Rainbow Frosted Cupcakes: Colorful clouds of cupcake icing couldn't be easier

I wonder what it is about rainbows that enchants us so much? I know I rush to the window as rainstorms cease, hoping to see the colors spread across the sky. In spring I see cars on the highway slow as they glimpse the curve of the bow across the mountains on the drive home.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started hanging crystals in our east-facing windows. I’m not trying to be full of woo or feng shui, but I do love to wake up and see the sparkle and play of light. It lifts my mood and reminds me of the sparkle of jewels. I can’t afford to own the Hope Diamond, but this is my way of bringing the same joy to my home on a dime.

Care to join me in the love of rainbows, up close? Small crystals found tucked in the junk box at a yard sale, lone pieces of chandelier at the thrift store, or a birthday gift of a faceted globe are ways  you can add color and light to your house, too.

Then again, we’re bakers, aren’t we? Why not take our love of rainbows to the kitchen with us, and make colorful, joyful, treats to share with those we love? I promise that these Rainbow Frosted Cupcakes are not only stunning – they’re really, really easy to do.

First, whip up a batch of your favorite vanilla frosting. You’ll need about 3 cups total, divided into 3 equal portions.

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Tint each portion one of the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue). You can make them bright or pastel, depending on your mood. I like the look of the pastels, and used about 8 to 10 drops of gel paste food color per cup of icing.

Place each color in a separate zip-top bag and trim off one corner. This temporary piping bag will make spreading your colors easier.

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Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Try for about 14″ to 16″ long; you’ll need some extra length for rolling.

In the center of the strip use your zip-top bags to pipe out fat strips of icing. You’ll use about half a cup of icing for each strip, about half of each bag.

Pipe the icing strips side by side, with the blue in the center. Think back to your color wheel; red plus blue make purple; yellow and blue make green, and yellow and red will make peach/orange.

Roll the plastic up jelly-roll style, and twist one end closed. Keep the other end open for the icing to flow out of.

Repeat with the remaining icing to make a second roll, setting it aside for now.

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Now, here’s the only place where you’ll need some specialty equipment. Luckily, you can find large (16″ or larger) piping bags and tips locally fairly easily. Try the cake decorating section of your local craft store or party store. Open star tips and closed star tips make the best cupcake swirls, but you can use round tips as well.

Place the plastic twist of colored icing into the bag, open section down. Twist the bag closed and press the icing towards the tip. As you squeeze, all three colors will come out, both separately and blended together where they meet.

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To pipe those bakery style swirls, think of your cupcake as a clock. Begin at 4, and pipe clockwise around to 3. As you get to 3, lift the tip and move it slightly towards the center. The bands of icing will overlap and build upward, creating the spiral.


Now that’s a rainbow! A cloud of frosty goodness, a prism of sweetened sunshine.

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From plain cupcakes to out of this world creations, in about 20 minutes. Seriously.

Once you have the rolls of colors made up it’s a breeze to pipe one cake after the other. Simply by rotating where you hold the bag, you can change which colors show up where on the cakes, making each one unique.


A cacophony of color, a flight of fantasy. Beautiful for birthdays, gorgeous for graduation. Make your friends ecstatic at Easter, flabbergasted on the 4th of July. Just think, you can change up your color combinations, too. Try red, white, and blue for summer parties; red, green, and white for the holidays.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I think you could easily color your icings naturally, too. Blueberry, strawberry, and pomegranate juices might do the trick; or grinding freeze-dried fruits to powder. Even shades of chocolate and white would make for some incredible cupcakes.

Remember, the world is your crayon box. Bring rainbows of color wherever you wish and, as always, take time to share the joy with those you love.

From me to you – Happy Spring!

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. Irene Carroll

    This is so innovative and instructions are easy to follow. I will definitely try this soon. Thank you!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Connie, this frosting can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a week in advance. If you’d like to make it further ahead, then you can freeze the frosting in airtight containers for up to three months. You might want to re-whip the frosting in your mixer before using to make sure it has the right body and texture. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Adrianne Jamieson

    Thanks Mary Jane for this fabulous post! I used it as inspiration to make some tri-coloured buttercream frosted cupcakes tonight. I loved how you explained what you did as it made it so easy for me to follow. Thanks and love your work!

    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Thanks Adrianne! I’m thinking of some Halloween colors later this week. 🙂 ~ MJ

  3. jessica ligon

    my daughter loves to cook a lot and .I think for ä twelve year old she will enjoy it. I love that she loves to cook and can’t wait till she makes it.

  4. Linda Thompson

    This is a great idea. What tip did you use? I make disposable bags out of freezer paper so you can throw the bag away when you are done. Very easy to do. I suggest to the people having trouble filling cupcake papers to use a scooper to fill the papers. You get the same size cupcakes every time:)

    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi Linda,
      I have a set of large decorating tips that I use for cupcakes, but I don’t know specifically which one I used for this project. I know it’s one of the large closed stars. Hope this helps. ~ MJ

  5. Rockycat

    Just to follow up…These cupcakes were the hit of the bake sale. We priced them twice as high as the plain cupcakes and they just about flew off the table. Thanks for the great idea and advice.

    The other hit was the German Chocolate Mini cakes from your site. I was able to punch out 6 mini cakes and 3 “baby” cakes from the 9 x 13 sheet and used the cake scraps to make Black Forest Trifles. All were a great success.

  6. Rockycat

    About how many standard-sized cupcakes will the accompanying buttercream recipe frost? My 13 yo wants to make the rainbow cupcakes for a bake sale this weekend and I have no idea now much frosting she will need.

    1. Susan Reid

      That depends entirely on how you’re frosting the cupcakes. If you’re piping a swirl top, you’ll need a double or triple batch for 24 cupcakes. If you’re spreading the frosting on with a knife or spatula, 3 cups is enough for 2 dozen, assuming 2 tablespoons of frosting on each. Susan

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