Rainbow Cupcakes

Vibrant and tasty Rainbow Cupcakes topped with creamy Vanilla Buttercream taste as good as they look! With a fun colorful center, these cupcakes are sure to impress.

With just a little extra time you can create a magical treat that will receive oohs and ahhs. Try some more colorful treats like Homemade Funfetti Cake or Cosmic Brownies, or pair these magical creations with Cake Batter Cookies & Cream Ice Cream!

Rainbow Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and rainbow sprinkles

Every Kid’s Favorite Cupcake!

Sometimes you just need to make something cheery. Or maybe there is a birthday party or special occasion coming up! Since I’m in charge of planning activities for a group of girls from our church I almost always need bake a treat to eat afterwards. These rainbow cupcakes with vanilla buttercream seemed like perfectly happy treat! 

I made a similar version of these rainbow cupcakes a few years back, however I was in a pinch for time and decided to use a box mix. It’s the same process, but I prefer using my own vanilla cupcake recipe because they taste so much better!

Share these with 8 year old girls and they’ll love you forever. Seriously though, they thought these were the coolest cupcakes ever! And who could blame them? These are fun, vibrant and perfect for any occasion!

Cupcake with a bright rainbow center

How to Make Rainbow Cupcakes

BATTER. Cream butter and sugar until nice and fluffy (turns pale and doubles in size about 2-3 min). Add in vanilla extract (even better vanilla bean paste) and eggs. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Whisk them or sift them to remove any clumps (use cake flour as it gives these cupcakes their light and soft crumb).

Measure out the milk along with the sour cream (adds moisture and will also help create a tender, fluffy cupcake) .Alternate adding the dry ingredients along with the wet ingredients. Mix just until the batter comes together *do not to over mix it! 

COLOR. Grab some bowls to divide the batter in—I used red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple so I needed 6 bowls, but you can do however many colors you want. Layer each of the colors inside the cupcake liners one at a time until all of the batter has been used (liners should be filled ⅔ of the way full).

BAKE. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-28 minutes until the edges become lightly brown. Remove and allow to cool. 

Now onto the frosting!

*Tip: Start with room temperature ingredients for best results. 

BEAT. Place your room temperature butter into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl). Add a pinch of salt and vanilla. Beat until the butter becomes smooth and creamy. Carefully add the powdered sugar and then the heavy cream.

(Note: They key to really yummy frosting is beating it for 2 minutes after everything has been added so that it becomes really fluffy!)

PIPE. Pipe the frosting (or slather it) onto the cooled cupcakes and top with fun sprinkles.

Coloring the cupcakes:

  • Gel vs. Liquid: Liquid food coloring is much easier to mix in without accidentally overmixing the cupcake batter. Gel food coloring would be a better option for recipes that can withstand lots of extra mixing.
  • Best Layering Method: It is pretty easy when you put each colored batter into ziploc bags and cut a small hole in one of the corners. Squeezing each bag into the cupcake liners makes it nice and easy to make whatever color pattern you want. You can do your pattern in either a direct rainbow order, or all mixed up. 
  • Sprinkles: This would be one of the best cupcake recipes to use sprinkles in because it will make it even more rainbow colored!

Rainbow Cupcakes with sprinkles on a white plate

Recipe Tips + Tricks

Moist cupcakes:

  • To get moist cupcakes, you can use a variety of different ingredients. You can use shortening instead of butter or add more egg whites. The shortening adds lots of moisture and the use of just egg whites instead of full eggs adds lift.
  • When it comes to storing them, you want to keep them at room temp in an airtight container. If they are exposed to the air, it will dry out the cupcakes and they will lose some of that moisture.
  • Substitutes for sour cream? You can use buttermilk to get that moisture if you don’t have sour cream. You could also use greek yogurt if you want it to have a bit healthier of an option.

Do you spray cupcake liners? Nope! No need to spray cupcake liners. If you are not using liners, however, you need to spray the cupcake tin.

Storing/freezing? You can easily wrap each unfrosted cupcake in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Store the cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container for about a week. You can also store frosted cupcakes this way for about 3 days.

For more colorful recipes:

Rainbow Cupcakes Recipe

Vibrant and tasty Rainbow Cupcakes topped with creamy Vanilla Buttercream taste as good as they look! With a fun colorful center, these cupcakes are sure to impress.
5 from 2 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 18 mins
Total Time: 33 mins
Servings: 12 cupcakes
Calories: 369kcal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring
For Vanilla Buttercream
  • 2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - room temperature
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line one standard size muffin tin with cupcake liners, set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time until incorporated.
  • In a small mixing bowl whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. With mixing speed on low alternate adding dry ingredients and wet ingredients (milk and sour cream). Mix until no flour pockets remain.
  • Remove bowl from stand and evenly divide the batter between six bowls. Color each bowl as desired (I used six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) and then place a layer of each into every cupcake liner. The batter should fill each about 2/3 of the way full.
  • Place in oven and bake for 18-22 minutes or until the edges become lightly golden in color and the tops spring back. Be careful not to over bake! They will look slightly moist in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For Vanilla Buttercream
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter until smooth, about 1 minute. With mixing speed on low, add vanilla, salt and powdered sugar. The mixture will look clumpy, that's ok. Add the heavy cream and gradually increase mixing speed to high. Beat for 2-3 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy. Remove and pipe (or spread) onto cooled cupcakes. Top with desired sprinkles.

Notes

-A standard box cake mix can be used in place of the vanilla cupcake recipe. It will make 24 cupcakes which means you will need to double the buttercream recipe.
-I used six colors but you can use as many as you'd like. Just divide the batter evenly between however many bowls (colors) you want.

Nutrition

Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 74mg | Sodium: 202mg | Potassium: 103mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 587IU | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 1mg