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HELP! Color issues with my buttercream...

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hi Everyone,
I am wondering what I am doing wrong in regards to coloring my buttercream. Today, for the 4th, I made cupcakes in red, white and blue. In regards to the dark red and blue, they color didn't "take" completely. It was almost like you could see little "beads" of white throughout the frosting, and mixing it more didn't seem to help. Is this do to the use of regular shortening? (I made buttercream with 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening) Does "high ratio" shortening not give this result? If so, I am ordering some today! If high ratio is indeed the answer to my dilemma, is one brand better than another!
Thanks so much!!
Shauna
post #2 of 21
I can't say for sure, but from what I've read this seems to be a shortening issue. I only use real butter and never had that problem. What kind of shortening are you using?

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post #3 of 21
Use milk instead of water to prevent this. I have no idea why this works but they say that the fat in whole milk mixes better with the fat in your icing. Remember, oil and water doesn't mix. But oil and milk does.
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies! I actually did use milk, though it was only 1%. That makes total sense about oil/water-don't know why I didn't think of it! The shortening I used was a store brand WITH trans-fats, which I read was supposed to be better. Ugh, I really need to figure out how to get those even, vibrant colors.
post #5 of 21
.........The shortening I used was a store brand WITH trans-fats, which I read was supposed to be better.....

Yes, but...........what other ingredients are in it? Is it ALL vegetable or maybe it has some meat fat in it?
I have found most store brands have much more water in them....well, actually they are much softer which I figure is added water.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Well, it's all vegetable shortening. But it is a cheap shortening-I looked all over town to find one with trans fats. Do you have a shortening you prefer?

I just did an experiment. I made two tiny batches of red frosting: one with all butter and one with 1:1 ratio of butter to shortening, and half and half as the liquid in both. The butter one came out better than the 1/2 to 1/2, but the 1/2 to 1/2 still had a whitish overcast sheen to even though no liquid other than half and half was used.... But it was better than the stuff I made yesterday. Today it literally looks like it's "separating"-gross.

And I DID notice as I was washing the spatula that water absolutely caused more white to show! So you were right-I thank you for that insight! Yesterday I used a bit of lemon juice in the frosting which is probably didn't help. But that isn't the whole story. When I buy prepackaged dark colored frosting, they look perfectly smooth and dark.

I've got to be able to recreate that somehow! I'm almost wondering if the amount of red gel I had to use is making the frosting less attractive as well. But I think I'm realizing that my frosting is just not as smooth as I'd like.

Sorry for this book!!
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Well, it's all vegetable shortening. But it is a cheap shortening-I looked all over town to find one with trans fats. Do you have a shortening you prefer?

I just did an experiment. I made two tiny batches of red frosting: one with all butter and one with 1:1 ratio of butter to shortening, and half and half as the liquid in both. The butter one came out better than the 1/2 to 1/2, but the 1/2 to 1/2 still had a whitish overcast sheen to even though no liquid other than half and half was used.... But it was better than the stuff I made yesterday. Today it literally looks like it's "separating"-gross.

And I DID notice as I was washing the spatula that water absolutely caused more white to show! So you were right-I thank you for that insight! Yesterday I used a bit of lemon juice in the frosting which is probably didn't help. But that isn't the whole story. When I buy prepackaged dark colored frosting, they look perfectly smooth and dark.

I've got to be able to recreate that somehow! I'm almost wondering if the amount of red gel I had to use is making the frosting less attractive as well. But I think I'm realizing that my frosting is just not as smooth as I'd like.

Sorry for this book!!
post #8 of 21
What are you using for sugar?

What are you using for liquid?

Both of these have a major impact on how the buttercream accepts colour.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
I used store brand (Kroger) 10x powdered sugar. But I'm wondering if it is Beet sugar? It only says: "sugar, cornstarch" on the ingredient list.

for liquid I used 1% milk.

It is really bizarre. The longer the frosting sits, the more it "separates", looks greasy, and like it is "pearlized" or something. Uck!

I've got to figure out how to make smooth, well colored icing before I make a cake for someone in a couple weeks! I'm starting to panic, as I tried addling dreamwhip to it, cornstarch, more sugar, etc. (I split the frosting up into different bowls for this experiment). Nothing I did helped.

Thanks so much for taking the time for me!
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Quote:

Use milk instead of water to prevent this. I have no idea why this works


Basic chemistry. (All baking is an exercise in applied chemistry.) Aqueous liquids (e.g., water) are mutually incompatible with lipids (fats) or hydrocarbons (e.g., mineral oils). In plain language, oil and water don't stay mixed without a lot of help. That's why lithographic printing (e.g., photo-offset lithography) works: printer's ink is a thick, oily substance, similar to artist's oil paint. The stone or plate is first treated so that water will fully wet it, and then an image is placed on it in wax, grease, varnish, or some other substance that repels water. On the press, water is applied to the plate, which saturates the non-image areas, so they repel the ink, then the ink is applied, sticking only to the dry image areas.

That is also why a simple oil-and-vinegar salad dressing starts to separate almost immediately. Mayonnaise, on the other hand, contains eggs, which act as an emulsifier.

It's also why we use soap (another emulsifier) to wash with: soap is formed by boiling fat (e.g., beef tallow) with a strong base (e.g., sodium hydroxide), until they react to form a compound whose molecules have one end compatible with oils, and one end compatible with water.

Milk is an emulsion of butterfat and water, held together by another emulsifier, a sugar called lactose.

My hunch is that something in your frosting recipe is creating an unstable emulsion, and something in your food coloring is somehow prying the emulsion apart.

Personally, I've never had frosting break on me, and given that in various recipes, I've replaced significant amounts of milk with either strawberry jam or maple syrup, they had every right to do so. But I've always used 100% butter (specifically ordinary salted sweet butter) for the fat, I've always started by mixing the butter and sugar, before adding anything else, and I've always been fairly sparing with the food coloring.

And I don't think using 1% milk is part of the problem: with most of the butterfat missing, it should have excess lactose, and therefore more emulsifying potency than whole milk.

James H. H. Lampert
Professional Dilettante

Web site: http://www.hbquik.com/jamesl

Flickr "baked goods" set http://flic.kr/s/aHsjvZvdTh

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James H. H. Lampert
Professional Dilettante

Web site: http://www.hbquik.com/jamesl

Flickr "baked goods" set http://flic.kr/s/aHsjvZvdTh

Reply
post #11 of 21
Why not just use all butter? It certainly tastes better and you're not left with a greasy separation. I love it!

If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

Reply

If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

Reply
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
Well, it's all vegetable shortening. But it is a cheap shortening-I looked all over town to find one with trans fats. Do you have a shortening you prefer?

I just did an experiment. I made two tiny batches of red frosting: one with all butter and one with 1:1 ratio of butter to shortening, and half and half as the liquid in both. The butter one came out better than the 1/2 to 1/2, but the 1/2 to 1/2 still had a whitish overcast sheen to even though no liquid other than half and half was used.... But it was better than the stuff I made yesterday. Today it literally looks like it's "separating"-gross.

And I DID notice as I was washing the spatula that water absolutely caused more white to show! So you were right-I thank you for that insight! Yesterday I used a bit of lemon juice in the frosting which is probably didn't help. But that isn't the whole story. When I buy prepackaged dark colored frosting, they look perfectly smooth and dark.

I've got to be able to recreate that somehow! I'm almost wondering if the amount of red gel I had to use is making the frosting less attractive as well. But I think I'm realizing that my frosting is just not as smooth as I'd like.

Sorry for this book!!
post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for all the responses everyone!

As for using all butter, believe it or not, I just don't like the taste. It's way too rich for me. I felt like I was eating a stick of butter when I have made it that way. Maybe I'm using too much butter, though. I'm certainly open to cutting out the shortening if I can still decorate it, and if I can tame the overwhelming buttery taste somehow.
post #14 of 21
I would guess that you're better off with 1% milk than with half-and-half. I would think that half-and-half probably already has all the fat that its lactose content can keep emulsified, whereas 1% milk would probably have an excess of lactose.

But then again, I'm not a chemist (least of all an organic chemist); neither do I play one on television.

James H. H. Lampert
Professional Dilettante

Web site: http://www.hbquik.com/jamesl

Flickr "baked goods" set http://flic.kr/s/aHsjvZvdTh

Reply

James H. H. Lampert
Professional Dilettante

Web site: http://www.hbquik.com/jamesl

Flickr "baked goods" set http://flic.kr/s/aHsjvZvdTh

Reply
post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShaunaNicole

I used store brand (Kroger) 10x powdered sugar. But I'm wondering if it is Beet sugar? It only says: "sugar, cornstarch" on the ingredient list.

for liquid I used 1% milk.

It is really bizarre. The longer the frosting sits, the more it "separates", looks greasy, and like it is "pearlized" or something. Uck!




Speaking as a chemist, let's get one thing straight.
BEET SUGAR CANNOT CAUSE THIS KIND OF PROBLEM. I baked with beet sugar for 15 years.

Crappy large grains of sugar (even cane sugar) can. Try sifting your sugar before using it.

Another problem might be with the powdered creamer if you are using a "crusting" recipe. I have had bad experiences with cheap off label creamer that was mostly lactose (gross...). Buy the bulk pack of Carnation Coffeemate brand and you will eliminate this factor.

Finally, you need to have enough liquid in the mix to completely dissolve all the sugar. You may not be using enough. Your frosting that has gone "pearly" after sitting and separating, can be recovered by putting it into a food processor NOT mixer and giving it a minute with just the steel knife. The pearly appearance is the large grains of sugar that have finally dissolved.

If you are using milk based liquid, use heavy cream. The ability to emulsify has nothing to do with lactose in milk, it has to do with the fact that heavy cream has stabilizers that help your icing.
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