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How I saved Scarlett’s rainbow birthday cake from dying a terrible death New 2020


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My daughter had her 7th birthday party at Pump It Up, a colorful warehouse outfitted with numerous inflatable jumpy things. This operation is a birthday party machine. Parents need not lift a finger during the party; the children’s shoes and the parents purses are even carted along on a shelf with wheels as the party moves through the facility.

While any sane parent would have simply checked the box next to “ice cream cake” when signing up for the party, I have a tradition of making my children’s birthday treats, though I’m beginning to question why. I don’t have a special aptitude for it. I’ve just always thought it’s not that hard. I make cupcakes from a box and use store-bought frosting, and everyone’s happy and the whole thing costs about $10.

Here are Julian’s birthday cupcakes from a year or so ago.


(Find these adorable googly candy eyes on Amazon.)

Scarlett and I saw this tie-dye cake mix on the shelf at the store and bought it.


After adjusting Scarlett’s expectations that our cake would not resemble the picture on the box because a) I did not buy three packages of mix to make three circle cakes that need to be frosted together and b) I am not doing frosting and then fondant and then coloring fondant and then cutting fondant into circles and then poking my eyes out with a frosting knife. I’m just not doing that.

I thought it would be fun to cook it in a Bundt cake pan and then frost it with white and then each slice would be it’s own amazing little rainbow.

We made the mix, and followed the instructions to separate the batter into six bowls, one for each primary color and one for each secondary color. The package guided us to use the enclosed food coloring to turn each segment of batter to its assigned hue on the tie-dye spectrum. To our delight, the color mixing went off without a hitch and we actually made purple from red and blue. Or close enough.



Next we poured the batter, one color at a time into the non-stick bundt pan.

How to make a rainbow or tie-dye cake

Hmm. It filled only a fraction of the pan. I hoped that it would rise or else I only had enough cake to feed about six kids. We were expecting 15, plus siblings who sometimes show up in time for cake.

After the prescribed baking session, I let the cake cool, but perhaps not enough. When I attempted to flip the the cake over, it completely fell apart. Half the cake was glued to the top of the pan. Oh. Shit.

Tie-Dye Birthday Cake: What to do when it falls apart

I had embarked on this project the day before the party for just-in-case reasons, and now I had to consider my Plan Bs.

  • Do this same project over again and hope for better results. I realize that is the definition of insanity, but I suspected that more cooking and more cooling might produce a more sturdy cake.
  • Revert to my usual cupcake offering, taking comfort in the reliability of it.
  • Dig into my creative brain and upcycle this crumbled rainbow cake.

One of the key benefits of Good Ol’ Cupcakes is that you don’t have to cut and plate cake in front of a crowd of children. No one likes that parent-of-the-party-kid job, do they? After some hand-wringing and swearing and giving myself a pep talk in the kitchen, I came up with a new plan. I sent my husband to the store for whipping cream and clear plastic cups and I shut down Operation Rainbow Cake for the day.

In the morning, with a couple hours to go before the party, I made the whipped cream and put it in a tupperware in the fridge so that we could transport it to the party. I scooped a serving of tye-die cake pieces and crumbs into each plastic cup. We packed those in the car and went to the party. A few moments before the pizza was served, I topped each cup with fresh whipped cream. Suddenly my kitchen fail was a Pinterest-worthy dessert.


Wait, I said Pinterest-worthy, right? Here you go.


Bonus: I achieved the easy-to-pass-out dessert status I was afraid I’d miss. No public cake cutting for this party. Each child got a cup handed to him or her.

Next time, I’ll plan for cake cups (like cupcakes but accidental?) from the beginning so I don’t waste time crying over spilled crumbs.

Keyword: How I saved Scarlett’s rainbow birthday cake from dying a terrible death

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