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12 June 2012

Purple Fade

Ah...purple.  The color of royalty, the Colorado Rockies, and among other things, a dreaded color to try to create in edible mediums.  Buttercream, royal icing, fondant, gumpaste - the list goes on...they all have a tendency to fade to blue when colored purple.  (Purple, while the most common culprit, isn't the only color that will do this, anything with a red component has the potential; see below.)

Why?  Well, there's a lot of science behind it, but basically red + blue = purple, and, due to regulations, the reds that are often used in food dyes today are fairly unstable.  Result - the red fades quickly, leaving behind only the blue.

So, how to combat the fade? There are several food dyes on the market that are "no-fade" and seem to give good results, but if you don't want to purchase a special product, try one of these approaches:
  • If your recipe calls for a liquid (i.e. water) substitute milk in an equal amount.
  • Add a few additional drops of red or bright pink food color.
  • Use powdered food colors.
And, keep in mind:
  • Lemon juice and cream of tartar will often cause the color to change to blue; save yourself some trouble and omit these ingredients if they are included in your recipe.  (The acids don't play well with the purple food dye, in particular.)
  • Direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting will speed fading, so try to keep the finished product away from these light sources if at all possible.

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