Although a number of food coloring options are available, gel-based food colors, such as Icing Colors or the Color Right Performance Color System, are recommended for coloring icing. Unlike liquid food coloring, gel-based colors are concentrated and will not affect the consistency of the icing, especially when it comes to bright or rich colors for which more coloring is needed to achieve the desired effect. Gel-based colors are also ideal for situations where adding extra liquid can cause issues, such as coloring sensitive batters like meringues or macarons.
Icing Colors can also be used to tint cake batter. Colored batter bakes lighter, so tint a shade darker than needed. Tinting batter is most successful with white cake because egg yolks will add a yellow tint.
Hints for Coloring Icing:
If using Wilton Icing Colors, dip a toothpick into the color and swipe against the icing. Always use a fresh toothpick to add more color to avoid contaminating the icing color. If using Color Right, squeeze drops of color directly onto the icing.
A little goes a long way. Try adding only a little at a time and mix to check whether you’ve achieved the right shade. When coloring buttercream icing, remember that colors intensify or darken after a few hours.
Colors are very hard to duplicate, so keep the size of your project in mind and mix as much icing as you’ll need to finish it.
Hints for Bright or Deep Colors:
Allow deep colors to set up for a few hours or even overnight — colors will deepen as they set.
If adding a large amount of icing color to achieve a vibrant hue, consider using the tip of a butter knife to add color instead of using toothpicks.
Start with a chocolate buttercream icing for dark colors such as black, brown or even brown-based reds. Not only will chocolate icing produce a better color, but it will also taste much better.
Too much red color can affect the taste of the icing. For best results, use No-Taste Red Icing Color.
If you only need a small amount of dark or bright icing, consider using Ready-to-Use Icing Tubes or Icing Pouches.