How to Make Cake Frosting

frosting a cake

Learning how to make cake frosting is something most people consider fairly simple. However, plenty of things can go wrong when you make a frosting that can ruin the batch or make decorating a cake difficult.

Varieties of Frosting

The first thing to decide before you begin making the frosting is what kind you want to make for your cake. There are several varieties of frosting, each with its own special flavors and properties.

  • Whipped cream: Whipped cream frostings are light and fluffy. They are good for frosting angel food cakes and summer fruit cakes, but are typically not sturdy enough to do much decorating.
  • Cream cheese: Cream cheese frosting is a dense frosting that offers a sweet, smooth flavor on top of heavier cakes. This frosting is typically found on chocolate cake, carrot cake and red velvet cake. It can be used for some simple decorating. However, due to the cream cheese, it does tend to melt as it warms.
  • Buttercream: Buttercream frosting is a sweet frosting that is perfect for piping decorations and frosting birthday and wedding cakes. An easy buttercream frosting, commonly known as "decorator's frosting" usually involves butter/shortening, powdered sugar and liquid flavorings. However, Italian and French buttercreams are also popular. Each is made in slightly different ways.
  • Fondant: When used to cover cakes, rolled fondant frosting offers a stunning finish that is difficult to achieve with other varieties of frosting. Homemade fondant is often made with marshmallows, although several recipes are available. A layer of buttercream is usually underneath the fondant to help it stick to the cake. Fondant is also commonly used for decorating, too.
  • Ganache: A poured ganache is a simple way for a decorator to frost a cake. This gives a shiny, smooth finish. Ganaches are usually chocolate, though other kinds are available. Ganache can be drizzled for decoration, but is not suitable for other forms of piped decorating.

The methods used to make the frostings vary. It is important to follow a recipe carefully the first time you make a cake frosting.

Tips on How to Make Cake Frosting

How to make cake frosting is an important first step for many budding bakers. Even experienced bakers and decorators can be thrown by a new recipe, so follow these tips to keep your frosting from being a flop:

mixing frosting
  • Measure the ingredients carefully. For the most accurate measurements, use a recipe with weighted measures and a food scale instead of the recipe using cups and spoons.
  • Do not overbeat or underbeat frosting. Overbeating the frosting can result in a thinner, fluffier consistency with air pockets. Underbeating the frosting may leave it grainy or even curdled, if the frosting is cooked.
  • A good mixer is essential for frosting recipes. While a hand mixer may suffice for a ganache or lightweight whipped cream frosting, a heavier stand mixer is usually necessary for large batches of cream cheese or buttercream frosting.
  • Substituting ingredients changes the results in a frosting recipe. The first time you make a cake frosting, use the exact ingredients listed. After you are familiar with the recipe, you can begin to make substitutions, such as butter for shortening or a lower fat cream cheese for full fat. Just be aware that the rest of the recipe may need modifications, too.
  • Tinting the frosting with liquid food color can thin the frosting. Instead, use gel paste or a powder.
  • Perishable frostings need to be kept in the refrigerator, so be sure you have enough room to store the entire frosted cake once it has been frosted.
  • Learn how to properly apply icing on a cake to show off the delicious recipe you made for the cake.

Try a variety of different frostings and keep the best ones on hand for easy reference. These frostings are the ones that taste the best, are easy to make and get good reviews from family and friends. One or two may quickly become your signature frosting when you make a cake. A few tweaks can transform a frosting from so-so to so delicious.

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How to Make Cake Frosting