There's no challenge more difficult than trying to do what many consider the impossible, and making black food coloring is probably the most impossible color to create. You can get a dark, dark gray or a deep brown, but that Halloween black is elusive. Black and white cookies, black fondant and black witches' capes decorate cakes and cookies everywhere, so it must be possible. The secret lies in the type of food colorings used and the formula. Start with white icing or fondant, and with a bit of skill and luck, your black frosting just might become the star of the party.
Start With Primary Colors
Throw out the liquid food coloring in your pantry and get gel. Liquid is just too – liquid – and it dilutes your icing, while gel provides more intense colors. Blue, green and red are the primary colors used to make black. Pour equal drops of each into a plastic squeeze bottle and shake vigorously. That's about as black as you're going to get. Start small and work your way up to the quantity you need for black food coloring.
If there's an overtone of green, add red, one drop at a time. If it's too purple, add green, one drop at a time.
Gel paste is an alternative and is a seriously intense color. Not viscous like the gel, dip a toothpick into the paste and add a drop at a time.
Coloring Buttercream Icing
Start with a basic buttercream icing made of butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla. Now here's the trick... make your icing brown by adding 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (black cocoa powder is available online) mixed with 2 teaspoons of water, brown food coloring paste, or even melted dark, dark chocolate. The darker the better for the next step. Just don't thin out the icing with the chocolate.
If the cocoa powder or chocolate overwhelms the taste of the buttercream, add some flavoring such as orange essence or almond extract – just to take the bitterness away.
Add to your color mixture in the squeeze bottle or cheat a bit by buying black gel or paste. Very deliberately add the black to the icing – a little at a time as the color is intense. Stir to mix well. If the icing still isn't black enough, let it sit for about 30 minutes. The color deepens as time passes. Check back and add more black gel if needed.
Another Cheat – Store-Bought Icing
Turning that tub of store-bought icing into a sea of black takes a few extra steps. Turn the tub icing out into a mixing bowl and let the mixer whir for a few seconds to create an easy consistency. If your spatula runs through the icing and the icing doesn't fill in, you're good. If the icing is too runny, add a bit of powdered sugar.
Now your icing is ready for coloring. Remember: Use red, blue, green in equal amounts. Let it sit and settle, and keep it out of the sun. Adjust after 30 minutes.
Kneading Black Into Fondant
Fondant is another challenge when adding color. Paste is preferred when mixing with fondant as the color is concentrated, and you only need a little to get the results you need. Dab the black paste into the fondant with a toothpick.
Start kneading the fondant to infuse the color and knead until the entire mound of fondant is one color. You'll see any unmixed color when you roll out the fondant, and if so, knead some more. Let it sit to absorb the color and use after 30 minutes.