To transform pure white frosting into brown, all it takes is a little grade-school color blending. Equal parts red and green water-based food coloring does the trick. To create various shades of brown for detail work, food color gels work best—you only need half as much gel-based color as you do water-based, and you can fine-tune and tint the frosting color to a greater degree with less guesswork.

Water-Based Food Coloring

Things You'll Need

Step 1: Mix the Colors

For every 2 cups of frosting, add 12 drops each of red and green water-based food coloring to a disposable cup. Mix the colors with a toothpick.

Step 2: Adjust the Color

Stir in red, yellow, or green food coloring one drop at a time to adjust the color. A drop or two of red imparts a mahogany hue; the same amount of yellow adds an oak-like shade; one drop each of both red and green darkens the brown.

Step 3: Color the Frosting

Add 2 cups pure white frosting to a mixing bowl and make a well in the center with a spatula. Fold the color into the frosting until incorporated. The standard folding technique used in baking and pastry applications works well here.

Step 4: Develop the Color

Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Let the frosting reach room temperature, and give it a final stir before using.

Tips

  • Mix the frosting 1 hour before using it to allow the colors to fully set.
  • Colors are subjective—one cook’s mahogany is another’s burnt sienna. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a few additional drops of water-based red, green, or yellow until you get the shade you’re looking for—but do so before you mix it with the frosting.

Gel-Based Food Coloring

Things You'll Need


There’s no guesswork when working with gel-based specialty colors. For example, mixing 1 drop each of brown and yellow with 2 cups frosting produces a neutral brown, but you can still adjust the colors to fit your needs.

Step 1: Mix the Colors

Mix the gels in a disposable cup, using a toothpick:

  • Neutral brown: 1 drop of yellow + 1 drop of brown
  • Autumn brown: 25 drops of brown + 4 drops of crimson + 4 drops of orange + 4 drops of red
  • Summer brown: 1 drop of red + 7 drops of yellow + 4 drops of brown
  • Winter brown: 26 drops of brown + 8 drops of crimson

Step 2: Color the Frosting

Add 2 cups pure white frosting to a mixing bowl and make a well in the center with the spatula. Fold the color into the frosting until incorporated. Use the standard folding technique.

Step 3: Develop the Colors

Cover the mixing bowl and let the frosting sit in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Let the frosting warm to room temperature, and stir it before using.