Martha's Stewart #1 Trick for Making Colorful Desserts Without Artificial Food Dye
In the process of hosting decades of cooking shows, publishing hundreds of issues of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and writing nearly 100(!) cookbooks, Martha Stewart has picked up more savvy baking and cooking tricks than the most prolific of magicians.
We're still swooning over her secret for creamy scrambled eggs, have leveled-up our homemade bread with her brilliant bowl strategy and will never bake potatoes another way after learning Martha's method. And now, the mom, grandma, entertaining guru and business maven has inspired us to brighten up our desserts in a whole new—and wholesome—way.
"This rosy riff on a strawberry shortcake is sure to become a new Bundt cake classic," Stewart says on Instagram. "To make it, you'll first tint a portion of the batter pink with ground freeze-dried strawberries. Once it's poured into the pan alongside the non-tinted batter, you swoosh a knife through to create a swirl. Cue the oohs and aahs."
Yep, we're definitely oohing and aahing about every detail of her Strawberry-Swirl Bundt Cake. Beyond the showy shape (which is courtesy of a Nordicware Magnolia Bundt Pan, in case you were curious), we're swooning over her savvy swap for those little bottles or jars of food coloring that are omnipresent in nearly every tinted baking recipe.
What Are Food Dyes, Exactly?
Often sold in packages of red, yellow, green and blue and designed for use by the drop—or more like 20, if you're making a classic red velvet cake recipe—the FDA says that food dyes are generally regarded as safe for all populations who don't have allergies to them. Still, the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest and other prominent voices in the health regulation community have expressed concern about the possible health risks of synthetic dyes. They point to research performed on mice and rats that links some colors to increased risk for certain cancers at very high doses. A few other studies have also hinted that some artificial dyes may contribute to hyperactivity symptoms among children.
The current scientific consensus seems to be that food colorings are safe for humans at regular consumption levels—which is why we still feature them, rarely but every so often, in recipes like Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Almond Cream Cutouts and Conversation Heart Cookies. Natural food dyes, while less vibrant than conventional dyes, are chemical-, lactose- and gluten-free, but they vary widely in availability. Check for them at your local natural-foods store. Additionally, we'll gladly take any steps to add more natural options to our menu.
Martha Stewart's Natural Food Dye Hack
As she mentioned in the caption for her stunning image, Stewart's solution lies in a natural source: freeze-dried fruit. Look for it online (we love Augason Farms brand) or near the dried fruit at most supermarkets, including Trader Joe's and Target.
In the past, we've used fruit jams for Blackberry Cake, veggie purees for Naturally Red Velvet Doughnuts and Chocolate-Beet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, and even tea to tint our Magical Color-Changing Margaritas.
As far as the fantastic freeze-dried fruit idea goes, after diving into our recipe archives, we were reminded that our Test Kitchen pros swear by this trick, too! They'll walk you through exactly how to DIY in our recipes for Bunny Cupcakes and Berry-Tinted Sugar Cookies which were developed as part of our guide to using natural food coloring from plants to make beautiful cakes, cookies and more.
To replace the usual food coloring called for in a recipe, simply pulse freeze-dried fruit in a spice grinder or food processor until the fruit becomes a fine powder. Start by stirring 1 to 2 teaspoons into your usual recipe for frosting, cake or cookies, depending on the volume of your recipe. Add more as needed to reach the tint level you desire.
While the color might not be as vibrant as you remember from childhood baking adventures, the fruit powder will still give a nod to your color of choice—and with fewer questions about health concerns and a tiny antioxidant boost to boot!