We keep food coloring on hand primarily to tint homemade playdough and to make fake blood. Really, it's never used for food. But then when the just-turned-five-year-old asks for the rainbow cake for her party, what's a mom to do?
The cake recipe comes from a Lubavitch cookbook and yes, those ladies know how to feed a crowd. Their zeal for kashrut can lead to recipes with nasty fake ingredients. The results are dairy-free cakes which can be served at a meat meal. When you're already using non-dairy creamer, food coloring probably seems minor, but nonetheless it generally stays out of our food.
Today, however, I tinted three separate bowls of batter all sorts of garish colors and stirred in the zest of lemons, limes, and oranges. The cake itself was at least redeemed with real food: butter and half-and-half took the place of the suspicious nondairy ingredients. There was lemon custard filling to go between the layers and excessively sweet orange frosting. It wasn't the prettiest thing, but my brilliant husband suggested a light scattering of calendula petals which made the whole thing presentable. Three layers of sugary, multicolored cake? What could be more perfect for a fifth birthday party?
I said, with some contempt, that it tasted more like a bakery cake than homemade. Not delicious, but showy. If you simply must make it, let me know and I'll type up the recipe. Or you can just look at the pictures.