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The Evolution of Funfetti and How It Became a Cult Cake Flavor

Birthday cakes have never been the same.
The Evolution of Funfetti and How It Became a Cult Cake FlavorShutterstock

Ah, Funfetti. No matter how old you are, this colorful cake makes any birthday a little bit more fun and festive. But have you ever thought about how Funfetti cake actually came about, or what’s in it? Because the sprinkle-laden cake tradition is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, it’s time to get educated about all things Funfetti.

When was Funfetti invented?

Pillsbury first released Funfetti cake mix in 1989, and it didn’t take long for the brightly-colored dessert to take off. The company’s first commercial for the simple cake mix—classic vanilla cake with rainbow sprinkles mixed in—worked. It featured the Pillsbury Doughboy blowing up a regular yellow cake as the voiceover asked, “Want a bigger bang out of your next birthday?”

The answer was yes. Funfetti quickly became a must-have for children’s birthday parties in the 1990s. As The New York Times suggests, that could be why adult millennials have such a soft spot for the rainbow-colored cake.

After the success of Funfetti, other mass cake producers started to follow suit. Betty Crocker made “Rainbow Chip Cake” and Duncan Hines made “Signature Confetti Cake”. But if you want the original Funfetti, you’ll only find it from Pillsbury.

How do you make a Funfetti cake?

Of course, you could just buy the pre-sprinkled box of Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix—and no judgment here if that’s the route you choose to go. But if you want to make your own Funfetti cake at home, it’s pretty simple.

All you have to do is add sprinkles into your cake batter. As chef and food writer Alison Roman explained, the trick is to stir a bit of flour in with the sprinkles before adding them to the batter, so that they’ll be distributed evenly throughout the mix.

While Roman prefers making Funfetti with a yellow cake base, baker and food blogger Molly Yeh suggests using vanilla cake, which is more similar to the original Pillsbury version. But it just depends on your personal preference. As long as you can see the rainbow sprinkles, you’ve nailed it.

Funfetti cake with slice cut out with fork Shutterstock

What frosting goes with Funfetti cake?

Roman suggests a homemade vanilla frosting, but really, any frosting flavor will do.

If you’re going the prepackaged route—and again, we totally get it—Pillsbury also sells Funfetti frosting. This colorful frosting has added sprinkles and comes in shades like hot pink, blue, green, yellow, orange, and purple, so feel free to express yourself with your Funfetti frosting.

(And if brownies are more of your thing, Pillsbury sells a Funfetti brownie mix, too.)

What do chefs think of Funfetti?

Rainbow sprinkles aren’t exactly a high-end ingredient, but plenty of bakers have embraced the Funfetti style in their own ways. After all, what’s more Instagrammable than a rainbow-colored cake?

Milk Bar, owned by renowned baker Christina Tosi, has had huge success with its sprinkle-filled birthday cake, as well as rainbow birthday cake truffles. Jennifer Estrella, co-owner of Bake in Chicago, told The Takeout that her bakery’s most popular cake is completely covered in rainbow sprinkles with tiers of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple on the inside. Meanwhile, Dō in New York City, which serves up edible cookie dough, offers plenty of rainbow, Funfetti-inspired options.

“If you ask five local pastry chefs, three of them are going to tell you that their favorite cake growing up was boxed Funfetti cake,” Mathew Rice, executive pastry chef for Niche Food Group, told Feast Magazine. “Everybody just loves it.”

It may have just been clever marketing on Pillsbury’s part that launched Funfetti into the mainstream, but it’s clear that the sprinkle-filled cake—and the rainbow of other desserts it has inspired—are here to stay.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

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