Some days, a girl just needs a some icing, with a cupcake on bottom.
I've been searching for natural ways to dye icing lately. The ready-made natural dyes have not been effective for making bright/vivid colors, and have changed the consistency of the icing in my experience. Before buying a new brand and wasting more money, I decided to do a little detective work.
Whenever I need whole food ideas, I always check the Mothering forums. These moms really know their stuff!
Basically, what I learned is that the best way to dye icing is with...wait for it....REAL FOODS. Who'da thunk it?
Here are some tips I found:
From a Mothering.com poster: "Green is easy, though! If you have a health food store, just get a bottle of some liquid chlorophyll and you can mix it right in. Not surprisingly, it gives you a very earthy, leafy green. If you can't find that, spinach leaves work well--you can literally just squeeze the color out of thawing frozen spinach."
This is awesome! I always have spinach on hand- though it's usually fresh. But I think this would work with fresh spinach also...you could simply wash, freeze, and squeeze. Liquid Chlorophyll is thought to boost the immune system, so that seems like a WIN/WIN. Be sure to get unflavored! I see marshmallow wreaths in my future....well, maybe St. Patrick's Day treats would make more sense.
Blueberries seem to be the food of choice for making purple. One poster shared: "For the Blueberries, you could cook them in some water on the stove, then strain off some liquid to add to the frosting to color it. Or juice them for a very intense concentrated color to add to the frosting drop by drop."
Another poster suggested using the juice that naturally comes when frozen blueberries defrost. This seems easiest to me and will be what I try first.
A mothering.com poster wrote: "For the beets, just peeling them and slicing will give you red juice, you could juice them and add a few drops at a time, until the intensity is reached. I would think with all the sugar from the frosting, it won't taste too strongly or too bad." Another suggested using the juice from frozen strawberries, much like frozen blueberry juice. I have tried using frozen strawberry puree and it didn't work very well, but the juice is more concentrated with color and may do the trick.
I have also used beet juice to make things pink for my girls (waffles, oatmeal, muffins) and have never noticed that it changed the taste. Another option is beet powder. This was suggested for deep red. I have successfully used a liquid red dye from Whole Foods in the past, and it worked pretty well. However, it took the whole bottle to get a small amount of icing really red. Not exactly economical, at $10 a pop.
Most of you probably know that cocoa makes delicious brown icing. YUM. Be ready to add a little milk to thin it out, as the cocoa will change the consistency.
Saffron and Tumeric seem to be the best options for yellow. From mothering.com: "Depending on your frosting recipe...you could soak the strands of saffron in a tiny bit of water, or milk, depending on your recipe and mix it straight in. The frosting would have a slightly exotic (and expensive) taste, but not overpowering." Another wrote, "Tumeric also works great for yellow, just mix it with water to make a little solution of it first."
Unfortunately, there seems to be no good way to naturally make blue. Probably because, aside from blueberries, there aren't many foods that are blue. So what's a mom to do if she needs BLUE???
Well, since food dyes are linked to a multitude of yuckiness, I would suggest being creative and avoiding the use of blue dye. Perhaps you could ice the cake with white icing and top with blueberries? Or you could use blue cupcake toppers.
If anyone has any other ideas for blue, I'd love to hear them!
In the meantime, I plan to make some cupcakes and try out these natural dyes. I'll let you know how it goes!