I love festive colors, but I don't like adding chemicals to my food. Luckily, there are easy ways to make our own all-natural food coloring!
If you have ever gone berry picking, you know the various shades of purples and blues the berries can stain your fingers. Why not put that to use the next time you make candy or frosting? Frozen berries work great in winter months, and they add flavor as well as color. Simply press some berries through a sieve to strain out seeds and use the juice like you would artificial food coloring.
The spice turmeric actually has many health benefits and makes a great yellow - everything from soft buttery yellow to sunshine to an almost glowing greenish yellow. A little goes a long way, and heating intensifies the color. Use just as much as you need to get the desired color so that its savory flavor doesn't overpower your sweet treat. All-natural lemon extract flavoring pairs perfectly with this!
"Princess pink" can easily be achieved with a little bit of (canned) beet juice! With more you get a beautiful vibrant beet red. In fact, some sources say that red velvet cakes were originally made this way. I worried before trying it that my frosting would taste like beets, but actually it tasted better than the chemical taste you get from the artificial food coloring, and with the addition of flavorings like vanilla, peppermint or almond extract, I would never have guessed it was in there if I hadn't already known.
I'm still working to find the perfect green. Since the water from cooking broccoli turns a bright green, that has been suggested, and I'm looking forward to trying it. We'll see if the broccoli taste is too strong, though. (I think mint extract might cover the taste well.)
Why not experiment to find other great colors you can make with food? This is a fun activity that you can try with kids, and since artificial petroleum-based colors can cause severe allergic reactions in some people and have been linked to a number of other health problems, it could be better for your health, too!
Basic Frosting Recipe
2 cups confectioner's (or icing) sugar*
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon flavoring
A few drops to about 1 teaspoon coloring
Small amount of water
Mix thoroughly with a sturdy wire whisk, adding just enough liquid to reach the desired consistency. Start with quite a bit less liquid than you think you'll need (about a teaspoon) and then add a little at a time. (Also, if flavoring with mint extract, you don't need nearly as much as you would with something like vanilla. Add too much and it tastes like toothpaste frosting. I'd start with about a few drops or about 1/8 of a teaspoon.)
With more liquid, it makes a nice glaze for Bundt cakes or donuts. If you don't want a glaze and you've added to much liquid, just add more confectioner's sugar.
Play with the recipe to fit your personal tastes. Since I usually have confectioner's sugar on hand, I find that it's far easier to make my own than guess how many cans or tubes of (chemical) frosting I'll need and run out in the middle of a project.
*Obviously, sweeteners of any kind should be consumed sparingly. While powdered sugar found in most grocery stores has the advantage of being bright white, it is definitely not a healthy ingredient. For a healthier alternative, look for powdered sugar that has been made with coconut sugar or another all-natural sweetener. While the tan color will affect your candy/frosting color, it's nice to know that it's better for you than the alternative!