How to Get Bright Red Buttercream Icing. Tried and true tips to get really bright red icing and frosting every time. With the right red food coloring and a few good practices, you'll be able to solve this neverending problem of the pink and coral and not-so-red, red frosting. I even have a bonus tip for going from bright red to dark red frosting, if that's your goal.
This is one of those problems that everybody in the cake decorating world has had problems with at one time or another. In fact, for years I struggled with this myself!
I hope by sharing these simple tips, maybe some of you won't have to struggle as much as I did! So let's get to it!
How to Get Bright Red Buttercream!
Usually the scenario goes like this... you start mixing in the red food coloring and your frosting turns pink. Or coral. You add more and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.
The frosting is still a pink-orange-coral color. You add more coloring. Maybe your frosting starts to get runny. Your buttercream starts to separate. You panic.
I've been there. But the one-product solution to this problem is very simple.
Are you ready? 5 words...
I know, I know - most people are just gah-gah about Americolor Super Red. And honestly, I like that particular red and still use it for some of my cake decorating ventures.
But Tulip Red is a much better color in my opinion to get bright red buttercream.
Now I'm sure other decorators will have different opinions or tips about getting a good, bright red, but this is it for me.
My problem with Super Red is that I'll think I have the perfect red color, then I come back a few hours later and the red has gotten too dark... too deep. You can see it a little in this Raggedy Ann cake:
I took this picture the day I finished the cake and you can see already that the red buttercream is darker than the nose/mouth. But when I got up the next morning for delivery, it was really, really dark and I was quite disappointed.
With Tulip Red, even when it sits, it will get a little darker or richer, but it won't go super dark on you.
How to Get Bright Red Buttercream
I know there are still a million questions about getting a good red, so here are a few tips for you:
- Americolor Tulip Red. Obviously, this is my first tip 😉 Get this red here!!
- Start with pink. But wait - you want to avoid pink, right? Trust me on this. If you have pink gel coloring and you're in a time-crunch, another way to jump-start the red coloring is to first color your frosting pink. This gives the red a good "base" to go from. This is a tip I mentioned in my book, Cake Decorating for Beginners. I like to use Americolor Electric Pink - especially when going for a really vibrant bright red. Americolor Deep Pink will also work but it seems to have a slightly purple hue, so don't use too much!
- Plan ahead. As with any deep/dark color combined with buttercream, you'll want to mix it up and take plenty of time for the color to develop. It will always get darker with time! Start with white buttercream (or pink as mentioned above, if you like). Mix in red until you get it barely red enough, then cover it and let it sit for an hour or two for the color to develop. If it's still not red enough, add more and again... let it sit as long as you can. I actually prefer to make my red buttercream a day before to really give it time to develop. I'll go back to it every 1-2 hours and add more here and there until I get a true, bright red.
- Add more powdered sugar. If you've already panicked and added too much coloring and your frosting is starting to fall apart, you can often add more powdered sugar to thicken it up again. If you're using Americolor gel colors and you're following tip #1 about planning ahead, you shouldn't have this issue. But if you happen to add too much coloring and your frosting gets too runny or starts to separate, you can often mix in more powdered sugar to thicken it up again. There's one problem with this... the additional sugar may lighten the color again (which is not what you're going for). In my experience, this goes back to #1. If you've added so much color that your frosting is runny, you're probably not waiting for the color to fully develop. So add the powdered sugar to thicken it, then step back and WAIT for that color to come through. I'd be wiling to bet most red frosting can be saved this way!
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you struggled with this? Do you have any other tips or thoughts? Leave me a comment!