Tips to Coloring Your Icing

Icing 3

Yesterday we talked about the Simple Buttercream recipe that is so popular here in the states. Today I want to discuss how to effectively color your icing with the different options that are out there on the market. We will also look at some things that can negatively affect the color and consistency.

Types of Color 

There are a few options to choose from when searching color options for your creations. Many of us are familiar with the small bottles of food coloring that you can find at most grocery stores. They typically come in a box of three or four primary colors. Then you mix them together to achieve the desired color.

Then we have the gel paste that are available from cake decorating manufacturers like Wilton. The gel Wilton colors will last approximately 3 years after opening. When they start to get old they will get lumpy and gooey.

These are the preferred types of color to use. They are extremely concentrated resulting in bold and vivid colors. Because they are so concentrated it takes very little to color icing.

Icing 1

Tips For Coloring

Many of these are coming directly from Wilton’s website. Click here to be taken to the site.

  1. Dark and Deep Colors. Deep and dark colors can require a large amount of gel color. For something like red, I recommend using a no taste red paste. See my previous post on Red Icing. Sometimes it will take almost an entire 1 ounce bottle of gel to color one cup of icing. Just depends on what color you are going for. When making black icing I recommend starting with chocolate icing then adding black to that. By doing this you will not use as much black paste since the icing base is brown. Another thing to remember is that the taste of the dark bold colors will change because of the paste. Some people can’t tell a difference but many others can. Keep this in mind when planning your design. 
  2. Fading Colors. Sometimes icing colors can fade if left in the sunlight or under flourescent light. It is best to always store your cake in the refrigerator or in a cool dark place until it’s time to serve.
  3. Ingredients that change the color. Sometimes lemon juice and cream of tartar can change the color of the icing.
  4. Bleeding colors. Sometimes people will complain that their colors are bleeding onto the other iced areas of the cake. This normally comes about because of a few things. First, never ice your cake when it is still frozen. As the cake thaws it will release moisture which will in turn cause all sorts of negative effects on the icing. I always put mine in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to get it cold but not frozen. Another cause of bleeding is when a cake is kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Condensation will build up in the container sometimes causing the icing colors to bleed or even the icing to fall off of the cake. So again, store it in the refrigerator.

How to Add Color

When using the gel color, simply insert a tooth pick into the paste. You do not need to collect a large amount of color onto the tooth pick. Remember, these are concentrated colors. A little goes a long way. Then dip the tooth pick into your icing and stir with a spatula or a mixer. Adjust the color by adding more if needed. **Never stick the tooth pick you already used back into your gel paste. It is best to keep the paste containers free of any fragments of icing.

Icing 2

Icing Color Chart

If you are looking for a good how-to for making unique colors with the Wilton gel, then click here. It will take you directly to Wilton’s site and gives you a good break down of what colors to combine in order to achieve different results. For instance it details how to make the color Coral, Jade and Periwinkle to name a few.  Now, it doesn’t say 1 drop of this and 2 drops of that. No, instead it just tells you which colors to mix. The reason being is that the amount to add will greatly depend on how much icing you are mixing. My advice, start with small amounts and add to that in order to achieve the color you want.

Furthermore, make sure to color all of your icing ahead of time. The color will set and darken upon sitting in the icing. It is recommended that you color it and let it sit for at least 2 hours.

Make sure to make enough icing for your project. It is difficult to achieve the same exact color if you happen to run out along the decorating process.


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