Happy Rainbow Week at DinnerCakes! Heather and I have been busy talking about things we’d like to do and the direction we’d like to take with our modest niche in the foodie world and today is one of our new things we’re trying out (you may have also noticed Heather’s Saturday post: Foodie News). Every now and then we’ll introduce a theme week, in which we’ll write about the topic of choice. This week’s theme is rainbow week. We’ll give you tips and tricks on how to do your own rainbow-inspired food along with ideas on where to take it. We hope you enjoy it and, as always, e-mail us if you have any suggestions!
Today’s post is about the basics of rainbow baking. We’ll discuss what you need to do, concerns and considerations, as well as give you a recipe to try your own (in case you just want to just follow some steps).
The Color – Drops and Gel
To color your batter, you’ll use food coloring. You’ve got two choices: you can go with the standard food drops or you can go with coloring gels (like the ones used to color fondant). Both work, but there’s a slight trade-off. The gels will give you a more vibrant color, but since they’re not liquid they’ll require more stirring. More stirring means more gluten, which means less rising during baking. This is generally not a good thing for cakes; it’ll be less light and airy. With the drops you have less stirring but the colors are fainter. The ones below are with gels.
The Cake – Dense
Coloring your cake batter is going to require additional work after you’ve completed all your steps short of the actual baking. Even if you choose the drops, there will be more stirring which creates more gluten bonds. More gluten bonds means the cake will rise less. You really want to choose a denser cake. The effect will be less dramatic. If the cake has folded egg whites in it, forget it. Gold and yellow cakes are good candidates and, while I haven’t tried it yet, I bet a pound cake would work as well. I would not recommend this for angelfood cake.
Now, Heather says I should point out that you technically CAN use cake from a box. The rules are the same (though I’m not sure if cake mix has any real flour to form gluten with). But really, why would you want to? Every time a DinnerCakes reader makes cake from a box a piece of me dies inside, knowing we have failed you somehow.
The process is pretty straight forward. Decide on how many colors you want (I suggest six or less and remember, the batter is already one color you could use) and separate your batter into that many portions. Add your drops of your gel. If drops, 7-12 should be enough, though it does vary depending on how dark you would want it and which color you’re working with. With the gel, see the picture below. Either way, add it all at once and start first by folding the batter and eventually transitioning to stirring. The folding distributes the coloring quickly and the stirring smooths out the color. Be sure to scrape the bottoms and the sides so everything is colored (if you have glass bowls, use them). Remember, you want to stir as little as possible
Once you’ve got your prepared batters, divide them among the cake pans. Pour one at a time directly in the center of the pan. You’re not going to get flat layers stacked on each other (I’ve tried). What you’ll get is each portion of batter pushing the other batter to the side as it fills in. It won’t result in perfect vertical bars, but it’ll definitely get the point across.
That’s all there is. Give it a shot and let us know how it turns out!
Original recipe from Joy of Cooking.
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
8 egg yoks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup milk
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cream the butter and sugar on high for 2-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat the yolks, vanilla and lemon zest for several minutes until thick and a pale yellow. Beat into the butter mixture. On low, beat the flour mixture and milk in alternates (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour). Continue until well combined.
Separate your batter into the portions and follow the guide above. Enjoy.