Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tie Dye In A Cake

If someone were to ask you to name a few of the iconic fashions of the hippie era, you might say bell bottoms, fringe, items with peace symbols on them, ponchos, and...tie dye. Some of the other icons have disappeared, but tie dye is still around, at least in N. California. We have a shop down the road not ten minutes away that sells all manner of clothing items...including long underwear with a button seat flap!...and they are all tie dye.

I'm old enough to have seen it the first time around and I even know how to tie cloth and dip it in dye to get wild multicolored circles and swirls. I guess that's why my daughter's desire to bake a tie dye cake took my fancy. Usually I shy away from too much dye in foods, but she was planning to attend a 70s party and wanted to bring the cake. The cake mix, ordered from Amazon, came in a two pack, so we decided to give it a test run for Straight Shooter's birthday. It's Duff Gordon's Tie Dye Premium Cake Mix, in case you want to order it yourself. It also comes as a single box and in a pastel version, but this vibrant cake is such fun you may want two boxes.

If you looked at the cake sitting on it's cake stand on the hutch, it looked pretty, with lots of multi-colored sprinkles, but sort of plain. Straight Shooter's eyes popped when a slice was cut from the cake and he got the full impact of all those wild, mixed colors. This cake takes a little extra work, but it was worth it.

So how do you create the tie dye effect? The batter is divided into six small bowls and then you use a specific number of drops of the included gel food coloring to create a rainbow of colored batters.

After greasing one of the cake pans, you drop a measured amount of red in the middle of the pan. Then you drop the same amount of orange batter right in the middle of the red batter, which spreads the red toward the edge of the pan by displacement. That is followed by yellow batter, green batter, blue batter, and purple batter. Each color is dropped in the middle of the puddle of the last batter. It ends up looking like a very colorful bulls eye.

You do the same thing for the second pan, then bake them.

Because I can never leave good enough alone, we did two pools of color in the second pan and started one of the pools with blue instead of red, so there were two sets of colors. That made it trippy when you cut the cake. You didn't know which colors you would see on the top layer in which order.

I think that you could probably use your favorite white cake recipe for this and some gel food colors, but if you do, be sure to put the gel colors in the bowl before mixing up the batter, and have the cake pans prepared. That way there will be less time between when you finish mixing the batter and when the cake goes into the oven.

You can frost this anyway you like, or even use rolled out fondant. We didn't rally think about the impact that having a plain vanilla frosting hiding all that color would have when the color was revealed, but that was part of the appeal.

We used the funfetti comes with sprinkles, but we also added some multi-colored heart sprinkles that I found while I was getting ready for the remodel of the kitchen.

Combined they gave a very festive look to the cake.

I have to admit that we cleaned up all of the batter bowls and utensils outside with the hose.

We even did the batter scooping outside because it wasn't clear how messy it would be (pretty messy) and I'm not willing to find out how washable my new countertop really is yet. I know, I'm a wuss, but I want to enjoy its pristine beauty just a while longer.

So let me know if you end up making this cake, OK? It can be a blast from the past, or a fun project to do with the kids...or both.


  1. Wow that is certainly psycodellic! Looks impressive for a celebration though

  2. WOW!!!!! That would be worth just baking and not cutting/eating - it looks SO cool.

    I wonder if it would work with angel's food... if the colors would spread and mingle differently in a really high, light cake... hmmmmm.

    I've always had such food allergies that playing with food coloring feels risky, but some beet juice and blueberry/pom juice ought to do something interesting...

  3. Tanita, I think that angel food cake would work, but with fewer colors. When you mix in the color it might deflate some of the egg white. I tried it with raspberry puree and lemon zest (plus a little yellow food color) here:, and it worked out great. beet juice an blueberry juice would be even better for color. Mine were pretty pastel. Let me know how it goes, OK?

  4. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Had so much fun making these cakes with you, and I love the post! I was thinking about all the food coloring (not my favorite thing either, but sometimes a necessary evil) and saw the comments by others... looked at a few sites and found these - maybe something to consider if you want to play with color but avoid chemicals: