Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake

We’re on. It’s cake time.

Finally! The post you’ve been waiting for. The one I neglected in order to write this and this. Ah, relief. No more deep thoughts (for now).

So. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s going to get messy. And time consuming. And kind of pricey. Also, seriously unhealthy. It’s time for…

gf rainbow cake special

Your hands will get dirty, or, at the very least, dyed a vivid pink hue not found in nature. If my daughter could dye all of her food this color, she totally would:

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

The seed for a rainbow layer cake began over a year ago when I saw this gorgeous concoction on April Peveteaux’s fab site, Gluten Is My Bitch. I had NO idea such a thing existed, but apparently it was big on Pinterest back then. I was intrigued, but scared. Seemed like a LOT of work. So I stuck with a simple (ish) but decadent double chocolate cake for Bunky’s 5th birthday party. It was gluten, nut, egg free, and AWESOME.

fifth gluten free bday cake

But this year I was ready. A kick-ass rainbow cake seemed a perfect match for Bunky’s art-themed party and my rainbow loving girl.

Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday (or any day) Cake

What You Need:

  • 3 boxes of gluten free cake mix (I used Cherrybrook Farms Yellow Cake mix) – plus whatever mix-ins it requires: oil, eggs, etc.
  • 2-3 circular cake pans, springform is easier but not totally necessary, I used 10-inch but could use 8-inch for a smaller circular cake
  • approximately 6 containers* of Betty Crocker or Duncan Heinz vanilla frosting, or homemade if you prefer, or for dairy free try this recipe
  • AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color – I bought the junior kit on amazon, but you can really use whatever dye you’d like, but the gel color is REALLY vivid. Also, this brand is gluten AND nut free (and kosher), woo hoo!
  • parchment paper or nonstick spray or butter to grease pans (I used spray with our springform pans, but if you’re using regular cake pans I would suggest lining them with parchment AND greasing to make sure you can get those skinny cakes out)
  • help in the form of childcare, partner support, and/or sous chefs, maybe some wine
  • patience of a saint doesn’t hurt

* When it comes to buying tubs of frosting, you can get a combo of the Whipped Vanilla kind, which is great to spread over the finished and assembled cake stack. But for in between each layer, we suggest using Regular Vanilla because the Whipped texture might be too airy and squishy to go between. You don’t want the layers to collapse together. My sous chef husband pointed this out and he was totally right. Thanks honey.

Getting It Done:

1. Prepare cake pans by spraying and/or lining them. If you’re not using springforms, line with parchment and grease. If using springform, nonstick spray or butter liberally.

2. Preheat oven and then prepare the THREE box mixes as directed. I started with only two Cherrybrook Farm mixes (why I followed the gluten Betty Crocker recipe and not April’s is beyond me) and divided them up into 6 bowls, weighed them with my kitchen scale (yes, I’m an anal dork), dyed the crap out of them, before realizing it wasn’t enough to cover the bottom of my 10-inch cake pans. So, I had to send my husband out for another box. Do yourself a favor and buy three boxes upfront unless you get secret pleasure out of making your partner run extra errands. No judgement here.

3. Divide into 6 bowls (or how many layers you want). Like I said above, I used a kitchen scale because you want each layer to be the same size, but you could also just use measuring cups.

bday cake prep

4. Here’s the fun part: adding color! A little squeeze of gel goes a long way, so be warned. Bunky and I both loved the hot pink. Little Guy went nuts over the blue and green.

My adorable little baking assistant.

Behold my adorable little baking assistant.

bday cake prep bunky

5. Start the cooking process. I had six cake pans, but we cooked two at a time (in 3 separate sessions) because our oven cooks unevenly on the different racks. If you can squeeze in three, go for it. But use your discretion. My sous chef, aka Husband, did the dirty work here. He spread the batter in the pans and was in charge of the cooking, cooling, and releasing.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or at least a helpful husband.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or a helpful husband.

We cooked ours for about 6-7 minutes (it’s a thin cake, remember) but our oven is like Hades hot, so again, you may want to check your cakes starting at 6 minutes but it could take a bit longer. Don’t overcook, though, because that takes away a bit of color.

And please make sure the cakes are FULLY cooled before releasing or (gently) prying them out. You don’t want to damage the goods.

bday cake cooling

Cooked cakes just chilling by the windowsill.

6. Now for assembly. Again, my sous chef was in charge here. He likes doing the detail work and I like when he does it. But the birthday girl was the cake designer, with very specific instructions as to the order of colors. She went against the whole ROY G BIV color scheme which I know made my (OCD) husband a bit nuts, but hey, it was her day.

bunky cake designer

Like I mentioned earlier, we used a combo of Whipped and Regular Vanilla frosting. Regular for between the layers, and Whipped for the outer layer (because it goes on smoother and faster).

Taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE tubs. Srsly.

This pic was taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE. Srsly.

7. Then top that sucker with whatever you want – we went for an easy and crowd pleasing route: sprinkles.

bday sprinkles

But you could try this gorgeous insanity that I contemplated for about twenty seconds:

makdoodle rainbow cake

But seriously, sprinkles are a sure thing. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Unless you want to.

Finished product, please excuse the candle indentations.

Finished product. Please ignore the candle indentations. Forgot to take a pic with them.

The cake was a HUGE success, and so was the very sweet art party. But let’s talk about the cake!

gluten free rainbow cake slice

Every kid devoured it. Even the one boy who told me ahead of time that he doesn’t like cake. I promised that I wouldn’t make him eat it. But when he saw it he gestured me over. “I’ll take a small piece,” he said. And then he ate the entire thing, crumbs included.

Cake anticipation!

Cake anticipation! Everyone is very excited.

My sweet 6 year old birthday girl. It was a wonderful party.

Our six year old birthday girl.

bunky eating cake

Little Guy inhaled his entire slice.

It was a great party.

Me and my girl. (And Little Guy’s legs.) It was a great party.

bunky artHappy Birthday to my dear girl, who loved decorating her butterfly wings surrounded by her friends. She is growing her own secret wings, and one day she will fly away from me, but not yet.

opening gifts


Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

gf friday badge

(How to) Come Together

It’s not easy being us. The G free. Let’s face it, we are living in a G filled world. A friend of mine sent me this hilarious (only to us!) photo of a list of ingredients for hot dog buns. Okay, I know, 99.99999 % of hot dog buns are gluten, but look how many gluten ingredients are in here. (Sorry you’ll have to squint a bit, it was a quick phone photo.)

gluten tastic edited

Count them. Nine. NINE! It’s funny, it really is, especially when you are losing your mind like my friend and I often are. We are moms to kids who HAVE to be gluten free. Because they have celiac disease and gluten makes them sick and destroys the insides of their little bodies.

I have talked, and I will talk more (possibly ad nauseum), about how hard this can be. Birthday parties, anybody? Family outings? But today I want to acknowledge something else. Someone else.

The G eaters. The people who hang out with us. Who host us. Who love us. Who invite us on play dates. People who want to be sensitive to our (many) needs, but perhaps aren’t sure how.

But first a side bar. (You know I can’t help myself.)

The other night we were having a very sweet picnic in the park, and my husband and I watched as people gathered with several sets of friends and children, sharing food on blankets, playing ball, laughing. We were doing all those things, too, just without the friends part. It was fine, don’t get me wrong. We had a blast. Leo dug in the dirt, Emma picked flowers from trees, but there was a moment where I felt a sense of loss… I looked at my husband and said, out of earshot of my kids, who could we invite? [Full disclosure: our friends pool has shrunk since we’ve had kids, but still. Gluten is a factor.]

When we asked Bunky how she’d feel about inviting friends the next time, she got a very serious look on her face and immediately said, “But what if they bring gluten food?” It always comes back to THAT. To gluten. Freaking A. My husband handled it well, explaining that we’d just keep our GF food on our blanket and they’d eat the G on theirs. This seemed to satisfy her and we moved on.

But. But. This awful little rhyme popped into my head:

Separate blankets keep crumbs at bay, separate blankets keep friends away. 

Now I know that isn’t true. Obvs it takes more than one picnic blanket to have a party. But the crumb thing IS an issue.

Bunky chose to sit apart at a birthday party because she was afraid of gluten crumbs.

Bunky chose to sit apart at a birthday party because she was afraid of gluten crumbs.

And frankly, it’s a little SAD not to be able to share food. To watch friends eat things we cannot enjoy, and vice versa. Separate is not necessarily equal, as my friend whose son has celiac often says.

So, in order to help bridge the gap that is sometimes US versus the G eaters, i.e. almost everyone in our life, I wanted to compile a short list of helpful tips that I HOPE puts people at ease. The last thing we want to do is alienate the people who love us, who want to help us, but perhaps are afraid or unsure how to do so. It doesn’t have to be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be sad (well, not always). We can overcome! Let’s share a blanket, maybe.

Some Helpful (I Hope) Tips to Pass Along to the G eaters You Know and Love

1. G Free food can be good, no, GREAT – seriously!

Want to have a picnic with us, but you’re secretly worried about the taste factor of our GF stash? Or maybe you know how much our tiny slices of bread cost and you don’t want to make us go broke. Well, worry no longer! First of all, forget the freaking bread. I barely share that with my dad, let alone anyone else. Besides, you’d still be hungry cause the slices are so small. No sandwiches. BUT we can still eat together.

How’s this for a spread: platters of yummy cheese and salty meat (lots of fancy fatty meat is gluten free, yay!), GF crackers, briny olives and miniature pickles (for Bunky), hummus and veggies, guacamole and corn tortilla chips. Not feeling the finger food thing? No prob. I can whip up a G free pasta salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Yum. And for dessert, we could go healthy and eat delicious, sweet, drippy red watermelon (or any other fruit). But don’t forget to partake in the home baked goodies I will surely bring.

2. But if eating the same stuff doesn’t work out, it IS okay to eat G in front of us. 

It’s cool. Really. I mean, Bunky does it EVERY DAY at school. We do it when we go out to eat (on the rare occasion) with relatives. Sometimes my dad asks if he should order a G free pizza, and well, he can if he wants, and sometimes he does, but he doesn’t have to. We know how to be careful with crumbs and cross contamination. It’s, like, our job.

One caveat – please PLEASE do not indulge in a gorgeous looking G treat in front of a kid who can’t have any. That’s just cruel. I mean, duh.

3. No need to apologize about NOT having food for us.

Say we’re on a play date or just hanging out and you suddenly realize all your snacks are full of G? It’s okay, really. We ALWAYS know to BOOF (Bring Our Own Food).

I don’t know any mom of a celiac or allergy kid who doesn’t carry an arsenal of safe snacks in their bag. Everywhere. We don’t expect other people to feed us. It’s our responsibility to keep our kid’s stomachs safe and full, not yours.

Yet, check out this safe spread at a birthday party. The mom knew to put some aside for Bunky to avoid cross contamination. I nearly cried and totally hugged her.

Yet, check out this “Gluten Free Goodies” tray at a birthday party. The mom did this to avoid cross contamination. I totally teared up and hugged her.

If you chat with us ahead of time we can fill you in on what to offer, but that is never expected. No need to apologize either, especially since drawing attention to what a kid CAN’T eat usually makes them feel more uncomfortable. Speaking of which…

4. Please don’t make a fuss about any “special snacks” we bring along.

Our snacks aren’t special, just different. And the only difference is they don’t have G. There’s no need to draw extra attention (see above) to the food we bring, unless of course I baked you something AWESOME. Then compliment away, don’t be shy!

Seriously though, I only mention this because I can’t tell you the amount of times people have ooh-ed and ahh-ed over our mundane snacks. It’s totally a benign overcompensation thing, and I know it’s coming from a good place, but kids are super perceptive to difference, so the more you can NOT point it out, the better.

5. Cooking for us – it IS possible!

It is, it really is. But we will need to have a rather big chat first. And after our big chat, where I go on and on about truly fascinating topics such as cutting board etiquette, cross contamination, and BYO-ing our colander, you may decide it’s too much of a challenge. And that is OK. We know it can seem like a lot, cause frankly, it is. Especially if your kitchen isn’t G free like ours. But either way we don’t judge. Seriously. We’d much rather you opt out gracefully instead of plunging forward and making an unintentional mistake.

That said, right of refusal must go both ways… we also reserve the right to politely, and with the upmost sensitivity, turn down your offer to cook for us if we feel like it may not be safe enough. Ultimately, it’s our daughter’s health that is most important. No hard feelings, please.

If you do end up cooking for our girl, here’s a preemptive thank you. Most likely after heeding all our advice, all will come out just fine. And, if worse comes to worse, and G crashes our party somehow, it will be okay. Bunky will recover, and so will we. We’ve had practice, as unfortunate as that sounds, and know the deal. I’ve even done it. Yup. True horrific story. Maybe I’ll share it here sometime.


Bottom line, there’s no need to be anxious about hanging out with us, G free folk. We’re just like you, minus the G. Chances are everything will go just fine. And if not, you can read about it later on my blog.

Ha, just kidding!!

Seriously. I’m kidding. Read this post if you’re concerned.

I’d love to hear from all you celiacs, parents of celiacs, and allergy people out there: Do you get an anxious vibe from friends and family because of your dietary restrictions? Does it ever hamper your social life?