One of the first things you realise as a cake maker is that getting a super red buttercream is no easy feat.

When first starting out, I was using three quarters of a bottle of my red food colouring. As I watched the dollars get poured into the bowl, I like many of you, vowed never to make red buttercream again.

But then Christmas comes around and you see all those brilliant super red buttercream cupcakes and want to give it another crack. Thankfully with practice and time, I finally have a super red buttercream I’m happy with and with these helpful tips, you won’t be regretting agreeing to that red Christmas cake again!

If you are short on time, obviously the quickest way to get a nice red buttercream with minimal effort is to buy a pre-made one like the Over The Top red buttercream icing. No mess, no time-consuming processes, just red buttercream ready to use. Simply pop into your piping bag and go!

Over the Top red buttercream

But if you are determined to make your own red buttercream, try using some or all of these helpful tips to get the super red buttercream you’ve been imagining.

 1. Start With Pink Buttercream

When making red buttercream you want to start with a pink buttercream to minimise the amount of red food colouring you will need to use. When you begin with white buttercream, adding red turns it to pink anyways and you can end up using half a bottle of your red food colouring just to get, well pink.

How to make red buttercream

I like to use hot pink or candy pink from Colour Mill to get a nice pink to start with. As a bonus, at this stage I can save some of the pink for future use and work with a smaller batch of buttercream to get a super red colour without wasting a lot of food colouring.

 2. Add Red Food Colouring

Now its time to add your red food colouring, the only one I reach for is red from Colour Mill. Believe me when I say I have tried them all and this is the only one that I don’t need to use nearly an entire bottle to get the colour I’m after.

Why Colour Mill Colours?

Edible gel food colours are based on water, and as we all know water and oil won't mix together. So when you’re trying to colour your buttercream (specially Swiss meringue buttercream) with gel food dyes, you’re only going to achieve light shades of colour. You will colour the sugar part of the buttercream but not the butter part. And even after using the whole bottle of gel colour, you still won't be happy with what you've achieved.

Colour Mill Fairytale oil based food colour

Thanks to Colour Mill unique formula of being oil-based, you can now colour also the other part of the buttercream. Colouring every ingredient of your buttercream, meringue or chocolate means that the end product will have a deeper, more vibrant colour, and you don’t have to use as much food colouring to achieve it.

 3. Blooming in Microwave

Once you have added your red food colouring you might find it’s still not that super red you envisioned. The answer is in your microwave! You're going to bloom your buttercream.

Take out a small portion and on 20 second bursts, melt it down. The goal is to see some liquid, so melt it down just until you have a few puddles of melted liquid buttercream while the rest still has some integrity. Then add this to your buttercream mixture and whip through. You will see the colour richen and become closer to the super red buttercream you’re chasing.

How to make red buttercream

4. Rewhip the Buttercream

Usually step 3 is enough for me but if you are still not happy, another handy tip is to get out your food processor. Put your buttercream mixture in there and give it a good whip up. Many people use this method straight away after tip 3 to rewhip in the melted buttercream.

5. Add Orange Food Colouring 

So now you’ve got that super red buttercream but you wanted it to be just a touch brighter. Here is a little tip I have learnt to bring out the brightness. Add the smallest amount of Colour Mill orange to the mixture. The orange brings out a brighter red buttercream colour, but be careful and add only a small amount at a time and thoroughly mix through until you reach the desired result.

6. Let it Rest and Develop

Now its time to chill it down! Have you ever decorated your cake, put it into the fridge and then once it’s out realised you’ve gone way too heavy on the colours when you were just aiming for pastels? Often you can see the colours richen and deepen as the buttercream chills so this is also another handy tip for if you are struggling to get that red colour you are after.

Blooming buttercream

Colour Mill edible colours will deepen a lot over time, preferable developing time would be overnight, so be organised and make your buttercream day ahead.

There you have it, 6 great tips and tricks to finally get that super red buttercream colour for your cake this Christmas.

December 14, 2022 — Sirley Persidski