Different Types of Icing
There are many, many types of cake icing. In today's post, I will give a general overview of the 3 types that I primarily use.
This type of frosting (a/k/a icing) contains a fat (all butter, all vegetable shortening, or a combination of both); powdered sugar and flavoring (vanilla extract, lemon extract, etc). There are hundreds of recipes for American Buttercream. I have tried dozens of recipe variations and for now, use one that uses a combination of butter, shortening and cream cheese for the fat component. Personally, I like the little "tang" that cream cheese gives to American Buttercream. If an all-white icing is required, I have a recipe I like for an all shortening icing that is bright white and tastes like soft ice cream.
American Buttercream is easy to make, takes coloring easy and is a familiar taste and texture to most Americans. Here is a cake that is iced in American Buttercream:
As far as I know, there are 3 basic types of European Buttercreams: French, Italian, and Swiss. I have never used and probably never will use French Buttercream. It is made with egg yolks and sounds very complicated. Nuff said...
Italian Meringue Buttercream is made by heating a sugar and water solution to 245 degrees then slowing adding it to egg whites that have been whipped to a soft peak stage. Then you add butter and flavorings.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream is very similar to the Italian version. Instead, you heat the sugar and egg whites over a water bath to about 140 degrees. Then you pour that into a mixer and whip until stiff peaks form. Once you have your meringue, add softened butter and beat with beater blade on low until fluffy, add flavorings of choice.
I prefer the Swiss version. I have heard that the taste of the Swiss and Italian are very close and the Italian seems a little dangerous for a clutz like me (pouring a hot sugar syrup into beaten eggs).
The Swiss Meringue Buttercream is light and fluffy. It works great for piping swirls on cupcakes. Here is a cake and cupcakes iced with Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Fondant is more like a cake covering rather than a frosting. It was not well known by most Americans until the popularity of cake decorating TV shows. It is great for giving a smooth and elegant finish. It is rolled out like a pie dough, then placed over the cake and smoothed. Fondant is the cake covering of choice in England and Australia. There are many commercial brands of fondant- some taste horrible and some pretty good. I have also made my own, but prefer to buy it already made. I am definitely not an expert in covering cakes in fondant. I get a little anxious every time I give it a try. It can be finicky and hard to deal with, especially with larger cakes. Here are a couple of cakes I have managed to get covered with fondant without pulling all my hair out:
When I first started decorating cakes, I only knew about the American Buttercream and only one recipe for that (the one used in the class). There is a world of cake icings out there and I have enjoyed trying (and tasting) many of them.