How to Make Red Icing Red
by Mary Gavenda
Do you ever have any problems getting red icing red? I know I do. It can happen for a couple of reasons: didn’t add enough icing color or used shortening with a high yellow dye content, such as butter flavored shortening. Do you have a lot of minerals in your water that could make a difference (like well water)?
In the Wilton Decorating Room, we get the best results for a brighter red color using a combination of Red-Red Icing Color with Christmas Red Icing Color, equal parts. It will take a large amount of the icing color to achieve a deep red shade. Just keep adding more and mixing it in after each addition. Depending on the amount of icing you need to tint, you might start by adding 1/2 teaspoon of each for one cup of icing. You will also get good results when using No Taste Red Icing Color; you’ll still need to put in approximately 1 teaspoon of color to 1 cup of buttercream. No Taste Red Icing Color is muted a bit in color, but the taste of the No Taste Red is more acceptable.
If it’s at all possible to plan ahead, make your icing a day or two ahead – or even three days! The color will deepen as it sets (but it does need to be a red color to start, not pink!)
Keep in mind when you use a large amount of icing color, sometimes the buttercream icing taste becomes a little bitter. If this happens, add a little more flavoring to compensate for the difference. The amount of flavoring to add will depend on the number of cups of icing and your taste preference. Maybe an additional 1/4 teaspoon will help for each cup of icing. But the best judge will be your own taste, so adjust as needed. You can use Clear Vanilla or No-Color Almond Extract to increase the flavor. These extracts are clear so they won’t change the tint of your icing.
A tube of Red Ready-To-Use Icing Tube (4.25 oz) comes in handy when I need a small amount of red, especially for a facial feature or maybe some red trims. (Keep your eyes open for a large container of our red buttercream icing, sold in a 4.5 pounds, available at Wal-Mart.)
If you are using a lot of red icing on an adult cake or special occasion cake, keep in mind that anyone who eats it will wear some red tint on their teeth for the evening! If it’s a formal occasion, you might want to limit the use of large amounts of dark colors if possible.
If you have any leftover red icing, you can save it for a future use. Just put it in a container or a double self-closing bag and freeze it for future use…like for Valentine’s Day when we do special treats for those we care about!