Several years back I used to decorate cakes out of my home to make extra money on the side. I’d get requests for all kinds of cakes from wedding, over the hill cakes, adult and kids birthdays and the naughty ones for stag and staggettes that I had to somehow hide in the fridge so my kids wouldn’t see them.
To make my cakes beautiful and eye catching I used what almost every cake decorator used, artificial food coloring. It was what us bakers added to the icing to get those bright, brilliant colors that made everybody go “wow” at the sight of their yummy confection. That was until I found out about the colored past of those nasty hues.
What’s In Those Artificial Food Dyes?
Food coloring is found in everything from ice cream, cereals, cookies, candy, meat, pet food and the list goes on but you’d be here for days if I listed them all. These imitation dyes are hidden in many foods found in stores and are used as a way to enhance the colors of the food and to also help protect any loss of color that may occur from that item sitting on the shelf.
Let me break down the nastiness for you, and let me warn you, it’s not going to be as pretty as that cake you decorated.
To start off with, you might as well pour gas, tar or diesel on your cake because the main ingredient that’s found in those three is also used in these fake pigments and it’s called PETROLEUM!! Yes, you read that right, I told you it was going to be ugly.
Now if that wasn’t bad enough, the health risks associated with these dangerous food dyes is even worse.
Research has shown that the artificial food coloring Red#40, has been known to affect children’s behavior in a negative way in as little as an hour after consuming. They tend to become more hyperactive and it has also been known to cause an allergic reaction in some people. Yellow#5 has been known to cause allergic reactions and mild to severe hypersensitivity reactions. These two dyes along with Yellow#6 have compounds in them that are associated with cancer.
Have you gone through your cupboards yet and tossed those deadly tints?
Foods Used For Natural Food Colorings
There are so many colorful foods that can be used to tint your cakes and cookies. These rainbow foods can be found in your cupboards, freezer or fridge. The following list includes the foods used to make each color.
Orange: paprika or carrots
Pink: raspberries or strawberries
Green: spinach or matcha tea
Blue: red cabbage
Black: activated charcoal
Brown: cocoa, tea or coffee
Red: beet powder or beets
Please keep in mind when using these foods for coloring, they do have flavors, unlike the chemical versions. So when adding them to your icing, cake or whatever you are needing them for, add in small amounts to ensure the taste isn’t overpowering. Also, the colors won’t be as vibrant but they will still be beautiful.
How To Make Natural Food Dyes
You can use these natural dyes in either a liquid or dried powder form all depending on what you are using them for.
For powdered dye you can get many fruits and vegetables in powder form already but if you are unable to find them you can use a dehydrator. Be sure to cut your fruit or vegetable into thin slices or even use a grater which makes it easier to dry faster. After drying you can either use a coffee grinder, food processor or blender to grind food into a fine powder. If you are using cocoa, matcha, turmeric or other powdered foods they can be used as is. Powdered coloring produces more vibrant colors than the liquid form so if that’s what you are looking for powder is the way to go.
For liquid food dye it basically depends on what you are using but here are a few to get you started.
Red: into your food processor or blender add cooked or canned beets, about 1/4 cup with 1 tsp of beet juice either from the can or the liquid from the cooked beets. Process until blended well and put the puree through a sieve and you are left with a beautiful red liquid. Store in a jar or small container in your fridge.
Green: In a large pot with 2-3 tbls of water add 1 cup of fresh spinach. Cook it down until it has wilted then remove from heat. After it has cooled put both the spinach and liquid into food processor and blend well. Put through a sieve until all you are left with is a beautiful green liquid. Store in a small jar or container in the fridge. If using frozen spinach let thaw then drain.
Yellow: Add about a 1/4 cup water into a saucepan and then add 1/2 tsp turmeric. Whisk until blended well and simmer. Let the liquid cool and pour into small container and store in the fridge.
Purple: Add 1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries to food processor or blender with 2-3 tbls water. Blend well then pass through a sieve and again put liquid into a jar or small container and store in the fridge. *NOTE: frozen blueberries produce a brighter color.
These lovely food based liquid dyes can last for about 4-6 weeks in your fridge.
Hope you all enjoy giving these natural colors a try and please let me know how they work out for you and I would even love to see some pictures of your colorful creations. Happy coloring!!!