Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best, and these all natural homemade rainbow sprinkles are no exception.
I’ve been wondering about ways to make healthy, colourful sprinkles for a little while now, and I hadn’t seen anything I liked (although I have to confess that I wasn’t really looking very hard).
And this idea is so wonderfully simple, that when I ran across it in Chef Amber Shea’s Practically Raw Desserts, I almost didn’t see it.
I was making her raw confetti birthday cake, and didn’t truly get just how effective and simple using shredded coconut could be.
I almost skipped making the sprinkles because I when I finally read the recipe properly (about halfway through making the cake), I discovered that I needed to plan ahead.
Sometimes I’m great at planning ahead – going on holidays, getting married, having a baby – but when it comes to cooking, not so much.
I like to cook on impulse whenever I can (because it’s more fun that way) and so when I make something I want it, and I want it now!
I’m generally not so good with the waiting part. (“What, you mean I needed to start soaking the nuts 8 hours ago? Doh, doh and doh!”)
But then I decided that my practice birthday cake might not be quite the same without rainbow sprinkles, so I bit the bullet and made them as well, and boy am I glad that I did.
What a discovery!
lazy efficient cook that I am, at first it seemed like way too much effort to make my own natural food colourings.
So I just picked up some awesome natural food colours from my local health food shop instead.
They’re made by a local Australian Company called Hopper Foods, and contain only (reasonably) natural ingredients.
For example, their Cloudy Orange colour contains only ‘Carrot, Pumpkin, Invert Sugar, Citric Acid’, so they’re definitely heaps better than some of the artificial colours being used these days.
Like a good scientist, I systematically tested every single one of their colours that I could get my hands on.
Note: There is also a blue in this range, but my local store was out of stock on the day I picked these up.
I just mixed the colours with some shredded coconut, dried them in my dehydrator and voila!
The colours turned out so vibrant and, amazingly, a lot like rainbow sprinkles.
Once I realised how well this method worked, I got all inspired to have a go at making my own homemade natural food colourings.
So I got out the grater, the garlic press, a small sieve and a bunch of veggies and did it all over again.
I also made a mighty colourful mess in the kitchen. (Note to self: wear apron.)
I tried out beetroot, spinach, carrot, red cabbage, turmeric, and spirulina, all with great success.
I was especially impressed with the red cabbage as a source of natural colours.
All I did was add a pinch of bicarb soda to red cabbage juice and it turned a magnificent blue.
Unfortunately, it turned into more of a green-blue when it dried, but it’s still a pretty awesome colour. And the purple sprinkles that the regular red cabbage juice created were incredible as well.
Possibly my two favourite colours of the whole exercise (although I love the deep-pink of the beetroot too).
Overall, I think I like the homemade colours best, simply because I had so much fun playing with them and seeing what I could create, but the store-bought ones are definitely faster, easier and less messy.
But if you’re up for doing both, well that just gives you even more colours to choose from, doesn’t it?
And when you’re trying to get that perfect colour for your magnificent creation, that can be really important.
So have a play with it, and I’d love to see what you come up with.
- 1 tbsp (20ml) shredded coconut
- 5 ml natural food colour (see below)
- 4-8 drops colour
- 1 tsp water
- 1 small beetroot
- 1 small carrot
- 2 leaves red cabbage
- 1/8 cup baby spinach
- 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/8 tsp spirulina
- pinch bicarb soda
- Add 4-8 drops of colour to 1 tsp of water and mix thoroughly.
- Separately grate around 2 tbsp of beetroot, carrot and 4tbsp of red cabbage.
- Chop the spinach leaves finely, or pass them through a garlic press to create a paste.
- Press the grated/minced veggies through a fine sieve, until you have around 1 tsp of juice.
- Add a pinch of bicarb soda to 1 tsp of red cabbage juice to make it turn blue.
- Add 1/8 tsp of turmeric or spirulina to 1 tsp of water and mix thoroughly.
- Put 1 tsp of food colouring liquid into a bowl.
- Add shredded coconut and mix thoroughly until coconut is completely and evenly coated with colour.
- Spread on a dehydrator tray and dry for about 2 hours, or until completely dry.
- Mix colours together after drying (optional).
- Store in an air-tight container at room temperature until required.
During: 10 min (per colour)
After: Dry for 2h
- 1 tsp of liquid really is enough to cover 1 tbsp of coconut.
- You can crack out your juicer if you want, to make carrot juice, beetroot juice, spinach juice, red cabbage juice, or any other kind of veggie juice. But for this small amount of juice, grating or mincing it and then passing it through a sieve is quick and easy.
- It’s really important to strain your juice before adding it to the coconut. Otherwise you’ll end up with bits of veggies in your sprinkles, which doesn’t look as good. (Trust me.)
- Try and keep your colours as concentrated as possible. Avoid adding water to your veggie juice colours if at all possible, so you end up with the brightest colours. If you want paler colours, you can always dilute your juice with some water.
- If you don’t have a dehydrator, I’m sure you could dry these quite quickly in a cool oven. Just set your oven to the lowest temperature you can, and spread the coloured coconut shreds on a tray. I’m guessing it would take maybe 10-15 minutes this way, but please watch them closely, because I really don’t know how long it would take and I wouldn’t want them to burn.
- You can create a different effect with these homemade rainbow sprinkles by using different sizes of shredded coconut. If you want a really even looking sprinkle, maybe to cover over a whole cake, then use the finest shredded coconut you can find (or pulse it a few times in your food processor). If you want a bit of texture, then use coarsely shredded coconut, or even coconut flakes. The possibilities are endless!
- Remember that if you’re using a dark coloured icing (e.g. chocolate icing), you can just use plain coconut for white sprinkles.
- If you dry the sprinkles thoroughly, they really should keep for a long time, just like shredded coconut does, ready to throw on your next cake or bowl of ice-cream.
- If you’re looking for ready-made natural food colourings a bit closer to home, you could try India Tree’s Natural Decorating Colors in the US or the UK.
This idea came from the raw ‘Confetti Birthday Cake’ in Amber Shea’s Practically Raw Desserts book. It was just a quick mention, with a few short instructions and tips, but once I tried it I was hooked.
You can order Amber's cookbooks online today at Amazon, the Book Depository, or your favourite book supplier, and start playing with her recipes for yourself.
I can imagine so many different ways of using these sprinkles – as grass on a sporting cake, to ‘paint’ flowers and other pictures on a cake, to make hair on a monster cake – and I’m so excited by the possibilities. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of these.
And you’re after completely, utterly raw, wholefood sprinkles, check out these raw sprinkles over at Rawified, that use only dried raspberries and citrus peel to make amazing colourful homemade rainbow sprinkles.
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Have an awesome day!
~ Nikki, Eating Vibrantly