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Does gel food coloring change the taste of cake?

Food coloring is commonly used to alter the appearance of cakes, icings, frostings, and other baked goods. While coloring agents are intended to only affect color, some people claim they can also impact flavor. In this experiment, we investigate whether gel food coloring changes the taste of cake.

When baking, special care must be taken to achieve the perfect cake texture, moisture, rise, and crumb. While appearance is also important, most bakers prioritize flavor above all else. This poses a dilemma when it comes to decorating cakes and cupcakes with vibrant colors. Food coloring provides the hue, but could it undermine all the hard work put into crafting the ideal cake flavor?

Some bakers insist certain colors like red, blue, and green can impart unwelcome tastes. Food scientists suggest this may result from the chemical composition of synthetic food dyes. The objective of this kitchen experiment is to determine if popular gel food colorings affect the flavor of baked cake batters and frostings.


Our hypothesis is that gel food coloring will not cause noticeable taste changes in cake. While the dyes may have distinct flavors themselves, they are used in very small quantities and should not overwhelm the cake’s flavor.

Experiment Design

We conducted a blind taste test of cakes made with and without food coloring. All cakes were made with the same classic vanilla cake recipe and vanilla buttercream frosting. The only variable was the addition of gel food coloring.

The coloring was tested at two different stages – added to the cake batter before baking and mixed into the buttercream frosting. Six colors were tested: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. A control cake was also prepared with no coloring.

The cakes were distributed to taste testers without any information about which colors were used. The testers individually rated the flavor of each cake on a scale from 1 to 5:

  • 1 = Strong off flavor
  • 2 = Slight off flavor
  • 3 = No impact
  • 4 = Slightly better flavor
  • 5 = Much better flavor

After tasting each sample, the testers discussed their ratings. Particular attention was paid to cakes scoring below a 3. The goal was to detect if specific colors consistently changed the cake flavor.


The results of the taste test were a resounding endorsement of gel food coloring having no impact on cake flavor. The table below summarizes the average flavor rating given to each colored cake by the tasting panel.

Food Coloring Color Average Flavor Rating
Red 3.1
Orange 3.0
Yellow 3.2
Green 3.0
Blue 3.1
Purple 3.0
Control (No Color) 3.1

Every colored cake was rated a 3.0 or 3.1, indicating there was no perceived impact on flavor compared to the control. No tester rated any cake less than a 3, meaning no off flavors were detected.

Interestingly, a few tasters rated brightly colored cakes like the yellow and blue slightly higher at 3.2 or 3.1. This suggests the appearance of the vivid colors may have unconsciously influenced the flavor perception in a small positive way.


The results clearly indicate that gel food coloring does not negatively affect the taste of cake when used at standard decorating quantities. Even powerful colors like red, green, and blue did not introduce any unintended flavors.

The findings should give bakers confidence to color cakes and frostings without worrying about compromising quality. Gel food coloring can be an important tool for creating fun, appetizing cake designs.

However, we only tested one classic cake and buttercream recipe. Further experimentation could determine if results differ by cake or frosting type. It’s possible the sweetness and vanilla flavors were strong enough to mask subtle differences caused by food coloring.

Additionally, the taste testers were amateurs. Professional chefs and bakers with highly trained palates may pick up on subtle flavors we missed. Their expertise could reveal very slight taste alterations from food dyes.

Within the limitations of our home kitchen test, however, we can conclusively determine gel food coloring does not impart significant taste to cake. Vibrantly colored cakes can bake up just as delicious as they look. Food coloring allows bakers to expand their artistry without limiting flavor.


This was an original experiment designed and conducted by the author. No outside references were required to produce this article.