Edible ink is ink that is safe to eat. It is used to decorate food, most often baked goods such as cakes, cupcakes and cookies. Novelty baked goods such as photograph cakes are made using edible ink.
Food colorings and dyes, made from natural and synthetic sources, have been used for centuries, and are the edible inks most people are familiar with. Edible inks for use in printers, those used to reproduce photographs onto baked goods, were developed in the early years of the 2000s. Commercial bakeries were first to adopt the technology, which is now available for home use.
Some models of Canon and Epson printers can print edible inks. Supplies needed to print in edible ink, besides a compatible printer, are icing sheets and edible ink cartridges. You can also buy software specifically designed for designing and printing images in edible ink. The icing sheets are made of sugar, or cornstarch and corn syrup. They are wafer thin and come in different sizes. Edible inks come in different colors, and the printer can use the inks to produce a variety of hues.
Once an image is printed on an icing sheet, the decorator places it on top of the frosted cake, cupcake or cookie. The icing sheet will seamlessly absorb into the frosting. Icing sheets and edible inks are made in the U.S. from non-toxic FDA approved ingredients and are usually kosher.
Another form of edible ink currently gaining popularity is the decorating pen. These come in a variety of colors and can be used to draw on any kind of food, plates, or to draw temporary tattoos. Their most popular use is for decorating cookies. Edible ink pens look just like regular ink pens and can last up to two years after opening. The pens work best when used to draw on a hard surface, such as the hard icing often used on cookies.