I’ve learned a lot about frostings while taking my cake decorating class. Here are the recipes, together with my notes about perfecting them.

(If you want recipes for fillings, check out that post here)

Buttercream Frosting

When this is made with butter, as opposed to Crisco (or the organic palm oil brand I use), it is melt-in-your-mouth to-die-for. But it also melts everywhere else! So it’s hard to decorate with, and hard to transport if the weather’s warm. Fortunately, frosting made with shortening is still pretty tasty.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You have to sift your powdered sugar!! Do not skip this step!! You’ll end up with chalky frosting if you do.

For very stiff icing (for flowers and other decorations that need to stand up on end:

1 1/2 c sifted sugar
1/4 c shortening
1 T almond milk (so far, in my tests, almond milk seems to be a fine substitute for dairy milk)
1 t vanilla or other flavoring

Makes < 1 c icing

For medium icing (for most decorating applications)

4 c sugar
1 c shortening
1/2 T vanilla or other flavoring
2 T almond milk

Adding 1 T of milk makes soft-medium icing, and adding 2 T of milk makes soft icing. I used the soft icing for covering a cake; I’m wondering if I could use soft-medium and just beat it like crazy to lighten it…

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

This is the Wilton recipe, which I decided to go with after comparing it to several others. Others had half the shortening, and more milk. Having not made the others, I can’t compare them – but this one is delicious! Lots of great chocolate flavor.

1/2 c solid vegetable shortening (an all-butter frosting would be prone to severe melting)
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 c cocoa
1 t clear vanilla extract
4 c sifted powdered sugar (approx 1 lb) DON’T SKIP THE SIFTING!!
3-4 T milk

Whip the butter and shortening really well in a bowl. Sift the cocoa into the butter and stir it in, along with the vanilla.

Sift a bunch of sugar onto a sheet of waxed paper and then spoon it gently with a spatula or spoon into a measuring cup. Add a cup of sugar at a time to the butter-cocoa mix, and blend well after each addition.

The frosting will seem dry and very stiff at this point. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time, until you arrive at the desired consistency. (I used the full 4T, since I was only going to be coating the cake with it – not making any decorations).

Chocolate ganache

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of variation here from recipe to recipe. You heat heavy cream and pour it over an equal amount of high-quality bittersweet chocolate, then stir to melt. That’s it!

But don’t make the mistake I did, and try to keep it warm while you’re preparing the rest of your cake. I put the bowl of ganache over a saucepan of hot water on very low heat on the stove – and the oils all separated. We’ll see if cooling it off will let me re-incorporate the oils. If not, there goes $10+ of chocolate and cream, ruined. 🙁

If you want to turn the ganache into frosting, you can let it cool and then whip it to lighten it. A few recipes also call for flavoring, like vanilla extract. One recipe asked for a bit of dark rum!

Ricotta frosting

I found this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website. It looks really interesting! Especially when they pair it with their cannoli cupcakes (it looks like it varies from traditional cupcakes by using only egg whites, not whole eggs, in the batter).

1 c butter
1 t vanilla
8 c powdered sugar
1/3 c ricotta cheese
2 T milk

Beat the butter, then add the vanilla and a dash of salt. Add half the powdered sugar, then the ricotta, then the rest of the sugar. Finally add the milk and beat til fluffy.

Makes 4 cups.


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