I’m so into natural food dyes at the moment - when you look into the process of what goes into artificial and synthetic colours it can get pretty scary, especially when we see so many of them in products for children (some dyes are not plant-based and some are derived from ingredients you’d definitely not consume knowingly see here). Bold and vibrant colours in food however ARE fun, loads of fun and can definitely make certain dishes more appealing to children. Luckily there are a number of natural dyes that we can utilise in our own kitchen and a lot of these, rather than confusing our bodies with ‘non-foods’ can have some positive functional benefits.
Play around with turmeric for yellow, beet powder or strong hibiscus tea for red and pink, spirulina or greens powders for green and activated charcoal for black. Until recently I didn't know of any natural edible colouring for blue. At culinary school we were told “there is no such thing as blue food” and this is the reason for bright blue coloured plasters in hospitality. WELL. It turns out there is such a thing...Pixie Dust!
This butterfly pea powder does an amazing job of naturally colouring the icing on these cupcakes a beautiful vibrantly hued blue. Add a little acid (like lemon or lime juice) if you’d like it more lavender. You can even use a thin paint brush to swirl lemon juice on top to create that galaxy like swirl of blue and purple.
This cup cake recipe is great to have on hand and is easy enough to memorise for emergencies. Often there will be 6 (sometimes more!) children running in and out of our house and all that running means they are always hungry. This uses pantry staples (apart from the blue powder.....), is affordable and ready in less than 30mins. Making the blue icing and decorating with flowers is fun for the kids and 2 bowl clean up is all good with me. Freeze excess and pop in lunch box they thaw just in time for morning tea. While not refined sugar free - these are a fun away for plant based kiddies and adults to join in at cake time and share the yum with family and friends.
Vegan Pixie Dust Cupcakes
These one bowl cup cakes take less than 5 minutes to prep and make at least 20. Freeze 10 either iced or un-iced to take out as needed.
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cups almond milk (or other plant milk)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp applecider
In a large bowl add first 3 ingredients and stir. Make a well in the centre, add remaining ingredients and slowly incorporate dry ingredients in until a smooth batter is formed. don't over mix or the cakes will be tough when cooked. Spoon into 20 pre-lined muffin pans and bake 15-20 mins until springy and a toothpick comes out clean.
Pixie Dust Icing
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/4-1/2 tsp butterfly pea powder dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
few drops of peppermint, coconut or vanilla extract (optional)
Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth and comes together to form a thick icing - add more hot water drop by drop until the desired consistency is reached. Wait till cupcakes are completely cooled before spreading icing (a knife dipped in boiling water then quickly dried helps) and topping with flowers.
You can get the blue butterfly pixie dust here (this amount will make thousands of cupcakes but can be used in so many ways), or try some of the other natural dyes suggested for a fun and much more natural alternative to artificial food colouring.
Penelope (BDes(hons), BCA, ND, Dip. Med Herb) is a trained chef, medical herbalist, naturopath and holistic nutritionist and has recently completed her design thesis which focused primarily on methods of incorporating plants, medicine and feelings of joy into culinary products and experiences.