Step-by-step: Red Velvet food colouring

Get that perfectly deep red sponge every time with our easy to follow guide on how to mix and bake Red Velvet cake and cupcakes using gel food colouring.


Red Velvet has a reputation for being tricky to get right, but this needn’t be the case. It’s just a simple matter of choosing the correct food colouring!

By nature, Red Velvet cake sponge is intended to be a vibrant, deep shade of red and this requires artificial food colouring.

Some manufacturers have reverted to natural-only food colourings and these unfortunately will not give the correct depth of colour.

If your preference is to use natural-only food colouring, this will affect the colour and your Red Velvet sponges will most likely turn out a darker brown-red or terracotta shade.

As our bakers make thousands of scrumptious Red Velvet cupcakes and sponges every year, we purchase our food colouring wholesale, but for home bakers there are brands available that will do just as good a job. We recommend gel food colouring, such as Sugarflair and Wilton, having tested both of these brands out in our kitchens with great results.  

To use gel food colouring in your recipe, follow our guide below:  

Step 1:

Mix cocoa with vanilla essence. Using a toothpick, add gel food colouring gradually in small amounts along with a little extra water.




Step 2:

Mix the red food colouring, cocoa and vanilla essence mixture well to form a paste. All of the ingredients should be fully incorporated.



Step 3:

Following the recipe, add the coloured cocoa and vanilla paste to batter. If at this stage, the colour isn’t deep enough, feel free to add a little more gel and mix again.



What kind of recipes use gel food colouring?

We use gel food colouring when baking our multi-coloured Rainbow Cake, as it gives our rainbow cake layers the wow-factor. They are also great for creating ombre cakes (with different shades of the same colour going from light to dark across different layers of sponge).

And as the colour is so concentrated, it’s easy to make wildly different shades from the same little pot of gel.


What’s the difference between liquid and gel food colouring?

The hint here is in the name – a liquid food colouring has a much higher water content compared to gel, which is drier. This means that you will use much more liquid food colouring to get the same effect as a gel.

When the recipe asks for liquid food colouring and you wish to use gel, just add a little extra liquid into the mixture. Liquid food colouring can be squeezed or poured into a mix, while gel can be scooped in with a small spatula or toothpick.