Icing Color Hints

Color is as basic to your decorating as the icing and the cake. Choosing appropriate colors for your cake will help you capture just the mood you want for the occasion. Experimenting with color will help you decide which colors work to make your cake designs spectacular.


Hint 1: Use Concentrated Icing Colors

Begin with white icing and use concentrated icing color which will not affect your icing consistency. Wilton paste food color is concentrated, giving vivid or deep colors without changing consistency. Using standard food colors can thin down your icing and affect your ability to pipe certain decorations. If you are tinting icing dark brown or black, begin with chocolate icing — your icing will not have the aftertaste that large amounts of these icing colors may produce. If you are tinting a large area red, use No-Taste Red.

When making deep colors, such as black, brown, or red use Wilton paste food colors in larger amounts than normal. It can take as much as 1 oz. paste food color per one cup to obtain deep colors. Deep colors are recommended for accent colors only.

When icing is colored deep red, a bitter aftertaste may be detected. Red No-Taste should be used when a large portion of red coloring is used on the cake. Red No-Taste does not contain red 3 which causes the bitter taste.

When white buttercream is tinted dark black, it also can have a bitter taste. Use dark chocolate icing with a small amount of black color added.

Hint 2: Colors Intensify, Fade, or Change

Consider the type of icing you are using when mixing color. Icing colors intensify or darken in buttercream icing about 1-2 hours after mixing. Royal icing requires more color than buttercream icing to achieve the same color intensity.

Colors fade slightly in royal, boiled or Color Flow icing as they set.

Sunlight or fluorescent light will cause some colors to fade. After the cake is decorated, it is best to keep in a cool room and out of direct light.

Sometimes lemon juice or cream of tartar will cause colors to change, i. e. violet will become blue. If the recipe has one of these ingredients in it, omit it. In addition, some water (from various geographical areas) tends to cause color changes. If buttercream icing is made with water, use milk instead.

Hint 3: Specific Paste Colors

Red: There are three different reds - Christmas Red, a blue-toned red; Red-Red, an orange toned red; and Red-No Taste, a blue toned red.
It can take as much as 1 oz. of red paste color to one cup of icing to get a deep red.

Green: Leaf Green is a brighter green with more yellow than Kelly Green. Both of these greens require very little color, how much color added depends on the tone of the green you want.

Hot Pink: Rose paste color will obtain hot pink with good results. Rose Petal is a soft, muted rose color. Pink is a traditional pastel with a slight yellow tone.

Blue: Royal Blue has a red tone. Sky Blue has a yellow tone.

Daffodil Yellow: Daffodil Yellow is an all natural food coloring and does not contain yellow #5. (Many people are allergic to this). Daffodil Yellow currently contains alcohol which all other colors do not have present.

Brown: Brown occasionally has a green overtone to it. This usually occurs with the presence of acid in the icing; lemon juice or cream of tartar. Omit the acid if tinting icing brown. Also dissolving brown color in 1/4 teaspoon water before adding to icing will eliminate the green tone.

White-White: White-White is used for lightening icing that has been colored too dark. Also use it for making white buttercream made with butter or margarine.

Hint 4: Mix Enough

Always mix enough of any one icing color for your entire cake. For example, if you are going to decorate a cake with pink flowers and borders, color enough icing for both. It is difficult to duplicate an exact shade of any color, an important fact if you want to keep color consistent on the cake.

Hint 5: Colors Bleeding

Usually, "bleeding" colors on a decorated cake is a result of improper storage. It is not recommended to ice cakes while they are still frozen, as the cake needs to "breathe" while it thaws. Allow the cake to defrost before icing to help prevent the colors from bleeding.

An air tight cover on cake stored at room temperature may encourage condensation to form which can cause colors to bleed.

Hint 6: Staining

All deep colors in nature stain, like blueberries, but none of them are harmful. Paste colors can stain teeth and skin; however, simply washing skin area with soap and warm water will remove color. Bleach can be used on counter tops.

Lukewarm water should be used first to spot stained color. Rinse thoroughly, allow to dry. If color is still visible use a commercial cleaner on garment, carpet, upholstery, etc. In the case of a color that has Red 3 as an ingredient use an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to soak stain first. Proceed with lukewarm water and then allow to dry before using a commercial cleaner.

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