It’s Easy Being Green

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…

Top Layer: Matcha
Middle Layer: Spinach
Bottom Layer: Spirulina

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…

1 Teaspoon Matcha Powder / 1 Teaspoon Spirulina Powder / 3 Ounces (by weight) Frozen Spinach, Thawed

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.

24 thoughts on “It’s Easy Being Green

  1. This cake is gorgeous Hannah! I’m proud of myself for being able to guess the source of the colors! I love matcha and use it for my favorite smoothie; almond milk, banana and matcha. Yum!

  2. I love using matcha as the flavor is quite distinct but in general I think green in anything other then vegetables and herbs always looks a bit suspicious.. ;)

  3. I don’t like using artificial colors either. They freak me out! I love using matcha in things, though! :-) it is definitely my favorite natural green colorant.

  4. It looks beautiful! Thanks for the comparison shot. Who’da thunk the spinach would be more vibrant than the spirulina? Not I, surely.

  5. I’ve been wanting to make an ombre cake and since green is my favorite color…this is pretty much perfect! Love how it’s all natural!

  6. This looks so awesome! I love the healthy green’s used to achieve such lovely colour, very impressive and such a good alternative to food dye.

  7. This green ombre cake looks absolutely stunning, Hannah! Love the emerald green layers.. and I think its absolutely brilliant that you used natural foods instead of food colouring to get the vanilla cakes looking this great.

  8. Oh wow! I love the way you made the cake “naturally” green! I used nasty food color for my coconut cake. Booo… Next time: Spinach and Spirulina!

  9. Holy green cake! I love how vibrant you got the colors. And spirulina tinted cake? Hope it doesn’t taste super strong :)

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