Types of Food Coloring for Cupcake Icing

Water-based food coloring by Skoot13


If it’s your mission to make beautiful cupcakes for a special event, focusing on the look of the icing that you’ll use is crucial. Even before you begin applying your icing to the cupcakes, you need to get it the perfect color to suit your cupcake design.

Many people who are new to cupcake baking struggle with coloration, largely because they don’t purchase the right type of food coloring for their tasks. There are four main types of food coloring, each of which has its own attributes and benefits.

Liquid – The most readily available food coloring choice, liquid food coloring is sold in grocery stores. In this type of food coloring, the pigment is mixed with water. As a result, liquid food coloring is very easy to mix, but it does dilute the icing and can make it runny if you add too much. Liquid food coloring is best for very soft pastel colors that don’t require a lot of intensity. Just be sure to only use a few drops.

Liquid Gel – A liquid gel food coloring has a glycerine or corn syrup base instead of water. The consistency of the icing is very light, so it will mix rather easily with icing and does not cause dilution. The food coloring offers more intense color and is great for medium and bright tones. You can buy liquid gel food coloring online and at specialty baking stores.

Liquid Paste – A liquid paste food coloring also has a glycerine or corn syrup base, but is mixed with a thickener. Its consistency is heavier, similar to toothpaste. This can make the paste more difficult to mix. In addition, the paste will often thicken your icing if you use too much. This food coloring variety will give you very intense color, making it easy to create navy, black, charcoal gray and other very saturated colors. Liquid paste is sold online and in baking stores.

Powder – A powder food coloring is only the pigment without water or glycerine to dilute it. Mixing the powder with your icing is similar to mixing in a dry ingredient like flour into wet ingredients. Because powder food coloring is pure color, it is very easy to use too much. This not only will make your color too dark or bright, but it can also make it too thick. The food coloring is an easy way to make very dark shades, so don’t be afraid to use it; just do so sparingly. Powder food coloring can be purchased online and in baking stores.

Ultimately, the type of food coloring that you use will depend upon the color that you wish to obtain and the consistency of your icing. If you have questions about selecting a food coloring or need help selecting a cupcake stand to complement your icing design, contact us.


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