How to Make Red Frosting {Red Velvet}

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Easy red frosting recipe that’s not pink, homemade with simple ingredients. This deep, dark red velvet icing is bright, vibrant, rich, creamy and perfect for piping.

A vibrant red frosting is not an easy task! Determining exactly how many drops of food coloring to reach a true red color can take a lot of experimenting and even more stirring. Allow me to take all the guess work and wasted time out of it for you. Just follow this easy and fool-proof recipe and never end up with pink frosting again. This is perfect for Valentine’s baking, Mother’s Day desserts, or even a fire engine themed kids birthday party. These Best Red Velvet Cake {From Scratch} and Best Red Velvet Cupcakes {With Cream Cheese Frosting} would also be perfect for all of the themes listed.

Easy Red Frosting That is Not Pink in Glass Bowl on White Background

How to Make Homemade Red Frosting That’s Not Pink From Scratch?

  1. Mix ingredients– Including butter and shortening, then vanilla extract, powdered sugar, and milk one at a time.
  2. Add red food coloring– About 3 deep squirts and mix.
  3. Transfer icing– 1/2 cup to a bowl.
  4. Add red food coloring– Until the color is brighter and more vibrant.
  5. Heat– In the microwave until frosting is runny.
  6. Combine frostings– Mix until the red color is evenly distributed.
  7. Cover and chill– For at least 3-5 days.
  8. Bring to room temperature– Pipe on cakes and cupcakes. Enjoy!

Key Ingredients For Easy Red Velvet Frosting

  • Butter– Use room temperature and unsalted butter for best results.
  • Shortening– For stability.
  • Powdered sugar– This is where all of the sweetness is developed.
  • Red gel coloring– To create a bright and vibrant red frosting.
  • Heavy cream– This adds richness, creaminess and also thins out
Ingredients For Red Icing in Glass Bowls on Marble Background

Why Does My Frosting Taste Bad And Bitter? How to Fix This?

Red and black food colors are notoriously known to add a weird metallic after-taste . Some of the best ways to avoid that is to increase the amount of extract or to add some zest or use strong high quality extracts. Chefmaster brand has no taste red color that can be used as well. I still felt it had an after-taste but it was not as strong. 

Bright And Vibrant Icing Food Coloring Options

  • Strawberry powder– This adds a wonderful berry flavor.
  • Beet powder– I didn’t particularly like the subtle after-taste.
  • Red powdered food coloring– You need a large quantity to get the correct shade.
  • Liquid food coloring– I really don’t like this because it thins out the icing consistency, but it can work. You will just have to add some cornstarch or more powdered sugar to fix the consistency again.
  • Red gel coloring– I prefer the Americolor brand over the Wilton one because it’s more intense.
  • Natural food colorings– I can never get a true red color when I use these because they are made without artificial dyes.
  • You can use a combination of these options– To get the right shade, if you like or just stick to 1 or 2 options. An awesome option is to use strawberry powder and red gel food coloring together. The strawberry powder will add some red color and obviously that fruity flavor will will mask the bitter taste of the gel food coloring. 

Microwave Method

Spoon out 1/2 cup icing and transfer it to a bowl. Add 1 more squirt of red coloring until the color is even brighter and more vibrant. Heat it in the microwave for about 15 seconds or until the frosting is runny. Mix it with a spoon and you will notice this runny icing is bright red now. Add this runny frosting into the original bowl of icing and mix until the red color is evenly distributed. It’s so weird but it works. Something about the heat brightens the red color and really intensifies it, but it does thin out the icing. You need to chill the icing to make it pipe-able again. 

Black Gel Coloring Method

Add a very small amount of black food coloring and somehow, it makes the red color deeper. Be very careful. Using more than a tiny quantity can ruin the red shade altogether. 

Why Is My Frosting Still Pink?

Check the icing on day 2 and 3. See if it the color is getting deeper. Take pictures along the way so you can see the difference. If it’s not getting deeper, remove from fridge and mix in more gel coloring because perhaps there was not enough added to begin with or the brand you used was not as strong. Make sure you didn’t skip the microwave step. 

Red Velvet Frosting Piped on White Background

Tips And Techniques For Red Buttercream Icing

This icing needs to be made 3-5 days in advance– Because this allows the color to develop. Do not skip this step.

Use unsalted butter– To prevent the icing from becoming too salty.

Use both, shortening and butter– Because butter adds flavor and richness and shortening adds stability.

Why is my icing soft and runny? How to fix it? This usually means you have too much liquid in the icing. Make sure to only add heavy cream 1 tbsp at a time. You can also add more powdered sugar to thicken the icing. A third option is chilling the icing if it is just too warm, and that is causing the runny texture. Make sure to work in a cool kitchen to help prevent this.

Why is my icing thick and hard to pipe? How to fix it?

The icing is either too cold and needs to be brought to room temperature again to be pipeable, or it may need more liquid. Mix in 1 tbsp of heavy cream and stir to see if this makes it a little more workable.

Use high quality vanilla extract– High quality ingredients always produce a better flavor. It will also help to mask the red dye taste so it’s extra important in this recipe.

Butter must be room temperature– Because if it is too warm and melted, the icing will separate, be grainy, and too liquidy to pipe. If it is too cold, it will not blend properly with the other ingredients. It will be chunky instead of smooth, and no one wants icing with chunks in it.

Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time– Because this helps to keep the powdered sugar from “exploding” powder all over your kitchen when too much is added at one time, and it also allows you to control the sweetness and texture of the icing.

How much icing does this recipe make? It makes enough icing for 24 cupcakes or one 8×2 inch round cake.

Homemade Red Buttercream Icing in Piping Bag on White Background


Refrigerate– In a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Freeze– In a freezer safe container for up to 1 month. Thaw to room temperature and whip once more to make it fluffy again.

More Cake Decorating Tips

Easy Red Frosting (Red Velvet) in Glass Bowl on White Background
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Easy Homemade Red Frosting (Red Velvet)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Easy red frosting recipe that's not pink, homemade with simple ingredients. This red velvet icing is bright, vibrant, rich, creamy and perfect for piping.
Yield: 2 Cups


  • 1/2 cup Butter, Unsalted, Room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Shortening
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 4 cups Powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp Heavy cream , Or milk, More or less depending on the consistency you want
  • Red gel coloring, I prefer the Americolor brand over the Wilton one


  • Add butter and shortening in a large mixing bowl and mix until smooth.
  • Add vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
  • Add powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time), while continuing to mix.
  • Add milk (1 tbsp at a time), while continuing to mix until you reach the desired consistency. 
  • Add a generous amount of red food coloring (about 3 deep squirts) and mix until evenly distributed. The frosting will mostly likely be looking like a dark shade of pink.
  • Spoon out 1/2 cup icing and transfer to a bowl.
  • Add a 1 more squirt of red coloring until the color is even brighter and more vibrant.
  • Heat in microwave for about 15 seconds or until frosting is runny.
  • Mix with a spoon and you will notice this runny icing is bright red now.
  • Add this runny frosting into the original bowl of icing and mix until the red color is evenly distributed.
  • Cover and chill in fridge for at least 3 days but preferably 5 days to allow the shade to truly deepen and develop further. This is a crucial step and cannot be skipped.
  • When you are ready to use this icing, remove bowl of icing from fridge and let it come to room temperature.
  • Then, fill a piping bag and start piping your cake and cupcakes.


  • Read all my tips above.
  • Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
  • This icing is enough to frost 24 cupcakes (simple design) and one 8×2 round cake.


Calories: 1876kcal, Carbohydrates: 240g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 105g, Saturated Fat: 47g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g, Monounsaturated Fat: 35g, Trans Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 147mg, Sodium: 378mg, Potassium: 43mg, Sugar: 236g, Vitamin A: 1749IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 32mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 1876
Author: Abeer Rizvi

3 comments on “How to Make Red Frosting {Red Velvet}”

  1. Love the way this turned out! Tasted so good and had a great smooth texture. Was the perfect color for my sons birthday cake.5 stars

  2. this is such a simple post and makes my red velvet cupcakes the best they have ever been! thank you for sharing this recipe5 stars

  3. This is the most amazing frosting I have ever tried! Our cupcakes turned out so extra!5 stars

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