Aiming for The Great British Bake Off? Starting up a new confectionery business? Or just want to improve the treats you make for your family? You might think the actual cake is the most important part of the bake, but the frosting is a vital piece of the puzzle. You should therefore know how to make a variety of different frosting types for different occasions. There are a lot of options you can go for that will make a big difference in the overall presentation of your cake.
Frosting Or Icing?
Most people aren’t too sure about the difference between frosting and icing, sometimes using them as an interchangeable term for decorating cakes. But there are a few key differences between the two:
- Frosting is usually made of a fatty base such as cream, butter or cream cheese that is whipped with sugar. Its consistency is usually thick and spreadable, fluffy enough to pipe shapes or be used as a filling between layers, such as in a victoria sponge.
- Icing is shinier and smoother than frosting, thinner and typically made with a powdered sugar base. It is usually used as a glaze or to pipe more intricate patterns, such as on top of sugar cookies.
While there are a couple of different styles of icing, there is a much bigger variety in frosting types, so read on for nine different types of frosting that you should become familiar with.
Buttercream is probably one of the most common types of frosting you will have encountered and it’s also one of the simplest. To make buttercream you need to combine butter or vegetable shortening with a sweet base such as icing sugar. You need to beat it in a mixer until it is smooth, ensuring it is not grainy or greasy. Buttercream should always be very sweet and is traditionally a pure white colour that can easily be altered with a colouring. It should be pipable but still have a bit of thickness to it. Only apply to cool cakes and keep it out of the sun as it can melt easily in warm settings.
Italian Meringue Buttercream
Italian meringue buttercream is another baking staple, a go-to mildly sweet frosting that leaves a smooth finish and is very easy to pipe, perfect for a range of upscale bakes. It is creamy, smooth and silky while also being highly stable, so it won’t melt in warmer conditions. Italian meringue buttercream is notoriously hard to get right, so here is a guide on how to do so:
- Add egg whites, salt and cream of tartar then mix slowly, building up speed slowly.
- Then add sugar to the mixtures and mix until soft peaks begin to form.
- Heat some sugar and water on medium heat until it reaches between 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slowly drizzle in this sugar syrup to your other ingredients, then mix until soft peaks form again.
- Stop mixing and allow the meringue to reach room temperature, then add a tablespoon of butter at a time as you mix, until the peaks are stiff.
- Then add any desired flavour and mix to incorporate.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Swiss meringue buttercream has a mild sweetness that can be enhanced with other flavours. It should be silky smooth, white and creamy. The airy nature of it makes it very easy to pipe, which makes it ideal for wedding cakes and other elegant bakes. But do be aware that it will begin to melt in warmer settings. Swiss meringue buttercream has quite a few steps to make the perfect frosting. Here’s how you do it:
- Separate egg whites from the yolk. This can impact its ability to fluff up if the yolks get in the mixture.
- Whisk together the egg whites and the sugar.
- Cook this mixture in a bain-marie, whisking it until it reaches 160 Fahrenheit or the sugar granules have dissolved.
- Then whisk the mixture until it is at room temperature and has achieved stiff peaks.
- Make sure the meringue is cooled first then slowly add room temperature butter while mixing
- Keep doing this until stiff peaks form again.
- Add any flavourings you desire and gently mix them in.
Chantilly Cream Frosting
Chantilly cream frosting, otherwise known as whipped cream frosting is light and fluffy. The frosting is very soft and may collapse, so should be applied to a cake to be served immediately. Here’s how you make it:
- Mix heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar at a low speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. The mix may curdle if left too long so keep an eye on it.
- Next, add in any flavourings and mix for a few seconds to combine.
- Finally, add smooth mascarpone cheese into the whipped cream and mix on low. To make sure the mascarpone is smooth, spread it around in a bowl to remove lumps before adding.
For a rich and chocolatey finish to your cakes, try using fudge frosting. It is creamy and smooth but can thicken up over time to deliver a fudgy consistency. It is best used on plain cakes because of its delicious standout flavour. Here’s how to do it:
- Melt butter on a low heat and then add cocoa powder. Once it is pastelike, transfer it to a mixing bowl.
- Alternate between adding powdered sugar and milk, mixing slowly as you do so. Then add vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy.
Fudge frosting can also be made with melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder.
Cream Cheese Frosting
The staple of a red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting is known for its tangy flavour and white colouring. It’s essentially made the same as buttercream is, but instead of butter uses mostly cream cheese. Just simply mix cream cheese and a bit of butter until combined, add in vanilla extract, salt and then powdered sugar until it’s all incorporated. It goes especially well with vegetable cakes and bakes that have a lot of moisture. It’s quite easy to pipe but can begin to melt in warmer conditions like normal buttercream.
Seven Minute Frosting
If you’re looking to make a fast frosting, this one does exactly what it says on the tin. This frosting uses no butter and creates a meringue-like consistency. It is fluffy and airy that hardens over time, with a marshmallow-like flavour. To make it, you must:
- Add sugar, egg whites, water and cream of tartar together and mix until combined.
- Plae your bowl on a bain-marie and whisk until frothy.
- Then beat the mixture by hand for approximately seven minutes until you achieve stiff peaks.
Ganache is a bit like a cross between frosting and icing, perfect for dipping doughnuts into or pouring over a cake as a glaze. It should be a glossy dark brown colour, tasting rich and chocolatey. It should be pourable and consists of just two ingredients. Here’s how you make it:
- Chop up your chocolate. This could be dark, milk or white depending on your preference.
- In a pan, heat heavy cream or heavy whipping cream until it is just under boiling.
- Place your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then pour the cream over the chocolate, allowing this to sit for a few minutes.
- Then whisk this until the ganache thickens and the two ingredients are combined.
- If you wish to create a thicker, pipable consistency then whip this mixture over high heat for about four minutes.
For a quick and easy homemade dessert, beat the ganache until it’s fluffy and stiff, then form the mixture into balls and chill. You’ll end up with some delicious chocolate truffles that you can then add decoration to or eat as is.
Fondant is available to purchase in shops to save you the hassle, but it can also be made from scratch if you’re up to the challenge! It should taste sweet and can be any colour you desire, but the original product is often white. It should be slightly chewy and malleable, able to be rolled out to create a smooth cover onto cakes. You can also mould and cut it into shapes for decoration. Here’s how you make fondant:
- Add clear, unflavored gelatin to cold water and wait until this thickens. Then mix and heat until dissolved.
- Add glucose or corn syrup and glycerin to the mixture and then slowly stir in the shortening and remove from heat until melted. You should add any flavourings in at this point and allow the mixture to cool.
- Place half of your icing sugar in a bowl and create a well, then pour the mixture in and mix.
- When the sugar is nearly incorporated, add the rest of the sugar.
- The mixture should then be ready to knead. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on the surface first so it doesn’t stick. Once you have rolled it out, it’s ready for use.
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