Tie-dye cupcakes need bold coloring and lots of it. While liquid food coloring can produce these colors, you will have to use a lot to get the vibrant colors you need. Gel colors don’t require as much color to reach the same hue. What matters more than the type of coloring, however, is your tie-dyeing technique.
Bright colors require a lot of liquid food coloring, since liquid colors are made from water. Start with a white cake batter and a few different bottles of food coloring. For liquid color, plan on using about 1 tablespoon for every 2 cups of batter. For gel colors, two squeezes or about 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups is all you need.
You need clearly defined colors if you want your cupcakes to look tie-dyed. To do this, separate your cupcake batter into different bowls in equal amounts. Add a color to each bowl, using a different spoon for each color. Line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers and spoon a small amount of each dyed cupcake batter into each wrapper. Use a toothpick or butter knife to swirl the colors together. Don’t mix the colors, because this forces them to combine into a different, possibly unattractive, color.
A basic white cupcake can be topped with tie-dye frosting if you don’t want to color the batter itself. Tie-dye frosting must be swirled and layered in the pastry bag before you put it on the cupcake. Liquid food coloring does not work well for a tie-dye frosting technique because liquid food coloring is thin and often creates a pastel shade, rather than a vibrant one. If using a tie-dye frosting technique, use gel colors. Layer the different colors into your pastry bag and squeeze them out together onto the cupcake for a swirled, tie-dye look.
You can combine liquid food coloring with other natural colors to achieve the right color without using an entire bottle to get it. For pink, start with a boxed cake mix naturally dyed pink. Use red velvet cake mix for red batter. When tinting your batter to yellow, orange or red, start with a butter yellow cake mix or recipe, which has a natural yellow hue. Make small batches of tie-dye cupcakes when using liquid food coloring and remember that the more liquid food coloring you use, the thinner your cupcake batter will be.