Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

February 10, 2012

How to Make Colored Icing Without Food Colouring

Naturally pink icing

Hubby's Dad, and his partner, are visiting us in a few days so we have been cleaning, grocery shopping and baking up a storm.  Last night I tried a really good sugar cookie recipe from my favorite cookie cookbook (see below) and topped it with a simple, food colouring-free pink icing.  Even though Hubby & I are boring and ignore Valentine's Day, I though anyone whipping up some Valentine's treats this weekend might like this simple recipe!

There are many different kinds of icing but for cookies, icing can be really simple to make: just add any liquid to powdered sugar.  In this case, I mixed copious amounts of icing sugar with all-natural (dye-free) cranberry juice.  The result is a sweet, ever-so-slightly slightly fruity, icing.  Here's a ratio that works for me:

How to Make Naturally Pink Icing:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
4.5 tsp. cranberry juice

This makes a small amount (pictured below) but it is better to work in small batches, lest the icing start to harden in the bowl.  Depending on how many cookies you need to decorate, you might need more.  For the cookie recipe that follows, I needed about three times this amount, which I made in three different batches.  You want it to be smooth enough to apply to a cookie, but thick enough that it won't drip.  Try experimenting with other liquids (like grape juice) to tint your icing other colours.

Pink icing recipe

I will admit that some of my iced cookies look like an uncoordinated toddler helped (can I blame Hubby?).  Ah well.  I cherry-picked a few pretties for you, but I don't have heart-shaped cookie cutters.  I have a flower cookie cutter and then a set of wild animals (moose, bears, squirrels, snails, hedgehogs, foxes) but can I make them Valentine's-y?  Let's see . . .

I have a snail of a good time when I'm with you:

Snail cookies

I love you bear-y much:

Bear cookies

I have no idea how to make a hedgehog or a moose romantic . . . 

Basic Cookie Recipe (from the book "Sunset Cookies," click here for a similar title)


2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar (although I used brown sugar for both quantities)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice, ginger and nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon (I actually added four, my mistake, but it was a yummy mistake)

Cooking-Making Time:
  1. Beat shortening, butter and sugar together until creamy
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla
  3. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture and combine thoroughly
  5. Knead dough for a few seconds and wrap in plastic wrap
  6. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours
  7. Working with small sections, keeping the remainder refrigerated until needed, roll out dough on floured surface until approx. 3/8 inch thick
  8. Cut out using cookie cutters
  9. Transfer cookies to un-greased baking sheets (I lined mine with parchment paper)
  10.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned (I only needed 12 minutes)
  11. Transfer to cooling racks and allow to cool for a few hours before icing
Wildlife cookie cutter shapes
How to make colored icing without food dye

I hope you enjoyed this tip.  Let me know if you're up to any yummy baking!

How to make pink icing without food dye


  1. These are so cute and look great. Love the snails! The fox ones could be valentines-y too -- "You're foxy" or something like that, haha (kidding, kind of).


    1. Ooooo! Jenny, you're so clever. I love the "foxy" idea!

  2. Replies
    1. They are so funny, right? I forgot to mention that the cookie cutters are from Ikea, but I'm not sure they stock them anymore.

    2. I was at Ikea just the other day and YES they do still carry these cookie cutters.

  3. I'm a big food + additive freak over here, so this is awesome that you used something all natural (and healthy) to colour your icing, mental note made.

    I don't have a heart shaped cookie cutter either and usually just free form circles for bake sales\showers etc. but these snails are clearly the better choice. :)

    1. I wonder if you can find organic icing sugar? I know you can buy organic granulated sugar but an organic icing sugar would make this icing even less toxic. Glad you like this twist on icing!

  4. Wow they are picture-perfect, and I bet they are super yummy too!

  5. I gotta say. I thought the snails were whales. Hahaha....they look a lot more like snails now that I know they are snails. Love these.

    1. Hahaha. Hubby thought they were whales too, which made no sense with the rest of the woodsy animals so I told him he was silly and nobody would think they were whales but him. Darn, now I need to eat my words . . .

  6. Those cookie cutters are the best ever! I love the hedgehogs.

  7. I love the fun shapes! I don't know why, but I love baking for V-Day. Last year I made pink icing with frozen strawberries! Very tasty.

    Those oatmeal cookies look amazing! They're better when they look homemade!


    1. Frozen strawberries are a fabulous idea! I'm thinking frozen blueberries would make an icing with more saturated colour . . . hmmm, new possibilities because I hadn't even thought of using fruit!

  8. pink icing with cranberry juice-- what a fantastic idea! my daughter is allergic to food coloring-- so I'm totally going to do this. thanks for the tip!!

    1. Oh, I'm so happy to have helped. I hope your daughter enjoys :)

  9. OK, I am so craving something sweet now!! May have to get in the kitchen this afternoon . . . M.

  10. These cookies look so delicious, and so does the icing! I'll definitely try them! By the way, thanks for dropping a comment on my blog when I posted about the cat tea mugs :) I really like your blog so I added a link to it on the sidebar of mine for easy access, I hope you don't mind :)

  11. What a fantastic idea!!! I love the super light pink color. I would love to read a post about your photography tips. Stunning as usual!!!

    1. Thanks!!

      How do I take photos?

      Ummm, a good dose of sheer luck. I use a tripod sometimes, I fiddle a bit with manual setting, I will patiently wait for the best light (so I sometimes ready a post a few days in advance, depending), and then I edit my photos is the soon-to-be-defunct Picnik. I also take a zillion photos and only yield one good one.

      I'm no pro and I think I spend way too long fussing about with the photos. Anyway, hope this helps and thanks for the vote of confidence!


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