Cake is a delicious dessert. Frosting, known in some regions as icing, only makes it better--hence the saying, "the icing on the cake." but what is the history of cake frosting, or perhaps more importantly, how do you ice a layer cake? Whether you are choosing a wedding cake or baking your first Bundt cake, you can benefit by knowing more about its sweet topping.
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Cake has been around since ancient Egyptian times, but the cakes they made were more akin to our quick breads, sweetened using honey and often dotted with nuts and fruits. Frosting was not created until the mid 1600s. This frosting consisted of sugar, egg whites and, on occasion, flavouring, which was boiled together and poured over the cake. A baker would then place the cake back into the oven for a bit, and when it was removed, the frosting would cool into a shiny glaze.
In the mid 1800s, frosting similar to what is currently used replaced the glaze variety. Frosting now generally has two specific and equally important functions: to embellish the cake, adding decorative qualities or artistic flair, and to add an additional creamy, rich texture to the soft, sweet, sometimes spongy consistency of cake itself.
There are several types of frosting, and it seems everyone has their personal favourite. Buttercream frosting is rich and thick, made from butter or margarine and icing sugar, along with flavourings and liquid. Cooked frostings are light and airy, made more like the ancient variety, using egg whites and sugar. Whipped cream frostings are rich and sweet, made from whipping cream, sugar and flavouring. Royal icing is a thick frosting, typically used as an embellishment to buttercream or whipped cream frosting.
When frosting a cake, throw your diet out the window. Reduced-fat butter, margarine or milk will make frosting turn out too weak and soft, so go for the full-fat varieties. If your frosting tends to slide off the cake, try sprinkling the cake with icing sugar before spreading on the frosting. Gently blow your frosted cake with a hair dryer on low heat to give it a shiny, professional bakery appearance.
To frost a layer cake like a pro, begin by allowing the layers to cool completely (anywhere from 4 hours to overnight). Use a large serrated knife to cut off any domed or misshapen areas on the tops of the layers. Put a dab of frosting on your cake plate to hold it in place, and then put the first layer, upside down, onto the plate. Spread about a half cup of frosting onto just the top of that layer, then place the second layer, right side up, on top of it. Finish frosting the entire cake.
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