I’ve started sharing my Valentine’s Day cakes across social media, and a few of them are decorated with super vibrant, red frosting.
This has to led to tons of comments and messages asking how I make such red frosting! I’ve experimented with different techniques, types of food coloring, and even natural food coloring!
Below are the most important tips I learned while testing out what ingredients and methods work best for making bright red frosting.
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!
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.
Alternative Food Colorings
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. The only downside is you need a ton of it to make red frosting.
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.
I’ve also tried out beetroot powder, which doesn’t give as vibrant of a color, but is a great alternative to gel food coloring. Surprisingly it doesn’t really change the taste of the frosting!
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.
Make Your Red Frosting In Advance
My second trick to making red frosting is to make it in advance. Yes, time is another secret!! I cannot stress this tip enough. It is by far the most important tip.
If you make the frosting a few days (or more) in advance, the color of the frosting will deepen over time. Allowing the buttercream to sit out at room temperature (usually as it thaws) is what really deepens the color.
You can see below that the bowl of frosting that was made 3 days in advance is a much deeper and brighter shade of red than the frosting made the day of.
I actually added a lot more red gel food coloring to the frosting made the day of, and it still wasn’t really a deep shade of red.
This buttercream can be made weeks in advance, and stored in the fridge until you’re 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.
Give Your Frosting a Good Stir Once It Thaws
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.
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!!
Flavor Your Red Frosting
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.
Add In Another Color Like Pink or Black
One other trick to making red frosting can be to start with a pink frosting. Strange, I know. But a pink base coloring makes it easier to make red frosting.
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.
Sometimes this can still cause the frosting to have a bitter taste though. This is a good idea for achieving a red color, but not the best idea in terms of taste.
If you’re after a really deep red color, you can also add a tiny (and I mean TINY) drop of black gel food coloring to your red buttercream. This will really help it deepen in color, especially if you let it sit for a bit.
Tips For Making SUPER Red Frosting:
- Use gel food coloring (preferable Americolor Super red) or powdered food coloring.
- Make this frosting several days in advance to allow the shade to deepen.
- Flavor the frosting with cream cheese or a strong extract (like almond) to avoid a bitter taste.
- Start with a pink frosting base to allow you to add less red food coloring.
- Add a tiny drop of black gel food coloring to deepen the shade more if needed.
Making This Red Frosting in Advance and Storage Tips:
- Make your frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
- A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
- If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
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 and use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations!
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.
Other Recipes You Might Like:
- Russian Buttercream Recipe
- Black Buttercream Frosting Tutorial
- Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
- Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Oreo Frosting
- Salted Caramel Frosting
- Fluffy Peanut Butter Buttercream
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams; 1 lb box)
- 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 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
- 2 tsp of almond extract (8 grams) - optional
- red gel food coloring
- OR red powdered food coloring
- NOTE: If possible, make this frosting at least three days in advance. As you thaw the frosting, let it sit out overnight at room temperature to develop a super deep red color.
- Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
- Mix in the vanilla extract, almond extract (optional) and salt on a low speed.
- Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
- Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
- 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).
- Add in a generous squirt of red gel food coloring or about a 2 tsp of powdered red food coloring once the frosting is fully made, and beat on low until it reach the desired colored.
- 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 to help it deepend in color.
This recipe makes about 6 cups of frosting, which is enough to frost and fill an 8-inch layer cake.
Make your frosting ahead of time, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week
Amount Per Serving Calories 1154Total Fat 63gSaturated Fat 39gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 21gCholesterol 168mgSodium 207mgCarbohydrates 151gFiber 0gSugar 148gProtein 1g