In the baking world, not all color options are created equal. Your favorite purple Liquid Gel might be perfect for royal icing, but wreak havoc in your chocolate bon bons. Below we’ll brief you on the different food colors on the market, and let you know which to use for your next dessert.
The most readily available, traditional liquid food coloring will be found in any baking aisle in the supermarket. These colors work fine when you’re looking for a light, pastel tint, but when you need rich, saturated colors in a dessert and water content can make or break the final product, it’s best to avoid liquid dyes.
Used for: syrups, icing, batter, dough
Gel food coloring is great for any baked good where water content is an important consideration. Gel colors are brightly pigmented and contain far less liquid, meaning you can use it without impacting the consistency of your icings or batters. Additionally, gels can also be used for painting! Mix your gels colors with a bit of lemon extract, vodka, or everclear, and use them as a watercolor paint on finished desserts.
Used for: icings, fondants, gum paste, batter, dough
Like gels, powdered colors are used in icings, but also work great for dry mixes, and even meringues and melted chocolate where water is a big no-no. Powdered colors are extremely pigmented so a little goes a long way! They also work great to dry brush your finished desserts, or can be mixed with vodka, lemon extract, or everclear to create paint that’s perfect for adding those finishing touches on harder sugar mediums like gum paste and fondant. Note: not all powders are created equal. Some may not work in chocolate while others will. So do your research!
Used for: sugars, chocolates, meringues, macarons, icings, fondant
Natural food dyes are ideal for anyone looking to avoid synthetic colors. They use plant sources like saffron, turmeric, carrots, and beets to create their pigments. They work great for more earthy hues, but won’t be suitable if you’re decorating 80’s-inspired neon cupcakes where color saturation is a must. Natural food dyes also have a low heat tolerance, so are best used for toppings or desserts that aren’t baked at high heats, or baked at all.
Used for: allergy-friendly, low heat desserts
As the name suggests, oil-based or candy colors are designed to bind to oil-based products like chocolate, candy melts, or any fat-based products like buttercream. Oil-based colors will NOT work in anything meringue based like meringues, royal icing, and so on.
Used for: chocolate, candy, buttercream, ice-cream, sugar paste
Airbrush food coloring shares the same ingredients as a Liquid Gel color, but is designed to work with an airbrush compressor machine and therefore has a different viscosity.
Used for: decorating and detail work on fondant, dry icing
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