These gluten-free rainbow cupcakes with fluffy cloud-like vanilla frosting that is guaranteed to make anyone who sees them smile. These gluten-free cupcakes are perfect for birthday parties, St Patrick's Day, and Pride celebrations.
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These fun cupcakes are a kid-friendly gluten-free dessert and perfect for parties. I like to pair them with a richer dessert like our gluten-free chocolate cake with Bailey's butter cream. Or add them to a dessert platter with our gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free sugar cookies.
📖Why This Recipe Works
These cupcakes are perfect for bakers that are new to gluten-free. And while you can use any base GF vanilla or yellow cake recipe, I use a doctored-up gluten-free cake mix so we can get to the fun faster.
Using gel, not water-based food coloring gives these rainbow cupcakes an intense color. This is also why I like them better funfetti cupcakes which tend to look pale and bland to me.
And unlike when making a rainbow layer cake, no weighing out the batter for each color.
A fluffy whipped white frosting and rainbow sprinkles complete the look.
For this recipe I used King Arthur's yellow cake mix (gluten-free). For the recipe I have included quantities for 22 ounce baking mixes and 15 ounce baking mixes. White cake mix is preferred for richer colors but is harder to find gluten-free.
Regardless of the mix you choose you will need:
- Butter-Always use butter even when the mix calls for oil for a more flavorful cupcake. Be sure to use softened butter.
- Eggs- For extra richness you can add an extra yolk.
- Milk- You can use plant based milk if avoiding dairy.
- Vanilla- Store bought cake mixes need a boost of flavor. Add extra vanilla.
- Food Coloring- Gel is preferred and will result in better colors but you can use powdered or water based if you prefer.
- Cocoa Powder- Just a splash or cocoa powder in the red batter enhances the color.
Whipped Vanilla Frosting
- Egg Whites- Use one of the extra yolks in the cake batter.
- Cream of Tartar- Used to stabilize the egg whites for a perfect consistency.
- Vanilla Extract
- Salt- Just a pinch but don't skip.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
⏲️How to Make Rainbow Cupcakes
Before starting on the cupcake batter, preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Step 1- Make Batter
Start by beating the butter until fluffy. This typically takes 2 minutes on high speed. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk. Beat until smooth.
Add the cake mix ⅓ at a time and blend on low until incorporated. Don't over mix.
Step 2- Divide and Color
Divide the batter into 6 bowls. It doesn't have to be exact (unlike if you were making a layer cake), so eyeballing it is fine.
Add 6 drops of the gel color into the bowl and stir. Continue to add the food coloring until the desired color is acheived. Add cocoa powder to the red bowl for a deeper color.
For the red color layer, add 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder to the batter to achieve a deeper red color.
Step 3- Bake
Add one teaspoon of each color of batter to each cupcake line. Starting with purple on the bottom, top with blue, green, yellow, orange, and red on top.
Let the cupcakes rest for 10 minutes before baking. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes. The cupcakes are ready when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool for 30 minutes before decorating.
Step 4- Whipped Frosting
This frosting is cooked and requires a double boiler. It is essentially is a type of 7 minute frosting. To make a double boiler add water, at least an inch deep, to a medium sized saucepan.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Place a metal bowl on top. This will create an indirect heat.
Note: The bowl should not touch the water.
Add all the ingredients to the bowl and use a hand mixer to beat on high for at least 5 minutes, but likely closer to 7 minutes. The frosting is done when stiff peaks form.
Rest the frosting for 5 minutes before decorating the cupcakes. The frosting can be piped or spread on with a spatula.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Baking Tips
- Use room temperature eggs, they incorporate into the softened butter better.
- Add an extra yolk for a creamier texture.
- Always rest gluten free batters before baking. The flours need to rehydrate.
- Only fill every other space in your muffin tin. This creates a more uniform heating environment so you get a domed appearance.
- Be careful not to overbake, it will dull the color of the cupcakes.
💭 Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Cupcakes
This gluten-free recipe is easily made dairy-free by substituting vegan butter and non-dairy milk when making the batter. Most gluten-free cake mixes are dairy-free but always check the ingredient label.
Our vanilla frosting recipe is naturally dairy-free.
For this recipe you need a mixing bowl and pan to make your double boiler. For baking I have been using a Kitchen Aid muffin tin. It heats so evenly.
And to make the frosting you absolutely need to have a hand mixer. I recently purchased a new cordless hand mixer that I am obsessed with. It is so easy to use!
Store the decorated cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container. Good for 2-3 days.
Leftover cupcakes can be torn into pieces and layers with whipped cream for a fun trifle dessert.
More Gluten- Free Treats
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Sprinkles are naturally gluten free and should not contain any gluten based ingredients. However, they may be manufactured on shared lines so always check the label.
Yes! Bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean.
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Gluten Free Rainbow Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Line a cupcake tin with muffin liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Mix until smooth.½ cup unsalted butter, 4 eggs, ⅔ cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Slowly add cake mix and mix until just combined.1 box yellow cake mix ( 22 oz)
- Equally divide batter into 6 separate bowls. Add a 4 to 6 drops of gel color ( a different color in each bowl) and mix each batter until color is evenly distributed. Add more gel as needed to get a vibrant color. Add the cocoa powder to the red bowl for a richer color.Gel food coloring, 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- Using a small spoon add a teaspoon of each color to the cupcake liners starting with purple and ending with red.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 16-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool on rack.
- Whisk the sugar, egg whites, water, vanilla, cream of tartar and salt in a large metal bowl set over a double boiler ( a mixing pan set over a sauce pan of simmering water).⅔ cup granulated sugar, 2 egg whites, ¼ cup cold water, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, Pinch kosher salt
- While on the double boiler, beat with a hand mixer on high for 5 to 7 minutes until stiff peaks form.
- Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let cool 5 minutes. Pipe or use a small spatula spread onto the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.¼ cup rainbow sprinkles
- For a 15 ounce box of cake mix use 3 eggs, ⅓ cup of butter, and ½ cup of milk.
- To make this recipe dairy-free use vegan butter and non-dairy milk.
Browse our gluten-free rainbow cake webstory.