Spring has finally sprung around these parts, and it’s a good thing too. My cousin was dropping off her daughter for the day. And that meant one thing: it was time for a trip to the zoo.
See, I don’t have the latest Sesame Street videos or Nintendo Wii games. What I do have is an annual pass to the zoo. And that means, if you leave your child with me for a day, they’re going to see some animals. Unfortunately, nature didn’t get that memo.
It was raining so hard Saturday morning, I almost had to swim to the car to get my niece.
‘Have fun!’ said my cousin.
‘You too!’ I sputtered back through the rain.
‘Eeeeiiiik!’ shrieked my niece as she sprinted through my front door to dry land.
Fifteen minutes and a dryer’s-load of bath towels later, I was sitting face to face with a five year old girl, zoo pass rendered useless by the raging monsoon. A lesser man might have just turned on the Disney channel and called it a draw. Not me.
‘Hey Abby, why don’t we make some cupcakes?’ Now I had her attention.
‘What flavor?’ she asked. This was too easy.
‘Rainbow.’ Her eyes went wide. Game, set, and match.
This recipe is really, really simple, and kids love the colors. All you need is a box of light-colored cake mix and about a gallon of food coloring. After that, just a little patience and a bunch of bowls to mix the colors will do it.
Start by making the cake mix according to the directions on the box. We used white cake mix because that’s what I had in the cabinet, but yellow, banana, and lemon are all good options. Once you’ve got the batter made, divide it up into separate bowls, one for each color. We made six colors, so we used six bowls.
Add food coloring to each bowl individually. You will need a lot. A whole lot. Enough that you may start wondering how the FDA determined these dyes are food-safe. I think we put 30 drops in each bowl. The colors fade a little when you bake them, so if you want an intensely colored cake, you need really intense batter. Otherwise, you’ll end up with pastel cupcakes. Remember, you can mix dye for different colors, like red and blue to make purple.
Once you’ve got your bowls full of colors, spoon a little of each into the cupcake tins without blending the colors. We lined ours with paper for easy removal. Bang the tins on the counter to smooth the batter a little.
We got 24 cupcakes out of the box mix and baked them according to the directions on the back. 16 minutes and one rather long game of Go Fish later, they came out of the oven. And they were gorgeous. Hot too, so after Abby got a look at her creation, they went into the freezer to cool down. I could hardly return Abby to her mom with third degree burns on her hands, now could I?
We frosted them with a jar of that frosting that has colored candy in it to complete the effect, and then ate them right then and there. I was just polishing off my third or fourth when the sun broke through the clouds, probably making a rainbow of its own somewhere.
‘Hey Abby, what do you think about a trip to the zoo?’
I owed it to her mom to burn off some of this sugar.
1 box light-colored cake mix + eggs and oil required to make it
- Prepare mix as directed on the box.
- Spoon batter into bowls, one for each color.
- Add enough dye for each color to make it very intense.
- Spoon each color into lined cupcake tins, being careful not to blend colors together.
- Bake according to box directions.
- Cool (in the freezer if you have an impatient little helper) and frost.