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These rainbow cupcakes have layers of vibrant rainbow colors and are topped with buttercream frosting. Easy to make with doctored cake mix, they are festive for St. Patrick’s Day or any party!

Other rainbow dessert recipes we love include this rainbow jello and rainbow fruit platter!

Rainbow cupcake biten into.
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Easy Rainbow Cupcakes Recipe

Cake mix recipes simplify the baking process and turn out equally as delicious! These rainbow cupcakes are a colorful variation of my cake mix vanilla cupcakes and I use cake mix for cake mix cookiesdump cake and funfetti cookies, too.

People ask me all the time if I always bake from scratch and while I do make chocolate cupcakes from scratch and vanilla cupcakes from scratch, I’m all about doctoring up cake mixes, too!

This easy rainbow cupcake recipe is cute, bright and festive for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration along with my pistachio bread recipe! It’s also a fun treat for birthday parties.

Recipe Ingredients

Rainbow cupcake ingredients.
  • White cake mix: Store bought white cake mix makes this easy although you can use homemade vanilla cake mix, too.
  • Vanilla pudding mix: Not instant pudding use the cook and serve kind for best results.
  • Eggs: You will need four large eggs that are at room temperature.
  • Oil: I used canola oil but vegetable oil works too.
  • Hot water: Adds moisture, milk can be used for a richer taste.
  • Sour cream: Keeps these rainbow cupcakes super moist!
  • Buttercream frosting: I prefer my buttercream frosting for best taste.

How to Make Rainbow Cupcakes

Showing how to make rainbow cupcakes.
  • Prepare. Preheat oven to 325°F and line cupcake pan with liners. Set aside.
  • Mix batter. Add cake mix and dry pudding mix to a large bowl and stir until combined. Then mix in eggs, canola oil and water and stir. Finally, mix in sour cream.
  • Color the batter. Separate batter into 5 bowls, then add different colors of food coloring to each. Stir each bowl until smooth.
  • Fill cupcake liners. Add one spoonful (about 1 Tablespoon) of each color to cupcake liners and fill about 3/4 of the way.
  • Bake in oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cooling rack. Frost once cooled. Enjoy!

Assembling Cupcakes

Although these rainbow cupcakes are quite festive without any decorations, the fun comes in assembling them how you like!

  • Frosting: I love buttercream but vanilla frosting can be used, too. You could even make rainbow buttercream for even more pizzazz or try cream cheese frosting like I use on pink velvet cupcakes.
  • Sprinkles: We love to use rainbow sprinkles! The colorful sprinkles are a fun contrast on top of the white buttercream frosting.
  • Edible glitter: Using edible glitter adds such a fun touch and looks a little more fancy.
  • Rainbow candy. Cut rainbow strip candy, such as Airheads extreme into smaller strips to make a rainbow on top of the cupcake.
  • Cupcake toppers: Cupcake toppers are perfect to add for a celebration such as a birthday or holiday party. A unicorn or rainbow cupcake topper would be fun.
Rainbow cupcakes on cake stand.

Expert Tips

  • Gel food coloring. For vibrant colors in these rainbow cupcakes, use gel food coloring to color batter instead of traditional food coloring.
  • Color variation. Play around with the cupcake batter colors and only use 2 or 3 of your favorites instead of 5!
  • Frost like a pro. Check out this easy tutorial that gives step-by-step instructions on how to frost the perfect cupcake. You’ll become a pro cupcake decorator in no time!
  • Flavoring rainbow cupcakes. I didn’t add additional flavoring but you could add lemon, coconut, clear vanilla or almond to the base layers for variety in each bite. Use fruity flavoring for a Fruit Loop taste!


How do I keep the rainbow colors from mixing together?

Use seperate bowls to make the colored layers then once the batter is added to the muffin tin, try not to touch it! You could even use use a piping bag for more precise rainbow cake batter placement.

Can I make this into a cake?

Yes. Since we are using a cake mix, any cake pan that is listed on the back of the box should work!

How to store leftover cupcakes?

Store leftover cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Can I freeze cupcakes?

I prefer to freeze unfrosted cupcakes. Cool completely then transfer to a freezer safe bag. Freeze for up to one month. Thaw and add frosting.

Rainbow cupcake.

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Rainbow cupcakes on cake stand.

Rainbow Cupcake Recipe

5 from 31 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
These rainbow cupcakes have layers of vibrant rainbow colors and are topped with buttercream frosting. Easy to make with doctored cake mix, they are festive for St. Patrick's Day or any party!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 20


  • 15 ounce box white cake mix
  • 5.9 ounce box vanilla pudding mix (not instant, use cook & serve kind)
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 1 cup  sour cream
  • 2 cups buttercream frosting
  • sprinkles


  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and dry pudding mix. Stir until combined. Next mix in the eggs, canola oil and water. Finally mix in the sour cream. Separate batter into 5 bowls. Add different colors of food coloring to each bowl and stir until smooth.
  • Add one spoonful (about 1 Tablespoon) of each color to your cupcake liner (about 3/4 the way full). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they spring back when touched. Do not over cook. You can also test with a tooth pick to make sure the centers are cooked all the way through.
  • Remove from oven and allow cupcakes to cool on a cooling rack. Frost with buttercream frosting.


Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 38mg | Sodium: 264mg | Potassium: 49mg | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 120IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 0.6mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!


rainbow cupcakes on cake stand

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