How to Color Buttercream: 11 Quick & Easy Tips

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Have you ever wanted to know how to color buttercream? It's not as straightforward of a process as you might think! Luckily, we're sharing all of our tips and tricks for creating that perfect hue. 

Our best tips for learning how to color buttercream properly

1. Start with as little color as possible

When it comes to coloring buttercream, less is more. Start by adding just a little color, and then gradually build your way up until you've reached the hue you're looking for. If you go heavy on the color in the beginning, you're likely to end up with a color that's way too dark.

We like to add color with a cocktail stick to control how much we're using. Little squeeze bottles are handy, but they are often the culprits of over-colored buttercream.

2. Avoid liquid colorings

As a general rule, we steer clear of any liquid colorings. They tend to be fairly weak in color and the watery consistency changes the texture of buttercream. 

3. Definitely don't use liquid coloring with cream cheese frosting

The only type of buttercream we've had trouble coloring is cream cheese frosting. It tends to have a higher ratio of water in, and adding more liquid to the mixture can make the frosting break down. If you want to tint cream cheese buttercream, be sure to use paste coloring or gel coloring.

4. Whip paste colorings for longer

Pastes tend to be the thickest in consistency and can, at times, take a little extra whipping. This often depends on batch and brand. We've added paste color to our mixing bowl, turned on the mixer and still ended up with little un-whipped dots of color at the end. 

5. Pick gel for consistent color

Gels are softer in consistency and spread most smoothly throughout buttercream. If you use gel coloring, you have the best chance of achieving an even, rich color with no clumps and no streaking.

6. Don't over mix

When coloring buttercream, make sure not to over mix the color into the buttercream. The more you beat the buttercream, the more  air bubbles will form in your frosting. Those bubbles are noticeable on cakes, which isn't a particularly good look when it comes to smoothing over cakes or piping cupcakes.

With time you'll be able to eyeball how much color you should be adding, making you less likely to overmix. Until then we suggest mixing your buttercream in 5-second intervals and adjusting as needed.

7. Start with a chocolate buttercream base when mixing dark colors

Many darker colors (such as dark brown, black and some reds) require a chocolate buttercream base. The chocolate buttercream reduces the amount of color that needs to be added to reach that darker hue.

8. Taste test dark colors as you mix 

If you need to whip up a strikingly bold buttercream, then make sure to taste test as you add color. Deeper colors are more likely to develop a chemical taste, so enhancing the flavor is a good idea.

9. Remember that buttercream has a yellow tint

Butter, of course, has a yellow tint — and that yellow color doesn't go away when you make buttercream. Some types of buttercream are more yellow than others (for example, the meringue in Swiss meringue lessens the yellow tint). There's not much you can do to avoid the tint, but you can keep it in mind when creating lighter colors.

12. Shortening can make your buttercream whiter, but...

Some bakers use a shortening-based buttercream when they want a true white color. While it does result in nice, white buttercream, the texture of the frosting is often greasy and has a strange taste (in our experience). We'd suggest adding a little icing whitener to your buttercream to lighten it up. Then, add your color. This is what we did for the blush pink cake above.

10. Lighting affects the color of your buttercream

The lighting in your kitchen can affect how you view the color of your buttercream. That is, if you decorate in a poorly lit kitchen, the color might look different when you take the cake to an outdoor party. Blue buttercream will look greenish under a warm light, and pink buttercream can take on a peach or orange tone. That's why working in natural daylight is the best option!

11. Invest in photography lights

If you can't get natural light in your kitchen (or if you work late into the night) a great option is photography lights. These usually are quite bright and have a clean white/neutral tone, which means you'll see the true color of your buttercream. 

With these handy tips on how to color buttercream, you should be well on your way to making the prettiest cakes in town. 

Got any tips on how to color buttercream?

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How to Color Buttercream: 11 Quick & Easy Tips