Food color is an essential part to cake, cupcake, and cookie decorating. With all the different types of coloring on the market today, it can be difficult to know what is the best type to use for your project. Some colorings may be appropriate for several different applications, while others should only be used for coloring specific items. Trying several different types of colors may be a great way for you to decide which you prefer using. Country Kitchen SweetArt sells a large selection of gel, powdered, airbrush, and oil-based colors.
Gel and paste colors are great for adding a vibrant and rich color to icing. They are water-based and highly concentrated. Some gel colors come in easy to squeeze tubes. Others come in small jars and must be scooped out with a toothpick. Gel colors can also be used to color fondant, doughs, cake mixes and more. Most manufacturers have switched from making paste colors to making gels. Gels and pastes are used similarly but gels have a longer shelf life. You can find gel colors in a wide range of colors, everything from ivory to bright, electric colors.
Powdered color is another form of highly concentrated color. To avoid leaving specks of coloring, try mixing the powdered color with a small amount of vegetable shortening first, then add to your icing or fondant. Powdered colors are an easy way to color dry ingredients like sugars and coconut flakes. Some powdered colors also work great for dry brushing onto gumpaste flowers. There are many unique powdered colors available that are unlike any shade of gel or paste color you can buy.
Oil-based colors are used to color candy coating and chocolate as well as ganache icings. Using improper colors such as liquid or gel coloring, can result in the chocolate to seize or become firm. Oil-based colors are limited to basic colors. If a specific color is desired, you can achieve this by mixing several oil-based colors together.
Airbrush colors and food color sprays are colors that are to be sprayed onto icing. Airbrush colors are liquid colors made to be passed through an airbrush gun. The depth and shade of the colors can be achieved by the number of coats applied and also layering colors. Only airbrush colors should be used in an airbrush gun. Other colors are too thick, and may clog the airbrush. Food color sprays are an inexpensive way to get the look of airbrushing without spending the money. While they are convenient and easy to use, they will not produce the same detailed work that an airbrush machine can. Airbrush and spray colors come in a variety of solid colors and shimmers.
Finding the right color can be half the battle. The shade of color will depend on the amount of color that you use. A small amount of color will yield in a lighter color, and more color will give you a deeper, richer color. Be careful not to add too much coloring right away. Start with a small amount and add more if necessary. It always easier to add more color than to try to lighten a color once too much as been added. You can test the color by adding a bit to a small portion of your icing before adding it to the whole batch.
There are several factors that can contribute to your icing changing colors. Natural and fluorescent lighting can cause colors to fade. To avoid fading, keep cakes in a cool, dark room or even in a cake box. Colors may also lighten or deepen a couple of hours after the icing has been colored. You can make your icing up ahead of time to be sure of the color before adding to your cake. Color bleeding can also change the color of your icing. To help prevent bleeding, wait until the icing has crusted to pipe colored details. Also keeping an iced cake away from moisture and heat can help to reduce the amount of color bleeding.
Information taken from Autumn Carpenter’s book The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating.