Cake is a glorious treat for any occasion. Every culture in the world celebrates cakes, stuffing them with the decadent flavors and rich fillings of their homeland.
There are thousands of cake recipes out there, some having been passed down through families for generations, and hundreds more created each year by innovative bakers.
One of the best things about cakes, too, is that they are best shared with friends and family. Baking a cake really pays off when someone bites into a slice and goes ‘oh my god, this is delicious!’
Of course, there are many bakers out there that also take a great deal of pleasure in decorating a cake too! There is something incredibly special about creating a cake that looks just as good as it tastes, especially when another person sees it for the first time!
For some, decorating requires black icing. Be it for creating a Halloween snack spread or expressing your creativity, if you want to know how to make black frosting, you have come to the right place!
Black icing can be tricky to make, as black food coloring often needs to be bought separately from most color packs – and is sometimes difficult to find outside of specialty baking stores.
Learning how to make black icing isn’t hard despite this; there are a few methods for creating black frosting that don’t require dye at all!
This guide will walk you through a few different methods, and finish off with a delicious black buttercream recipe for those that want to jump right into their next bake.
How to Make Black Icing with Food Dye
When it comes to designing colorful bakes, food dyes are the first option to consider. There are two ways to go about using food dye to create black icing.
Use the Rainbow
The first method is to chuck blue, red, and green dye into the frosting until you hit the ‘close enough’ point. Yes, this is a legit way to make black frosting. The kids will have a blast stirring the colors through the icing too!
The downside is… this mix usually ends up tasting funny, because of the amount of dye in the frosting. However, chocolate frosting, as it already has a dark hue, won’t require as much dye and can make this method work pretty well.
Another issue, when using water-based dyes, is that more than a few drops can cause the buttercream to lose its fluffy texture. Decorating a cake with a soupy frosting is not a fun exercise.
Black Dyes Actually Exist – Use Them!
The second (and best) option is to use proper black food dye. Better yet, get a gel-based dye!
Gel food dyes hold their color brilliantly, and you won’t need to use nearly as much as water-based dyes, so it is worth shopping around for this ideal pick.
Smooth it into any flavor of frosting and you will end up with a glistening bowl of black, sugary goodness.
Gel food dyes also work great with royal icing – perfect for decorating cookies and drawing elegant designs onto cakes!
This variety of dye is so pigmented that it is recommended to use a toothpick and add a drop at a time to the frosting.
Remember: food dyes darken naturally over the course of 30 minutes!
How to Make Black Icing with Activated Charcoal
This method can actually work! Odd as it may seem, activated charcoal can be good for savory cakes or for coloring frosting that has a very strong flavor, like passion fruit, lemon, or butterscotch.
Mixing it up is pretty simple – dump half a cup into the frosting at a time, mix it thoroughly, and repeat until you have the desired color.
However, this method will create a frosting that is more dark grey than a true black, and it will not have the glossy sheen associated with most black frostings. It will be near enough to black that it will pass the general test.
Before running out to the shops for some charcoal, there are a few other things to consider.
Activated charcoal has a somewhat bitter flavor. Combating this can mean a fair bit of tweaking with the frosting recipe, by adding in more flavoring and tasting as you go (what a chore!).
If this is the method you choose, it must be pointed out that activated charcoal is also a powerful detoxing agent and will make anyone that ingests it very thirsty. Be sure to have lots of drinks on hand when serving a cake with this kind of frosting!
(Plus, uh, it’s also recommended that anyone on supplements – vitamins, iron, omega-3, etc. – not ingest activated charcoal, as it will suck all of those good things out along with any toxins.)
The best idea may be to cut the amount of charcoal in half and use food dye or dark cocoa powder to help blacken the frosting.
Actually…unless you really, desperately want to use activated charcoal, maybe don’t use this method at all?
How to Make Black Icing with Black Cocoa Powder
As with many things, the best answer is chocolate.
There is a special type of cocoa powder that is black (or near enough to it) that it makes a wonderful black icing. So, good news for those after a decadent chocolate frosting! Quite possibly, this is the most delicious method.
The lack of dye means no dark stains on your lips, hands, or teeth (only water-based dyes do this) and no funny taste. Black cocoa powder can turn into a glossy black, buttercream frosting perfect for decorating cakes and giving them an eye-catching look.
Using the recipe below, you’ll have a bowl full of icing thick enough to hold its shape if piped, yet soft enough to maintain that classic buttercream texture.
This is perhaps the best method for making black frosting!
Depending on where you get it, this cocoa product will be called black cocoa powder or ultra-Dutch processed cocoa powder. You may have to order it online, but as it’s becoming more popular. Chain supermarkets may have a limited selection available.
Black Cocoa Powder Buttercream Frosting
- 2 tablespoons of milk.
- 1 cup of salted butter.
- 2 ¼ packed cups of icing sugar.
- (Optional) Vanilla extract to taste.
- ¾ cup of black cocoa powder.
In a bowl, lightly beat the butter and vanilla together to a creamy consistency. If omitting the vanilla, beat the butter until creamy regardless.
In a second bowl, mix the cocoa powder and icing sugar together until combined.
Once done, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter a spoonful at a time; this creates a smooth, silky texture and prevents any grainy lumps of sugar from forming.
After mixing, add the milk and incorporate it through until you are left with a silky smooth bowl of solid black frosting.
Given the delightful texture of this icing, aspiring bakers can step up their game with the recipe below and give galaxy frosting a shot!
Here’s a video explaining more details on how to make black icing with cocoa powder.
Everybody and their mother went through a galaxy phase over the last few years. Galaxies were on everything, from clothing to phone covers to car decals to donuts!
Though they may have faded from fashion, busting out an exquisitely decorated galaxy cake will earn oohs and aahs from onlookers.
In particular, galaxy frosting makes for wonderful cake decorating at kid parties, and spectacular birthday cakes – especially if the cake is for someone who loves space!
Though a finished cake with this decorating may look difficult to replicate, galaxy frosting using this method is super easy.
Here’s what you will need:
- Several small mixing bowls.
- (Optional) Edible glitter.
- Food dye, in multiple colors.
- Skewer or toothpick.
- The ingredients for vanilla buttercream frosting.
After mixing up the delicious black buttercream frosting above, it is time to create the frosting for nebulas that will swirl through that chocolate mixture.
After creating a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting (any flavor that doesn’t change the color from white works), scoop it out into some clean bowls.
The number of bowls you will need will depend on how many different colors you want to pop into the galaxy. Be sure to set aside a few teaspoons of the pure white frosting though!
Drop the dyes of your choice into their respective bowls and mix the color thoroughly.
Now for the fun part! Smear the black frosting over the cake, leaving several places almost bare of frosting. In these spaces, spoon in the colored vanilla frosting.
Then, with a delicate touch and a butter knife, gently weave the frosting together. Don’t blend them – just swirl the two frostings gently around each other so that the contrasting colors stay bold.
For more delicate curls, take a toothpick or skewer and drag it through the frosting. Pretend you are an expert calligrapher and draw swirls through the sugary mess until you are satisfied with the look.
Remember that tiny bit of white frosting you put aside? Drop tiny portions of it in half a dozen or so spots on the galaxy frosting. Now, take a clean toothpick and drag the white out into stars. You can make these swirl a bit, or drag them into the classic cross pattern.
For the final touch, lightly sprinkle a dusting of edible glitter in random patches around the cake. This is an optional step, and can easily be replicated by dotting tiny bits of white frosting everywhere for a less glittery collection of stars.
There you have it! Two great ways, and one kind of iffy but still valid way, of creating black frosting.
Make your cakes stand out from the crowd and decorate them with black frosting. It’s easier than you think!