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Food Coloring: Natural, Synthetic and Recommendations

bright rainbow cake made with food coloring

Food Colors - are available in various forms, natural, synthetic, including liquid, paste, powder, sprays, and pens, each offering unique benefits for different baking needs.

Paste and Liquid Colors are highly concentrated, making them ideal for coloring larger amounts of icing or dough. It's best to add them gradually using the end of a cocktail stick until the desired shade is achieved. These colors can be blended to create custom shades and mixing them into the icing before application ensures even consistency.

Gel or Paste Colors - are popular for their strong pigmentation and versatility. They're suitable for fondant, petal paste, glacé icing, butter icing, marzipan, and white chocolate. Note that colors may deepen as they dry, especially with dark shades like black or Christmas red, which may require painting onto the surface. Gel-based colors are versatile for both fat-based and water-based recipes, except I prefer powder water based or liquid for royal icing.

Liquid Colors - can be added to various icings and doughs, with the depth of color increasing as more liquid is added. However, adding too much liquid may alter the consistency of the mixture.

Tinting or Dusting Color Powder - is primarily used for adding color to flowers and frills. It can be applied by dusting or painting onto decorations or directly onto cakes. While not as intense as paste or liquid colors, powders offer a delicate finish. For lighter shades, powders can be mixed with corn flour, water, or a clear spirit like gin or vodka.

Powdered Colors - Fat soluble and water soluble - Fat-based color powders are ideal for recipes with a high-fat content, water-based color powders work well in recipes with water-based ingredients, and cocoa butter colors are specifically designed for coloring chocolate and fat-based.

Color Mist Sprays are convenient for adding vibrant color to cakes or stencils, and they're taste-free. Simply shake the can and spray over the desired surface.

Edible marker pens are used for writing and drawing directly onto hard surfaces like royal icing, fondant, or marzipan. They function like felt-tip pens and should be capped firmly after use to prevent drying out.

Natural Colors are generally derived from fruits, vegetables and minerals. Unlike FD&C colors, they do not require batch certification. However, only specific ingredients have been approved by the FDA for use as colorants in food.

Synthetic Food Colors: They are also called artificial colors. These are manufactured by chemical reaction and are commonly used in food and pharmaceutical industries. Some of the common food colors are tartrazine, sunset yellow, amaranth, allura red, quinoline yellow, brilliant blue and indigo carmine.

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