{how to} Super Duper Rainbow Cakes – in a Jar

By far the most popular article on this blog is the Super Tall Amazing Rainbow Birthday Cake, a tippy, teetery, monstrosity of a cake. Attempting that sky high cake is not for the faint of heart, so I wanted to figure out an easier way to create rainbow cakes. I bring you the latest in rainbow cakery, baked in a jar to show off all the pretty colors.

Cakes in jars are great for a picnic or to bring to someone’s house, since they’re completely sturdy, sealable, and portable. Rainbow cakes in a jar are also the perfect treat for all your unicorn friends.

“What’s that, magical horsie? Oh, you’re very welcome, it was my pleasure. I hope you enjoy your cake.”

I made them in pint-sized jars, which is definitely at least a 2-person serving. Half-pint jars would be much more sensible for individual servings! These were for the Food Blogger Bake Sale, so I dug out some circular labels left over from my wedding and marked the jars on top.

Here’s how you do it…

Super Duper Rainbow Cakes – in a Jar

  • Buy 6 pint-sized, wide mouth jars (or 12 half-pint jars.) It’s important to use wide mouth jars so you can maneuver the cake batter around. I ran them through the dishwasher and made sure they were completely dry before getting started.
  • Preheat the oven to 375. Make a double recipe of your favorite white cake or two boxes of white cake mix. I used Amy Sedaris’s vanilla cake recipe.
  • Divide the batter roughly between 6 bowls. Color the batter with rainbow colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. It’s important to use gel or paste food coloring, not the liquid kind, or the colors won’t be as vibrant. I colored the batter with Wilton’s gel food coloring which always works great!
  • Now, to layer the batter in the jars; this would make a GREAT personality test. You can either drop dollops of the colors in the jar in order, and let the colors fall where they may. That would be the “laid back” personality type. I did sort of a “Type A Minus” personality thing, by carefully spooning the batter into the jars and attempting to spread each color out somewhat evenly but not perfectly. The “Type A Plus” thing to do would be to put the batter color into individual Ziploc bags or pastry bags and pipe each layer, so you would get near perfection. Choose your style and get that batter in there! You only need to fill the jars to about 3/4 full as the cake will rise.
  • Put the jars in a pan with sides, like a 9×13 brownie pan. Put the pan in the preheated oven and pour in about 1/2 inch of water.
  • Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until a knife or skewer inserted all the way down comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven, take out of the water, and set aside to cool.

(When you open your oven, you get this visual treat:)

But we’re not quite done! On to the frosting…

  • Use a knife to cut off some of the top of the cake to make room for the frosting. If you really really really like frosting, scoop out some of the middle of the cake, too. (The pieces you cut off kind of look like psychedelic mini cupcakes–save those for a kid you like.)
  • Make white frosting. I made a half recipe of Magnolia Bakery’s vanilla buttercream, which is my favorite.
  • Use a small spatula to scoop frosting on top of the cakes, almost to the top.
  • Cover with a lid and brighten people’s day!


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1 acme { 05.14.11 at 2:17 pm }


2 carly { 05.14.11 at 6:12 pm }

These are FANTASTIC! I love the Type A Minus/Plus comment, us rainbow lovers do have quirky personalities! hehehe =) I’ve never had cake in a jar, this would be the perfect way to try it for a first timer! Wonderful!!

3 Jess { 05.14.11 at 7:53 pm }

Absolute love! This is awesome!

4 Lora { 05.14.11 at 10:16 pm }

These are fabulous. Love!
Lora recently posted..Rhubarb Curd &amp Elderflower Cream with Vanilla Bean Shortbread Fingers

5 Katie's Something Sweet { 05.15.11 at 8:28 am }

Wow! I love these rainbow cakes! They are super cute!

6 off the (meat)hook » {do it for the children} Eat These at the Blogger Bake Sale, May 14, 2011 in San Francisco! { 05.15.11 at 9:51 pm }

[…] it to your blog « {recipe} Balsamic Baby Artichokes with Garlic Chips and Parmesan {how to} Super Duper Rainbow Cakes – in a Jar […]

7 Rick { 05.16.11 at 8:35 pm }

These colors are offensive to me.

8 Karen { 05.16.11 at 11:03 pm }

Rick- I totally agree. Who MADE these disgusting things? And will no one think of the CHILDREN?!?! ;)

9 Dana { 05.17.11 at 10:54 am }

I would feed these to my unicorn friends!
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10 Karen { 05.17.11 at 11:54 am }

Thanks, Dana!

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13 Ashley Cuesta { 07.27.11 at 1:06 pm }

Im making these in half pint jars & they seem to spill over each time..Im only filling 3/4 of the way..am I doing something wrong?

14 Karen { 07.27.11 at 2:16 pm }

@Ashley, it might be your cake batter – if it has a lot of leavening the cakes will rise more… I have never tried half pint, only full pint, so I have not experienced this issue before. I guess I would say to fill a bit less! Good luck!

15 Lady Behind the Curtain » Feature Friday: Desserts in a Jar { 09.29.11 at 7:49 pm }

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16 Sheryl { 09.29.11 at 7:58 pm }

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Your awesome cupcake recipe is being featured tomorrow on Feature Friday by LADY BEHIND THE CURTAIN! Come over and grab a “Feature Friday” Button!

17 Noach: Rainbow Cookies « Pragmatic Attic { 10.28.11 at 1:37 pm }

[…] it with white fondant and then doodling over it with food coloring markers. You can also make rainbow cake in a jar! The granddaddy (or at least one of the earlier versions) of these kind of cakes is The Grand […]

18 Jana { 11.06.11 at 11:37 am }

These look awesome! We are from South Africa and tried a different recipe before I saw your website. We had a problem however that our colours mixed a lot and some of the colours browned towards the end of the cooking time – the bottom was still bit uncooked as we cooked it in a pan with water. The other problem was the cake starts pulling away from the jar as it cools making the jar look dirty and hazy. Any suggestion please??

19 Karen { 11.07.11 at 11:06 am }

Hi Jana- If the colors mixed together, the batter was probably too runny. That’s why I like the recipe linked here- it is a stiffer batter, more like a pound cake, so the colors don’t mix. With this recipe I also have never had problems with browning or pulling away. So maybe try a stiffer batter and things will go better! Good luck!

20 stacey { 11.10.11 at 4:48 pm }

Praise the lord! I have been trying this for weeks!!!! With my 2 year old son, which does not simplify the matter in any way shape or form! Never EVER works. Being stubborn as I am, an quite bored in this chilly weather, I have tried atleast 5 batches. All of them mix has run together, turn very brown, and shrunk up, no matter how careful I am when I put the batter in the jars….I have seriously tried different mixes, different size jars, different temperatures, different baking times…..rrrrrrrrgggghhhhh, the frustration! I have also consumed many glasses of wine throughout this ordeal! But I made these today, with the cake recipe from scratch that is listed above in this blog….and my goodness if they didn’t do exactly what they were supposed to!!!!! I hear angels singing!!!! They are in the oven now, so I don’t know what the finished product will be like. But they were perfect going in, so if they don’t turn out I am throwing the towel in! Save yourself mountains of frustration, and spend the extra 10 minutes to make the batter from scratch! Another tip….I used my pampered chef cake decorator (the hard cased one with a dispensing trigger) with the plain round tip that’s cut at an angle. Perfection! The other gazillion batches were too runny to use this tool. I tried everything from funnels to a syringe for injecting poultry….but the cake decorator was the key. If the batter is too runny to do that, don’t waste your time….thickin your batter or start over! Good luck! Just checked and they are raising perfectly! I AM SO EXCITED FOR THE FINISHED PROJECT!!!!

21 Karen { 11.10.11 at 4:54 pm }

Stacey I love your comment! You had me laughing. Yes, it’s really really important to use a dense batter for this one or it won’t work out right. Good luck to you – I think I hear the angels too!! ;)

22 stacey { 11.10.11 at 8:04 pm }

They turned out fantastic! I never bake but was really drawn to this for some reason. After my last post, I pulled them out, and fantastico! My mother in-law is the master of baking. She came up after work, and she was blown away! By the presentation & how good the cake was! Thank you for the recipe! So relieved it finally worked right.

23 Karen { 11.11.11 at 8:20 am }

Stacey that is great news!! So happy to hear it!

24 Jana { 11.22.11 at 2:29 am }

Thanks Karen, just another question – is this cake recipe nice and moist? i tried another white cake recipe from scratch and it was a bit dry especially a day later. We are baking for a market day, and will have to bake the day before so I have to be sure the recipe will leave a nice moist cake for at least two days. Thanks for all your help!

25 Jana { 11.22.11 at 10:21 am }

Me again sorry just to confirm you used Amy Sedaris’s vanilla cake recipe? when I click on the link its actually for cupcakes?

26 Karen { 11.22.11 at 10:24 am }

@Jana yes it says it’s for cupcakes but that’s the recipe! http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Amy-Sedariss-Vanilla-Cupcakes-236125

27 Karen { 11.22.11 at 10:25 am }

@Jana – yes, it’s kind of like a cross between a pound cake and a regular cake. When I made them and sold them at the blogger bake sale, I made them a full day before and they were still nice and moist the next day. I would recommend frosting them on the morning of so they aren’t soggy, if possible. Good luck!!

28 Carlene Zigomalas { 12.07.11 at 7:22 pm }

Wow, that was so so great idea putting cakes in the jar! I never thought of this, I would probably make this at home. Thanks you so much for this great idea from you. I love it!
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31 Heather the midnitechef { 02.24.12 at 12:45 pm }

These are AWESOME! Great idea for a kid’s birthday party which might not be at home. Add a sparkler to each one :P
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32 Karen { 02.24.12 at 2:18 pm }

@Heather SPARKLERS? You are a genius! Love it!

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34 Kristen K. { 03.08.12 at 11:12 am }

How many does this make? Your post doesn’t state. Thank you :)

35 Karen { 03.08.12 at 11:25 am }

@Kristen It depends on your jar size but with the pint jars it will make 6. Half pint jars will make 12.

36 Kristen K. { 03.08.12 at 12:25 pm }

Thank you! :) Just what I needed to know :)

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38 Tiffany { 03.15.12 at 9:16 pm }

Where did you find the jars? Are any glass jars okay to use in the oven?

39 Karen { 03.15.12 at 10:31 pm }

@Tiffany they are just canning jars from the hardware store – like the kind you use to make jam or preserves.

40 Tiffany { 03.16.12 at 8:14 am }

Awesome! Thank you! I am going to try this for my sons birthday.

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42 Eve { 04.06.12 at 4:45 am }

This is a wonderful idea! But I have one question. Do you put water in the pan? If so, why?

43 Karen { 04.06.12 at 9:49 am }

@Eve yes I put about 1/2 inch of water in the pan. I always do that when I make jar cakes because that is how I learned to do it – I have always assumed it’s so the glass doesn’t get too overheated and dry in the oven and crack but to be honest I don’t know!

44 Eve { 04.06.12 at 2:38 pm }

Oh ok! Thanks! But yeah, I asked my mom about the whole jar cracking thing and she said that they would crack! How do yours not?

45 Food | Pearltrees { 04.09.12 at 2:22 am }

[…] {how to} Super Duper Rainbow Cakes – in a Jar | off the (meat)hook I made them in pint-sized jars, which is definitely at least a 2-person serving. Half-pint jars would be much more sensible for individual servings! These were for the Food Blogger Bake Sale , so I dug out some circular labels left over from my wedding and marked the jars on top. “What’s that, magical horsie? […]

46 Heather { 05.08.12 at 2:25 pm }

These are lovely! I am going to be making them as a surprise for my mother-in-law’s birthday. A lot of my new recipes recently have gone down very well but I haven’t made anything “pretty” for a while, so I’m really excited!

My own, most insane attempt at exciting cake-ness (a lot sillier than yours):

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48 Holly { 05.16.12 at 6:21 pm }

Would a jam jar work them same or would it crack ?

49 Karen { 05.23.12 at 10:26 am }

@Holly I have never tried so I can’t say.

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54 Taylor { 08.06.12 at 2:14 pm }

I was wondering do you want to just use egg whites so the color is brighter or use the whole egg?

55 Karen { 08.06.12 at 2:30 pm }

@Taylor I don’t think it matters for the color whether you use a whole egg or just egg whites.

56 Elisabeth { 11.10.12 at 4:12 pm }

Do you spray the jars before putting the batter in them?

57 Karen { 11.11.12 at 11:16 am }

@Elisabeth you can, but you don’t have to.

58 Lorah { 11.29.12 at 9:19 pm }

Do these keep with the frosting on them? I have made jar cakes before and they keep for about 6 months, but I wasn’t sure how the frosting would change that or not? Thank you!

59 Karen { 11.30.12 at 12:38 pm }

@lorah I have never kept them for more than a couple days so I have no idea – I’m guessing no because the frosting could go rancid!

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64 kimberley { 09.26.13 at 8:29 pm }

once frosted, will these keep with the lid on for 24 hours? we were going to make for a school fundraiser…..but they have to be turned in a day in advance. was wondering if they would get soggy with the lid on??? thanks!

65 Karen { 09.27.13 at 10:02 am }

@Kimberly I haven’t tried that, but my instinct would be yes. I have always made the cakes the day before and then frosted them the morning of. So I can’t vouch for what would happen if they were frosted a day in advance. There are some ideas here that may help you figure it out: http://www.thekitchn.com/help-how-can-i-make-ahead-and-display-pastries-for-a-2day-event-good-questions-187735 and http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/10/cakespy-pumpkin-cake-in-a-jar.html Good luck!

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67 Bianca { 10.31.13 at 9:14 pm }

How long before they expire? I’m an army girlfriend trying to think of new ideas for my soldier. I really love this idea for his birthday!
However, it takes about two weeks to get to him… do you think it would go bad? :(

68 Karen { 10.31.13 at 10:38 pm }

@Bianca – I love that idea! But I am really not sure as I have never let them go more than a few days. This particular cake recipe is pretty moist, so I would worry about it getting moldy :/

69 Lori { 10.31.13 at 10:57 pm }

Well, these are beautiful, but I made a big mistake! I didn’t double the cake batter recipe, so my jars are only about 1/2 full. I’m so mad at myself! I made them for a bake sale. It took me forever to layer the colors in the jars and make them look nice. Don’t know if I have enough energy to do a new batch.

70 Karen { 11.01.13 at 4:58 pm }

@Lori sorry to hear that :( Totally sounds like something I would do so I can relate… hang in there!

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72 Louise { 04.22.14 at 6:56 am }

Really want to try this.. But the recipe says 1 and a half sticks butter… How much is this in weight please? x

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74 SADIYA { 05.29.14 at 8:38 am }

How long do they stay for? My daughters party is on saturday and I wanted to make the on a thursday. do I need to put in fridge until the party or can I leave out?

75 Karen { 06.02.14 at 10:21 am }

Louise – 1 and a half sticks is equal to 3/4 cup or 12 oz. butter.

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77 Eugenia { 12.15.14 at 10:06 am }


Where did you get the jars?

78 Karen { 12.15.14 at 10:49 am }

@Eugenia just at the local hardware store.

79 RookieMom Heather { 01.28.15 at 4:12 pm }

OMG, I never saw these and I love them. Amazing.
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80 Sara { 08.29.17 at 8:26 am }

Hi, we have tried your recipe today and was so excited to see them but when we took them out of the oven they have gone all black speckly half way up? What could we have done wrong? The cake itself tastes beautiful it’s such a shame xx

81 Karen { 10.25.17 at 9:54 am }

Ah, I have no idea! That has never happened to me! Sorry to hear it :(

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