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How to Make Icing Colors

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How to Make Icing Colors
Used with Permission from Michelle Anderson

Successful projects often hinge on how close you can get to either your vision or the vision of your client (if you are making a cake for someone else). Color plays a huge role in this process and most people have very specific likes and dislikes about the shade or hue of icing they wish to apply to their cake. There are so many different products available to achieve very specific colors for icing from plain food coloring to gel colors to luster dust for subtle shading. It is difficult to choose the best option.

Plain food coloring used to be the only choice for tinting icing and many cake designers have fond memories of leaning over a bowl of buttercream as a child carefully dripping the different colors. You really had to take care not to drip it anywhere else because it stained everything! It used to come in a pack of four little vials (red, yellow, blue and green) which was found in the baking section of most supermarkets. This type of coloring agent is still very popular especially since the food network came out with a "Frost by Numbers: How to Make Frosting Colors" chart which uses only this type of food coloring in the four basis colors to produce a rainbow of shade options. The chart can be found below and of course in the May 2012 issue. It shows the number of drops required from each base color to tint one cup of icing.

Some tips to consider for success are:

  • Use pure white icing made with shortening instead of butter to get the purest colors
  • Do not add vanilla to your icing because it can tint your white icing ivory
  • Stir colors in taking care to scrape sides of the bowl to avoid streaks
  • If the shade is not exactly right simply add a few more drops of the required color
  • Basic red food coloring can add an unpleasant flavor to icing unless you find a "no-taste" product

Food Network Frosting Colors Chart

Frosting Colors

Desired Color Red Blue Yellow Green
Raspberry Sorbet 150 0 0 0
Cosmopolitan 45 0 5 0
Cherry Blossom 11 0 3 0
Bubble Gum 24 0 0 0
Pink Lemonade 12 0 0 0
Cotton Candy 6 0 0 0
Rose Water 2 0 0 0
Strawberry Shake 3 0 1 0
Pink Grapefruit 4 0 3 0
Circus Peanut 6 0 8 0
Creamsicle 9 0 10 0
Papaya 78 0 90 0
Carrot Cake 50 0 45 0
Orange Soda 33 0 90 0
Apricot Jam 12 0 45 0
Pineapple 2 0 22 0
Pancake Batter 1 0 10 0
Mango 0 0 50 0
Banana Pudding 0 0 14 0
Lemon Bar 0 0 20 0
Pina Colada 0 0 2 0
Honeydew 0 0 5 2
Sour Apple 5 45 0
Granny Apple 0 0 25 10
Key Lime 0 0 25 30
Pistachio 0 22 24 0
Dinner Mint 0 4 4 0
Green Tea 0 0 5 10
Margarita 0 1 1 0
Lime Sherbet 0 0 0 10
Grasshopper Pie 0 5 0 5
Mint Chip 0 3 0 1
Crème de Menthe 0 15 0 28
Green Gummy 0 0 0 78
Mojito 0 54 27 0
Watermelon 0 46 0 78
Blue Raspberry 0 120 0 30
Wild Blueberry 0 61 0 0
Jordan Almond 1 8 0 0
Ice 1 5 0 0
Blueberry Yogurt 3 5 0 0
Dried Lavender 5 5 0 0
Purple Cow 60 39 0 0
Concord Grape 35 22 0 0
Blackberry Pie 153 42 0 0
Pinot Noir 180 80 0 0

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