I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving break – or your weekend if you’re not in the US. We celebrated casually with just two favorite foods: homemade chicken pot pie and vanilla cake with pink cream cheese frosting.
We’ve known for a long while that my oldest child is sensitive to artificial food dyes, but his reaction has gotten more extreme recently. I tried using the tubes of natural food dyes*, but at $20 a set at my local store, they were cost prohibitive. They also oxidized quickly after opening. I was resigned to only feed my children chocolate frosting for a little color.
Then, while shopping for lentils last week, I happened across a jar of bulk beet powder at my local Whole Foods. Here was the not so secret ingredient in natural red food dyes! At only $1.91/oz, it was affordable, too. I loaded up with about 4 tablespoons, which was so light that the cashier couldn’t even get it to register. I had read around the internet about using beet powder for dye. The basic process is simple: 1/4 teaspoon beet powder to 1 teaspoon water, mix, strain through a coffee filter, and use normally.
But there are obstacles! Beet powder is pH sensitive, temperature sensitive, and air sensitive. It also doesn’t dye as vividly as artificial petroleum-based colors, so you need more. Fortunately, I knew that I was making cream cheese frosting. It’s slightly tangy, so I could add a drop of vinegar to my dye without affecting taste. Here’s what I came up with to frost our ordinary vanilla cake for Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy!
Naturally Dyed Pink Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 teaspoon beet root powder*
2 teaspoons water
1 drop white vinegar
1 8oz packet organic cream cheese
1 stick (8oz) unsalted pastured butter
4 cups organic powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Soften butter and cream cheese at room temperature. Cream together for 2 minutes on medium low in stand mixer. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing till well blended in between. With last cup of sugar, add two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Mix well. In a cup, combine beet powder and water. Stir well, then strain into new cup with coffee filter. Add vinegar. Add the food coloring to the icing. Mix till well blended on medium speed. Makes about 5 cups of light pink frosting.
Do you have a favorite dye-free hack? Share or link in comments!
*Amazon affiliate links to the natural food coloring and beet powder.