Nothing says 'happy birthday!' like a Funfetti cake, and our recipe upgrades the fun

  • Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cake. Silky, white chocolate and cream cheese frosting is just sweet enough.

    Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cake. Silky, white chocolate and cream cheese frosting is just sweet enough. Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post

By Becky Krystal
The Washington Post

Rainbows and their close relatives, unicorns, have infiltrated everything from bagels to Frappuccinos. But to me, an edible rainbow in its most unadulterated form (as unadulterated as waxy artificially colored candy can be, anyway) is Funfetti cake.

Pillsbury can be credited with -- or blamed for -- the concept since it unleashed its cake mix on the world in 1989, right about when I entered prime elementary school birthday party age. Now I can't help but feel nostalgic and happy when I see a rainbow sprinkle cake.

And nothing screams "birthday!" louder than this festive three-layer beauty.

If the boxed cake mix from the grocery store is more your thing, you'll get no judgment from me. But I think blogger, cookbook author and TV host Molly Yeh has improved on that shelf staple with her interpretation, which boasts a cake that is tender, white and designed to bake up into even, easy-to-stack layers (a kitchen scale guarantees cakes of equal size). Yeh recommends using artificially dyed, store-bought sprinkles for the best color and distribution in the cake batter. She also prefers imitation vanilla extract in this recipe, so if you have it, feel free to use it. We made the cake with pure vanilla extract as well and couldn't tell the difference.

Yeh's original recipe featured a smooth, white buttercream that was not at all saccharine. Tasters loved it, but we ultimately decided to go in a different direction by pairing her cake with a silky, tangy white chocolate cream cheese frosting from cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum. The end result is flavorful with just the right amount of sweetness.

You'll have a generous 5 cups of frosting. We scaled up the original recipe, which didn't quite make enough for a three-layer cake. If you don't want to use it all on the cake (yes, we see the nutritional analysis; and yes, very small pieces are OK), extra frosting can be refrigerated or frozen -- or eaten with a spoon.

Have some fun decorating the cake, whether it's covering the whole thing with sprinkles or placing a minimal ring around the edge. Put your own signature stamp on it by using multiple types and shapes of sprinkles to create layers of texture. Whatever you do, be sure to light a candle on top and make a wish -- to have this cake again next year.

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