This post is part of the Cupcake Academy series, which covers everything you could possibly need to know about baking and decorating cupcakes. Although you would probably mainly want to create brightly coloured cupcakes, such as rainbow or red/blue/green velvet, you can also use the exact same techniques to create bright cakes and cookies too!
What to make? -
Red velvet cupcakes! Or green velvet, purple velvet, yellow velvet…
Ombre cake -
I have made both a pink and a purple ombre cake in the last year, using the same recipe as my rainbow cake – but neither cakes have made it onto the blog due to my not being around when they were cut. The principles are exactly the same as the Rainbow Cake though.
It’s also possible to make colourful cookies such as those shown here.
How to achieve vibrant colours in your baking
The most important thing is to use gel food colouring rather than liquid food colouring that you’ll more commonly find in the supermarket. Gel colouring has two advantages – first, it is highly pigmented – meaning you can achieve bright (and I mean neon bright, if thats what you want!) colours, and second, a little goes a long way, meaning that you don’t water down or alter the flavour of your delicious cake.
However, for me, the best place to get it from is online – I buy mine from eBay and stick to three brands -
- Sugarflair – the one most commonly found in UK baking shops. Their bright Christmas Red is perfect for red velvet cakes. I also use the bigger, more intense Red Extra when I’m making A LOT of red velvets! You can get a tub from about £2.50 delivered on eBay – and how long the tubs last is down to the colour and how often you use it – I need a lot more red than any other colour so I’d recommend buying more of those. However, they do keep for years and I have some colours that I haven’t even opened yet. Overall, I think its DEFINITELY worth it. If you’re interested in making a rainbow cake, you might be interested to know that you can buy all of the gel colours you’ll need in one set.
- Americolor – Generally, Sugarflair colours should cover everything you need, however, Americolor has them beat when it comes to BRIGHT NEON colours. Their electric pink and electric purple gels give you NEON bright frosting or cakes that just make me happy! They are a bit pricier – about £4 per bottle, but again, they will last for multiple cakes, and give an amazing colour.
- Wilton – I’ve experimented a bit less with Wilton colours, but they are about £3 a tub and have some great softer and classic colours, like rose, a beautiful pink.
To add your gel to your cake batter, you’ll need to divide the mix up into bowls – ie four if you’re doing a four layer ombre cake, and then add gel colouring using a toothpick or the end of a knife. Add colour slowly, and do not double dip the toothpick/knife as getting batter into the tub of colouring will shorten its shelf life and contaminate it. Keep adding colouring and mixing until you have a colour you’re happy with!
Above are the rainbow cupcakes that I made – you can see that its pretty impossible to achieve a vibrant purple with the Sugarflair purple gel, which is why I switched to the Americolor version.
- don’t overfill – as you can see in the picture above, the cases are about half full of rainbow cake batter – what you want is for the cake to rise, but stay pretty flat. When a cake case is overfilled, it will tend to rise up more dramatically and brown around the edges – we don’t want that!
- don’t overbake – kind of obvious but this isn’t as simple as only baking for the alloted time! All ovens have hot spots and cool spots, the trick is to rotate your cakes / cupcakes so that none of their their colourful tops get browned. Ideally, you want them to completely retain their pre-cooking colour – as with the rainbow cake above.