Some of my most popular posts have been focused on finding natural alternatives to food coloring, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Colors make drab foods fun, increase appetite appeal, and everyone can agree that the fewer chemically-enhanced edibles on the market, the better.
St. Patrick’s day in particular has many people feeling a bit green around the edges. Being that I’m not Irish and don’t drink, my only strong associations with the holiday date back to the elementary school cafeteria, where the milk and bagels were dyed brilliant, neon green for the holiday. Oh, what fun it is to receive a meal that looks suspiciously moldy- Now that’s a real party! I can’t say I sorely miss that tradition, but it’s so laughably easy to offer a natural alternative to those artificial hues, I feel no compunctions about going green on any day of the year.
You have a whole range of green options, depending on the depth and intensity desired, all of them generally accessible and easy to use. To illustrate my point and add a bit of emerald cheer to this festive weekend, the above layer cake was baked using three separate natural green tints; one in each layer. For anyone who knows the usual suspects, can you guess what’s responsible for each separate shade? Take your time, and don’t cheat! Skip ahead for the answers…
The true vibrancy and intensity can be altered for each of these ingredients of course, but I wanted to keep them at a level below detection, as far as flavor is concerned. A green vanilla cake is all well and good, but a green vanilla cake that tastes like blue-green algae? Not so much. Beyond this guideline, experiment at your own peril.
A true recipe is unnecessary here, as any white or yellow cake can be tinted with equal ease. Use your favorite formula for a pale cake, and depending on which hue you find most striking, for every 8-inch round layer or 12 standard cupcakes, add…
For the two powders, whisk them vigorously into just a small splash of the liquid ingredients to form a thick paste. Lumps are common and difficult to disperse once they enter the wide open sea of batter. Be sure to get the colored paste perfectly smooth before incorporating the remaining liquids, and then add everything to the batter as directed. For the spinach, drain away all the excess liquid, squeezing the spinach until fairly dry. Place the limp leaves in your blender (ideally a Vita-Mix or something else with a bit of horsepower) along with the full measure of liquid ingredients. Turn it up to high and thoroughly puree. Strain if necessary, and continue along with the recipe as instructed.
No matter what you chose to color your world, and your cakes with, keep a close eye on the cakes as they bake. As soon as you see the edges begin to brown, check the centers with a toothpick or wooden skewer; if it comes out clean, pull the cakes immediately, before the top has time to darken.