Colorburst Cupcakes

My Mom is a really creative woman. I didn’t realize it until I grew up and became a mother myself. Now that I look back on the birthday parties she threw and the incredible cakes she created, I’m really amazed at the things she came up with back in the day when you couldn’t run to Target or Walmart and basically buy a party in a bag. Halloween costumes were no exception. We never, ever had store-bought costumes growing up. My Mom was a great seamstress and her creativity had no boundaries. I look at old family pictures and I love how she took simple ideas and turned them into something fun. Take me for example, around age 5:

That my friends, is a rainbow. And I thought it was the coolest costume ever. I was obsessed with this chick, and if you look at every picture I ever created out of any sort of art media between the ages of 3 and 9, it undoubtedly included 3 things: hearts, flowers, and rainbows. To this day, I still get a little bit giddy inside when I see all of those colors together. Something about rainbows just makes me happy.

So it’s no wonder these cupcakes make me smile.  Every time 🙂

Gel food colors work especially well for this. Gel color adds a ton of color with a small amount of dye. You can find gel colors at craft stores like Michaels and Roberts, and in the cake decorating isle of Walmart. If using red, make sure to get the one that says “No Taste”

Divide your batter and tint each one

Then layer it by color into the cupcake papers.  (See my tips in the recipe for easy layering).  Sometimes I do red on top and sometimes I do the reverse so blue is on top.

Bake them up

And cool them on a rack before frosting.

Then you can frost and decorate to your heart’s desire!

The best part comes when you peel off that paper.  Use white liners to show off the colors, or foil or dark liners to make it a surprise!

Even better is taking the first bite and seeing the inside:

Try them with the color of your favorite sports team, or your kids’ school colors.  They’re sure to be a hit!



Sara Wells
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I am making these tonight for my son’s 1st birthday tomorrow and am so excited!! My 7 year old can’t wait to help me make these. They look fantastic!

  2. I made these for my daughter’s 2nd birthday with a Sesame Street theme and they turned out amazing! The primary colors were perfect for the theme. Even the paper was pretty when you pulled it off! I think every single person at the party commented on them, and best of all, they tasted DELICIOUS! Thanks for the idea… (and the tips!)

  3. I just made these cupcakes for my daughter’s 2nd birthday and they were so yummy. I used strawberry flavored yogurt. I also tried the frosting and it was great and pretty easy to make. The layers on the cupcake were not so easy, but I’m not a perfectionist, so I wasn’t too picky! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. THANKS SO MUCH!!!!! For the inspiration…. I used same sort of idea for cookies my 4yr old said “FABULOUS mommy” he loved them thanks again my cookies looked so cute and colorful.

  5. Thanks so much for the inspiration… did same sort of thing with cookies my 4yr old LOVED them turned out awesome

  6. happened to see the “rainbow cupcakes” (exactly like the picture) at a community garage/bake sale. Bought 1 just to see what it was like. wonderful colors. any child will love this. i will definitely be making these for Easter .

  7. So I made these cupcakes twice, a practice round and then for the birthday party. The first batch didn’t seem to have any flavor, so with the second batch I used strawberry yogurt instead of vanilla and it was awesome.

  8. My riding instructor always makes me back cause I cut corners, few weeks back i made horse cookies. I think ill make these next 🙂

  9. I wanted to have some sort of rainbow food for my GSA booth at my schools involvement fair next week… these look perfect! Can’t wait to try them out. Thanks so much!

  10. These are adorable! I plan on making these for my girls, however I will be using a gluten free cake mix (Betty Crocker) due to their allergies. The gluten free mix calls for different ingredient add ins than a normal cake mix. Is it safe to assume that I can just follow the cake recipe on the box and use the same assembling steps in this recipe?
    Sorry for the simplicity of my question. I am very new to baking and even newer to gluten free baking. 🙂

  11. Amazing idea, my daughters 6th birthday is coming up in March and she would love these. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

  12. These look amazing! I am assuming that the yogurt is for moistness – is that ( or sour cream) a must ingredient?

    1. You definitely want the yogurt–it’ll make the cupcakes delicious (and yep, it’s for moistness).

  13. wait, it’s got to matter what I add. I mean, I would only add if there was a benefit but this mix seems to have the same ingredients others substitute. I think I better stick with the box as I have limited time and one shot :). I like your initial idea but am afraid it will be too thick to get neatly in the jars.

  14. Maybe this mix doesn’t need doctoring as it uses 3 eggs already and milk and oil, not water (3 eggs, 2/3 cups milk and oil (forget how much)

    1. Yes, we bake lots of cupcakes in jars around here!

      It doesn’t really matter how much you add to your mix because you can always just make more jars, so just add what you like. We often add sour cream or pudding to doctor up our mixes. Good luck!

  15. Question for you. I bought an organic white cake mix to do something similar that I saw on another site (rainbow in a jar I like the idea of doctoring up the mix; however, I need to get my batter into a 1 pint canning jar. Since this is so think I’m wondering what I can do to improve the batter so it’s more homemade-ish but not thicken too much? Maybe just add an extra egg, a couple drops of vanilla and use milk instead of water? Just curious what you think.

    For those of you wondering, you can actually BAKE your cupcakes IN the canning jars. I’ve done lots of reading on this the past couple of days. You bake right in the jar, filling about a third of the jar. I’m making Chanukah gifts so my colors will be yellow, blue, and maybe a layer of plain mix not colored so I have the Chanukah colors. Then I will personalize the jars with a paint pen, add a piece of fabric on the lid, ribbons.

    Thanks for the suggestions in advance.

  16. These cubcakes are so cute!
    My kids can’t have artificial food dye (and I avoid it for me too) so I want to attempt something with natural colors. I have used natural food dye in the past, but I’m out right now and can’t buy more at the moment. I don’t want to experiment too much with different foods for the colors because I don’t want to ruin it, so I’m just going to do yellow and purple for my first attempt for my daughter’s 5th birthday party tomorrow.

    I think I will just use a lemon cake mix for the yellow (it gets the color from the egg yolks) but the purple will be a little trickier to figure out.
    I will use some blueberry juice for purple (I’m using a vanilla cake mix for that one) but I don’t want the batter to be too runny and get messed up. Should I use less milk if I’m adding blueberry juice? I won’t add tons, just enough to get some nice color. I’ve also heard that if you boil the plant based juice you want to use for coloring, it concentrates it so it’s more color for less liquid than it would be using straight juice. I’m going to try that. Also, I plan to use yogurt, is there much of a difference in flavor between plain and vanilla?

    I’ll leave a link with pictures after I make them! Thanks so much!

  17. Thank you, thank you for this awesome recipe! I used it for my daughter’s 5th rainbow-themed birthday party and made an entire cake (as opposed to cupcakes) – it turned out amazing! Make sure to serve it on simple white plates so that the colors look especially cool :).

  18. Do I have to use all the extra ingredients like the yogurt veg.oil etc.?? Or can I just use the white cake mix?? or also is it possible to us a diff cake mix besides white???

    1. No, you can certainly make any cake recipe you want. Just make sure it’s light colored so it doesn’t affect the colors!

  19. Can you use food coloring instead of the gels, or will it not turn out the same? These are adorable!

  20. My 3 year old son saw a picture of these cupcakes, and insisted that I make them for his birthday party. Leading up to his birthday, if anyone asked what he wanted for his birthday, he would answer “Rainbow Cupcakes.” It was his only request. He was so happy when I made them for his party and everybody loved them. Thanks for the great recipe!

  21. I am now obsessed with colored cakes for my kids’ birthdays! My son had the whole rainbow cake, and for my daughter’s birthday it is half pink and half purples…love it! The best part is, this cake tastes amazing, too! Love the added yogurt and the fluffiness after you beat it for two minutes 🙂 You have made me a much cooler mom 🙂 Thanks!

  22. Love this recipe, I used it to re-enforce colors with my toddler boys. It is such a moist cake. Def going to get your cookbook!!

  23. I loved these! They were the first cupcakes ive ever attempted and they turned out great. 🙂

  24. Can I use the Pillsbury moist supreme. Classic white cake mix? It says it has 1 cup pudding in the mix???