Red Buttercream Frosting

I’ve started sharing my Valentine’s Day cakes across social media, and a few of them are decorated with super vibrant, red buttercream. This has to led to tons of comments and messages asking how I make such red frosting!

Photo of my Valentine's Day sprinkle cake, with bright red buttercream

Use The Right Type of Food Coloring

There are a few tips I have to make frosting that is a deep, true red color. The first is to use gel food coloring or powdered food coloring! When it comes to coloring your frosting, these are an absolute must.

Liquid food coloring can throw off the consistency of your icing, especially if you have to add a ton to achieve the color you’re after.

Gel food coloring is much more concentrated, so you can add less and still get a deep color. The brand you use can affect the color too, as some are more true to color than others.

I always use the Americolor brand (not sponsored, just my very favorite food coloring)! I like to use the super red shade when making red buttercream.

Powdered food coloring is less commonly used, but is another wonderful way to get a bright red frosting.

This red powdered food coloring isn’t expensive, and you can order it on amazon. The biggest benefit to using it is that it has NO bitter aftertaste.

There also are some wonderful natural red powdered food colorings. If you’re looking for a natural way to make red buttercream, I suggest going this route.

Most of my cakes are frosted with an American-style buttercream frosting. My frosting is naturally pretty white, which makes it a great base to be colored! If your frosting is somewhat yellow, this can make it harder to make brightly colored frosting.

Image of my christmas sweater cake, decorated with bright red buttercream

Make Your Red Frosting In Advance

My second trick to making red frosting is to make it in advance. Yes, time is another secret!! If you make the frosting a couple days (or more) in advance, the color of the frosting will deepen over time.

This buttercream can be made over a week in advance, and store it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it.

I take the frosting out a few hours before I need it, to allow it to come to room temperature.  Once it’s thawed, it always is a darker color than when I initially made it.

While we’re on the topic, I have one important piece of advice around making frosting in advance. As buttercream sits and/or thaws, it usually gets tons of tiny air bubbles in it!

When you make frosting, it’s almost impossible not to incorporate air into it as you mix in the powdered sugar (I recommend using a paddle mixing attachment to help minimize this).

This becomes more noticeable overtime as the buttercream sits, and tiny air bubbles form.

To make your buttercream smooth again, all you need to do is give the frosting a really good stir with a rubber spatula. Work the frosting slowly from side to side, and spread it across the sides of your bowl for a few minutes.

It’s definitely an arm workout, but after working the frosting around the bowl and pushing out the excess air, you’ll be left with silky smooth frosting.

Photo of my Santa Clause Cake! He was so jolly and full of Christmas cheer

Avoid The Bitter Taste

My final tip helps manage the bitter flavor that bright red buttercream usually has. I am the first to admit that most frosting made with lots of food coloring tastes bitter.

Red frosting is one of the worst offenders, and there are a few ways around this. The first option is to use a “no taste” red gel food coloring, which helps reduce the bitter aftertaste.

It’s harder to find online, and while it does make the frosting taste better, there still is a tiny bit of aftertaste.

Like I mentioned above, another great way to avoid bitter taste is to use powdered red food coloring! It works great, and you can’t taste it at all!!

My way around this is to flavor the frosting, either with a strong extract (like almond or coconut), or with cream cheese! I love using my cream cheese buttercream recipe when making red frosting.

The cream cheese flavor helps counter the bitter taste of the food coloring. My cream cheese frosting is thick enough to pipe with, and is what I used to make this red buttercream rosette cake.

Red buttercream roses cake

Start With A Pink Base Frosting

My final trick to making red frosting is to start with a pink frosting. Strange, I know. But pink food coloring doesn’t have the same bitter taste that red food coloring does.

It’s way easy to turn pink buttercream red than to start with a white buttercream base and make it red. It also allows you to use way less red food coloring, which I think we can all agree is the goal here.

Whether you’re making a cake for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or an angry birds cake, I hope these tips help you make the brightest, most delicious red buttercream!!

Share Your Creations With Me!

If you try this red frosting recipe, please tag me @chelsweets. Also use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations!

Nothing makes me happier than when I get emails or DMs with photos of your amazing cakes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your triumphs, or questions <3

If you have any questions about red frosting that I didn’t cover, or if you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments section below.

Yield: 9-10 cups

Bright Red Buttercream Frosting

Bright Red Buttercream Frosting

Struggle to make truly red frosting?? Learn my tips for making the brightest red buttercream, with a simple recipe that comes together in minutes.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (452 grams)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (907 grams) - or a 2 lb bag
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (30 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (13 grams)
  • red gel food coloring
  • OR red powdered food coloring


  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Mix in the vanilla and salt on a low speed
  2. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  3. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.Β 
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  5. Add in a generous squirt of gel or about a 1/2 tsp of powdered food coloring once the frosting is fully made, and beat on low until it reach the desired colored.
  6. To allow the shade to deepen, place in sealed piping bags or an airtight container. Leave out overnight at room temperature, or place in the fridge for several days.


If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process.

You can also stir the frosting in a bowl with a rubber spatula, pushing it from side to side, to get rid of any air bubbles.This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

If you have any questions about making buttercream in advance, please read this post on how long buttercream lasts and how to store it.

Nutrition Information


10 cups

Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 692 Total Fat 38g Saturated Fat 24g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 12g Cholesterol 101mg Sodium 124mg Carbohydrates 91g Net Carbohydrates 0g Fiber 0g Sugar 89g Sugar Alcohols 0g Protein 0g

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28 thoughts on “Red Buttercream Frosting

  1. So how much Americolor gel food coloring do you use for a single batch of frosting? And do you only add red, or do you add other colors to deepen the color?

    1. if you don’t have time to let it sit, you can add a TINY drop of black to help deepen it too! I add two generous squeezes, from my large food coloring bottles! not sure exactly how much that is, but I hope that helps! <3

    1. that’s interested! I’ve never heard of that before, but now I definitely want to try it!! thank you for sharing Janet πŸ™‚

  2. Can i use these same tips for normal Whipping cream? And what about adding vanilla flavor to the whipping cream. Do u think it would hide the bitterness of the color?

    1. Sadly it doesn’t really work the same way with whipping cream :/ Whipped cream is a lot harder to vibrantly color!

  3. I’ve always noticed how colored buttercream gets darker over time, but I’ve never thought to use that as an advantage!

    How do you store your buttercream? Whenever I out it in the fridge, it tastes like the fridge later on ?.

    1. Great question! usually put it in an airtight container, or in a bowl with Saran Wrap directly on top of it! I also don’t keep much normal food in my fridge though, so I don’t really run into that problem!! <3

  4. when leaving the icing sit, aboit how long before you know whether its the red you need? I currently have in fridge since i do not need till the weekend, but its still pink looking to me

    1. after a day or two you should know! If it’s still pink, you can try adding in a tiny bit of black, or you may need to try a different brand of gel food coloring!

      1. thank you! i actually just added more red, i dont think I originally added enough lol, I do have to also thank you for all your tips, they helped me tremendously and made making cakes fun again instead lf stressful, thank you thank you!!

  5. Hi! Can you link which pink gel food coloring you use as the base for a red buttercream? Thanks!!

  6. I followed your directions about making the icing ahead of time and using the powder food coloring and it turned out so wonderful. I did Mickey/Minnie cupcakes and they were the most beautiful rich red. I did use the entire tiny container of the red powder but it was worth it.

    1. I usually don’t because my powdered sugar doesn’t get clumps in it, but if you live in a humid environment you may want to sift your powdered sugar <3

  7. Hello!! Thanks so much for your tips and recipe! I’ve just made this for a Mickey Mouse cake this weekend. So I’ve placed it in an air tight container in the fridge where it will sit for about 2 days. I followed the directions exactly (used Americolor red gel color) and my frosting looks a little separated…maybe I added too much color? Do you think there is a way to fix this or have you ever had this happen? Maybe when I pull it out on Friday to use it, I just will add more powdered sugar…any thoughts? I appreciate your advice!! :).

    1. I have seen that before! Usually if you give it a good stir once it thaws it will come back together just fine! I’ve never really seen American buttercream separate unless something really watery is added, like fresh puree (i learned that the hard way when playing around with fresh strawberry frosting). I hope your Micky Mouse cake was a big hit!!

  8. I remember visiting the paint shop and the sales clerk told me bright deep colours like orange, red, burgandy etc. Need a gray primer..the white primer doesn’t work bro g out the colour.
    That hot me thinking about colourong frosting and if the same concept can be applied. I haven’t tried it yet but i intend to.

    1. Idk about grey, but i do agree with this concept overall! For black frosting, I use chocolate frosting as a base (which is already dark). Sometime for red frosting I start with pink as the base, then build up to red, which can also make it easier!!

      In general though, time is truly the best thing for bright / dark colored frosting!! The gel food coloring really intensifies over time <3

  9. I ordered powdered color.(I’m short on time. Grandson’s Bday is Friday) Color came today. Only 5 grams. I thought it would be more and I’m freaking out! I have to cover an entire 5 layer (FLASH) cake in Red. The 5 grams won’t be enough, will it?

    1. A little goes a long way, but you will probably need to add in some gel food coloring too if you’re going to make enough frosting for that big of a cake. You also could fill the inside with a white buttercream, and just cover the outside with red frosting (if you’re not already planning to do that)!

      Also don’t forget the power of time! Make it in advance, and the color will get deeper!! Hope that helps, best of luck Anne! Please let me know how it goes <3

Let me know what you think!