White Balance for Perfect Cookie Color Palettes


Want to know a secret?

I hate to color icing. I know, hate is a strong word… But, I’ve been known to go to great lengths to come up with cookie ideas that use only white icing. (Remember my Christmas cookies from this past year?)  Seriously, though… Who wants to spend an hour coloring icing when you have cookies to decorate?

I think part of the reason I dislike the icing coloring process is that I’m picky. When I set out to decorate cookies, I have an idea in my mind of exactly how they will look. I know how each color should look. If I am decorating a beach cookie, the water has to be the perfect seafoam blue… Not sky blue, not aqua, and certainly not royal blue.  Since I do not have an endless variety of food coloring for my icing, I often find myself mixing up my own custom colors, which can be a bit of a hassle.

So, I’ve developed a trick for faster color mixing that ensure that my icing color palettes work together… I white balance my icing.

(Please note – The only thing worse than the wrong color blue for beach cookies is a color palette that doesn’t work together. Actually, I lied. A color palette that doesn’t work together is worse. Much worse.)

If you’ve ever edited photos, you’re familiar with the concept of white balance. When you white balance a photo, you adjust the “temperature” of the photo so that the white portions of the photo (and the rest of the photo along with it) are the right color.  If you’re taking a photo of a white house at sunset, it’s likely to come out with a yellowy-orange tint… So, you adjust the white balance to account for that.

When we’re talking about icing, it kind of works in the opposite way. You start with a batch of white icing.  Then, you can adjust the temperature of your icing before mixing your other colors.  If you want everything to have a rosy hue, add a touch of pink to your white icing.  If you want everything to have a lovely dusty/muted  hue, add some ivory or brown.  Want a grey-ish color scheme? Add a drop of black and a drop of blue. And those beach cookies? I’d recommend a drop of bright yellow.


Want to see it in action? I used my white balance method when I decorated these sugar and spice cookies for a baby shower a few weeks ago.  The color scheme for the cookies was actually based on a pair of Madison’s pajamas (please pardon the messy morning hair)… A cute leopard print pattern in cream, brown, and a dusty pink.

First, I made the base icing… The white balanced “white” (in this case a cream color)… I added a few drops of ivory and a drop of chocolate brown to my double batch (2 pounds of powdered sugar) of royal icing. (You can see it in the photo below… the camera and Lightroom settings are identical.)


Then, I used the new base icing to make pink and brown icings.  In order to get a lovely dusty pink, all I had to do was add some soft pink to my creamy colored base icing. The rich brown color only required a bit of chocolate brown to achieve the color I was going for.


Now, you may be thinking that you could just start with white icing and mix each color individually. Well, you’re not wrong.  But, you might be crazy. If you start with white and add soft pink, you’ll have a baby pink icing. To get dusty pink, you’ll need to add some ivory (at least) and possibly some chocolate brown. Then, to get that cream color, you’ll have to start over and make sure to add some ivory and brown. But, how much ivory and brown? It’ll be a game of trial and error until your pink and cream colors work nicely together.  Then, you add the brown into the mix.  If you start again with plain white icing and just add chocolate brown, it won’t be nearly as rich… And, it won’t match the cream color quite as well. You’ll still need to add some ivory.  And, by now, the kiddo has woken up from her nap, and you won’t be decorating any cookies. At least, that’s how it works at my house.


Please Note – The links to the various food coloring colors in this post are Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale price, which helps to keep My Kitchen Addiction up and running. Thanks!

4 Responses to White Balance for Perfect Cookie Color Palettes

  1. Nice tutorial Jen though my days of cookie decorating are so limited now; guess one day I’ll need a grandkid to get back into it!

    The one thing I always seemed to forget was just how much the colors would darken when dry…I’ve spent many, MANY minutes getting the perfect color mixed to see it dry way too dark and not be so perfect. Maybe my next go around with decorating will see me wisen up! Love your cookies!