Sweets for the sweets, who can resist a cake that isn’t lathered in some type of frosting or buttercream, right? I’m a lover of frostings that are a bit on the light side and not so sweet. Lets dive into some of the frostings and buttercreams that are out there to wet our whistles and satisfy our sweet tooth’s!
Generally, there are a baker’s variety under “Frostings.” They range from buttercreams, glazes, ganache, and royal icing. All of them, make for a great addition to a moist and delicious cake. Also, they bring a hint of sweetness to the cake and can even extend the shelf life of cakes by acting like a shield around the cake, preventing it from drying out.
Lets explore some amazing frostings here.
When I think of buttercream, I always think of the sweet American version we all have come to love with powdered sugar and butter for an extra sweet version us Americans love. I have to laugh though, I worked for a French Pastry Chef and he was no fan of the American version as it was just too sweet he thought. He has a point, when I lived in Europe for three years, sweets there are so different and not nearly as sugary as the ones we love here in the states.
I have to say, I love that buttercreams are titled and named after countries around the world.
- American Style- Tastefully sweet
- Creaming butter with powdered sugar then adding flavoring and milk
- No cooking needed
- Quick and easy
- Most popular
USES: Most cakes, Cupcakes, Brownies, Fillings for cookies
- Meringue based
- Water and sugar are boiled to 240 degrees, added to whipped egg whites and then soft butter is added
- Cooking required
- Stable and delicious
- Soft and light
USES: Cakes including Genoise and Spongecakes, Whoopie Pie filling
- Similar to Italian buttercream but the hot sugar syrup is whipped into egg yolks, then soft butter is added
- More difficult
- Very rich and smooth
USES: Cakes and Fillings
- Meringue based
- Similar to Italian buttercream but egg whites and sugar are warmed over a double boiler to dissolve the sugar to 110 degrees, then transferred to a mixer and whipped till cool, then adding in soft butter
- Super light and fluffy
- Cooking required
USES: Cakes and Fillings
All of these buttercreams are delicious. American being the sweetest and Italian and Swiss being very similar only differing in their methods of cooking the sugar syrup.
You are probably asking yourself, what in the world is a foam frosting? I have never heard of such a thing. Hey, I was right there with you. I still remember being in my Wedding and Specialty Cake class hearing it for the first time. Basically, this is best known as a “Seven Minute Icing.” Also commonly called a meringue icing.
This makes a light and quick frosting that is fluffy and easy to use.
- Boiled icing
- Similar to Italian Buttercream but no butter is used
- Egg whites and sugar are boiled then whipped in a mixer
- Light and fluffy
- More unstable, must use immediately
I have come to love royal icing and use it for so many things. Especially, during the holidays making Christmas cookies. Makes a great icing for making decorated sugar cookies. One thing that sets this frosting apart is that it is much stiffer and dries very hard.
- Decorators Icing
- Egg whites are combined with lemon juice, powdered sugar, flavoring, and icing colors
- Dries very hard
Royal Icing Methods
There are two ways to make royal icing, with egg whites or meringue powder.
Method 1: Fresh Egg Whites: I was initially taught using egg whites and lemon juice and it does make a great icing. However, there are concerns about the safety of egg whites. Additionally, I will replace egg whites with pasteurized version you can buy at your store. They work great too.
Method 2: Meringue powder. Basically the meringue powder replaces the egg whites to make it more safe and user friendly. This version works super well and stable as well as, a good alternative to using egg whites.
Personally if I had to pick, I love the egg white version because I believe it produces a great shine on the icing when dried. Here is one of my go-to recipes for Royal Icing.
Uses: Decorator Sugar Cookies, Decorator cakes (laces, flowers, piping, gingerbread houses, accenting wedding cakes)
Glazes can be just about anything that can be poured over or drizzled/dripped onto a cake or other baked items. First one that comes to mind is of course a powdered sugar glaze on top of cinnamon rolls. Yum! Basically, its a thin coating not requiring a spatula to spread.
I love using glazes when I make Bundt cakes, its just perfect to add just a little something on top. When I make powdered sugar glazes I love trying new flavors like adding fresh orange, lime, or lemon juice.
Glazes are a super simple way to making frostings and can be used in a variety of ways.
- Flat icing
- Super simple
- Dries to a gloss
- Adds moisture and flavor
Uses: Cinnamon Rolls, Coffeecakes, Bundt Cakes, Quick Breads, and Breakfast Pastries
Of course I saved the best for last, one of my all time favorites! What is not to love about ganache. Ganache is just a fancy way of describing the perfect marriage of chocolate and cream! Oh gosh, I remember making pounds of this stuff in my catering job. What a job to get paid making gallons of delicious chocolate ganache! Smile…
Ganache’s are so versatile they can be used not only as a frostings, but also glazes, fillings, and even candy (aka truffles).
I mentioned Bundt cakes above, one of my favorite ways to ice a Bundt cake is with ganache! After the cream and chocolate get mixed together and still fairly loose, I like to drizzle it right over the cake. It will harden as it cools and makes the perfect icing!
The secret to ganache is ratios. Depending on what you are using it for will drive that train but more importantly, will determine how thick your finished ganache will be. Example, for a great frosting for a cake you would use equal chocolate and cream BY WEIGHT ( I weight it in ounces on a kitchen scale). Generally, the more chocolate you use than cream, the thicker your ganache will be. Hence, the more cream to chocolate the thinner it will be.
Example: 5 oz of cream + 5 oz semisweet chocolate
One of the easiest frostings is making the ganache and allow it to cool ( I always place plastic wrap on the top of ganache after it gets made (prevents a film). Then whipping it in a mixer and using to ice a cake.
One thing I love is a whipped ganache frosting. Oh my goodness its totally divine. You mix the cream with the chocolate and allow to chill (more cream than chocolate). Then this gets whipped and its like a chocolate cream or cool whip. Divine! Makes for a great filling for cakes too!
- Silky and creamy
- Scalded cream is mixed with chocolate and cooled
- Consistency and thickness is determined by ratio of cream to chocolate
USES: Cakes, fillings, truffles, glazes on top of cakes