Last week I was working on a gorgeous cake for a BIG wedding. The cake design was planned and sketched and I was excited to be creating such a large cake because it offered ample space for art and creativity.
The bride supplied me with a color swatch of burgundy ribbon and the color leaned towards a reddish-burgundy hue. Before I started pulling out loads of gel and powdered colors to mix with fondant I thought to myself “what is the color burgundy?”. How is this color different from shades of plum or wine? Read on to learn how I achieved the fondant color needed and how you can too.
What is Burgundy?
That’s a good question. There are so many colors referred to as “burgundy”. While doing a bit of research for this article I searched the Pantone website for the color “burgundy”. Knowing that the Pantone Color Institute is THE source for all color inquiries I thought I would get an easy answer but this wasn’t the case. Instead, the website gave me a listing of over 100 colors in the burgundy spectrum. Look at the chart below from their website and you’ll see that at least 30% of these colors could be described as “burgundy”. Herein lies the problem with the color referred to as “burgundy”. Which burgundy is the goal and how do we achieve a color match?
The differences between the colors on the chart is the amount of red, as well as the amount of blue, in each formulation. The top half of the chart features colors saturated with a higher percentage of red and the bottom half of the chart shows colors saturated with varying degrees of blue. The bottom row, which shows more violet-based colors, are achieved by using less red and more blue pigment. Conversely, the top two rows are colors that depend on using more red dye in the composition and very little, if any, blue.
Searching for a Recipe
Before I began mixing white fondant with colors I did a bit of research on the Internet, thinking that surely someone had posted their formula for achieving a burgundy fondant color. I found several articles and threads on the subject. Most of the comments said to use red, blue and a tiny amount of black to attain the color; other formulas said to use red and green. I spent HOURS, seriously hours, working on these color formulations which resulted in lots of dark gray colors or the exact same color as a football, which is a brownish-reddish color. I couldn’t believe how much time and product I wasted on these combinations and, as you know, time is PRECIOUS when working on a large cake project. I scraped these ideas and thought about color theory classes I took in college. The burgundy ribbon color I had obviously had red in it but also some violet and a bit of brown. After thinking about products and colors I came up with a winning combination.
Getting it Right
Adding loads of gel or liquid colors to fondant can be problematic because it causes the fondant to soften significantly, and become very sticky and hard to work with, especially when trying to achieve a deeply saturated color. Knowing this I opted to start with a fondant color that was already deeply saturated in color; I chose Fat Daddio’s Pink/Rosa as my base color. The color band on the 5lb tub looked like a deep pink and I thought it would be a perfect base color. The color did work out for me BUT this isn’t really a pink color, in fact, it’s a perfect light CORAL tint. So, note to self, the next time I need a coral color I’ll start with this fondant. (If you need this fondant to be pink you will have to add more color to the product. I suggest adding AmeriColor’s Deep Pink gel paste. Just a small amount should do the trick.)
Starting with a small amount of FD’s Pink fondant, about the size of a tennis ball, I added a some CK Pomegranate powdered color and a small amount of CK Burgundy gel dye. Right away I could see that I was on the right track. It wasn’t gray or brown and was almost the burgundy color I needed. I added a tiny amount of Americolor’s Regal Purple gel paste and finally, after all this time, I had my color!!!! I was so excited but now had to replicate the color with the entire 5lb tub.
Using the small amount I had already made, I added about 8 ounces of the pink fondant and kneaded this mixture very well. Next, I added more CK gel color and more of the CK Pomegranate powdered color. I repeated this process until the entire 5lb tub of fondant was incorporated. Each time I added more fondant I also added more of the burgundy gel color and more of the Pomegranate powdered color. Lastly, I added a bit of the Regal Purple gel color, after the other colors were incorporated, to brighten the final product and give me the perfect color.
Here’s the amount of product used:
5lbs of Fat Daddio’s Pink fondant
2 grams (an entire small container) of CK Pomegranate powdered color
20 grams (one small bottle) CK Burgundy color
Small amount of AmeriColor Regal Purple
“What if you need a more plum colored burgundy? Simply adding more AC Regal Purple to your final mixture should give you the needed result.”
I wrapped the fondant tightly in a plastic bag to rest and, to my delight, the color did NOT shift or change in any way. This is often a big problem with coloring fondant, especially in such saturated colors, due to varying Ph levels of the materials used. (Ph is the measure of how acidic or alkaline a substance is; combining ingredients of varying Ph levels can cause a color shift in sugar mediums.) Honestly, I think I just got lucky with this because the color didn’t shift at all. I will likely use this same combination of products in the future when burgundy is needed because the color didn’t shift.
Fat Daddio’s fondant is a very soft fondant to begin with so adding gel color to it softened it even more resulting in a rather sticky product. To make it easier to work with, and so it wouldn’t clog my electric pasta roller, I added some Tylose to the mixture. After waiting about an hour, the texture was less sticky and more of a workable medium. I had no problem using this in the pasta machine at all.
Why didn’t I just buy burgundy fondant? Honestly, I couldn’t find the color I needed in prepared fondant. Also, how many more buckets of fondant can I really store in my studio? The products, tools, dummy cakes and equipment are taking over my studio space. I would rather create the colors needed, from what I have on hand, than add another container of fondant to the shelf.
Over the years I have not been one to make good notes about achieving a needed color whether it was for fondant, gum paste, chocolate, buttercream or even royal icing. However, after going through this experience, I am determined to keep better notes to save time, and expense, on future projects.