Jenna’s Rainbow Cake: A Pot of Gold?

Grand-daughter Jenna and I decided to make a rainbow cake on Memorial Day weekend. We were hoping for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the cake-making process wasn’t that easy!

Here’s our step-by-step process with a few glitches noted:

First, we put on our aprons JennaNanaThen we mix together the ingredients (oil, eggs, and water), Jenna trying hard not to get egg-shell pieces in with the batter from a mix.


Tricky Part: Dividing up the Batter

We divide the batter into 6 paper cups and begin to add color. Remember ROY G BIV from grade school? Then we use 6 more cups, adding the color in reverse order: violet-blue-green-yellow-orange-red. (No indigo among the colors.) Here Jenna is stirring the green, her favorite color:


Next, we pour batter, one color on top of the other into the first pan. In the second, we repeat the process, pouring the colors in reverse order. Mind you, this takes a long, long time, with several spatulas. Think “art” and finger painting when you are in this step.

PansMixedThe recipe book looks so perfect. Hmm . . .

Pop into Oven: We set the oven to preheat (350 degrees) way too early, so temperature was super hot. The recipe’s suggested bake time of 40 minutes actually turned into 30, so the cake layers became a little brown.

Like her Great Grandma Longenecker, Jenna used a toothpick to check to see if cake was done.

Take cake pans out of oven, cool, and frost. Then . . .



Adding sprinkles was probably Jenna’s favorite part. Her expression shows her delight!

SCARY PARTS: Behind the scenes!

* The first gel color we used (violet) made the batter a tepid shade of gray. We both feltΒ  disappointment because we thought the other colors might be duds too!

  • NaNa (when we began): “Think of making this cake as a combination of art and baking.”
  • Jenna (at this point): “This is a combination of art and baking with a hint of disaster!”

* The cake layers came out of the oven looking like volcanoes (Jenna’s word)! I forgot to take a photo here. Our fix: we sawed off the tops with a bread knife and got our first yummy cake taste.

* The two cake layers did not fit together perfectly. Our fix: Slathering frosting into the gaping parts.

Recipe photo: Courtesy, Mennonite Girls Can CookRecipeRainbowCake

Our cakeΒ  RainbowCakeJenna

Before we Started:

We traced the word “cake” in the Bible, Jenna reading the passage from I Kings 17:8-16 about the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. Actually, this woman’s cake was the bread of sustenance, one of survival, nothing like the confectionery concoction we baked just for fun.


* * *

Tell us about your cake-making successes, disasters, or near misses. If necessary, how did you improvise?

Coming next: Two Mennonite Girls on a Cross-Country Road Trip


58 thoughts on “Jenna’s Rainbow Cake: A Pot of Gold?

  1. Marian,this is so precious! I must say you were brave to tackle this project. It seems it’s always much more complicated than the instructions and pictures lead you to believe. What an amazing memory you have created for Jenna, complete with biblical and family connections. And your cake looks beautiful. πŸ™‚


    1. Yes, separating the batter into twelve parts and then hoping the color would “take” was a little scary. It was an experiment, of course, and in retrospect more interesting with the glitches than if the process was perfect. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kathy.

      You have lots of grandboys. Probably one of them could enjoy doing this with you. You could bill it as a chemistry experiment – ha!


  2. Glad you got to try this cake! Did you use gel coloring for all the colors, or just the gray? I’m sure you remember our rainbow cake story shared last December, which didn’t turn out perfectly either.

    You made the experience into a memorable post, complete with Bible lesson! Such an educator and grandmother of faith! Maybe MennoMedia/Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog will have to put forth a contest telling “Rainbow Cake” stories. πŸ™‚ One thing is sure, Jenna will remember her cake better than our James will remember his. Ok to share this blog post over on MennoMedia FB page??


    1. Yes, we used gel coloring for all the colors. If we had started with a color other than violet we wouldn’t have had that scary moment. All the other colors were vivid. (I think the bakers in Mennonite Girls can Cook must have used neon hues.) As you can see, ours turned out looking pastel.

      Yes, do share this the MennoMedia FB page. I am honored!. Thank you, Melodie.


    1. It’s nice to see you again on this page.You know a thing or two about baking – and canning and freezing too! I’m sure you’re probably into another writing project too, Shirley.


  3. What a beautiful picture of you and Jenna in aprons. Congratulations! You win the grandma/granddaughter Gold Medal Cake Award. Jean


    1. Ha! You know, I think Madeleine would enjoy this. She’s artistic and probably would like this project, messing with all the colors. Besides, it’s edible. Later, we took some of the cake over for Uncle Bill’s birthday.


  4. Oh what fun! I am looking forward to making those kinds of memories with my little granddaughters some day. Your’s is a sweetheart, and obviously enjoys time with you.


    1. Yes, as you can tell the experience here is much more than cake baking. Your grand-daughters will love it. I’ve seen rainbow-cake-in-a-box mixes on grocery shelves if you don’t want to mess with color cups as we did. I’ve never checked them out though. I would guess there are teeny pouches of color inside.

      Best wishes on the creation-with-words you’re engrossed in right now. So glad you took time out to read and comment here, Susan.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What great memories. Fot Jenna the cake is beautiful and looks like fun to do i am very short on patience i think this would help to do something with my grand children without controling the event will try this in the fall thank you for the idea


  6. What a fun thing to do together. I think your cake looks fabulous. You should never compare it with the picture in the book. (I am sure those pictures are enhanced) I bet it even tasted better than it looks! Love the picture of the two of you together.


    1. Actually, the women of Mennonite Girls Can Cook do their own photography; they may use simple online tools to brighten colors just a hair, but their food photography is just amazing. The photos in the front and on the covers of the books were taken by professionals, but wow, yes! I know too that sometimes they make recipes several times until they turn out this perfect.


      1. Thanks for the explanation, Melodie. Those women are wonderful and their results are stunning. Just for the record, I don’t think I’ll be making a rainbow cake enough times to reach for perfection. We were happy enough with the results and made memories along the way too.


  7. I think I’ll show the pictures of the cake to our grandchildren, Marian, instead of actually baking it. πŸ™‚

    Love the beautiful photos and the obvious fun of the process. Jenna will have lovely memories of this day both from the experience and from the opportunity to come back to it again as long as these little pixels and electrons keep connecting.

    What if OUR grandmothers had been bloggers? Now there’s a subject!


    1. I don’t think there will be a repeat performance any time soon, Shirley. But ever since I saw the photo in Mennonite Girls Can Cook I had not been able to get the idea of making the cake with Jenna out of my mind. It’s out of my system now though!

      Yes, what if our grandmothers had been bloggers. . . or our mothers! Mother had no illusions of life in the theatre or public speaking like yours, but they could have connected with their mutual love of country life, cooking, and family.


  8. Marian β€” I love this photo-by-photo, blow-by-blow, cake-making commentary. The fact that you included the behind-the-scenes scary stuff is “icing on the cake!”

    My cake making remembrances β€” all happy ones β€” revolve around getting to lick off spoons and beaters!


  9. You are one delightful NaNa with a delightful granddaughter. Good experiment. I expect it was delicious and it looked sort of like the recipe in the book. I don’t bake anymore, but if I did, I’d try again with various thin layers of colors. Of course they increased color saturation for the cookbook photos. You could try that, too. πŸ˜‰

    I like Shirley’s fantasy of Grandma’s as bloggers. One of mine would be talking about opera, baking in a wood oven in Missouri heat, and her orphaned childhood. The other would be writing about her delightful marriage and her garden.


    1. You have a veritable feast of themes to pursue sometime. Your readers would love to hear about your take on Grandma’s life. Was she an opera-lover and pioneer-type woman too?

      There is much to anticipate from your pen, Elaine. Thanks for showing up here with your wisdom. Now I’m off to get my toe-nails painted . . . with Jenna. Maybe the massage will help the plantar fasciitis in my right foot.


  10. This was so sweet–I mean the post, but I’m sure the cake was too! Your granddaughter is so pretty, and it seems like the two of you had so much fun baking this cake. I loved Jenna’s comment “with a hint of disaster.” These are moments to treasure and look back on later. It’s nice that you have photos, too.

    I’m still planning to try to bake a rainbow challah to surprise my daughter with–maybe bring it to her wedding rehearsal dinner. There will be pictures, if I do! πŸ™‚

    I bake a lot, but my cakes are often crooked, or they stick when coming out of the pan or some such thing. Frosting does work wonders! πŸ™‚ I baked a cake yesterday to bring to my mother-in-law’s today, but made it in a 9 x 13 pan–much less work. My daughter had a good “cake save” on Memorial Day. She had baked an almond blueberry cake. I think it was probably flourless or made with almond flour, and it crumbled when she took it out of the pan. She sliced berries and made a crumble with it!


    1. It’s always good having a Plan B – in fact, life is all about having a Plan B. I love the comment about your daughter turning her “hint of disaster” into berry crumble. She is her mother’s daughter – ha!

      I look forward to photos of the rainbow challah.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. That cake was not a disaster it was a triumph…two generations of ladies working together . I bet it tasted yummy . That smile on Jenna’s face was I picture .
    I had never seen a cake like that before until I saw it on , I think it was your blog a week or so ago , I wondered how it was done …genius .
    My dad was really the cook in our house ,but because he was a ‘MAN’ and didn’t like to admit it , he pretended it was just for fun .
    He had quite a repertoire one of his signature dishes was bread pudding . Where I origanally come from is what is known as ‘The BlackCountry , In the West Midlands . It was very industrial …still is . Look up on the net .The Black Country Musuem ..i. It’s worth a nose . Anyway bread pudding is a speciality from the area .


  12. I will think of this cake as a triumph from now on – for indeed it was, if only for the fun and adventure we had making it.

    I appreciate the bread pudding information and suggestion about The Black Country Museum. I will indeed look it up. You know how much I love learning all about British culture. Thanks so much, Cherry!


    1. How right you are! Most of the cake stayed at Jenna’s house, but part of it helped celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday a day late. Nice to see you here today, Rebecca.


  13. Marian, have your granddaughter crack eggs onto the flat top of the counter, not the sharp edge of a cup or bowl. She will never have to worry about bits of eggshell anymore. I am glad you are able to spend plenty of time with each other.


  14. Thank you for the tip, Athanasia. I will have to pass it on to Jenna. Baking the cake was just an excuse to spend time together and have something to show for our efforts. It actually tasted moist and delicious.


    1. Marian have you seen the rainbow layered jello salad? Alternating layers of plain and creamy layers of jello. My sister and I made it ONCE for a party in 1979. Takes. All. Day. Plenty of bonding time for you and Jenna while each separate layer solidifies.


      1. I may have seen a picture of the rainbow jello salad you describe here., but I haven’t made it. Honestly, I still have not yet recovered from the cake adventure. It was fun, but somewhat tedious. Maybe when Jenna is a teenager we’ll tackle the layered salad. We’ll need bonding time then for sure. Thanks for the suggestion, Athanasia. And bravo to you and your sister for making that salad. It seems your memory of your creating that recipe in 1979 is quite vivid.


  15. What fun! What a great rescue. I once made a cake for my boyfriend’s 16th birthday, with my girlfriend. We used a cake mix so no disaster there, but we decided to shape the cake like a car, (he loved cars!) and make it blue, his favorite color. It was hideous. We “fixed” it by tacking a blue match box car on top.

    Cakes these days are easier for me. These little gadgets (bake-even strips) work to make for an even rise, so the layers fit together a bit better. Mine are 15 years old, and still work just fine.

    I also trim away any uneven pieces before assembling, but that’s rather tricky. A bread knife is essential.

    Martha Stewart has a slide show about trimming layers. I’d put the link here, but wordpress thinks comments with multiple links are spam. You could google “martha stewart how to assemble a layer cake” to find it, if you’re interested.

    But the very best part of this is that you and your granddaughter shared this precious time, and learning experience, together. In really beautiful aprons! (I love aprons!–and I love granddaughters even more!)


  16. I didn’t know about the bake-even strips, so I clicked on your link. The volcano effect was caused by our layering the color one on top of the other to “build” the rainbow effect. If I ever did this again (likely not!) I would probably make sure the batter was a trifle thinner, which may help some.

    You are the first one to notice and compliment the aprons – merci beaucoup! Come to think of it, they extend the rainbow effect.

    I have enjoyed all of the culinary references and top-notch restaurant suggestions in your memoir Toward Daylight. You may be familiar with another author Louise DeSalvo, who finds working with food both a therapeutic and creative act: Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian Kitchen and also Writing as a Way of Healing, both feasts for the senses. She asserts that cooking/baking actually makes her writing possible. I wonder whether you feel the same.


  17. I had a good laugh here Marian thank you for this lovely yummy post! About 2 weeks ago I felt like eating something sweet, nothing to be found in this household. I beat up eggs, and caster sugar, added oil and a bit of vanilla and threw in some flour (way past its sell by date), no recipe, just vaguely remembering these were the basic ingredients. And baked it … not very nice but ok. Flat as a plump pancake. Tasted better with some butter and jam (I think you call it jelly). Ate about half of it. Satisfying. My grown up sons bake better than I do. They send me pics on their phones of their creations. I did not send them my creation.

    I remember Elijah and the widow of Zarephath and that this was all she had to offer him, a great gift giving what she had.


    1. It’s my turn to laugh: Flat as a plump pancake! Your sons better bakers than you. I believe I smell a story here, Susan. Thanks for taking the time to comment there, Susan.


  18. It’s so wonderful to see the relationship you share with your granddaughter. The cake looks ‘heavenly’ lol. It actually looks like a great cake for Easter time. And, btw, I too use the old standard toothpick to check when my muffins are ready. πŸ™‚


      1. Never like to miss your blogs ❀ I try my darndest to keep on top, although I'm still over a week behind, and it looks like it will be piling up more these next few days. πŸ™‚


        1. Please – no worries! I’m thinking I may have to cut down to one post a week if I want to make serious progress on my memoir, but I love the instant connection and fine friends I find here.


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