Lily Vanilli is a cutting-edge cake baker and curator of the first-ever art exhibition made entirely from cake Cake Britain in 2010. She kicks off a series of novel product ideas to enliven any bakery range.

This rainbow cake is perfect for birthdays someone recently wrote to me that they had made it for their 90-year-old grandma! In general I try to avoid food colourings and use natural ingredients to decorate cakes wherever I can, but this psychedelic sponge has a magical and fun quality that always makes people smile. The recipe and instructions below are for a layer cake, but you can adapt it to make cupcakes (pictured) or even use a chocolate and vanilla batter to make a zebra print cake. I like using this sponge inside my more dramatic cake sculptures, so there is an extra exciting element when it’s cut into. It looks beautiful on a counter and disappears if you are selling it by the slice.


Unsalted butter, softened225g

Caster sugar410g

Large eggs, room temperature4

Plain flour sifted twice400g

Baking powder2.5 tsp

Salt1.5 tsp

Whole milk w/2 teaspoons vanilla extract added8fl oz


Unsalted butter, very soft225g

Confectioners’ sugar1kg


Vanilla extract2 tsp

Double cream2 tbsp


1. Cream the softened butter with a mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy about 5 minutes, starting on medium and working up to high speed.

2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed after each addition until just incorporated.

3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beating well after each addition and beginning and ending with the dry.

4. Now make a rainbow! Divide your batter into 7 small bowls equally. Then, using gel colours (not liquid food dye), mix a little (use a toothpick) of each colour of the rainbow to make red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Spoon just over 3/4 of the red batter into the centre of the first of two 8-inch round cake pans, spread it out a little and then add slightly less of the orange batter to the centre of the red, then continue through the rainbow, each time adding a little less of the mixture and to the centre (so the colours form concentric rings).

5. When you have finished, repeat in the opposite direction in the second pan so start with violet and work up to the last drop of red.

6. Bake for 25 minutes in a 180°C oven or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

7. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5-10 mins, then transfer carefully to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting

1. Beat the softened butter until it is smooth.

2. Add the milk, vanilla and double cream and blend until smooth feel free to add a little more milk or cream until you get a consistency you like.

3. Ice the cooled cake any colour you like.

l For more creative cake ideas, recipes and baking tips visit