hues-ing natural
food coloring powders in
BUTTERCREAM ICING / FROSTING
by BRIANNA SHAVER

hues-ing natural food coloring in

BUTTERCREAM ICING

BRIANNA CREATES COLOR

I've been in love with baking for as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my mom and me in the kitchen making Christmas cookies to share with our neighbors. I always knew baking was something I wanted to pursue and after graduating from Pastry School, I went on to get my Bachelor's degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Management; an experience that has paved the way for me in my business ventures.

I started two baking-related small businesses in Seattle, one solo and one with a dear friend for a business partner, and moved on each time when it felt right. I currently own Garden Box Baking, a food photography and recipe development business which I operate from home in the mountains of Northwest Montana. I've been growing and expanding since I shared my first recipe under GBB in 2022 and my goals for this business sometimes feel endless, which I love!

I absolutely love working on this Icing Hues project with Selefina. I'm more of a crunchy foodie, always opting for natural flavors and colors with as little ingredients as possible. Selefina's line of natural food colors are a staple in my kitchen and I can't wait to share with you my take on how to best use them when coloring buttercream. From pastel pinks to vibrant blues, the color variations one can achieve with these powders make for eye-catching, stunning desserts. — Brianna

Brianna, are you sure this icing isn't frosting? As for the icing/frosting debate, the two terms are technically used interchangeably in the industry, however, yes, people do tend to think frosting is fluffy and thick and icing is thin and hard (even though that’s not always the case). Royal icing is hard and for decorating things like cookies which I think is why the term “icing” can be confusing for people.

The reason my buttercream recipe is called “Royal Icing Buttercream” is because you make a royal icing but while it’s still wet you add the butter turning it into a silky smooth buttercream. Another way to phrase the buttercream would be “Faux Swiss Meringue Buttercream,” but that’s a bit of a mouthful lol. So sure, you can call it frosting if you like.

Please enjoy this series by Brianna Shaver of Garden Box Baking. Food photography on this page is ©Brianna Shaver.



make a royal-icing
BUTTERCREAM BASE
USING BRIANNA's BUTTERCREAM RECIPE
ROYAL ICING BUTTERCREAM RECIPE
by Brianna I’ve made countless buttercream recipes in my life. American, Swiss, French, you name it. My all time favorite buttercream recipe is this royal icing buttercream that I came across years ago and have since modified for my personal taste. I use it for all of my cakes and desserts and it is always a huge hit!

The consistency of this buttercream recipe is silky smooth and shiny, much like a Swiss meringue buttercream but without the hassle of heating anything up. It also uses meringue powder instead of egg whites which is not only safer, but a whole lot easier too. Say goodbye to trying to figure out what to do with all of the leftover egg yolks! It comes together in minutes and doesn’t leave a “crust” when left out like traditional American buttercream recipes do.

Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups (227g) - powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp (14g) - meringue powder
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp (38g) - water
  • 2 cups (454g) - unsalted butter, softened

MAKE THE BUTTERCREAM

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or using an electric handheld mixer, add the powdered sugar, meringue powder and water. Mix on low until all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, then mix on high for a few minutes until shiny and stiff (you’re essentially making royal icing here).

Turn the mixer off and add in all of the butter. Mix on medium speed until everything comes together. Turn the speed up to high and mix until very light in color and smooth.

Yield: 4 cups of buttercream

TIPS + TRICKS
For cake decorating, the buttercream should be as smooth as possible. For the silkiest, smoothest buttercream, before using, place the buttercream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for a few minutes to get out any air bubbles.

This recipe pipes wonderfully! For bakery style cupcakes, simply add a few large scoops to a piping bag with a large star tip (my favorite is Wilton 1M) and pipe a swirl starting at the center of each cupcake, working your way to the outer edges and finishing back in the center. This should give you an impressive 3 layered frosting swirl.

For lemon buttercream, replace the water with lemon juice and add 4 drops of lemon oil and the zest of 1 lemon in with the butter. Continue with the mixing process.

When coloring the buttercream, add the natural food color powder of choice in with the powdered sugar. To make multiple colors or shades from one batch of buttercream, portion out the buttercream into smaller bowls and add the coloring separately by making a slurry of equal parts food color powder and water. Mix this into the buttercream by hand with a rubber spatula.

Mixing dry ingredients: powdered sugar and meringue powder
Mix with water on low until incoporated; mix on high until shiny and stiff
Mix in all of the butter on medium speed, once incorporated mix on high until light and smooth
Turn the mixer off when light and smooth
Ready to use/pipe
Buttercream swirls using Wilton tips 1M and 2D


adding natural food coloring
CACAO POWDER
TO COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM
COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM with
Cacao Powder Selefina’s cacao powder is a warm brown color with a rich chocolatey taste. It mixes into buttercream seamlessly with a smooth velvety texture and gives off shades of beiges, tans and browns.

added May 7th, 2024

TIPS FOR MIXING INTO BUTTERCREAM
dry mix method
To make a single color, sift the cacao powder in with the powdered sugar when mixing buttercream. To make multiple different shades of brown, portion out 1 cup of buttercream in each bowl and make a paste with one part cacao powder to one part hot water (1:1 ratio). Then mix the paste into the buttercream. Using hot water helps the cacao incorporate better than if using cold water.

wet mix method*
If making a large batch with the liquid method, blending the cacao powder and hot water together with an emulsion blender provides the best results.

However, if adding more than 2 tablespoons per 1 cup of buttercream, the dry mixing method is recommended. Adding more than 2 tablespoons of cacao powder and water can result in a broken looking buttercream.

COLOR SHADE RATIOS
using 1 cup buttercream
  • Light Beige:  add 1 tsp cacao powder
  • [paste: 1 tsp cacao + 1 tsp water]
  • Tan:  add 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • [paste: 1 tbsp cacao + 1 tbsp water]
  • Light Brown:  add 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • [paste: 2 tbsp cacao + 2 tbsp water]
  • Brown:  add 4 tbsp cacao powder
  • [wet method not recommended]
  • Dark Brown:  add 6 tbsp cacao powder
  • [wet method not recommended]

tasting + consistency notes
The consistency of the buttercream with cacao powder is velvety smooth with a rich, chocolatey flavor. The more cacao that is added, the more distinct the flavor becomes and the stiffer the buttercream (if using the dry method). If the buttercream is too thick, add some cream or half and half, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the desired texture is achieved.

The beige and tan hues will taste like vanilla buttercream without any chocolate flavor. The light brown hue will have a hint of chocolate while the brown hue will have a light chocolatey flavor. Dark brown will have a distinct chocolate flavor, much like a traditional chocolate buttercream.

mixing in cacao paste
if using more than 2 tbsp/1 cup buttercream, wet method is not recommended
shades of brown: buttercream with cacao powder





adding natural food coloring
MATCHA POWDER
TO COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM
COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM with
Matcha Powder Selefina’s matcha powder is a dark mossy green color and, when mixed into buttercream, gives off shades ranging from a light mint to a bold pistachio. It has a distinct earthy taste and is great for creating natural green hues in frostings, creams and mousses.

added May 2nd, 2024

TIPS FOR MIXING INTO BUTTERCREAM
dry mix method
To make a single color, simply add the matcha powder in with the powdered sugar when mixing buttercream.

wet mix method*
To make multiple different shades of green, portion out 1 cup of buttercream in each bowl and make a paste with one part matcha to two parts water (1:2 ratio). Then mix the paste into the buttercream.

*This method allows you make one large batch of plain buttercream, separate it out into smaller bowls and then mix in the wet color. The reason I mix the powder with water when adding after the buttercream is already made is so that the color incorporates better. If added as a dry powder to already made buttercream then you'll see specks from the powder.

COLOR SHADE RATIOS
using 1 cup buttercream
  • Light Mint:  add 1/8 tsp matcha powder
  • [paste: ⅛ tsp matcha + ¼ tsp water]
  • Light Green:  add 1/4 tsp matcha powder
  • [paste: ¼ tsp matcha + ½ tsp water]
  • Sage Green:  add 1 tsp matcha powder
  • [paste: 1 tsp matcha + 2 tsp water]
  • Pistachio:  add 2 tsp matcha powder
  • [paste: 2 tsp matcha + 4 tsp water]

tasting + consistency notes
The consistency of the buttercream with matcha powder is silky smooth with a sweet, earthy flavor. The more matcha that is added, the more distinct the flavor becomes. I don’t recommend adding more than 2 teaspoons of matcha to 1 cup of buttercream because the flavor can get too bitter and the consistency of the frosting becomes broken. When adding more than 2 teaspoons, the consistency will be smooth if adding the dry matcha powder in with the powdered sugar, but the matcha flavor will be very strong.

I made four shades of matcha, all with a nice consistency and flavor. I tried to make a fifth, dark olive green color but the flavor was too strong and because you have to add more water with the matcha to make a paste (vs other colors I’ve tested) the buttercream broke and was no longer silky smooth.

making matcha paste
mixing to incorporate thoroughly
shades of green: buttercream with matcha powder





adding natural food coloring
MANGO JUICE POWDER
TO COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM
COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM with
Mango Juice Powder The natural mango powder is a vibrant yellow color and, when mixed into buttercream, gives off shades ranging from light buttery yellow to a warm mustard.

added April 18th, 2024

TIPS FOR MIXING INTO BUTTERCREAM
dry mix method
To make a single color, simply add the mango powder in with the powdered sugar when mixing buttercream. To make multiple different shades of yellow, portion out 1 cup of buttercream in each bowl and make a paste with equal parts mango powder and water. Then mix the paste into the buttercream.

wet mix method*
To get multiple shades out of one batch of buttercream, mix the powder separately with equal parts water to create a liquid food coloring. When the buttercream is ready, portion it into separate bowls and slowly mix the liquid color in with a spatula, one teaspoon at a time, until the desired shade is achieved.

*This method allows you make one large batch of plain buttercream, separate it out into smaller bowls and then mix in the wet color. The reason I mix the powder with water when adding after the buttercream is already made is so that the color incorporates better. If added as a dry powder to already made buttercream then you'll see specks from the powder.

COLOR SHADE RATIOS
using 1 cup buttercream
  • Light Buttery Yellow:  add 4 tsp mango juice powder
  • Pastel Yellow:  add 8 tsp mango juice powder
  • Sunshine Yellow:  add 4 tbsp mango juice powder
  • Mustard Yellow:  add 7 tbsp mango juice powder

tasting + consistency notes
The consistency of the buttercream with mango powder is silky smooth with a tangy, sweet flavor. When a large amount of mango powder is added (“mustard yellow” color), it can become a bit gummy and quite tart.

adding wet mix to buttercream
mixing to incorporate thoroughly
shades of yellow: buttercream with mango juice powder





adding natural food coloring
CRANBERRY JUICE POWDER
TO COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM
COLOR YOUR BUTTERCREAM with
Cranberry Juice Powder Selefina’s natural cranberry juice powder has a very fine texture, making mixing a breeze. It gives off a beautiful range of shades, from a light peach to a vibrant pink and the taste is sweet and tangy, sure to leave you wanting for more!

added March 22nd, 2024

TIPS FOR MIXING INTO BUTTERCREAM
dry mix method
To mix the natural cranberry juice powder into buttercream, simply add a few teaspoons in with the powdered sugar (ratio follows).

wet mix method*
To get multiple shades out of one batch of buttercream, mix the powder separately with equal parts water to create a liquid food coloring. When the buttercream is ready, portion it into separate bowls and slowly mix the liquid color in with a spatula, one teaspoon at a time, until the desired shade is achieved.

*This method allows you make one large batch of plain buttercream, separate it out into smaller bowls and then mix in the wet color. The reason I mix the powder with water when adding after the buttercream is already made is so that the color incorporates better. If added as a dry powder to already made buttercream then you'll see specks from the powder.

COLOR SHADE RATIOS
using 1 cup buttercream
  • Light Peach:  add ¼ tsp cranberry juice powder
  • Blush Pink:  add 2 tsp cranberry juice powder
  • Light Pink:  add 3 ¾ tsp cranberry juice powder
  • Vibrant Pink:  add 6 ½ tsp cranberry juice powder

tasting notes
You can taste the cranberry powder but there's so much sugar in the buttercream that even with the vibrant pink shade, it's more of a hint of cranberry, so slightly tart but mostly sweet. I think it gives the buttercream a really nice flavor.

adding wet mix to buttercream
mixing to incorporate thoroughly
shades of pink and peach: buttercream with cranberry juice powder