Using Confection Crafts Natural Colors
Natural colors react to pH, temperature, exposure to light and other conditions.
Changes depend primarily on what plant the particular color is made from and somewhat on how it is processed.
How are colors affected by pH?
pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The pH of most products is available on many websites.
The least acid, or most alkaline ingredient of common decorating ingredients are baking soda and egg white. More acid ingredients are butter and corn syrup, cream cheese and chocolate. Tartaric acid (cream of tartar) and lemon juice are examples of very acidic ingredients.
Color reactions are most obvious with blue color (from cabbage) and with black, which is made in part from blue. Cabbage blue mixed with egg white (base) will end up very bright, from greenish blue to bright navy blue. As cabbage blue is combined with more acid ingredients it will end up more of a marine blue, then with a bit more acid move into purplish tones. An example of this in nature is the Hyacinth plant with flowers changing from blue to purple depending on the acidity of the planting soil.
Black is another color that shifts in tone from black to brown dependent on acidity.
How to modify pH: If your blue mix is turning too pink, add just a touch of baking soda (a pinch will NOT affect the taste), mix, and wait a few minutes for the chemistry to change.If your purple is too blue, do the opposite; add a bit of acid like lemon juice, mix, and wait a few minutes.
If your black product ends up brown the base is probably too acidic, so just a pinch of baking soda will help bring back the black tone. Another solutions is adding blue. Do not add red, which will make it more brown.
Color Mixing / Mixing and Dissolving Powders: Keep in mind, there may be a reaction or fizz when acid and alkali first combine, as when mixing some colors or combing ingredients. This is normal, so don’t worry but be prepared. It can be messy if the mix overflows.
Red: combine beet pink with annatto or paprika orange. Start with a deep pink color and slowly add orange until you get the tone desired. Christmas red typically has more orange in it than a Valentine red. Reds can also have just a touch of blue or brown to deepen the tone.
Purple: combine cabbage blue and beet pink or grape blue, or by add acid like lemon juice to cabbage blue. Take care not to proceed too quickly as purples will keep changing tone over time.
Green: mix turmeric yellow and cabbage blue (pretty but not stable), or use spinach green (more stable).
Yellow: turmeric yellow is bright and good as a primary color for blending, but does fade quickly in light. Annatto,used sparingly, makes a pretty and more stable “egg shade” yellow, but is not good for mixing bright colors. Combine annatto and turmeric for bright yellow with less fading.
Color fading, greying and migration: All colors fade over time, some (like turmeric) more quickly than others.Keep your colors and colored products away from light and heat, and they can last quite a while.
Product fading varies dependent on the particular color, mix ingredients, and processes used. When creating a new product testing is key as each formulation has it’s own characteristics.
Cabbage blue will fade or turn grey over time; sometimes quickly when used with an acidic base. Cabbage based purples can fade or grey quickly.
Colors may also migrate to the surface (oxidation and emulsification are factors) leaving the interior less bright.
Baking with Confection Crafts Natural Colors: Hot cooking temperatures will turn colors brown, just like cooking vegetables. For best results use low acid mixes, make small sized items and bake quickly at low temperatures. Meringue works well with natural color. Red velvet cake using acidic chocolate and baked at 375° is an example of a baked product that will lose color. Using a dutched, or alkali cocoa powder and low temperatures (think small cupcakes or thin layers) will give best results.
Red Velvet: Try the red powder color and keep time and temperature in mind -
Powder Coloring: Powder colors can be used for many purposes, from cooking sugar (like lollipops), to making icings, batters, macarons and meringues or even painting on cookies! Add in powder form to liquids or reconstitute with a little liquid (water or egg white are best) to color thicker mixes.