Every skin color has the right to be represented equally in everything we do, and this includes baking. With an uprising of princess cakes, and character-based cookies and movie themed muffins, the ability to make characters and designs of all ethnicities and skin color is an ability we should all have. Unfortunately, buying specific skin color food coloring isn’t yet much of an option the way it is with make-up, however you can make your own! Now, not only is it important for diversity, but it is also important to understand how to make skin color frosting because it is something that is so easy to get wrong. From a young age, trying to find that crayon that represents your skin colour when doing your first ever self-portrait in school is something we probably all struggled with. Getting skin colors accurate can be a really tricky task in anything, let alone something that is already as difficult as cake decorating, and so today I am going to try and make this tricky task just a little bit easier for you!
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How to Make Skin Colored Frosting?
For the purpose of keeping things simple, I will first discuss the different color variations based on using a buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting, as these are the most commonly used. This will slightly alter depending on the butter or fat you use, and the quantity of powdered sugar, as your whipped frosting may already be slightly yellow or slightly whiter depending on your butter to sugar ratio, and if you have added any other flavourings, such as vanilla essence (this can added more a yellow color as well).
For lighter skin tones, such as a Caucasian skin tone, it is better to start with a white frosting and add 3 drops of red food colouring. From there, add 2 to 3 drops of yellow, depending on how peachy you want the colouring to go. You may also need to increase the drops depending on the quantity of frosting you are making. It is basically a 50/50 ratio with yellow and red colorants, but you may need to add slightly more yellow for a lighter, less vibrant tone. Keep some white coloring at hand as well in case you want to tone down the shade at all or lighten it in a more subtle way.
For more medium skin tones, typically your Hispanic, middle eastern and Asian tones, you can add brown coloring to the above mixture, a little at a time, and it will slightly darken the color whilst keeping the peach-base. Alternatively, you can start with a chocolate frosting and slowly add in white, and then some yellow to create more of an olive tone, until you reach the desired shade.
For a darker skin shade, typically your African skin tones, it is best to always start with a chocolate frosting and slowly add in the white coloring if you would like to lighten it. You can start with a darker base by using a dark cocoa or dark chocolate, but if you use milk chocolate to create your chocolate frosting then this will automatically be slightly lighter without having to add any colorant. If you desire a darker tone than the chocolate frosting, you can add an extremely small drop of black coloring, but it is important to work with minuscule amounts of black, as the tiniest quantities can still greatly alter your recipe. To add small amounts at a time, I would recommend using a toothpick to slowly transfer the coloring from the bottle to the frosting.
How to Make Skin Colored Icing?
The method of how to make skin colored icing with food coloring is pretty similar when it comes to making skin color icing. You may be slightly confused on the difference between frosting and icing. However, for the purpose of this section in the article, I am referring to royal icing – the hard icing you often find on biscuits or as decorations on cakes, primarily made from powdered sugar mixed with either egg whites or water.
Royal icing is often used to decorate biscuits or to create extra decorations that you can then add to a cake. This is because when it dries it dries hard, unlike buttercream. The colour blending remains similar for all above skin tones, however you are less likely to start with a chocolate royal icing as this is less-common to make, and so in this case you would need to use brown food colouring and lighten it with white. Alternatively you could add cocoa, but this may give quite a gritty texture if you do not follow a proper recipe for chocolate royal icing.
Although colouring any kind of icing is a fairly versatile process, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to coloring royal icing:
Use Gel Coloring
Using a powder or a liquid food colouring can affect the consistency of your icing and may cause it to become too firm or, more importantly, too runny. Gel food coloring will not have much of an impact. Alternatively, you can use the toothpick method mentioned previously, as these smaller quantities also won’t have much effect on the consistency.
Royal icing tends to darken as it dries, and so this is important to keep in mind as you reach the desired tone. As your icing hardens, the colours will naturally get darker and so it is better to work with a shade slightly lighter than the one you desire, and this will become more vibrant as it dries. As a result of this, it is also a good idea to make more than you need in case you run out, as once it dries and the colour alters it will be very difficult to do a colour match.
Hard to Mix
Due to the consistency and ingredients of royal icing, it can be harder to evenly mix your colours in it. Instead, you can try creating the desired colour separately and then slowly add this to your icing mixture. This will avoid over-mixing, or whipping, the royal icing.
The Icing on the Cake
So, the key to getting the perfect flesh colored icing is to be patient with your quantities. For a paler skin tone, start with a white base and slowly add in equal amounts of red and yellow, and up the yellow to get the desired peachy color. To get a darker skin colored food coloring, you are better to start with a chocolate base and build your way up to a lighter tone using white. When it comes to frosting and icing, there are a few differences to keep in mind regarding the consistencies, particularly with royal icing, but overall, your colour mixing stays much the same. So, next time someone asks you to make a cake with their child’s face on it, or some biscuits covered with their favourite movie characters, have no fear, your skin color icing guide is here!