Equal parts of red and green water-based food coloring mixed with pure white frosting produces a base brown color. To create shades of brown -- almost a necessity for detail work -- food color gels work best. Gels are more effective than primary water-based colors: You 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.
- Mix the frosting 1 hour before applying it, to allow the colors to fully set.
Step 1: Mix the colors.
Add 12 drops each of red and green water-based food coloring -- for every 2 cups of frosting -- to a disposable cup. Mix the colors with a toothpick.
Step 2: Adjust the color.
Stir in red, yellow or green food color one drop at a time to adjust the color. A drop or two of red food color imparts a mahogany hue to the color; the same amount of yellow invests an oak-like quality. One drop each of both red and green color darkens the brown.
Step 3: Color the frosting.
Add 2 cups of pure white frosting to a mixing bowl and make a well in the center with the spatula. Fold the color into the frosting until it's 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 you apply it.
Colors are subjective; one cook's mahogany is another cook'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 color you're looking for -- but do so before you mix it with the frosting.
There's no guesswork when you're mixing gel-based specialty colors -- mixing one drop each of brown and yellow with 2 cups of frosting, for example, 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 cup of 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.