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How to Make Brown Icing without Brown Food Color

How to Make Brown Icing without Brown Food Color

You need to make brown icing, but you don't have brown food color! Don't fret, we have recipes to make brown frosting even if you don't have a drop of food coloring in the house.

There are many ways to make brown royal icing. Even without brown gel food color, we can use other ingredients or other colors to achieve the shade of brown we need.

How to Make Brown Icing with Cocoa Powder

For starters we could add a little cocoa powder to our royal icing to make it brown. Depending on the brand of cocoa powder, the type and the amount we use, we will get a variety of brown shades including tan and darker colors.

There are different types of cocoa powder: regular and Dutch processed cocoa. Both are usually unsweetened. Regular Cocoa Powder is a lighter brown than Dutch Processed Cocoa, because Dutch cocoa has been alkalized and is less acidic than regular cocoa powder.

Cocoa Powder Brown Chocolate Icing Recipe

  1. To every 1 cup of white icing, add 1 tablespoon of the darkest unsweetened cocoa powder you can find.
  2. Mix well. This will result in a very still icing.
  3. Add warm water by 1 drop at a time, mixing after each addition, until you get your desired consistency.

How to Make Brown Icing with Food Colors

If we happen to be out of cocoa and brown gel food color at the same time, it is possible to mix the colors that we already have and make the shade of brown that we need.

To start making our shades of brown we need to understand the color wheel. In the theory of color, brown is achieved by mixing equal amounts of complementary colors.

If we talk about the color wheel, we start by the primary colors which are yellow, blue and red. After those come the secondary colors. These colors are made by combining the first ones. Yellow and blue will make green, blue and red will make purple and red and yellow will make orange. By arranging these colors on a basic color wheel, we will have yellow and purple, blue and orange, and red and green as complementary colors. This means that they are opposite from each other on the color wheel.

opposite colors make brown icing

Using the exact same number of drops of each of these combinations you’ll get a shade of brown. By altering the number of drops used of each of the color you’ll get darker or lighter colors.

Brown Icing with Food Color Mixing Chart

If using our gel color set, we recommend a mix of Royal Red Velvet and Gourmet Green, but there are other color combinations that will result in browns. See the chart below.

how to make brown icing

All these combinations will leave you with earthy tones.

To get an even deeper shade of brown, we recommend adding a little of the primary color opposite to the complementary combination. For example:

Red (Royal Red Velvet) + Green (Gourmet Green) + Yellow (Sunshine Yellow)

Red (Royal Red Velvet) + Green (Gourmet Green) + Blue (True Blue)

Blue (True Blue) + Orange (Outrageously Orange) + Red (Royal Red Velvet)

Blue (True Blue) + Orange (Outrageously Orange) + Yellow (Sunshine Yellow)

Yellow (Sunshine Yellow) + Purple (Positively Purple) + Red (Royal Red Velvet)

Yellow (Sunshine Yellow) + Purple (Positively Purple) + Blue (True Blue)

It is also recommended to use different shades of the colors to obtain even more variations of brown shades. Adding Brick Red gel food color instead of Royal Red Velvet for example, or using the other shades of green we carry (Succulent Green, Forest Green) instead of Gourmet Green, Ultra Blue or Mermaid Teal instead of True Blue will make a variation of the previous combinations.

Find all our Gel Icing Colors (including two beautiful shades of brown) here.

Previous article How to Make Stained Glass Cookies


Mel - August 23, 2022

This is beyond helpful! Can you make a cheat like this for all the colors? I still can’t wrap my head around a color wheel, try as I might.
The Cookie Countess replied:
Hi Mel! We’re so glad this helped you! We’re working on more charts every day, lots to come!

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