First tip. You need to start early, allowing at least two hours for the cake to sit in the fridge after the crumb layer of icing is added. I started the night before.
Some of this info will come as no surprise, but being my first time making more than 2 layers, I had a lot to learn. And decided that my daughter's first birthday cake may not have been the place to try out this new baking apron. Oh well, too late. Here's what you need:
- two boxes of white cake mix and eggs, oil, water. With me so far. Just checking.
- 3 eight or nine inch round pans in helpful but you at least want 2 (I used the aluminum disposable kind that come in a 3-pack and they worked great)
- a boatload of white icing (I used whipped fluffy white, yummy stuff), I used 2 large containers and 2 1/2 small containers. Seriously. I suppose you could skimp a little but this cake is all about going overboard, right?
- food coloring. I read that you should use the gel kind but I used both and got vibrant colors. I guess the fear is that the liquid, old-school kind might change the consistency of the batter making it bake weird but I didn't have any trouble. Well, not with that part anyway.
Now we're ready to start.
- Make the first box of cake according to package directions. I read one tutorial that suggested you mix both at the same time but I didn't want all 6 layers in the oven at once. I was afraid it would throw off the whole chemistry-science-y thing of baking by overloading the oven. I'm pretty sure Alton Brown would agree. Plus, you can mix the second cake and color it while the first batch bakes.
- Divvy your batter into 3 bowls. Use between 1 1/3 and 1 1/2 cups of batter for equal layers.
- Add food coloring.
We did the purple (blue + red people...more blue), blue, and green first. I used a lot because I wanted it super vibrant but remember that the color will deepen as it sits and bakes. So if you want pastels just use a tiny bit OR go crazy like we did and use half the bottle of each color. Whatever floats your boat.
- Pour the batter into 3 greased pans and bake at 350. DO NOT turn your oven off when you are setting the timer. Why would you do that? I'm not sure but I accidentally did and it sucked. When I checked the cakes after 15 minutes not only were they not baking, but they were barely luke warm. Oops. My bad. So I had to babysit them and PRAY that they turned out ok. Which they did. Phew. Dodged my first bullet.
- Repeat steps 1-4 but use red, orange, and yellow food coloring. Also, skip that whole turning off the oven part. Here's where I can tell you to bake the layers approximately 23 minutes (if you've divided the batter into 3's. If you're crazy and going for 8 layers I can only offer this piece of advice... OK. I have no advice for that. Good luck, freak.).
- Let the cake cool in the pan 10 minutes then turn out onto cooling rack. Let it cool completely before icing.
- Place sheets of parchment or wax paper on your cake stand/plate where the edges of the cake will be.
This lets you ice all willy nilly and not worry about having a messy looking plate when you're done.
- Place the first layer on the plate, purple in my case, and ice the top. Make this as thin as you can stand (I used quite a bit because I lurve icing) because you don't want the next layer to slip off.
- On to layer two, blue. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! Place this next layer with the TOP DOWN (the rounded part). You can of course, trim the layers so they are nice and flat but I think this is hard and you end up with less cake (for shame!). By rotating the layers you keep the cake more level and don't get a big rounded top with slopey sides. You will see why this is important in just a second and also that I was not this wise 2 nights ago. Then ice that layer.
- Repeat the layering, icing steps with green, yellow, orange, and red remembering to alternate the way you place the layer.
- Next, put a thin layer of icing around the sides (this is called the crumb layer). I then propped up the side of the cake with a bottle of KC Masterpiece and stuck that puppy in the fridge overnight not knowing whether I would have a salvageable cake in the morning or not. Hopefully you'll be able to skip this step.
In the morning, she had hardened just enough that there was no more slippage and the bbq sauce bottle had saved the day! Sweet hallelujah!
- The last step is to finish icing the cake (which didn't get any weird crummies on it because of letting that first, or crumb, layer of icing harden in the fridge).
Does that make sense? I hope so. Because if you don't do this (or cut the rounded bit off) this will happen:
It may look like a small crack to you, but to me, it was the Grand Canyon of cakes. I tried sticking wooden skewers but it just kept cracking because the top was higher than all the sides. See why you want to alternate the layers. Oh, and Mom, thanks for telling me this little trick when I was placing the LAST LAYER! But, my friend KC saved the day (you'll see how in a second).
Now I waited. 3 1/2 more hours until the party, in fact, to see if my cake would look and taste ok.
And as you can see, it was wonderful! Huge hit, the crowd oohed and ahhed as my husband sliced it up. Seriously. They did. Then they devoured it. I was worried that being in the fridge overnight would make it weird or that my snafu with turning off the oven had ruined layers 1 through 3 but no, it was delicious. Or scrumptious, as G would say. In fact, she actually said, "This really tastes like a rainbow!" That made it all worth it.
I hope this has been a lesson to all of you that you should practice something important before winging it the night before it is due. Wait. Didn't I do that all through college? Anyway, I probably haven't learned my lesson on trying something new without a dry run when I'm under the gun, but I did learn how to make a six layer rainbow cake.