Sweet rainbows: How to make your own colored sanding sugar

Guest post by Liz Gubernatis
This Cupcake is Dragon Approved!

As a rainbow-loving lady, I’m always trying to add color to my confections. As a newly-diagnosed diabetic, I have to watch what I’m adding to sweet treats. This is a trick I’ve used to color sugar for topping cupcakes and candies many times, and it works for sugar substitutes, too!

Making your own sanding sugars lets you create just the right hue to add to your sweet rainbow and dragon, here, is going to show you how it’s done.


Materials and Tools

  • Sugar or sugar substitute (Splenda and Whey Low work great for this, too!)
  • Food coloring (the good ol’ box from the grocery or fancier versions, up to you)
  • Bottle or jar with tight fitting lid
  • For this example, we’re going to match this Dragon Green.
Match the Dragon Green

Step 1:

Clean bottle or jar and dry thoroughly.

Step 2:

Measure out your sugar or sugar substitute. Don’t fill the bottle/jar more than about half-way as you need room for shakin’ it.

Pour Sugar into Container

Step 3:

If you are mixing custom colors, try mixing the drops together first so the color distributes evenly. To match the green of my hubb’s dragon, I’m using one part blue to three parts green.

Style Points for Light Saber! Stir to Make Dragon Green

Step 4:

Add your coloring, a drop or two at a time.

Add a Drop or Two

Step 5:

Shake it like a Polaroid picture! If you go too dark, add a bit more sugar. Too light, add a bit more coloring. If it clumps, like it did here for me, use a fork/knife/chopstick/ light saber to break it up and stir it up.

Clumps are Ok - Just Stir


It's a Match!


  • You can color an entire rainbow of cupcakes, candies, whatever you like with colored sugars.
  • Works for salts too, in case you’re topping some salted caramels, for example.


  • Colored sugar will start to clump a bit like brown sugar does, thanks to the added moisture. Usually another good shake or a tap on the counter should separate the grains again.
  • Colored sugar substitutes make sweet treats more accessible to some dietary requirements, while still making it pretty and sparkly.
  • You can also use a salt shaker even if you’re using sugar/sugar substitute – great for sprinkling on top of sweet cuppin’ cakes! Don’t have a jar? No problem — a plastic baggy works great too — instead of shaking, you might gently massage the coloring into the sugar to distribute evenly.
Other Ways to Shake It

PS: Can you tell which green is sugar and which one is sugar substitute? HINT: NOPE! Sparkling Dragon Green for all!

Your Turn!

What will you sprinkle with your homemade sweet rainbows?

Comments on Sweet rainbows: How to make your own colored sanding sugar

  1. Is that a rubber ducky dressed as a lamb? I love him! This would be great to sprinkle through a stencil to get colored stars or really any shape on top of a cake. Gay pride cake? You could also sprinkle through an alphabet stencil to write Happy Birthday, put names on there, anything, and it wouldn’t be an overload of frosting. Christmas cookies? Valentine’s cookies? Pour it all in my mouth? There are no bad ideas.

    • Absofreakin’lutely. You can make ANY color for ANY project. I had a college roommate who was gaga for the color “salmon” and I’d love to send her a big ol’ jar of salmon colored sanding sugar, just because it’s her favorite color. There are no bad ideas. 🙂

  2. i have done this! i am *way* to cheap to go out and buy a whole jar of colored sugar to decorate a single dessert. i just mixed it in a bowl with the back of a spoon. i did find, that it does take only the tiniest bit of food coloring to color a lot of sugar, so my advice- start slowly when adding color!

Join the Conversation