Frosting Dye Chart + the best buttercream recipe ever

I was probably a bit too excited when I found this food coloring chart for frosting on Anna and Blue Paperie. The images come from - the chart was part of the May 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine.

Says Food Network: "You can mix these colors with a standard box of red (r), yellow (y), blue (b) and green (g) food coloring. Mix 1 cup frosting with the drops indicated. (Don't be alarmed: 100 drops is only about 1 teaspoon.) If using store-bought white frosting, use the numbers in parentheses."

It is true that pure white frosting is the best base for dying with food coloring, but the idea of no vanilla in my buttercream is just gross. Typical vanilla extract will cast a brownish-cream tone to your frosting, but there is a solution: clear vanilla extract from Wilton.

Yes, it is imitation vanilla, but I think I'm willing to use it, rather than have no vanilla at all.

So now you know how to make a huge range of colors with just one box of red/yellow/blue/green food coloring. I'm about to life even better: here is my recipe for the best buttercream frosting ever.

I'm willing to go out on a limb to say that this is the best buttercream frosting. This is my personal recipe, used by my mother while I was growing up, who got it from my grandma. People are always asking my mom for this recipe - she makes the best frosted sugar cookies I've ever had.

Grandma Peggy's Buttercream Frosting Recipe:
  • 1 stick butter softened
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Up to 4 tablespoons of milk – start with 2 and go from there
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar- continue to add until the right consistency for frosting
I did not put an amount for the powdered sugar. The amount of powdered sugar needed is dependent on your desired consistency for the frosting. You might want a softer, more spreadable frosting for cakes, but a firmer frosting for sugar cookies; even firmer yet for piping icing decorations.

Mix together your softened butter, salt, 2 tablespoons of milk, and vanilla.

Now, start with stirring in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. In 1/4 cup increments, add more powdered sugar and stir, until it's as thick or thin as you like. If you find that you have added too much sugar and it's too stiff, then add another tablespoon of milk, up to four tablespoons total.

If you want a fluffier frosting, beat with a hand mixer until you've got it the way you want it.

When the consistency is right, separate into bowls for dyeing, using the frosting chart above, or visit Food Network to see the colors up close.


  1. Have you ever used the clear pure vanilla extract? It's made from real vanilla, but somehow, it is clear instead of brown. I first encountered it on a trip to the Dominican Republic, and I noticed it in the Hispanic food section of my local grocery store. I've never baked with it myself, but I know a very accomplished baker who enjoys using it.

    1. Hi Joy,

      No, I have not seen this! I would certainly love to try it some day. Everything I bake is just for my family, so color has never been too important to me... but I can certainly see how a more advanced baker would prefer it. Thanks for the tip on that!

      Happy Holidays,

  2. Does this recipe make enough frosting for a full cake or should I double it?

    1. Hi Bekki, my apologies for the late reply! This is definitely enough frosting for a 11" x 13" cake, and I believe it should be enough for a two layer, 8" or 9" round cake. I honestly have never used this recipe for anything but cookies, but I really need to try it on cake to find out for sure.

  3. Hi, how long it takes to dry? planning a cookie party for my daughter's birthday and can't figure out if they will dry fast enough to put them in a box. Thanks!

    1. Hi Pnina, My apologies for the delayed reply - I hope it's not too late already! In my experience, this frosting dries pretty well in a couple of hours; however, I have 2 little girls who like to help frost cookies, and I know they tend to put the frosting on a little thicker than an adult would :) Really thick frosting may require 2-3 hours to dry well enough for stacking. In the past when I wasn't sure, I added a layer of wax paper or parchment between each layer of cookie so that if the frosting did squish a bit, it at least transferred to the paper and not the back of other cookies. Good luck!


Thank you so much for your comments! I read them all and will respond as quickly as possible!

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