19 October 2013

How to make home made icing/frosting.

My son’s birthday is in two days time (it is very hard to believe he is seven already), his party is tomorrow so I have been baking birthday cakes.  In the UK I would always use commercially bought frosting for the cakes – quick and simple - it may be a cheat but it makes life so much easier.

When I was a child I always enjoyed having big statement cakes for birthdays and large events.  My mother was a virtuoso - one year  in Norway she made me a castle (with turrets made from upside down ice-cream cones), another year she sent me in to school with a bunny and a chick cake for Easter.  My children used to ask for big statement cakes as well but these days they prefer cupcakes because it is easier for them to hand them out to their friends at school.  This makes my life much much easier as they are quick to bake and easy to ice. 

Here in Kazakhstan (as in many other places) commercial frosting is difficult to find, luckily it is really easy to make at home at home.  I tend to ice cakes with a butter-cream frosting, the basic recipe is a mix of butter and icing sugar on a 1:3 ration with some vanilla or almond extract depending on taste and slackened off a little bit of milk.  The basic recipe is very versatile – it can be tinted with food colouring or flavoured in a variety of different ways.   My particular favourite is green tea frosting (perfect on chocolate muffins) made by adding Matcha powder to the basic frosting.  It is also possible to use iced tea powders to vary the flavours – apple or lemon frostings work very well and a mulled wine flavour iced tea powder adds a great flavour to Christmas cup-cakes. 

Basic buttercream frosting is very versatile and easy to use.
Certain chocolate cakes just do not work without chocolate fudge icing.  The fail-safe recipe for this is to melt butter and caster sugar in a 1:1 ratio with a little bit of water.  Pour this over a mix of 2 parts icing sugar and ½ part cocoa powder and mix to a glossy finish.  For very dark, rich chocolate cakes or carrot cakes I prefer a cream cheese frosting.  Mix 1 part cream cheese to 1 part butter then add 2 parts icing sugar. 

Chocolate fudge frosting is tasty and luxurious.

Cream cheese frosting works well with chocolate cupcakes.
Chocolate fudge icing makes a decadent topping for vanilla cakes.
Lemon drizzle cakes have the easiest icing of all – icing sugar mixed with lemon juice and a small amount of zest to a very thin consistency and drizzled over the cake so that it is absorbed leaving a moist cake with a very thin, delicate sugary crust.  I use a similar mix to ice biscuits or Danish pastries – less liquid and more icing sugar makes for a thick, white writing icing. 

Basic writing icing is versatile and effective

Change the consistency by altering the amount of liquid.
The only type of icing I find very difficult to make at home is a fondant icing for Christmas cakes.  Proper fondant icing requires gelatine and corn syrup, both items can be quite difficult to source so I tend to cheat and bring some ready made from the UK or, alternatively I just turn the cake into a ‘Dundee Cake’ ie I decorate the top with concentric rings of almonds.  I am constantly in awe of the mother of one of my sons' friends who makes stunning cakes with fondant icing.  I have no idea where she gets the ingredients or the patience to do them.

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Ersatz Expat

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