Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Quest for Green Frosting

In preparing for our biennial cookie making party, I continued my attempts to make green frosting without food coloring (cf. Article 5). I came up with a variety of interesting shades, but only one passed the Article 2 test of actually tasting good.

The base frosting for all of these experiments was Quick Icing from the 1997 Joy of Cooking. Had I been planning better, I would have used vanilla powder, instead of vanilla extract, so the frosting would have been whiter to start with. (While shortening is whiter than butter, using shortening is a non-starter for us.)

All photographs were taken in natural light, unless otherwise specified.

clockwise from left: frosting colored with stevia, chlorella, matcha, and turmeric

Stevia - odd and sweet
Stevia is a natural, non-sugar sweetener. Some stevia is sold as a green powder. I used a 16:1 frosting to stevia ratio. If you don't mind stevia, it doesn't taste bad, although it's powerfully sweet. It makes an olive green that isn't particularly pretty.

Chlorella - blech
This was just a mistake. I meant to buy chlorophyll. Chlorella produces a grainy grey-green that tastes like seaweed. Great verisimilitude if you want to frost a sea serpent (and not eat it), but otherwise useless.

Matcha Green Tea Powder - nice
I got the idea of using matcha from The Cake Bible. The frosting made with matcha actually tasted good, and fairly strongly of green tea. The color is a bit avocado-y, but not objectionable. The frosting looks much more attractive in natural light than incandescent. I used an 8:1 ratio.

matcha frosting under incandescent light

Spirulina - mild and salty
Spirulina is rather salty, so you would definitely want to use unsalted butter. It doesn't have a very pronounced taste, but it doesn't make a very "pretty" green either. Spirulina frosting also looks much better in natural light. It would be a good reptile color. I used a ratio of 32:1.

spirulina turmeric frosting

Pistachio - delicious, but not very green
I made pistachio marzipan from The Cake Bible, thinking I could use it as a cake topping. It's quite a bit of work to get the red skin off so that the green color comes through, and even then, it's very subtle.

Turmeric - tastes like turmeric
I used the yellow of turmeric to brighten some of my green experiments. I found the taste odd; Matt found it objectionable. It is possible that fresher turmeric would be more pleasant. Anyway, a ratio of 32:1 makes a rather nice yellow - the color deepens noticeably over time. If you used it to frost a pumpkin cake, you might even be able to kid yourself that the turmeric was pumpkin pie spice (well, probably not).

matcha and turmeric frosting

stevia and turmeric frosting

Other Ideas
Here are a number of other ideas for green (and yellow) that I haven't yet tried:
  • Chartreuse would undoubtedly make a fabulous frosting, but it is not cheap, and you could probably only use enough to elicit a very pale green before your frosting got too runny.

  • This link includes suggestions of wheatgrass, barley and chlorophyll.

  • Here's a recipe for avocado icing that I definitely want to try.

  • Some time ago, in the comments, mycakes suggested decorating with kiwi slices.

  • Annatto is an option for yellow. The sources I've looked at disagree about whether it has a taste. I would guess the taste wouldn't be too noticeable, as we're all used to having annatto in our butter. Depending on how much annatto you use, or its composition (sources disagree), you can get yellow, orange or red.

  • You could also try pureed cooked squash, pumpkin or sweet potato to add yellow or orange.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking about juicing mint leaves for green frosting and replacing some of the liquid in the frosting recipe. Have you tried that?

February 26, 2010 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Manjari said...

I just wanted to say THANK YOU for trying the different greens and posting pictures and giving info on the taste of each ingredient. I've been searching for days trying to find a good green for frosting, and your information has been extremely helpful. Thanks a bunch!

October 2, 2010 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger melanie said...

I actually used blue green spirulina powder and it turned out much more green than yours. It tasted a little bit like grass but that was fine since it was on my son's baseball field birthday cake. =)

I'm thinking about trying mint flavored chlorophyll this year for the football cupcakes. We'll see how it goes!

September 22, 2011 at 10:25 AM  

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