When it comes to food colourings, there are so many different types and brands on the market that it can be very confusing which ones we should use for what foods. I have tried a lot of different types so I thought it would be useful to share my thoughts on them to help guide you on which to choose for your baking and cake decorating.
Liquid food colours:
These are the ones people seem most used to seeing and have probably tried (and failed) to use in the past.
Personally I really dislike liquid food colours because you need so much liquid to change the colour that you also end up changing the texture and flavour as well. And even when you've added lots of colour you still end up with a washed out version of the colour you were after and are left with curdled buttercream or sticky icing!
I personally only ever use liquid food colours if I am adding them to other liquids. Whilst they might be great for making fun coloured drinks or cocktails I think they are best avoided when it comes to anything else!
Concentrated gel colours:
These are the colours I tend to use most. They are very concentrated so you can add a tiny amount of colour to achieve a lovely shade without changing the texture or flavour of your icing or buttercream. These colours can also be used to colour royal icing, meringues, cake sponge, cookie dough and liquids. They can be mixed with some water to paint onto your cakes and cookies.
There are a lot of different brands on the market and really they are all as good as each other, they just offer different shades. My preferred brand would be the SugarFlair range as I think they offer a great range of colours, including a pastel range, and I always have great results with these.
These colours are very concentrated so to use these I recommend using a cocktail stick or tooth pick to add a tiny amount of colour to your sugarpaste/royal icing/buttercream etc. Adding a small amount of colour at a time allows you to build up colour slowly so you don't end up with too deep or bright a shade.
TOP TIPS: If you are colouring your cake sponge then bear in mind the colour will change and fade when baking so make sure you allow for that when colouring it.
Powder Colours, also known as petal dusts and lustre dusts.
Edible powder colours can be usd to colour anything edible but I personally wouldn't use them to colour large quantities due to the cost. For me powder colours are good for colouring small amounts of florist/modelling pastes when making flowers etc because they don't add moisture so your flowers will dry quicker, although you can use gel colours for those too if you have allowed drying time.
Powder colours are great for adding hints of colour to flowers, adding texture and creating depth. Most people who make sugar flowers will use powdered colours to finish them off, simply by 'painting' them on dry.
There are numerous different brands, shades and colours available and all are great. I particularly like the Squires Kitchen Gold and Silver powders as they give a great finish. But for me the Rainbow Dust colour range is exceptional and I have almost every colour in my cupboard!
Powder colours are also great for using with stencils such as the ones above. They work best on a dry brush and if you want to change colours you don't need to wash your brush in between, simply brush the colour off onto a piece of kitchen towel until it is clean.
I particularly like lustre powder colours for painting cakes and this is something we cover in our Big Cakes class. By mixing these with any clear alcohol (the higher alcohol content the better) you can create a great lustre paint.
I love a good lustre spray and use the PME Pearl spray to add a nice pearlescent finish to my cakes. I am not a great fan of using these to apply a proper colour to my cakes purely because of cost and the fact it can be hard to get an even finish. That being said, they are great to use with stencils and are a very quick way to apply colour if you don't have time to use traditional methods.
These do exactly what they say on the tin! And I am a great fan of edible paints especially for adding tiny details. I have the white and black Rainbow Dust paints which I use a lot, the white is particularly useful for creating a chalkboard effect and for adding 'light' spots into eyes on your sugar characters,
I'm sure if I did a lot of painted cakes I would have the whole range of these as they are great and create a much deeper colour than you would get simply by using food colouring gels.
TOP TIP: Vanish powder is amazing at getting food colouring off your skin so you don't have to have multi-coloured hands after a cake decorating session! Simply dissolve a spoonful in a sink of warm water and then swirl your hands for a few seconds to remove the colours.
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