Smooth Buttercream Frosting
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Almost any color can be achieved with buttercream. Gel or liquid food colors work best. The vivid tones above were made using Chefmaster gel colors. The pink tones used in the photo on the following page were achieved using natural food coloring made from beet juice.
As a rule, whenever possible, avoiding dark colors on a cake, especially wedding cakes since they sit out on display for several hours. Too much food coloring is a turn-off for many adults. Moreover, it tarnishes the flavor of a dessert, stains teeth and clothing, and is more likely to streak from condensation like runny mascara down the sides of a cake.
Dark colors are a frequent source of customer complaints in the bakery industry. Bakeries are better off discouraging such requests because it too often leads to a messy, unappetizing result. If a customer absolutely insists on dark colors for her cake, use the Dark Color Disclaimer Form to excuse your business from liability around issues that commonly arise due to color.
The truth is that a cake does not need to match deep color tones in order to fit in with a color scheme at an event. Just a hint of a color is enough to get an idea across whereas too much color risks looking tacky. It’s more important that a cake look edible than it is to look exactly something that is not remotely like food.
When in doubt, avoid the following colors on cakes:
Black is the #1 worst color to work with when it comes to staining and streaking. For cake design requests that insist on a black & white theme or the rendering of something that typically includes the color black, like a Darth Vader helmet, use dark chocolate instead. Dark chocolate brown is a close enough substitute to black and is much more appealing and palatable-looking. I’m willing to bet that nobody actually wants to eat black food coloring so whenever possible, don’t serve it.
The same goes for the color gray. Anything that would normally be gray-colored, like a trash can or a soup pot, is just as easy to recognize yet far more delectable-looking with a dash of added cocoa powder for a light brown tone compared to a dash of black food coloring to make gray.
If you absolutely must use black in your buttercream frosting, be sure to start with chocolate buttercream as your base, since its dark base won’t require nearly as much coloring as a plain white buttercream would. The same goes for modeling chocolate. Always start with dark modeling chocolate if you must make black.
DARK BLUE BUTTERCREAM
Dark blues such as royal or navy blue require a tremendous amount of food coloring and will surely stain teeth and possibly streak. These colors are also difficult to match because of butter’s yellow base. Consider going with a lighter blue whenever possible.
- To make natural light blue food coloring, mash and strain blueberries.
Deep reds also require a significant amount of food coloring that can lead to staining and streaking. Some reds, especially airbrushed reds, will fade into pink if the color does not start out deep enough. Use a Super Red or highly concentrated red when needed but as a rule, avoid this type of color on a white frosted background.
- Beet juice or beet powder makes an excellent natural substitute for red food coloring. The tone isn’t quite as vibrant but it still works well.
Purple is the color that is the hardest to achieve with butter-based buttercream. Since this type of frosting starts out already yellow, true purple is virtually unattainable. Some purple food colorings work better than others. “Violet” food coloring tends to work better than anything labeled “purple”. Purple food coloring can fade over time to become gray-colored, so test before using it.]
- For a soft natural purple color, try purple grape juice concentrate.
Tip: A chocolate buttercream finish does not stain as easily as a vanilla buttercream finish, so for cakes that use dark decorations, consider a chocolate finish instead.
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