How to Make Icing Colors

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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 of icing they wish to see on their cake. There are so many different products available to achieve very specific colors for icing from plain food coloring to gel colors as well as luster dust for more subtle shading.

It can be 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 though because this type of coloring 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 base 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 richest colors
  • Do not add vanilla to your icing because it can tint your white icing ivory
  • Take care to scrape sides of the bowl to avoid streaks when stirring the coloring in
  • 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 ColorRedBlueYellowGreen
Raspberry Sorbet150000
Cherry Blossom11030
Bubble Gum24000
Pink Lemonade12000
Cotton Candy6000
Rose Water2000
Strawberry Shake3010
Pink Grapefruit4030
Circus Peanut6080
Carrot Cake500450
Orange Soda330900
Apricot Jam120450
Pancake Batter10100
Banana Pudding00140
Lemon Bar00200
Pina Colada0020
Sour Apple 5450
Granny Apple002510
Key Lime002530
Dinner Mint0440
Green Tea00510
Lime Sherbet00010
Grasshopper Pie0505
Mint Chip0301
Crème de Menthe015028
Green Gummy00078
Blue Raspberry0120030
Wild Blueberry06100
Jordan Almond1800
Blueberry Yogurt3500
Dried Lavender5500
Purple Cow603900
Concord Grape352200
Blackberry Pie1534200
Pinot Noir1808000