How to Make Colored Sugar

With the holidays fast approaching, everyone seems to be getting ready in one way or another.  My kids’ school already had its annual Christmas fair and is getting ready for gingerbread house decorating for the elementary and middle school students.

One of the easiest way to dress up baked goods is to use sprinkles and colored sugars.  These days there are a gazillion different sprinkles in all kinds of shapes and colors imaginable.  Kids especially LOVE sprinkles and tend to go a little bit overboard with them whether it is decorating cookies or sprinkling them on ice cream, but who can blame them?  They are so much fun to use.

Another great resource is sanding sugar, which is basically colored sugar which is a bit coarser than regular table sugar.  Now these sanding sugars go for $4~6 for a 4 oz bottle.  Kinda ridiculous when you consider the fact that the cost of regular sugar is a fraction of that.  So a few years ago, I decided to see if I could make my own colored sugar and searched the web.  I found out that not only is it cheap to make your own colored sugar but it is REALLY easy!  An added bonus is that you can also make any color you want.

Well, I guess it is only cheap if you already have the gel paste colors that are used in cake decorating, but I already had tons of those so it wasn’t a problem.  You can use just regular sugar or coarse sugar, or any kind of sugar for that matter, as long as it is white.

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The process could not be simpler.  You put some sugar in a Ziploc bag, add a bit of coloring using a toothpick, close the bag, rub away until all the sugar in the bag is uniformly colored and tada!  You have your colored sugar!  Told you this was easy!

Now that you know this little secret, you can create all the different colored sugar you want!  Have fun using these to coat the exterior of ice box cookies, sprinkle on cupcakes, decorate cookies – the possibilities are endless!

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Experimenting with Color

Fascinated by the use of colors in cookie decorating blogs, I’ve been experimenting with making/mixing colors of late.  When I received a last minute order for a baby boy’s 1st birthday cake yesterday, I set out to use this opportunity to try making different colors.

The first step was to decide on a color palette.  I have always had difficulty with trying to come up with a cohesive and harmonious color palette and secretly wished I had majored in art. So I was overjoyed to discover via Sweet Hope Cookie‘s blog that there are websites and blogs that have recommendations for thousands of different palettes.  One such site is Design Seeds which is full of gorgeous palettes that one can browse for inspiration.  Another is Angie Sandy‘s site where she posts a series of palettes almost everyday under the “Color Crush” title.  I researched my colors on Colour Lovers by typing in “baby blue” and decided on a palette.

The only problem is that, although the above sites are excellent references for inspiration, I don’t know how to make the colors that are suggested in these beautiful palettes.  What’s a girl to do?  Using Sweet Hope Cookie’s post and Sugarbelle’s color chart as a guide, I proceeded to muddle through the color mixing process.

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Dusky Pink (Sugarflair Gel Paste), Gooseberry (Sugarflair Gel Paste), Golden Yellow + Ivory (Wilton Gel Paste), Delphinium Blue (Wilton Gel Paste)

To make a long story short, the picture on the left is what I ended up with.  However, I decided to only use the ones in the photo on the right as I felt the dull lavender and green did not quite go with the palette.  I was kinda on the fence about the dark brown and reserved that for accent, maybe.  I did have a lot of fun making the dark brown and dull green, though.  Dark brown was golden yellow + regal purple + ivory + a touch of black and it was fascinating to watch the color slowly transform as I kneaded the gumpaste.  You wouldn’t normally think that brown would have purple in it, would you?  For the dull green, I first mixed leaf green with royal blue and went on to test how ivory changes colors a bit “vintage-y” (inspired by Sugarbelle’s post).  I think the photo speaks for itself.

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Dull green, dull green + ivory, gooseberry, gooseberry + ivory

The last challenge was coloring the butter cream.  I like to use Italian meringue butter cream because I just love how sturdy and stable it is.  It holds its shape beautifully when I pipe flower decorations on my cupcakes and is sturdy enough to withstand the equatorial Singapore weather!  The only downside is that due to its natural yellow hue from butter, it is difficult to achieve colors that stay true to the color that the gel paste is intended to give.  I would add more color than I would have liked to to mask the yellow tone.  So if I wanted to get baby blue, I would add a little bit of gel paste which would give me a kind of turquoise / greenish blue, then add a little more to get baby blue.  However, this way, the butter cream ended up with too vibrant a color due to the relatively large dosage of gel paste color.  Since I was on a self-imposed color challenge, I googled “color wheel” to find out the complementary color of yellow, thinking it would off-set the yellow tone.  There were several excellent tutorials on mixing colors on YouTube by Will Kemp Art School which I watched.  The takeaway was that the complementary color of yellow is purple/lavender.  Aha!  So I can add a touch of purple to get the blue I want?

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I was a little nervous about how the gum paste decorations would look on this baby blue background, but I am stoked to see that it turned out pretty good!

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You can see that I considered doing the name in dark brown, but decided against it.  Instead, I decorated a cookie with it for the birthday boy!

I had a lot of fun studying and making colors, but there’s still a long way to go….