In study after study, the dangers of artificial food dyes are documented. Nevertheless, many of us would still like to provide colorful party foods for our families. What to do? Of course, bright fruits such as blueberries and strawberries can decorate the tops of white or chocolate frosting, but still …. what do you do when a 5-year-old begs for a “rainbow cake” for her birthday?
This year, my daughter in law made “rainbow cupcakes” with natural color that she also made herself — so lovely I want to share with everybody!!
She says she was inspired by a picture of a rainbow cake but had been disappointed by the quality of “natural colors” she had previously purchased. So she made them herself.
Rather than cooking the vegetables first, she juiced the fresh carrots, spinach, and beets. She used a blender for the blackberries and blueberries, although I assume they could be juiced as well. She also put the resulting colored liquid through a fine strainer to make sure there were no lumps, pulp, etc. Cheesecloth would also work, probably. On the other hand, a bit of pulp probably wouldn’t hurt in a cake, but may be more important for frosting. The blackberries, she said, turned a shade of brown when cooked, and the blueberries made a purple color darker than the blackberries. The beets got darker the longer the batter sat out before baking, turning a beautiful dark pink. The juiced carrot color turned yellow when cooked.
For the cake, she used a simple white-cake recipe, but instead of the milk called for in the recipe she used the juiced liquid colors. Because she was making cupcakes and wanted to use several colors, but just one recipe, she divided the cake batter into 5 bowls before adding the liquid, and adding to each bowl one-fifth of the amount of liquid specified in the recipe. She had to make some adjustment because some of the colors appeared thicker and required more in order to make the right consistency of batter. She then simply put a dollop of batter of one color into the cupcake tin, followed by a dollop of batter of another color, until each cupcake tin was at the right height for baking.
None of the colors altered the flavoring of the cake, she said, and it was much easier than expected. I had the pleasure of eating one, myself, and can tell you they were superbly yummy. And the 5-year-old was happy – which, of course, was the whole point.