There's More Than One Way To Frost A Cake

Cooking Tips for the Personal Chef with a Sweet Tooth

When you think of cake, you automatically think of frosting. But do you realize there are at least half a dozen ways to frost a cake? Of course there is the traditional icing: thick, creamy and oh so sweet due to its butter, eggs and milk. However, top chefs in popular cities such as Chicago or Miami teach culinary arts program students a wide range of ways to top their cakes and other sweets. Let's look at a list of delicious and beautiful ways to frost a cake provided by one Florida cooking school.

Icing/Frosting - This is what grandma used to make. In her day, making icing was a labor of love. With no electric mixers, frosting had to be beaten by hand in order to combine all the ingredients and make it light and fluffy. Today, a basic icing recipe includes milk, powdered sugar, butter, flavorings and possibly eggs or egg whites. As with cakes, you can take these fundamental ingredients, add a little imagination, and create concoctions so delightful your mouth will be in ecstasy!

Cream cheese frosting that's whipped to perfection is just sinful. Coconut icing with a hint of vanilla and almond offers a delicious mix of textures as well as tropical flavor. Add orange rind to a basic frosting recipe for a light, summery taste. Mix in finely chopped mint leaves to accent a chocolate cake. Almonds, lime juice, pecans, oatmeal… the possibilities are literally endless.

Royal Icing - Probably one of the easiest icings to make according to one Miami culinary arts program director, royal icing simply consists of egg whites, cream of tartar, powdered sugar and food coloring. Royal icing is so popular because it dries in a hardened state, making it wonderful for use with decorations or writing. It also dries smooth and holds fast so it can easily act as an edible cement when creating complicated pieces. The one thing royal icing is not recommended for is a base frosting for cakes. However, it is exceptional for creating flowers, lace-type accents and other decorations on top of cakes, cookies or other treats.

Fondant - Popular for use with cakes, fondant is an exceptional frosting. It also makes excellent decorations. Pastry chefs in wedding-oriented areas like Hawaii or Florida teach cooking school students specific techniques for working with fondant. More difficult than traditional frosting, the art of making, rolling and using fondant should be given special attention.

With only three ingredients - sugar, water and corn syrup - fondant comes together in an unusual way. Start by combining the sugar and water and heating until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the corn syrup and cook until it reaches what's referred to as the "soft-ball stage." (Due to the fact that the mixture could be loosely formed into the shape of a ball, not because it resembles a softball or baseball.) Pour the liquid onto a marble slab and allow to cool. Working fondant involves turning the outside edges in and folding repeatedly until it becomes pliable. When the fondant turns hard, kneed in any type of flavorings or colors you want.

Fondant can be rolled for use as a smooth cake frosting. This is typically used with wedding cakes because it offers an elegant finished appearance. However, any type of cake can be iced or decorated with fondant. Before use with cakes, you'll want to smooth a thin layer of butter cream on the top and sides so the fondant has something to adhere to.

Glazes - Another simple topping for cakes is the glaze. A mixture of confectioners sugar, water or fruit juice and flavorings creates a thin, translucent liquid. The glaze is then drizzled lightly over cakes, breads, pastries and other goodies. Unlike frosting or fondant, glazes are designed to give a light accent of added sweetness. They dry smooth and can be used to create filigree patterns and other elegant designs.

Want others? Butter cream, ganache, marzipan and more can also be used for frosting cakes and other desserts. When you're looking for something different, break out of the icing box and finish your cake in a whole new way.

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