Red velvet cake, sprinkles and food coloring—oh my. Valentine’s Day isn’t the best holiday for anyone who is intolerant to artificial red color and dye, like my daughter. When she was 4, we discovered she is intolerant to Red Dye #40 after she consumed all the red goodies at a school party. The next two hours were a series of violent mood swings, aggressive behavior that turned into hysterical laughter and boomeranged back again, and a complete loss of coordination that ended with a mighty sugar crash that left her listless, groggy and with gastrointestinal issues. Our quest for products free from artificial colors and dyes started the next day.
The search was difficult because Red Dye #40 is everywhere. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly used dyes in the U.S. It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in cosmetics, drugs and food, so you often will see it in the ingredients list of soft drinks, cherry-flavored products and children’s medications.
The deep hue that red velvet cake takes its name from was originally achieved with cocoa. More specifically, anthocyanin-rich cocoa that wasn’t treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color. It was actually the reaction of the vinegar and buttermilk that revealed the red anthocyanin in cocoa.
Companies like Glee Gum, Lovely Candy Company, Smart Sweets, Surf Sweets, TruJoy Sweets, Wholesome and YumEarth are answering the call for dye-free candy with eye-catching lollipops, jelly beans, fruity hearts, gummy treats, licorice, gum, hard candy and much more.
Here are our top picks for companies that produce vibrant baked goods and frosting naturally so everyone can celebrate Valentine’s Day—and every day—in living color!
1. Add natural back to your baking with Color Garden’s plant-based food dyes and sugar crystals. Buy a box of red food dye made with beet juice, annatto and turmeric for Valentine’s Day, or decorate year-round with pastels for Easter, a Halloween pack of black, yellow, orange and purple, or the holiday pack of red and green. And use its red, orange, yellow, green and blue sugar crystal shakers to add sparkle to baked goods.
2. Made from beets, spirulina and turmeric, Color Kitchen’s vibrant rainbow of plant-based food colors, sprinkles and cake mixes delight the eye and feed that dye-free sweet tooth. The company offers fun holiday options. Sprinkle choices include colorful hearts and holiday trees with a coordinating color packet of frosting. Other offerings include Easter egg coloring kits and a red velvet color pack made with vegetable juice powder and turmeric. And the red velvet and confetti vanilla cake mixes are naturally sourced with gorgeous results.
3. Gluten-Free Heaven’s red velvet cake mix doesn’t rely on food coloring because its color comes from cocoa powder. The dairy-free mix contains a sour milk mixture in place of buttermilk. If it isn’t red enough for you, add some natural food color to pump up the hue! Each bag makes two 8-inch round layers or 24 cupcakes and delivers an authentic southern taste everyone will enjoy.
4. The Nature’s Colors line from India Tree includes decorating sugars, sprinkles, decoratifs and food colorings. The most unique products—the decoratifs, or themed sprinkles—are perfect for topping any masterpiece. With mother of pearl round sprinkles, snowflake-shaped sprinkles, peppermint-crunch sprinkles, My Party Funfetti sequins and funny Valentine’s heart-shaped sprinkles, the options are limitless. Their TrueRed color can be purchased individually or as part of the decorating set with yellow and blue.
5. Supernatural Kitchen’s plant-based food colors are free of artificial junk, soy and palm oil with four single-use packets per kit in yellow, orange, pomegranate red and magic color-changing blackberry. The company also offers gorgeous rainbow Starfetti sprinkles, white sequins and Girl Pow! sprinkles featuring boxing gloves, primary colors and Pow! stars for baking and decorating.
Color your baking world naturally!