food coloring Q for red velvet cake
I'm supposed to make a red velvet cake, which I've never made before. Most recipes seem to call for a couple of tablespoons of red food coloring if not more, but don't specify what sort of food coloring.
Food coloring is just not something I know anything about. I have Americolor Soft Gel Paste colors, which I think are supposed to be a bit more potent than grocery store colorings, but I don't really know. Does anyone how much of the Americolor stuff to use? I'd like to have some idea before I start making it since I don't know from experience just how red the batter needs to look and I don't want to find out later that I don't have enough...
Gel food coloring is more intense that the plain old bottled kind that you find in the supermarket. I am not sure what the adjustment would be but I'd start with a teaspoon and see how that does. I have a feeling that would be more than enough. Interestingly, I have noticed that the supermarkets now sell bottles of red food coloring separately, which I assume is to accomodate bakers who are making red velvet cake. For the record, the red velvet cake I have made is from a recipe I found here on chowhound:
Mom Mom's Red Velvet Cake/Butter Cream Icing
Mom Mom's Red Velvet Cake
1/2 cup crisco
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 oz red food coloring
2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream crisco and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat for 30 seconds. Add cocoa and red food coloring, mix. Add flour, salt and buttermilk, mix. Remove batter from mixer. Sprinkle with baking soda, pour vinegar over batter and add vanilla. Stir. DO NOT BEAT - (don't over stir - it can make the cake tough). Pour batter into 2 - 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.
Mom Mom's Butter Cream Icing
2 tablespoons cornstarch or 4 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix cornstarch (or flour) with milk. Cook until thick, whisking the entire time. Set aside to cool. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and cooked cornstarch mixture slowly. Beat until it feels like whipped cream.
For posterity's sake: yes, I know that food coloring isn't the healthiest ingredient in the world, but I think it's pretty clear from the fact that I stated I don't know anything about using it that I don't ever cook with it, so I'm pretty sure I'll be ok eating it once. Furthermore, from what I've read, it's a bit more complicated than "just using beets" as they tend to turn purple if you don't do it correctly.
This is for a kid's birthday cake, and it's not my kid, and a red-red cake was the ask. No beets on hand anyway. If I ever want to make red velvet cake again, I probably will use beets - but frankly, it's not a cake variety that really moves me one way or the other, so it's noit really high on my list of priorities.
Anyway, just for the sake of anyone else reading -- for this I went with a mostly oil-based recipe, not the butter one, and ended up adding about a teaspoon of the gel paste food color. The cocoa I have is a darker variety, so when it came to coloring I erred on the side of too much, but it's a very nice color in the end. If the goal weren't as red a cake as I could muster, or if I were using a lighter cocoa, I probably could've used a bit less... maybe a generous 1/2 teaspoon. It's still more ruddy than RED, but I think if RED cake is the only priority it's probably better just to color a white cake!
I would expect to use one or two tabespoons but I don't measure I just add until I get the shade of red I want, regardless of what brand of food coloring I happen to have on hand at the time. The red will darken as the cake cooks and, if your recipe includes cocoa powder, it will be a nice reddish brown - a color that I like for that cake.