Rainbow Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

from 10 votes

Rainbow Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting and sprinkles on white plate

Two words: rainbow cupcakes.

While the festive colors may have been what caught your eye, I guarantee it’s the sugar cookie-esque taste that will grab your taste buds’ attention. Cupcakes that taste like sugar cookies? Yes indeed!

These light, buttery, impossibly moist cupcakes star six layers of rainbow colors that bake up into a centerpiece-worthy treat perfect for birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day, and any other ordinary or extraordinary occasion in need of a little color and a whole lot of flavor.

Top down view of rainbow cupcake cut in half with more cupcakes on another plate

Top off the treats with pillowy buttercream frosting or opt for tangy cream cheese frosting then complete your cupcake creations with a shower of rainbow sprinkles. And if you love these rainbow cupcakes and are looking for even more of a wow factor in a fraction of the time, don’t miss my quick-fix Rainbow Cake!

Silky buttercream frosting in stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment

Six bowls containing various colors of cupcake batter

Paper-lined muffin tin with colorful batter next to piping bags with batter

Wire cooling rack containing cupcakes and piping bag with one cupcake perfectly piped with buttercream frosting

Two white plates containing easy rainbow cupcakes with silky buttercream frosting and sprinkles

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Rainbow Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Two words: rainbow cupcakes. While the festive colors may have been what caught your eye, I guarantee it’s the sugar cookie-esque taste that will grab your taste buds’ attention. Cupcakes that taste like sugar cookies? Yes indeed!
Author: Kelly Senyei
4.80 from 10 votes
Rainbow Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting and sprinkles on white plate
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 48 minutes
Servings 14 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Food coloring (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple)
  • Rainbow sprinkles

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • Equipment: Cupcake wrappers


Make the cupcakes:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with wrappers.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing between each addition then add the vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the stand mixer in three increments each, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating between each addition. Divide the batter into six bowls then dye each with the red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple food coloring.
  • Spoon a portion of the purple batter into each cupcake cup, top it with the blue, then green, yellow, orange and red, careful not to mix any of the layers. (Alternately, transfer each color into sealable plastic bags and pipe the batter into the cups.) Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool completely while you make the frosting.

Make the frosting:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined then add half of the powdered sugar and continue beating until well combined.
  • Add the heavy cream and continue beating and then add the remaining powdered sugar and beat until the frosting is thick and creamy. (See Kelly's Notes.)
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe or spread the frosting onto them then top with rainbow sprinkles and serve.

Kelly's Notes:

  • Beating the frosting in between each addition of the powdered sugar lightens the color of the frosting and will make it more white in color (rather than yellow).
  • If the frosting is too thin, add additional sifted powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time, or if it’s too thick, add additional heavy cream 1 teaspoon at a time until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don't forget to give it a star rating below!


Calories: 562kcal, Carbohydrates: 72g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Cholesterol: 98mg, Sodium: 109mg, Potassium: 151mg, Sugar: 51g, Vitamin A: 920IU, Calcium: 77mg, Iron: 1.4mg


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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this recipe for my son’s 18th birthday. We used to make rainbow cupcakes when he was little using a box cake mix and store bought frosting. I wanted to do something special and nostalgic – These were amazing! So easy to make and yummy. They got 2 thumbs up from the birthday boy when we taste tested one.

    1. 3 stars
      These are a lovely idea and taste good but there may be an error in the serving size and/or cooking time. If you want normal size cupcakes (without a muffin-sized dome on top), this quantity easily would make 24 cupcakes (not 14). Because I tried to follow the recipe, I tried to fit all the batter into 14 liners (the batter would not physically fit and I had to do 15). Because the liners were now too full, the cupcakes took over 25 minutes to bake and came out looking like muffins. Still pretty and edible but not quite what was expected… Thanks anyway, they were fun to make!

    1. Hi Smita – I wouldn’t recommend it because the leaveners will lose their potency so the batter will get flat.

  2. 5 stars
    My granddaughters favorite color is rainbow…she had a blast helping make these today!! Easy and tasty!!

  3. They look delish. But I could have made 18. I thought it was too much batter for 14 cupcakes when I was filling tins. I have cooked for 18 min and still runny. Now have to keep checking at 3min intervals. (My oven is accurate for most baking/cooking I do) fingers crossed they work out. Albeit once iced no child will turn one away I’m sure.

    1. Hi Denise! Our recipes are written in the Imperial format, so feel free to use an online conversion program for metric. :)

  4. Hi Kelly, I’m so glad I stumbled on this recipe :) Trying to make 24 cupcakes by Friday. What color of liner/wrapper did you use to make the color stand out so boldly? I’m assuming white. Thanks for your input!

  5. The plastic baggie is a fantastic idea. My MIL used to decorate cakes and her frosting was incredibly light and fluffy. She used the Wilton buttercream recipe, but after mixing the frosting she whipped it on high in her Kitchenaid for 5 minutes. The frosting was airy like a marshmallow based frosting, but it still piped beautifully. I tried the technique with all butter buttercream, and it worked perfectly. The frosting isn’t overly sweet, and it also freezes well, although it’s not quite a fluffy when thawed. I love flavoring my frosting with vanilla and real almond extract that has bitter almond oil in it. It gives the frosting a wonderful flavor, but it doesn’t taste like almond. I also use salted butter in add a pinch of salt because I like how the slightly salty taste balances out the sugar. I love buttercream frosting, but it can be too sweet. Whipping it then adding almond makes it taste even better.

    Your baggie trick is similar to what I do for decorating. I use a ziplock bag and put the coupler on the inside of one corner then cut a small hole. It works just like a piping bag, and I already have ziplock bags in the kitchen. I did this once when I had run out of plastic piping bags, and I’ve never gone back. For storage I just put the filled bag inside another ziplock bag and refrigerate or freeze. Even smaller ziplock bags work. I like the zip top kind because they don’t pop open as easily as the others.

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Kelly made these cupcakes yesterday ,your recipe is a sure deal …Thank you so much .I am not going to cruise around the net for such recipe# sticking with this one .I even shared it with my friends here in Zimbabwe .

    1. Hi Diane – US cup! I hesitate to provide the amounts in grams for this recipe because I don’t use grams when I bake, and I’m concerned if I tried to convert everything just using an online converter, it wouldn’t be accurate.

  7. Please could you say in grams or ounces HOW MUCH IS A CUP. ???? I have made many cakes from recepies using an official set of CUP MEASURES and they do not always work out correctly. I would love to bake your rainbow cupcakes but not sure
    if my CUP MEASURES are correct

  8. Tried this for my niece’s birthday and she loved it! May i know if the recipe can be used as a cake instead of cupcake?

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