Tie Dye Birthday Cakes

Tie-dye cake

There's nothing quite like cutting into a dessert and finding a surprise inside. Although a tie-dye cake may seem difficult to make, it's no trickier than separating your batter into several bowls, coloring each one, and then swirling them together before baking. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also whip up a tie-dye frosting to match what's inside. Food coloring, whether water- or gel-based, is the primary supply you need for tackling such a colorful birthday cake.

How to Tie-Dye Cake Batter

To make a tie-dye cake, you'll need enough yellow or white cake batter to fill two eight- or nine-inch round cake pans. A standard cake mix makes enough batter for the project.

  1. Mix up the batter as your cake mix or recipe directs, keeping it in one large bowl.
  2. Divide the batter up into a number of smaller bowls. You'll need one bowl for each color you want in your finished cake. If you don't care about being too precise, it's okay to just eyeball the amounts. But if you want truly equal portions of batter, tare and weigh your batter bowl with a kitchen scale or empty the batter into a large measuring cup before you begin. Then, you can make sure that each bowl ends up with the same amount of batter.
  3. Tint each bowl of batter with food coloring. It's fine to use the water-based food coloring that is commonly available at grocery stores, but gel food coloring will give a richer hue with less dye and won't thin the consistency of the batter. You can find gel color at cake decorating specialty stores and some large grocery stores. Using just a few drops of color will create pastel shades; more color will result in deeper, richer shades.
  4. Prepare your cake pans by coating the bottoms with circles of parchment paper and coating the pans with cooking spray or a mixture of flour and butter.
  5. Using a measuring cup or a series of large spoons, transfer half of each color of batter to each pan. For example, if you're working with red, pink, orange, and yellow batters, put half of each in one pan and then put the rest of the batter, color by color, in the other pan in reverse order. Place each scoop of batter right in the middle of the pan so it will spread all the way to the edge of the cake and end up in every slice.
  6. Bake the cake layers as directed in your cake mix or recipe, let them cool, stack them, and frost them.

You can use entirely different colors of batter in your cake (red, blue, yellow, orange, green, and purple), just a couple of colors for a two-toned cake, or many shades of the same color for a layered or saturated effect. Note that although you can swirl the colors of batter in the pan or place them around the pan at intervals, not every color is likely to end up in every slice unless you layer them on top of one another.

How to Tie-Dye Cake Frosting

There are a few ways to tie-dye your frosting.

swirl method of tie dye frosting

Swirl Method

The simplest is to spread on a single color with a knife or flat spatula, add generous dollops of a second color on top, and swirl the two together. If you have a pastry bag, frosting tip, and coupler, you can also load a variety of frosting colors into the bag at once and use the tip to decorate the cake with swirls of the combined colors.

Explosion of Color Method

A more complicated method creates circular explosions of color that look a bit like fireworks.

  1. Frost the cake with an even layer of plain white buttercream, and smooth out the frosting with a knife or flat spatula.
  2. Load a pastry bag with a small amount of one frosting color, and attach a thin round decorating tip to the bag with a coupler. Pipe several circles of frosting around the top of the cake.
  3. Wash and dry the pastry bag or fill a second bag with a different color of frosting. Using the same decorating tip, pipe circles of frosting either inside or outside the first circles.
  4. Repeat the procedure with every color of frosting you want to use.
  5. Starting at the center of each concentric circle, drag a toothpick or the tip of a knife through all the colors. Repeat at intervals around the circle for a "fireburst" look. You can also start at the edge of the circle and drag inward if you want smaller, more decorative circles.

Festive Tie-Dye Cakes

Tie-dye cakes tend to be hits at kids' birthday parties, especially if you're able to keep the cake colors a surprise until it's time to cut the dessert. To create the best presentation possible, frost your cake evenly and use bright, bold colors.

Tie Dye Birthday Cakes