♫ Listening to: Sugar Rush by Lollypop Lane ♫
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, pride, birthdays, or any occasion with a rainbow of bright colors and fun in a mini 6-inch vanilla vegan cake. Your little one can celebrate their birthday with a smash cake that’s very photogenic, leveling up your photos of the event. This heart-shaped rainbow cake has 5 colorful layers of delicious vanilla cake, filled with fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting, and topped with vegan cotton candy.
If you know anyone who might like a rainbow birthday cake, show them you care by making this and surprising them with it.
This recipe makes one 6-inch, heart-shaped, 5-layer rainbow smash cake.
Rainbow Smash Cake Ingredients
- 5 tablespoons (~⅓ cup/75g) lemon or lime juice
- 2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (165g) organic, vegan, or raw sugar*
- 1 teaspoon (6-7g) baking soda
- large pinch of salt
- ½ cup (125ml/106g) safflower oil
- 1 cup (250ml/265g) nondairy milk*
- 2 teaspoons (8g) vanilla extract (don’t use imitation vanilla, since it’s often not vegan)
- vegan food coloring (see below for the colors and amounts I used)
Rainbow Smash Cake Directions
Prep time: 45 minutes | Bake time: 16 minutes
Preheat the oven to 325º.
Measure 1 tablespoon (15g) of lemon juice or lime juice into each of 5 different small dishes (5 tablespoons or around ⅓ cup total).
Sift the following dry ingredients into a bowl: 2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour, ¾ cup (165g) sugar, 1 teaspoon (6-7g) baking soda, and a large pinch of pink sea salt (or any salt you have).
Weigh or measure all of your dry ingredients and divide by 5. Mine weighed 426 grams, so I divided the dry ingredients into 5 separate bowls with 85 grams of dry ingredients in each bowl (because 426 divided by 5 is 85).
Mix the following wet ingredients either with a stand mixer or just by hand: ½ cup (125ml/106g) safflower oil, 1 cup (250ml/265g) nondairy milk (if you buy soymilk, make sure it’s organic or non-GMO), and 2 teaspoons (8g) vanilla extract (if your nondairy milk is vanilla flavored, reduce this to 1 teaspoon).
Weigh or measure all of your wet ingredients and divide by 5. Mine weighed 373 grams, so I added 75 grams into each of the 5 separate bowls with the dry ingredients in them (because 373 divided by 5 is around 75).
Color the batter at the same time that you add the wet ingredients. I have an entire webpage all about vegan food coloring in case you’re interested. I used the following Wilton gel colors for this cake. When I say “dip” I’m referring to dipping a toothpick into the gel color because Wilton gel colors just come in a little container with a screw lid, not a bottle with a dropper.
Layer 2 - orange: 3 dips wilton orange gel color
Layer 3 - green: 3 dips of wilton leaf green gel color
Layer 4 - blue: 2 dips of royal blue
Add 1 tablespoon (15g) of lemon or lime juice to the bowl with the red/pink batter, mix, and transfer into the first heart pan, using a small silicone spatula to make sure you get every last bit of batter.
Repeat with each color of batter until all 5 cake pans are ready to go into the oven.
Set all the pans on the same rack in the oven (the rack that’s most in the middle). This will help them all bake at the same rate.
Bake at 325º for 16-18 minutes. I baked mine for 16 minutes, but my oven runs hot. You’ll know they’re done when you stick a toothpick in the center of them, and it comes out clean.
Cool on cooling racks for 5 minutes before flipping them upside down on the cooling racks to cool completely.
Rainbow Cake Cloud Frosting Ingredients
- ⅓ cup (60g) vegan butter or margarine (I use organic whipped earth balance)*
- ⅓ cup (64g) organic palm shortening*
- 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (180g) organic powdered sugar*
- 1 teaspoon nondairy milk, room temp (I used oat milk)
Rainbow Cake Cloud Frosting Directions
Prep time: 20 minutes
Whisk 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla, ⅓ cup (60g) vegan butter or margarine, and ⅓ cup (64g) spectrum sustainable organic palm shortening until it’s light and fluffy, using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed. It might be possible to do this by hand if you have a lot of upper body strength and time. With an electric mixer, this step takes 3-5 minutes. By hand, it could take 20 minutes.
Stop the mixer after a couple minutes and use a silicone spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl. Mix again.
Sift in 1 ½ cups (180g) organic powdered sugar, half at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping the bowl with the silicone spatula after each addition.
Add 1 teaspoon of nondairy milk, if needed, to get the frosting to be a creamy and spreadable consistency.
Assembling the Mini Rainbow Cake
assembling the cake: 15min
Smear a little bit of frosting onto the cake plate, cake board, or cake stand you plan to assemble your rainbow cake on.
Place the purple layer first. If your cakes didn’t fall out of the cake pans on their own, they might need a little help. Just shimmy a silicone spatula along the sides of the entire cake, and then turn the cake pan upside down and the cake should fall out. Remove the parchment paper and throw it away.
Spread buttercream frosting on the purple layer.
Add the blue layer next. Continue this with all of the layers of the rainbow.
Top with vegan cotton candy right before serving. You don’t want to add cotton candy too early or it will start to dissolve. I used Maud Borup Unicorn Dream Cotton Candy because it’s sold at Whole Foods and is organic and vegan.
If you make this rainbow cake, snap a pic, post to instagram, and tag me @vegandollhouse. I love to see your creations! You can also message me through instagram or email me if you have any questions about the recipe.
Tips, FAQ, and Substitutions
Tip 1: Use room temperature ingredients
Whenever you make cakes, if you have time to leave the ingredients out on the counter for a bit before you start the recipe, your results will be better.
Tip 2: Don’t overmix at the end
The moment you add the lemon juice to the batter, the chemical reaction that makes cakes rise begins. You want to work quickly once this process begins so that they’re doing the rising while they’re in the oven baking.
Can I make this vegan rainbow cake with less sugar?
Definitely! The cake part of this recipe already has less sugar than most cakes, but if the nondairy milk you are using is sweetened, you can reduce the amount of sugar you use by that same amount. You do have to do some math, which may not make you happy to hear, but I’ll give you an example, which will hopefully make it easier. This rainbow cake recipe calls for 1 cup of nondairy milk. My oat milk says that a serving is 1 cup and has 7 grams of sugar in it. So, I can reduce the sugar from 165 grams to 158 grams. You’re of course also welcome to just experiment and use less sugar and see how you like the results. If you reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, you don’t have to make any changes to the other measurements. If you want to reduce the sugar in the frosting recipe, replace the 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar with 1 ⅓ cups of powdered sugar, and omit the nondairy milk so it stays thick enough to decorate with. Or you can use coconut whipped cream in place of the buttercream, which has substantially less sugar.
Can I make this rainbow cake gluten free?
Yes! Just use a gluten-free flour blend in place of the all-purpose flour.
I don’t have 6" heart cake pans
and I don’t want to buy any. Can I make this cake in other pans? Sure. You can use any 4-6” pans you have, as long as you have 5 of them. If you have fewer than 5, you’ll have to wait until the first cakes are done cooling, so plan accordingly to make sure you have enough time. Since 4” pans will make taller cake layers, you may need to bake them a little bit longer, but you may not. Check them after 15 minutes, and then every 3 minutes thereafter just to be safe.
How do I store this rainbow cake?
I usually make my cakes in advance since they can take the good part of a day to finish. Here’s a little cheat sheet for cakes that are assembled and decorated in advance.
- 1 day in advance: you can store the (uncut) cake in the fridge or on the counter, but first wrap it in cling wrap to protect the cake from drying out
- up to 1 week in advance: you can store the (uncut) cake in the fridge, but first wrap it in cling wrap to protect the cake from drying out
- up to 3 months in advance: freeze the (uncut) cake uncovered until it hardens to the touch and then wrap it completely in cling wrap to keep it from drying out or taking on any weird freezer smells. Move it from the freezer to the fridge a day before you want to serve it, but don’t remove the cling wrap until 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.
- leftover cake: I store my cut cake in a cake dome on the counter for up to a week. You can also keep it in any tupperware that is large enough to fit it, either on the counter or in the fridge for up to 1 week. If you don’t plan to eat the leftover cake within a week, you can cut it into individual slices and wrap those slices in cling wrap before placing them in a freezer ziplock bag and storing them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- I recommend using safflower, sunflower, or coconut oil for baking cakes because those oils are made for high heat, which helps you avoid transfats. However, you can use any other oil such as vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, etc. People even make cakes with olive oil, but I don’t recommend it.
- If you don’t have lemon or lime juice, you can replace it with apple cider vinegar (or even white vinegar). You just need some sort of acid to interact with the baking soda to make the cake rise.
- If you don’t have access to spectrum sustainable organic palm shortening (or any vegan shortening), you can replace it with additional vegan butter or margarine. My favorite is the organic whipped Earth Balance, but if you avoid soy, you can buy the soy-free Earth Balance. If you do this, your frosting will be less stable at room temperature, so you should keep it in the fridge instead of on the counter, if your house is warm.
- If you don’t have the full amount of nondairy milk that this recipe requires, you can substitute any amount with water, nondairy creamer, or coconut water. You can also mix and match different nondairy milks. I do this a lot when my macadamia milk only has a little bit left at the bottom and I use it up, and then I open a new container of almond, oat, or soymilk*.
If you like rainbow recipes, check out my rainbow category.
* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook, but I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to purchase all organic ingredients. Therefore, I only specify organic on the ingredients that really matter - when buying the organic (or non-GMO) version is the only way to ensure that the item is vegan.