Frosting is, well, literally, the icing on a cake. Adding the right kind of frosting to your cake can take it from a sweet dessert to a confectionary masterpiece. With so many different types of frostings and icings that can be made, choosing the best one for your cake baking needs isn't a simple task. Continue scrolling as we review the top six categories of icing: buttercream frosting, whipped frosting, cooked frosting, royal icing, ganache and glazes.
Novice and advanced bakers alike have probably heard of and used buttercream before. Buttercream is easily the most common type of frosting and can be made by combining fat (usually butter) with sugar. For buttercream with a more airy consistency, eggs are often added to the mix. There are several different types of buttercream frosting. However, telling them apart can quickly get confusing as some are known by multiple names.
Here are a few of the most common types of and names for buttercream varieties.
Simple Buttercream Frosting
Simple buttercream, a.k.a. American buttercream, is easily created by combining butter and powdered sugar. This type of buttercream is commonly purchased at stores and is incredibly easy to whip up in the kitchen. For a fun spin on simple buttercream, swap some of the butter out for cream cheese.
Decorator’s Buttercream Frosting
While simple buttercream tastes excellent, there's one problem—it tends to melt at room temperature. Because of its low melting temperature, simple buttercream isn't ideal when applying decorative features to a cake. The solution to this problem is decorator’s buttercream, which is made with vegetable shortening instead of butter. Whipped for less time than a traditional buttercream, a more stable result is produced.
French Buttercream Frosting
Known as one of the richest buttercream varieties, French buttercream has a light texture. This type of buttercream is made by adding boiling syrup into beaten egg yolks. The mixture is then whipped to reach a foamy consistency. Once the foam is produced, softened butter is added until the frosting is light and creamy.
After buttercream, cooked frosting is the most common variety of icing found in a baker's kitchen. Cooked frosting is made by heating sugar, water and corn syrup and then adding the boiling mixture to stiffly beaten egg whites. The boiling frosting mixture helps the egg whites thicken and stabilize the protein, assisting the frosting in holding its shape.
Making this type of frosting is a delicate process, and because the frosting is light, it should be eaten promptly to prevent it from further absorbing into the cake.
Whipped Cream Frosting
Whipped cream frosting's main ingredient is—you guessed it—whipped cream. The addition of powdered sugar and flavoring creates an easy-to-make cake topping that's just as beautiful as it is tasty. The cornstarch in the powdered sugar helps to stabilize the frosting, allowing it to hold its shape. When making this frosting, you mustn't overmix it. A whipped frosting that has been mixed too vigorously will turn grainy. To ensure the perfect result, beat just until firm peaks appear. After decorating your baked good, be sure to refrigerate it until you're ready to enjoy.
Royal icing is quite different from the icings listed above. Instead of taking on a light and airy texture, it is hard and brittle. Used for decorating cakes and cookies, royal icing can easily be made from scratch using powdered sugar, egg whites and liquid. However, many advanced bakers prefer using meringue powder. Meringue powder is first combined with a liquid and then colored with food coloring.
Ganache is a favorite of chocolate lovers, since it's simply melted chocolate mixed with heavy cream. Topping your baked goods with this frosting creates a shiny coating that is loved by bakers worldwide. Ganache can be manipulated in several ways. You can let it thicken slightly and pour it over a cake to create a smooth and shiny appearance, or chill and beat ganache to make a fluffy frosting that will result in a frosted or "matte" look. Or, if you'd prefer to enjoy the frosting alone, chill and beat the ganache and form the mixture into balls to create chocolate truffles.
When you require a quick frosting, a glaze is the way to go. To make a glaze, powdered sugar is combined with a liquid to form a thin, pourable icing. To use glaze, pour it over the top of cakes, cookies and baked goods, and then allow it to set. This frosting will form a shiny and hard crust once it sets.
The next time you whip up a sweet treat in the kitchen, use this guide to determine which type of frosting will meet your baking needs. From ganache to glaze, there's a frosting on this list that's suitable for every baked good!