A (Naturally Colored) Rainbow Party

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Our team member Shawn recently put together a fabulous little “Rainbow Party” for her daughter’s birthday, and when I shared some of the photos on Facebook there was so much excitement that I asked her to share all the details with us. She's also sharing how to create a fun Watermelon Cake made with only fruit!
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Photos of a rainbow themed party using all natural food color dyes.

My daughter asked if she could have a rainbow party for her 5th birthday this year, so I immediately got onto Pinterest and searched for “Rainbow Birthdays.” Many of them were filled with Skittles, jelly beans, lollipops, jello, and cakes made with artificial dyes. This was just not going to be okay with me! Did you know that artificial food dyes are derived from petroleum and require a warning label in other countries? I thought I can totally do this without junk food and dyes, so I got to work. Here’s a peak at the end result (with detailed instructions below):

My daughter is my fruit and veggie lover, so I knew I wouldn’t get any complaints by serving up a rainbow of colors with healthy foods. As we were looking for ideas on Pinterest, we came across a watermelon “cake.” She immediately fell in love! This is my child who asks me everyday when it is going to be “watermelon season.” She had her heart set on this cake, but I figured that if I didn’t at least have a “regular” cake her friends might not ever come back for another birthday party. So we had both.

The Rainbow Cake

rainbow cake

During the holidays I used my juicer to make a ton of pretty rainbow colored juices, which got me thinking. So I contacted a baker I’ve used in the past and asked if I could bring her naturally colored juices to use in a white cake she’d make for the party. She agreed, and I dusted off my juicer again and juiced a few carrots (for the orange) and spinach (for the green). I bought a can of beets and used the juice they were sitting in (for the red). I defrosted frozen blueberries (for the blue) and blackberries (for the purple), and put them through a mesh strainer. I had some turmeric on hand (for the yellow). She said she added the colors a teaspoon at a time until she got the right color on each one, and she also used this online tutorial for guidance. She made the rainbow and the sun out of fondant, and we didn’t eat those. My daughter had a string of butterfly lights in her room, so we borrowed a few for some added decoration. I even put a few drops of glitter glue on the non-edible butterflies to add some bling!

Watermelon Cake

Watermelon cake using only fruit for a rainbow themed party.

The watermelon cake was honestly not the easiest, but my daughter really wanted one.

Fruit Platter

Rainbow Fruit Platter

This can be made with a variety of fruits, depending on what is in season.

Here is what I used:

  • Red: 2 packages of strawberries, stems removed and berries sliced in half
  • Orange: 5 oranges, peeled and cut into segments
  • Yellow: one pineapple, cut into chunks
  • Green: 5 kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • Blue: 1 package of blueberries
  • Purple: grapes

Veggie Platters

veggie platter 1

I made two veggie platters because …well I just couldn’t help myself when I was buying all the vegetables. Again, feel free to use whatever veggies are available/in season or ones that you like.

Here is what I used for the first veggie platter:

  • Red: red cherry tomatoes and 1 red bell pepper
  • Orange: 1 orange bell pepper
  • Yellow: 1 yellow bell pepper
  • Green: 1 green bell pepper
  • Blue: Organic Blue Tortilla Chips (from Trader Joe’s)
  • Clouds: 1/2 of a head of cauliflower (blanched*)
veggie platter 2

Here is what I used for the Second veggie platter:

  • Red: heirloom Tomatoes
  • Orange: baby carrots
  • Yellow: heirloom tomatoes and leftover peppers (from the first platter)
  • Green: heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and cut into thin circles, and fresh green beans and broccoli (both blanched)
  • Purple: 1/2 of a head of small purple cabbage, sliced thin
  • In the center: organic regular hummus and chipotle hummus (from Trader Joe’s)

*To blanch any of these vegetables, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook your vegetables for 3 minutes and then transfer to an ice bath immediately. Once cooled, remove from the ice water and lay on a clean towel to dry off. I blanched some of the veggies because my kids like them better that way – all my kids love broccoli, but won’t eat it raw.

The Decor

rainbow party table

I wanted to use the food and activities as the main focus of the party, so I assigned each girl to wear a different color of the rainbow. The few things I purchased from Target were rainbow plates, napkins, cups, glittery hats, and solid colored plastic table cloths. I left the table cloths folded and placed them in order of the rainbow, and I used a “Happy Birthday” banner that we already owned.

Activities

What do you do at a rainbow party? You craft! It is a favorite pastime at our house.

  1. Picture Frame Decoupage
    I bought unfinished wooden frames for each guest and put out Mod Podge, paint brushes, and LOTS and lots of fabric, tissue paper and scrapbook paper cut into pieces. The girls painted the Mod Podge on the frame first and then placed whatever pieces of the scraps struck their fancy onto the frame. A lot of Mod Podge was painted on top of the scraps to make a pretty, unique picture frame.
  2. Painted Canvas
    I bought each of the girls a canvas to paint, put out acrylic paint and paint brushes, and then let them go to town. Afterwards I kept all of the girls paintings and hung them in my daughter’s room to help her remember this birthday celebration with her friends.
  3. Tie Dye
    Last, we tie-dyed shirts. I bought each girl a white t-shirt and a tie dye kit. They picked out the design they wanted and we put the rubber bands on the shirts for them. The kits are really self-explanatory and helped with the instructions. The girls picked their colors and my husband did the dying since it would be pretty messy for 5 year-olds. I wrapped the shirts in a bag and they all took them home and washed them out the next day. I think they turned out great!
rainbow party crafts

Favors

I am big on being practical as far as party favors go. I find it a strange tradition to give out gifts to guests at a birthday party, but I am not going to be the one who stops it. The girls got to take home their shirts and their frames. I would normally think that this was plenty, but since I was feeling crafty I spray-painted cans with chalkboard paint. I bought water colors and Trader Joe’s Organic Fruit Strips to go inside the cans. I also made these cute little heart crayons. I have more crayons than the Crayola factory, so I had my daughter peel the papers off and break them into small pieces which she used to fill up silicon heart molds about half-way up. We placed the molds onto a cookie sheet and put it into an oven preheated to 200 degrees F. It took about 15 minutes for them to set, but I suggest you watch them very carefully. I used a toothpick to stir the wax a bit. When they are melted you can leave them on the counter to cool, but I was impatient so stuck them in the fridge.

rainbow party favors

In the end the party was a huge success.  If you’ve had a rainbow party or have other ideas for “rainbow” foods or activities, we’d love for you to share them in the comments below!

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87 thoughts on “A (Naturally Colored) Rainbow Party”

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  1. The cake looks great! Did the colors affect the flavor? (I’m assuming you wouldn’t want a beet-and-turmeric flavored cake, LOL).

  2. Thank you for this post! My daughter wants a rainbow cake for her birthday party this weekend and while I don’t mind bending the rules on whole foods now and then, I’m pretty sure she is sensitive to food dyes and I know my nephew is, so that’s one rule I want to keep intact. I’m excited to try this cake and after seeing this post my mom is excited to assemble rainbow fruit and veggie platters to accompany it.

    Also I made a watermelon cake for my 8 year old’s birthday last year and it was a hit! I frosted the watermelon cylinder with lightly sweetened whipped cream before decorating with other fruit so it really looked like a cake, and the whipped cream helped even her junk-food junkie friends enjoy the fruit. I didn’t make a second cake, but instead let the finger cookies, mini scones and lemon curd we served be the sweets. (It was a tea party.) So fun!

  3. Will freezing the cake layers effect the intensity of the colour do you think? ie cause it to fade? I want to make them ahead so I can just assemble on the day?

  4. Love the idea of juices to use as coloring, have you tried saving them in small ice cube trays? I will be making some and was hoping to freeze some to keep handy:)
    Thanks!

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    1. Christine,
      Yes, I have used these to color icing. Make sure what ever recipe you are using that you use the juices instead of the liquid it calls for.

  6. Hi Shawn, I’m having a color and paint 3rd birthday party for my son and I love, love the idea of tie-dying t-shirts. Where did you order the white t-shirts from? I’d love to get a 3T size if possible and haven’t been able to find them online yet. Thanks for the additional tip!

    1. I left a comment on some of the activities we did when my daughter turned five for a rainbow artist party. Have you seen how you can get a tye-dye effect using sharpies and rubbing alcohol? That might be fun for 3 year olds.

  7. This looks really very pretty! It’s artistic too. It’s great of you to make your daughter a watermelon cake knowing that it would never be that easy to make one. Your daughter is the luckiest, she has a cool mom.

  8. Love the website– lots of great ideas, info and recipes!!
    As the family baker and the grandmother of a granddaughter with artificial food dye sensitivities, I especially like this post.
    I often use the India Tree Natural Dyes and Sprinkles. ( unfortunately they are quite expensive and you really can’t get very vivid colors with them) Chocolate and pureed strawberries and other berries also work well for flavoring and coloring frostings. Naturalcandystore.com has organic/ artificial dye free candies that are great for decorating.
    The last 3 birthday cakes I have made are: a volcano cake for a dinosaur theme, an under the sea themed cake with a shark’s fin on top and a Peace themed cake. I’d love to share photos of the cakes if permitted and if someone could instruct me on how to post them ( hey–this grandma isn’t that tech savvy- ha).

    1. Those cakes turned out so cute!! I saw them, so you must have some techy in you ;). Thank you for sharing them. Your family is really lucky to have you so dedicated into making such beautiful cakes that they can eat safely!

      1. Thanks Shawn. Looks like your daughter had a great birthday party! My granddaughter loves watermelon as well– might have to try making your watermelon cake for the 4th of July– very unique and fun.

  9. A couple of years ago I tried baking a rainbow cake for my little one’s 7th birthday using store bought natural dyes by India Tree and it was a total failure – the colors that looked so vivid before baking came out looking all the same brownish shade. I had to make another cake just hours before the party (plain chocolate this time).
    The India Tree colors work well in frosting, whipped cream and pancakes (for a rainbow stack for Fat Tuesday! with matching colors fruits and veggies on the side).
    I might try your version sometime (maybe for my little niece’s upcoming 4th birthday)
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. i was wondering the same thing.. do you taste the flavors.. i threw out all our food coloring..now i feel i can’t make cakes.. unless chocolate or white.. so i dont’ want to taste the flavors..

  11. Everything looks so great! I’m wondering whether you can taste the juice flavors in the cake and if so, did anyone mind them?

    1. Thank you!! You could not taste the juice flavors. I have done all of them in frosting before and no one could taste those either.

  12. What lovely ideas! Our new baby boy will be christened later this year and I’ve just started thinking of ideas for the catering as the party will be at our house. I’m very conscious of providing healthy choices for the children and you’ve now given me ideas to make the food table look lovely and colourful. So glad I found this, thank you!

    1. Someone said earlier today that they did this cake for a Noah’s Ark theme. Congratulations on your new baby!!!

  13. Fantastic ideas!! My daughter’s second birthday is this week and she’s having a Minnie birthday. She could eat her weight in fruit in any given day so I’m definitely planning on doing a watermelon cake!

      1. My daughter’s name is Sophie as well! Ah, coincidences :P She did love it, thanks! Although…I asked my (creative) husband to do the melon cake for me…I had a watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew and told him to stack them and then use the berries to decorate them. Assuming he would make a ‘cake’ shaped creation. Oh Lordy. He created a melon man!! It literally looked like a snowman made out of melons, complete with a melon scrap tie and a strawberry mohawk. For our daughter’s Minnie Mouse themed 2nd birthday. Oh the things I get when my husband participates in the kitchen!! Hahaha

  14. LOVE this. Any ideas for naturally coloring icing? My daughter’s turning 2 this month, and wants a Dump Truck Cake – fully colored.

    1. I whipped up unsweetened whip cream and added some consentrated (by simmering off some water) juices to make the colors for my son’s rocketship cake. Need to really concentrate the colors to prevent from making the whipped cream watery.

      1. Good to know! I am going to attempt a natural blue frosting for my sons birthday coming up. I hope I can pull it off!! :)

  15. I made the rainbow cake for my son’s birithday (made it into a rocket ship shape). I got deeper colors by simmering the different juice dyes to consentrate the color. It worked very well, and the colors were much deeper and dramatic. I love the entire rainbow theme, doubt I can convince my boys, but if I ever have a girl . . .

    1. Thanks for the tip!! That is a really great idea!!! My boys wouldn’t go for it either, but they sure enjoyed it ;).

  16. Thank you a million for sharing this! I made a rainbow cake in the past and I have to tell you, the artificial food coloring I used to tint it looked no better than the natural ones you used. You are an inspiration. One look at that watermelon cake and all my kids wanted one. I promised to make one for my son who’s birthday is next in line. Thank you again. Your daughter is incredibly lucky to have such a caring and loving mother!

    1. Melissa, you are so sweet!! It sounds like your kids are just as lucky :). The watermelon cake was such a huge hit!! Good luck!!

    1. Thank you!! I was a little apprehensive when I asked them to do this. I thought I would get some eye rolls from the parents. Everyone was happy to do it and it looked so cute!! I had my daughter in a white skirt and a white shirt with a rainbow peace sign. I am glad I asked because I was so happy with the results of the pictures!

  17. I love the tie dye kit, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on using this kit while camping… Too much? We are having a camping birthday party at a real campsite. What do you think? Would that be a good activity or would it be too much work?

    1. Amanda, I do think it would be a lot to do while camping. I would also suggest that you get some good latex gloves when you purchase the kit. How fun to do a camping party!! Have fun!

  18. Love the watermelon cake. It would make a fun summer treat too I’m thinking. We had a rainbow birthday party as well, but made it a “rainbow art party” since my daughter loves art. I posted pictures and info about what we did on my blog including our take on the rainbow art fruit platter and our experience with making a layer cake without artificial coloring (well, mostly). Natural colors do add some interesting flavors. One of my favorite parties we’ve done.

  19. Anita, give it a try!! You might find it easier than I did. Making the watermelon even all the way around is what I found difficult. I would suggest getting a big watermelon so you have some wiggle room. My watermelon was on the small side.

  20. Such cute ideas! Sad to hear the watermelon cake was such a pain as that’s the one thing my sons would love. For the real cake, they’re all chocolate all the time! So I have to find some good options.

  21. Great work! We have so many crayons we throw them away! Now I will recycle them! <3 and hats off to the baker! I have tried that and it is tough! Of coarse, we didn't have internet tutorials back then. ;) As mu kids would say: "I'll be using these ideas like a BOSS!!"

  22. That was absolutely gorgeous! So much effort, but birthday’s are that way, anyway. Super healthy and so beautiful!

  23. I gotta say, I’m sooo glad your cake didn’t come out suuuper bright and vivid. I tried to use natural dye for my daughter’s cake and thought I did something wrong :)

    Beautiful party!!

  24. So funny you posted this…my daughters 3rd birthday party is next Saturday and I had the same idea….. So great to see it executed!!!! I am more excited now

  25. I don’t have young children at home anymore, but my first grandchild was born today! I am determined to offer my grandchildren healthful food in an attractive way, so I love these fruit and veggie ideas. In fact, I plan on using those ideas for our work birthday parties, which often include a lot of food I don’t eat anymore. Thanks so much for these ideas!

    1. Congratulations!!! Your grandchildren are so lucky!! I find that it is a struggle to get the grandparents on board to feed their children healthy food.

  26. Great ideas! I made a similar fruit platter for my son’s birthday, but made them int fruit kabobs with a shishkabob sticks.

  27. I have been attempting a no-dye red velvet cake – and finally got a pretty good one using a beet puree powder. I made tri-colored noodles with spinach, beet, and a carrot-pumpkin mix. I’d love to send you some samples to play with if you’d like!

  28. JayDee (Debbie)

    what awesome ideas! now my daughter wants one! gotta love the kiddos that want fruits and veggies for snacks/birthday parties – my girl is the same way, she is our ‘health nut’ so to speak ;-)
    thanks for all the info how to make the natural food colors – she will want to help make everything too (she loves to help me cook and such)

  29. This is fabulous! I am an Organic Special Dietary Needs Chef and I LOVE seeing people search out the healthiest way to do things! Great jobs!