Coloring dessert with fruit & vegetable juices

In the last year I have discovered it is actually very easy to use vegetable juices to color most any dessert item - from frosting to cookies to cake.  Most everyone loves ‘pretty’ food.  Our bodies are programed to want foods that are a variety of colors.  This fact has been used by the food industry to sell us products for years.  But It is way easier to run a factory than a farm, so often the ‘eat the rainbow’ concept only known to those who saw 1990s Skittles commercials. 

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When it comes to coloring dessert with fruit and vegetable juices, there are a few obvious questions.

*Does it change the flavor?  The answer is yes.  But not a lot, and not in a bad way.  I mean.  Don’t get me wrong, I use spinach juice over kale juice for a reason even though kale has more juice in each bunch.  Spinach you can’t really taste at all.  Kale?  Yeah. Kale cake = not so good. 

*How to you do it?  Mostly I just replace some or all of the liquid in the recipe with the same amount of fruit or vegetable juice.  I make the juice fresh and raw from my juicer.

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Cyan’s last birthday cake was my natural color masterpiece. She had a rainbow party and was dying to have one of those rainbow cakes you see on Pinterest… but I just couldn’t do all that fake food dye. Even red velvet cupcakes make me twitch a little bit. So I decided to make the cake days in advance (so if it was an epic fail I could just make chocolate) and see how I could color the cake using juice.  It turned out amazing!  You could taste each layer but there was nothing over powering or ‘earthy’ about it at all.  Some of them even complimented each other.  (Blackberry cake with butter cream frosting?  Um - YUM!)

Each layer was a 1/2 of a cake batter recipe.

  • Red = Egg white, white cake with 1/4 cup smashed raspberries and 2 Tbs beet juice
  • Orange = Egg yolk yellow cake with 2 1/2 Tbs carrot juice
  • Yellow = Egg yolk yellow cake, plain
  • Green = Egg white white cake with 2 Tbs spinach juice
  • Blue = Egg white white cake with 1/4 cup smashed blueberries with a bit of blue dye because the batter looked grey. (There is nothing appealing about grey cake batter. Especially to those of us who do not like cake. So I added a tiny bit of blue frosting dye to this batter and it worked out perfectly!)
  • Purple = Egg white white cake with 1/4 cup smashed blackberries and 1 Tbs beet juice

I have thought SO many times about experimenting with a ‘blue’ layer so I can eliminate that color as well, but… I don’t like cake.  So I will have to find a birthday with which to motivate more experimentation. 

A couple other examples were in my little guy’s birthday this year too:

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Luke’s birthday cake was more pastel to go with his Eric Carle birthday theme.  I also wanted it to taste a little bit different so I added the zest of a lemon and a lime to help with the color and enhance the flavor.  It turned out to be a wonderful compliment to the buttercream frosting!  Every now and again you would run into a ribbon of zest in either green or yellow which made a very light, but fun ‘muddled’ coloring… very much like Eric Carle’s paintings.  I will be playing with that idea more in the future.

  • Green - Egg white, white cake with 3 Tbs of spinach juice (replacing 3 Tbs of water) and the zest of one lime. 
  • Yellow - Butter yellow cake recipe with egg yolks instead of whole eggs and the zest of one lemon.  (Our chickens have particularly yellow yolks.  And in this case, more color = more nutrition!)

I made cookies as the favors for that same birthday party.  Due to the success of the cake batter I decided to try my hand at coloring frosting this way. 

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Instead of milk I used fruit and vegetable juices to color this royal icing.  I was concerned that it wouldn’t set, but it worked PERFECTLY.  No issues at all. 

  • Green - This my good friend spinach again. In this case, you couldn’t taste it at all. Was just as tasteless as any royal icing I have ever made. lol…
  • Scarlet Red - I used frozen cherry juice.  I just defrosted a cup or so of cherries on the counter until they were soft, then mashed them with a potato masher and strained out the juice through a sifter.  Then I measured the juice and used it where the recipe called for milk.  It definitely had a cherry flavor when done.  So I decided to run with it.  Instead of using vanilla extract to flavor the icing (as I did with the spinach) I used almond, which has a distinct ‘cherry’ flavor to it.  It worked amazingly well and made for a tasty and beautiful cookie!

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I am sold!  Food coloring was already of limited use in the house.  It was mostly used for play dough.  But to my kids, this meant that our fun food never had much color.  Not anymore!  I wonder what would happen if I added spinach juice to my bread for St Patrick’s Day?

2 comments

Mama Goose said...

Thank you thank you thank you! Can I say it enough. I have been wanting to do the rainbow cake for a while now, but totally refuse to use dye. Some of the colors are easy, but a few stumped me. We will be making rainbow cake pronto! Thanks for the inspiration au naturel. ;-)

calebandnicolette said...

Hi there! I know this is an old post, but I'm wondering if you can share the base recipe for the white and yellow cakes that you used?

Thanks!

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