I don’t know about everybody else, but I l.o.v.e. birthdays. I celebrate all birthdays, even half birthday’s. The first time I was going to meet The BFs parents, we were driving out on his half birthday. We had only been dating maybe a month at that point, and this would be our first “car trip” together. It’s about 2 1/2 hour drive out to the coast of Connecticut where his family lives. As we’re driving and there is a lull in the conversation I suddenly remember it’s his half birthday. I quickly turn to him and possibly shout (he claims it was loud, I’m pretty sure it was my normal voice) “OHMIGOSH! It’s your half birthday! HAPPY HALF BIRTHDAY!”
Once he managed to regain control of the car he looked at me like suddenly he wasn’t so sure this was the girl he wanted to bring home to meet the parents. See, I love The BF, but he’s a bit of a grump when it comes to age issues. Possibly because I’m a few years younger than him (on his next birthday we will no longer be in the same decade age range, and on some surveys will also no longer be in the same age bracket), or possibly because he’s secretly a grouch. I don’t care. I have enough cheer and excitability the both of us, I think it evens out.
Honestly, I would even consider celebrating un-birthdays. You know, from Alice in Wonderland where the Mad Hatter and his crazy rabbit friend are hosting a tea party for their un-birthday? I would totally do that. Except that’s a lot of cake, and then how do you make sure the cake you make for your actual birthdays (your birthday and your half birthday, that is) is really special? I can’t take that kind of pressure.
Well, there was a confluence of awesome events that happened a few weeks ago. For one, it was my friend Kaylee’s birthday. I naturally got over excited for this and started planning wonderful things. Except, she lives in Boston (or now Portland) and I don’t, and have you seen my joint Google calendar with The BF? We are literally booked solid every weekend until the middle of November. I have no idea when responsibility took over my life, but I am not enjoying it. So then it struck me: I have been dying to make cupcakes in jars since, oh forever. Or at least since I found out that you could. It would be perfect. I would bake Kaylee birthday cupcakes in jars!
I immediately informed her that she had no say in the matter and send me your mailing address STAT! I was very excited. I had decided I was going to make rainbow cupcakes. Because, despite having bookmarked an awesome recipe for whiskey cupcakes I thought something brighter would be good for Kaylee’s birthday (though she may get a package of whiskey cupcakes on her half birthday, shh don’t tell); plus on my new favorite website (slash time-suck) Pinterest everyone and their mother was pinning rainbow cupcakes in jars.
I have made rainbow cupcakes once before, to celebrate Minnesota’s 151st birthday of being a state (don’t ask, maybe I’ll tell you the story sometime, it’s complicated). But I didn’t really like the recipe I had used. So I turned to my trusty Baking Illustrated cookbook and looked up their recipe for a classic white cake. Let me tell you, I have never seen such dedication to baking anywhere else as with the author’s of Cook’s Illustrated. And if you like reading cookbooks like I do (I know I’m a total freak), then you’ll love Baking Illustrated because not only does it tell you how to precisely bake something, it tells you why that method was the preferred one in the first place. It’s genius!
So I adapted their recipe for white cake only slightly, so that it had more of an almond flavor and was rainbow-colored (duh), and set to work. I don’t know how this final product tasted – Kaylee said it was delicious, and I have since made the recipe several times over – but the batter came together like a breeze, despite it’s slightly unconventional preparation method; and because it was baked in a jar, it got a really nice dome to it.
I don’t know how the other lady got such great stripes on her cupcakes, but my method yielded more of a tie-dye, mottled rainbow effect, which I actually really liked. I used Wilton’s icing colors to get the really vibrant colors you see here, oh and Ateco’s “Bright Red” which is awesome. And I can’t tell you how many times I had to say “ROY-G-BIV” over and over in my head while I was layering the colors. I also sang this song I learned on piano when I was maybe 8: “There’s red, orange, yellow and green and blue, and indigo, violet, every hue. And where can you find, a pot of pure gold? At the end of the rainbow or so I’ve been told.” Yeah it was a day of reliving childhood.
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour
- ½ cup milk, room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup + 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
- red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple food coloring
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place 4 8oz canning jars that have been thoroughly washed and dried on a rimmed baking sheet. Lightly grease the insides of the jars with cooking spray.
- In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup stir together with a fork the egg whites, milk and flavorings. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder with the paddle attachment.
- Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour mixture mixing on low and gradually increasing the speed to medium to break up the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
- Add ¾ of the milk and egg white mixture to the batter. Beat on medium (for a stand mixer) or high (for a hand-held mixer) for a minute and a half until batter comes together and is smooth and pale. It may look a little fluffy.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining milk mixture. Mix on medium for 20 seconds, scrape down bowl and mix on medium for another 30 seconds until the batter is again light and smooth.
- Separate the batter evenly into five separate bowls.
- Working with one color at a time, starting with the purple (you're going to layer the colors of the rainbow backwards so the red is on top) mix in the food coloring and then drop a spoonful of the batter into the bottom of each jar, divide it equally among the jars. Let the batter settle a little on its own while you mix the blue. Again drop spoonfuls of the batter divided evenly among the jars letting it settle on its own. Repeat with the remaining colors.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back to a light touch. Let cool on a wire rack.
- Top with your favorite vanilla/white frosting (I used my trusty buttercream frosting with a few drops of bright white to enhance the white color) and sprinkles.