The Color Dilemma: Natural Food Color in Cake Decorating

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Cookie icing using natural food coloring

Cookie icing using natural food coloring

 

To color or not to color that is the question! Celebrations are supposed to be festive, fun, and colorful but more and more people are rethinking the use of food dyes in food. Do you have options?  Can you be fun and colorful without food dyes?  If you are trying to say away from artificial colors there plenty of options, but each option has advantages and disadvantages.  Let’s walk through them.

Natural food coloring.  Natural food colors are derived from plants, vegetables, and spices.   You can make them yourself or buy them.  We prefer to buy them, as they are quite labor intensive to make. Although most brands claim there is no added taste, we beg to differ. They are not flavorless, but for the most part are not as off putting in taste as their chemical based food dye counterparts.  It takes a lot more product to get darker colors and the colors will not be vibrant.  Natural colors are 3-10 times more expensive than their chemical-based counterparts so if you desire a richer color, the cost can add up pretty quickly.  Natural colors are safe for most people with food dye sensitivities, unless you are allergic to one of the fruit, vegetables, or spices used to make them.

 

We love using natural food dyes when a more sophisticated pink, yellow, or orange is desired.  Beautiful pastel colors can be made with natural food colors without any effort.  Think baby shower, 1st birthdays, Spring, Easter, Mother’s day, and even Halloween are themes and color schemes that will benefit from natural food coloring. Here’s a sample of our work using natural colors.   And of course, you can request  natural colors with your next order! .

Go Non-edible.  If you really love deep bright colors, give non-edible decorations a try.   We know that we are in the day in age where it is totally cool and the norm for everything on a decorated cake or cupcakes to be completely edible.  Plastic and paper picks can be added to cupcakes and cakes to give them the color pop without using chemical-based food dyes.   We can acquire food safe toppers in almost any theme and color scheme you can imagine with enough advance notice.

 

In fact, you can typically save a lot of by choosing  non-edible décor, as custom handmade decorations can add up very quickly depending.

Limit it or make it removable. If you are not allergic to the chemical- based food dyes and really can’t imagine your custom edible dessert without artificial dyes, make the décor removable.  There will be traces of the food coloring, but you will significantly reduce the amount ingested. You can cover cakes and cupcakes in uncolored frosting or fondant, and use colored fondant pieces for accents.

Another way to limit the amount of food coloring used is to select a design that works with airbrushing or edible images. A smaller amount of coloring is used in airbrushing, it will be a thin layer on the outside of the cake, rather than a much greater amount used to color the frosting or fondant all the way through. The downside of an airbrushed design on frosting, is that if the area is touched the uncolored portion is revealed, so placing candles or other objects on the cake can distort the design.  Make sure to protect your cake until you are ready to take those birthday pictures.  You may want to get a shot of the person of honor with the cake before putting in the candles.

Like airbrushing, with edible images only a thin layer of dye is introduced on the outer surface of the cake.  Most edible images contain soy lecithin, so this is often not an option for those with soy allergies.  Out of the Bubble Bakery, can special order edible images in most themes as well, but we do not have the ability for on demand printing.

Just know whatever choice you make on color, we have many choices available to support your allergy or mindful diet!