How To Make Bright 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!

Valentine's Day Sprinkle Cake

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! When it comes to coloring your frosting, gel food coloring is 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), which I buy on Amazon! I like to use the super red shade when making red buttercream.

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 some what yellow, this can make it harder to make brightly colored frosting.

sliced sweater cake v2-2

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.

I like to make it up to 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.

MVI_1757_Moment (2)

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 a lot harder to buy online, and while it does make the frosting taste better, there still is a tiny bit of aftertaste.

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, because the 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

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!! 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.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

How To Make Super Black Buttercream Frosting

My Favorite Baking Tools

My Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

My American Buttercream Frosting Recipe

My Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

My Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe


Let me know what you think!

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  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?

    • 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

  2. I heard buddy valastro (cake boss) say he uses a bit of vinegar to take away the bitterness of red food coloring!

    • that’s interested! I’ve never heard of that before, but now I definitely want to try it!! thank you for sharing Janet 🙂

  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 😣.

    • 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