake slices! Love the idea of disposable cake tins, great tip.

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Jo

Totally agree with you - I never refrigerate cakes unless I have to. The cream cheese frosting I used here necessitates refrigeration, so I just tried to make the best of it!

Happy baking


This Vintage life... said...

Hi CC,

What a beautiful cake!
I thought you might be interested to know that I have just found a recipe for Rainbow Cake in a little book I bought recently called Meals That Are Different (no meat!)published by Stork Margarine probably in the 60's, pre-decimalization anyway!
It consists of a fairly plain cake with the addition of nutmeg and the rind and juice of a lemon. It is then sandwiched together with homemade lemon curd and decorated with 'rainbow' icing. This is plain white icing, then one flavoured and coloured with coffee essence and one flavoured with vanilla and coloured with carmine.
As you can probably guess the the two coloured icings are applied on top of the white icing and 'run up and down with a sharp knife'. You are then instructed to add a 'gay paper frill!'
Maybe this is the version Jilly was remembering but yours is so much prettier.
Lovely the blog, always makes me want to bake.

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Deborah

Thanks for your comment - that sounds much nearer to what Jilly described.
I'm now off to hunt through my cupboards for a gay paper frill!

Happy baking!

This Vintage life... said...

Oh, please find one!

Tigger said...

I love the cake & I love Jilly Cooper - I've read everything she's written. If you look on the The Quince tree blog in the archives Sue made a similar cake recently. Must get those colouring gels!

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Mrs Deer said...

oh what courage! Is so delicious!
I love it! ;)