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Color Vision Cake

Kelley Jordan-Schuyler
Cook Time:
40 mins
Prep Time:
30 mins
2 (9-inch) layers

Chef notes

Now you can have your cake “in living color” just like your family’s new color television. Chance grandpa’s heart condition as he revels in the disabling vibrancy of this bright buttercream and pastel cake. Indeed, this cake is gimmicky, and its inception was undoubtedly just another way for consumer product companies to insert flavored gelatin into all manner of baked goods in midcentury America. But it just so happens marketing isn’t always devoid of a fine result: Flavoring frostings and batters with the exciting varieties of Jell-O makes for a positively distinctive and idiosyncratic creation, and one that’s surprisingly enjoyable, and unmistakably 1950s in its presentation. With the Color Vision Cake, you can slice into a piece of yesteryear and celebrate its campy, wonderfully tacky identity.


  • 1 cup (225 grams) butter, softened
  • 1 (6-ounce/170-gram) package cherry Jell-O, divided
  • cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360 grams) cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder (use 2 teaspoons if baking at or above 5,000 feet)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) (120 milliliters) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
  • whites of 6 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, plus more if needed
  • remaining Jell-O from cake ingredients
  • 2 cups (450 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 cups (720 grams) powdered sugar, divided


For the cake:


Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Grease two 9-inch (23-centimeter) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.


In a large bowl, beat the butter until it lightens, about 5 minutes. Beat in 3 tablespoons of the dry Jell-O, and reserve the remainder.


Gradually begin to cream in the sugar 1/4 cup (50 grams) at a time. Cream very well until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.


In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and sour cream.


Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the batter in three additions. Fold well to avoid an uneven cake.


Turn into the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into their centers can be removed cleanly. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Remove the parchment and cool completely.

For the frosting:


Add the milk into a small saucepan on low heat and stir in the remaining Jell-O, stirring consistently. Remove from heat to cool to room temperature.


Beat the butter on high speed until it lightens. About 3 minutes. Gradually beat in 4 cups (480 grams) of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat well. With the mixer on, drizzle in the cooled Jell-O mixture.


Gradually beat in the remaining 2 cups (240 grams) of powdered sugar. Beat until pale, creamy and uniform, about 5 minutes. If the mixture is too stiff to spread, additional milk may be beaten in.


Spread the frosting atop the first cake. Invert the second cake atop the frosting to form the second layer. Frost the assembled cake with the remaining frosting.

Excerpted from "Baking Yesteryear." Reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2023 by B. Dylan Hollis.