Rainbow Cupcakes with Vanilla Cloud Frosting

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Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.

Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.Rainbow Cupcakes have been a looooooong time in the making for this blog. They are one of my absolute favorite desserts to make which most people who know me would immediately guess. When I would make surprise cakes or birthday cakes for my favorite clients I would usually make them towering rainbow cakes. In fact, these rainbow cupcakes have been on the calendar for me since before I even started this blog 10 whole months ago (I can’t believe it has been 10 months already!) and I can’t think of a better way to toss aside all the hearts, pink and cupid and celebrate the month of March.

Let’s just get this out of the way ahead of time… yes, these cupcakes have food coloring. No, I don’t normally use food coloring in recipes and yes, I know it isn’t healthy/good for you/GMO free/it kills baby seals and kittens around the world I’m sure. 99% of the things I make/bake in our house are made with whole foods, not processed or minimally processed and be it important or not, organic. Which is exactly why I have no qualms about making these gorgeous cupcakes for us to enjoy the one time a year that we do. And yes I gave them to the little ones too. But c’mon, if you were a kid, wouldn’t this make you smile?Β Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.I’m not even a kid and I am grinning as I am typing up this post. Brace yourself for more photos than I normally include, I loved so many of these photos!

When we had our oldest we made the nursery a rainbow theme, the first birthday party was rainbow sprinkles themed and I am proud to say I’m raising rainbow obsessed little kids (one of whom sleeps in a rainbow-ed out four post bed with rainbow curtains and a soon to be added rainbow duvet, pillows and a giant cloud headboard. Β So like I said, our house, rainbow friendly and definitely rainbow cupcakes friendly.

Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.

The other part of this recipe that I adore is how easy it is in spite of the lack of cake mix. The batter is a delicious white vanilla cake base with gel food coloring to brighten things up and the cloud-like frosting is made with clear vanilla and lots and lots of butter.

A few tips/tricks for these awesome Rainbow Cupcakes just to make your lives a bit easier since there’s quite a few little bowls of batter:

  • Don’t bother weighing out the batter to ensure it is evenly dispersed. Use a 1 cup measure and any little bit left over can be extra of your favorite color. This isn’t a cake, so if one layer is a bit more prominent in some, no big deal. πŸ™‚
  • If you would like to bake these without the cupcake wrappers, I highly recommend a silicone muffin tin.
  • Ziploc bags! I pipe them into the muffin tins with ziploc bags to make life SO much easier than spooning and spreading each layer.
  • Clear vanilla keeps your frosting a bright white! If you want blindingly white frosting swap out your butter for shortening. Butter tastes better though.
  • Don’t overbake, you don’t want the tops turning brown.
  • Use a large closed star decorating tip for your frosting.


Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.


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Rainbow Cupcakes with Vanilla Cloud Frosting

  • Yield: 24 cupcakes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Course: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American
Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.


  • 1 cup butter , softened
  • 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk , warmed for 30 sec in microwave to bring to room temp
  • Rainbow colors of Gel food coloring
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar , sifted
  • 1 tablespoon clear vanilla (if you use normal vanilla it will not be as white, but will be just as delicious)
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of milk


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In your stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together until much lighter in color, like a easter-y spring yellow (2-3 minutes).
  3. Add in the egg whites and vanilla until totally combined.
  4. Add the salt and baking powder to the flour.
  5. Add in the dry ingredients and the milk alternating 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of milk at a time.
  6. Add one cup of the batter to 6 different bowls.
  7. Color each bowl with your gel food coloring in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
  8. Mix until the colors are fully combined.
  9. Your choice here: Spoon or ziploc bags.
  10. Either add the batter to 6 sandwich size ziploc bags and pipe just enough to make a thin layer of each color (maybe 1/4 inch tall batter layers)
  11. OR
  12. with a small spoon, spoon just under a tablespoon of batter into each cup.
  13. Start with purple, then blue, then green, then yellow, then orange and finally red.
  14. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  15. To make the frosting:
  16. Whip the butter in your stand mixer with your paddle attachment(I LOVE LOVE LOVE this one with a built in scraper) until you see the butter is lighter in color (1 minute).
  17. Add in the vanilla.
  18. Add in the powdered sugar in 1 cup increments with the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, ending with powdered sugar.
  19. Mix on high for 1 minute after each addition.
  20. Your frosting should be SUPER light and fluffy, just like a delicious vanilla cloud.
  21. Using a closed star tip and decorating bag, pipe your frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.

Recipe Notes

This post contains affiliate links. Cake recipe adapted from Whisk Kid, Buttercream recipe adapted from Add A Pinch.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 24 cupcakes, Amount per serving: calories

All images and text Β© for Dinner, then Dessert, Inc.

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Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.

Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.
Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.
Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.
Rainbow Cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. No cake mix, still EASY.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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      1. Looks amazing! Definitely, want to make this! Can you provide any advice on the colours? use the same amount of drops for each colour, colour mixing suggestions for best turn out for purple?

        1. Thank you so much! Honestly, I just eyeball it. Start with a drop or two and then mix, keep adding a drop or two at a time until the desired shade you’re looking for. For the purple, I mixed equal amounts red and blue coloring. Good luck!

  1. Oh my goodness, these totally remind me of rainbow brite… ha! Super-cute. My kids would flip if I make them. Thanks for sharing

  2. I am a huge fan of rainbow cakes- I’ve made several but never cupcakes. I definitely pinned this to my ‘life’s a rainbow’ Pinterest board!

  3. So much fun! And I agree with you completely–I rarely use food coloring, never buy anything colored, but I definitely own it and have no problem using it occasionally to put a big smile on my kids’ faces. These cupcakes would do the trick–and I appreciate that they are from scratch.

  4. I love the look of these cupcakes. I will have to try making some for my Daughters Birthday. She will be so surprised when she takes a bite to see all the colors.

  5. Those look very good. My daughters would love all the colors. I think those rainbow colors are great for cupcakes. Lots of color can really make them stand out!

  6. Hi, I would really LOVE to make these cupcakes! But I don’t understand one sentence (I am not a native speaker): “Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar in 1 cup increments with the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, ending with powdered sugar.” Could you please explain it to me?

    1. It means to first, add one cup of powdered sugar, then add a tablespoon of milk, then a cup of powdered sugar, then a tablespoon of milk, and continue with that pattern until all of it has been added to the recipe.

  7. Made the rainbow cupcakes for my twin girls for school last week. Everyone (and their moms!) l-o-v-e-d the beautiful colours, not to mention the taste. I have subsequently used the recipe to make a rainbow layered cake this past weekend and just whipped up a chocolate cupcake version using your recipe for my son’s birthday tomorrow! Won’t be using any other cupcake recipe, EVER! xxx

  8. Hi Sabrina.. I tried these for our 7th anniversary.. and I made a hydrangea bouquet using these cupcakes.. they were superb in taste and also to look at.. my friends complained that they were soooo pretty to eat..thanks a lot for the recipe… can I use the same recipe to bake a cake….if yes.. which pan and baking temp plz..

    1. 2 regular cake pans 8 inch or 9 inch, 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the cake springs back up when touched. That bouquet sounds gorgeous!

  9. These look beautiful! I am planning on using Wilton gel food coloring. Could you tell me roughly how much food coloring to add for each color? For example, a few drops or a teaspoon? I want to make sure I add enough to achieve a vibrant color. thanks!!

    1. Gel food coloring is very concentrated so I just start with a few drops and stir. Keep adding a few drops at a time until you get the perfect vibrance you’re looking for.

  10. Do you suggest using white cupcake liners? Will the color show through? I’d love that! Or is it best to buy a cute liner?

    1. It won’t show through that well on white liners, I would just suggest the cutest liners. I like silver foil and a friend loves using goil foil liners so it is like a pot of gold and a rainbow.

      1. Just wondering what iiners you used in your picture? It looks like some of them have a liner and the color shows through?

  11. Hi! This recipe is so cute and creative. I was wondering whether it would be okay to use liquid food coloring instead of gel? Thanks!

    1. Yes, you definitely can! Just start by adding a little at a time and stir. Keep going until you get the vibrance you’re looking for.

    1. I have had no issues with frosting holding up but if I make them for the day before I swap out the milk in the frosting with water so the milk doesn’t go rancid overnight. πŸ™‚ Hope you love them!

  12. I made these today for my 6-year-old niece’s birthday. Oh my gosh. They were soooooooo good. I knew they looked good, but they tasted even better. What an amazing recipe. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. I’m sorry but I don’t have recommendations as it ranges. You might be able to find some good resources online depending on your specific altitude.

  13. Hello – I plan to make these for my daughters birthday and I had planned to not use liners at all but rather to grease (crisco or butter) the muffin tin, is this a mistake? I’ve had issues in the past with the liners adhering to the cake and thought it would ruin the rainbow effect. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    1. Oh no! Your question was stuck in a spam file πŸ™ I wouldn’t suggest making them in a metal tin because even with greasing, the cupcakes will get browned and you’ll lose the vibrancy of the colors. My suggestion would be to use silicon liners if you’re worrying about the paper ones sticking to the cupcakes. They’ll peel right off and the colors will stay bright and colorful!

  14. Hi Sabrina,

    Just curious here. Why no egg yolks for this recipe? Also, have you tried baking this with the yolks too?

    I’m planning on baking this for my daughter’s birthday tomorrow.


    1. So sorry I’m just now seeing your question. I didn’t want to use egg yolks because it will make the batter yellowish and the colors will lose some of the vibrancy. Hopefully it still all worked well for your daughter’s birthday πŸ™‚

  15. Did you use standard white cupcake liners here? It seems like you can see the colors through the wrapper want to make sure I get the same ones!

    1. The colors don’t show very well through white liners so I would suggest just getting cute liners πŸ™‚ I like silver foil but you can use anything that works for you theme or makes you happy! Once they unwrap the cupcakes, they’ll have a great surprise!

    1. yes, but remember the yellow in the eggs may muddy the colors a bit. I use whites just to make sure the colors pop as much as possible.

  16. Hi! This is my first time baking so I’m not so good in this so i just wanna know what type of butter did you use and is it salted or unsalted? πŸ™‚

    1. I used unsalted butter for this recipe. Actually, I use unsalted butter for just about everything. If I want added salt, I just add salt. Hope you enjoy them!

  17. Thank you for this fantastic recipe. My mom and I made these for my daughter’s 2nd and 4th birthday. They were ecstatic! And everyone else was very impressed with the look and taste. Thanks again!

    Rating: 5
  18. I want to be clear on baking these…can we use a metal tin if we plan on using a liner? Or, should we use a liner in a silicone cup (I would prefer to use a liner)? Our 3 kids are turning 8, 6, and 4 this month and I want to make these for the party. I know they will love them, as long as I can pull off what you did. THANK YOU!!!

  19. I made these for my brother’s ninth party and they were a big hit!! I used the exact same recipe with 3 colors: reb + blue + yellow and he loved them! Thankyou very much for sharing this recipe they made the exact amount that we needed πŸ™‚

    Rating: 5
  20. Gonna make these tomorrow with my granddaughters, the baby (she’s four) is rainbow crazy so I know these will be a big hit. I just got heart shaped silicone cupcake liners so we’re gonna make rainbow heart cupcakes. I’m thinking of omitting pink in the cupcake and using it in the frosting, or piping three colors when frosting. Not sure but your recipe is going to come in handy! Thanks for sharing it.

  21. These look AMAZING!! My Daughter wants a rainbow party for her birthday so I plan to make these soon! The only issue is, I don’t have a stand mixer, only a hand mixer. Since I won’t have the paddle attachment, can I just use a spoon or spatula?

  22. Hi, I want to try these for New Year’s Eve, but I wanted a word of advice. Is it possible to add like a spoon of nutella, or a small piece of chocolate in the middle? I have this picture of it when you take a bite a melted chocolate comes out, I am just afraid that once they started baking and chocolate starts melting that it will ruin this rainbow beauty. πŸ™‚
    Thank you!

    1. Oh, shoot….totally missed this one for NYE πŸ™ So sorry. I think this sounds like a wonderful idea but I wouldn’t bake them with the nutella because the weight of it will seep all out. I would suggest to core the middle of the cupcake and put the nutella in that way. Sounds delicious!

    1. I really don’t think it’ll work. There are too many layers that either the cake will be huge or the colors will all get mixed in to be more of a tie dye look. If you decide to try, I’d love to know how it turns out.

  23. Not tried making these cupcakes yet but they look awesome. Going to make them for my daughters rainbow and unicorn themed birthday. I’m from Scotland and we have plain flour or self raising flour. The recipe just says flour. What one would i be best using? Thanks.

    1. I used all purpose flour (AP Flour) for this recipe so I would assume the plain flour you have in Scotland would be the same. Sounds like our daughters are very much alike!!

  24. I’m so excited to make these for my daughters 5th birthday , can I make the frosting the night before or should I make it the day of her birthday party?

    1. Personally, I would make it the day of but if you have to make it prior swap out the milk in the frosting with water so the milk doesn’t go rancid overnight. ? Hope she loves them!

  25. Hi! These are absolutely gorgeous! I want to try to make these the night before a potluck and was just wondering how should they be stored? Do they need to be refrigerated or can we leave them out overnight? Thank you!

    1. I would leave the cupcakes out but covered. Then I’d ice them the day you meant to eat them because there is milk in the frosting.You can make the icing the night before and leave it in the piping bag. Then in the morning take out the icing 30 minutes before you’re ready to go, snip off the end and ice. I even sometimes just roll the icing bag (assuming you haven’t snipped the end and you’ve rubber banded the end of it) on the counter to soften it faster. Don’t microwave or heat the icing to speed up the warming though.

    1. I’ve never tested it before but the recommendation for substituting cake flour for AP flour is to add an additional 2 tablespoons for every cup. I’d love to know how it turns out if you decide to try.

  26. I made this as instructed but used chocolate ganache for the frosting instead and it was a hit. The colors were so vibrant, made everyone feel happy – it’s moist and not to sweet! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    Rating: 5
  27. We really enjoyed this recipe, it may very well be a staple. We made this diabetic friendly, using a Splenda Naturals instead of sugar. The batter came out fantastic and it made great cupcakes. I didn’t use a lot of Coloring Gel, so my colors were more pastel. The only obstacle was the frosting. I didn’t have any confectioners, so I made my own. I ended up using all of remaining Splenda Naturals on the batter, so I used Ideal with a cornstarch blend. It just didn’t combine well with the butter and became very granular. The taste is fine, it just feels different in your mouth. That just gives me an opportunity to try something different for the next time. I still had a very happy 4yr old, as she was able to help and her wish for rainbow cupcakes came true.

  28. These cupcakes were amazing! I made them for my daughter’s birthday party and they were a big hit. My daughter especially loved the rainbow colors. Definitely the best cupcakes I have ever made. Thank you for the recipe!

    Rating: 5
  29. How did you keep the colors from mixing? I layered them using a spoon as suggested, and every single one of the colors became mixed up. Instead of looking like a layered rainbow, it looked more like a colorful marble. Any suggestions to prevent this from happening? Thank you!

    1. When you cut it from the inside, mine also look marbeled. πŸ™‚ You just have to gently spoon in the colors for the layered look on the outside. I’ve tried every way possible for it be layered all the way through and unfortunately it never worked….though it was a yummy experiment, haha!

  30. Oh my goodness. I never write comments but I’ve been baking my whole life and I swear these are some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had!! They were super moist and the frosting was so light. Instead of putting the batter in bowls I lined cups with the ziplock bags and just dumped the batter in. Then I kneaded the closed bag to get the colors to mix. The colors came out so vibrant and I didn’t have any clear vanilla extract so I used titanium dioxide instead. I’m definitely making these again!

    Rating: 5
  31. Amazing taste and so easy to make. But my top colour (red) oozed down through the cupcake and ended at the bottom?

    Rating: 5
  32. Hi Sabrina
    I will definitely try for my daughter’s cake sale at school. This is so awesome and know this will be sold out first!

  33. Making these today for our pride party we’re hosting tomorrow! They look gorgeous! I’m sure our kids will love these too! Thanks for the recipe!

  34. The recipe is a good tasting cake and frosting flavor. However, it made more than 24. By tge time I figured it out, my 24 cupcakes were overflowing the pan, and I had to use and lot of frosting to cover the rough edges, so not as pretty an outcome as I had hoped for.

  35. Plain and simple, these are fun cupcakes and delicious! The recipe is perfect as written and requires no improvement. Two questions: Instead of the colors being a straight line, mine sunk down in the center. Any tip to prevent that from happening? The cupcakes separated from the wrapper. Did I overspray with pam?Thank you for a great recipe!

    Rating: 5
    1. I’m so glad you loved them!! The only thing I can think of suggesting when it comes to the layers is to be very gentle when either piping or spooning each layer so they have a better chance of staying in layers. As far as them separating, it’s either from underbaking or allowing them to cool while still inside the tin. Make sure to remove them from the tin to cool. Hope this helps for next time!

    1. Sorry about the confusion.
      Everything after the food coloring gel on the ingredients list is for the frosting. So you’ll need 2 cups of butter total for this recipe.
      Hope this clears things up.