While I generally prefer to let the color of my food speak for itself, I’ve long been curious about using real food instead of food coloring.*
With the holiday of pink and red right around the corner, I set out to make some edible Valentine’s — heart-shaped gingerbread cookies with beet-pink buttercream frosting.
A little digging uncovered two main approaches to using beets to color frosting: 1) juice the beets or 2) stir chunks of beets (which can easily be removed when their work is finished) into the frosting. We don’t have a juicer, so option number two was the obvious winner.
I headed to the kitchen, where I thoroughly washed my freshly harvested beet, then cut half of it into ten small chunks. I tossed a few chunks in with my white buttercream and began to stir.
After a few minutes, I saw some results, but realized that partially cooked beet chunks would yield more juice, and thus more color. I tossed six of the chunks into a ramekin, added a teaspoon of water, and microwaved it (covered) for a minute or so.
The result? Slightly tender beet chunks and a bit of vivid pink beet juice.
After cooling, I tossed the cooked beets and a bit of the juice into my frosting, which obligingly turned a lovely shade of pink.
For the frosting, I used our basic tried-and-true buttercream recipe, with equal weights butter and sifter powdered sugar, plus vanilla and almond extracts. Half of a smallish beet produced the color here for a recipe with a pound of butter and a pound of powdered sugar.
For comparison, I had a small amount of frosting colored with good ol’ Red #40 and Red #3: beet on the left, artificial coloring on the right.
In case you’re wondering, you can’t taste the beet at all.
Happy [almost] Valentine’s Day ❤
*While consuming small amounts of artificial food dye is probably not a big deal, I prefer to avoid them as much as possible, and, frankly, really deep-colored frosting with tons of dye just tastes disgusting.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? I used beets in a cake recipe, and what a moist delicious chocolate cake… without a hint of beet! I love your pretty pink hearts!
I think the beet pink is actually prettier than the food coloring. Might have to try that next time I need to make something pink.
Thanks! It takes a bit of guesswork, but you can vary the shade by using more or less beet/beet juice. Since many frosting recipes call for a tablespoon or two of milk (which especially helps if you’re getting fancy and using decorating bags), you could also cook the beets in the milk and use the pink milk.
Do you need to keep the frosted cookies in the fridge?
Not if you’ll be eating them within a few days.