Your favorite team, the Miami Dolphins, are playing a big game, and you’re expecting a crowd of friends over to watch the game. The Dolphins colors are turquoise and orange, and you’re planning to make football-shaped cookies decorated with the team colors. The only problem is that you can’t find turquoise food coloring. The grocery stores carry basic colors, but not turquoise. Don’t throw out your cookie plans just yet. A few simple color-blending tricks will turn those basic colors into dramatic hues. Making your own food coloring helps you bake standout cookies, cakes, muffins or whatever lifts your team spirit.

Going Beyond Standard

A typical box of food coloring, whether it’s liquid or gel, contains red, yellow, blue and green. With just those four colors, you can create a world of tints, hues and everything in-between. However, there’s a difference between liquid and gel, and when you’re mixing the colors, that difference becomes vital.

Liquid food coloring has more water, and it’s less concentrated. The colors it produces are less vibrant and work well when you need pastels for decorations. Gels have less water and are very concentrated. They’re also thicker in consistency because of the addition of corn syrup; in fact, just a few drops alter the end color considerably. Use gel when the amount of liquid in a recipe is limited and powder food coloring isn’t available.

Turning White Into Turquoise

Many shades of turquoise blue color exist. The precise hue you want to achieve is possible if you start with a pad, pencil, blue and green gel colors, and two cups of white frosting, separated into 1-cup bowls. Use the first bowl to mix the colors and the second to dilute it if you go a bit overboard.

Because buttercream frosting has a slightly yellowish cast because of the high proportion of butter in the mixture, many experts recommend cream cheese icing when creating specific colors. Also, don’t use vanilla buttercream; the color of the vanilla will affect the end result.

The number of drops needed to create a color are so high that you may think it’s a typo: One hundred drops equals 1 teaspoon. Gel is the coloring of preference since you don’t want to dilute your frosting and make it too liquid. You don’t want your color to run off the edges of the cookies!

Making Magic With Color

In the first bowl of homemade white frosting, add five drops of blue and three drops of green. This is just the starting point. Keep adding in the same ratio, 5-to-3, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until you have mixed the color you want. Write down the formula after each addition. If the color gets too dark, add some of the white frosting from the second bowl and mix well. Always write down exactly what you are adding, so you’ll know the recipe the next time.

If you’re using store-bought white frosting, the formula is the same. That’s not the case for other colors. Just be sure you have two bowls, 1 cup each, of the frosting, to work with. Also, let the colored frosting sit for 10‒15 minutes. It darkens over time, and adjusting it too early may result in a color you really don’t want.

Going a Step Beyond

If baking and experimenting with color fascinates you, consider going to a bakery supply store or shopping online. A large variety of powdered food colorings, both in standard and natural mixes, are readily available in many colors. Just know that a powder may dry out your frosting more than the gel.

Plant-based, or natural, food colorings tend to be muted in color. They may not produce the vibrant turquoise you need for your favorite team colors.

About the Author

Jann Seal

My seventh grade English teacher didn't realize what she was unleashing when she called me her "writer," but the word crept into my brain. I DID become a writer. Of advertising copy, dialogue and long-term story for several network soap operas, magazine articles and high-calorie contents for the cookbook: Cooking: It AIn't Rocket Science, a bestseller on Amazon! When I'm not writing, I'm cooking!