Seven Minute Vanilla Bean Icing

  • Serves: Makes about 7 cups; Frosts two 8- or 9-inch layers
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Variations: Coconut Seven Minute Icing; Lemon Seven Minute Icing; Mocha Seven Minute Frosting; Penuche Seven Minute Icing

The Ultimate Yellow Butter Cake or UBC Recipe is being filled and frosted with this recipe.

This heavenly Seven Minute (7 Minute) icing tastes of whipped marshmallows and has a thick, fluffy consistency. The name of this classic refers to the length of time (7 minutes) that the ingredients must be beaten continuously over simmering water. If icing gets too soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes, and beat again. This icing is best used the day it is made. It does not need refrigeration, as the sugar acts as a preservative. It's yummy with the 1 2 3 4 Yellow Buittermilk Cake Recipe, too.

SARAH SAYS: I figured out the solution to gritty 7-Minute Icings that so many of you have complained to me about in the past, and include my tips and techniques with the recipe so it becomes no fail for you!


QUESTION: Why is my Seven-Minute Icing always gritty? My mother made it all the time and hers never was.
SARAH SAYS: Grittiness is caused by undissolved sugar crystals in the mixture or from any sugar crystals left on the side of the bowl seeding the whole batch to crystallize. You can use regular table sugar, but superfine or powdered sugar are better because they dissolve faster with their smaller crystal size. I also take some extra candy making steps to prevent crystallization:
1. Dissolve the sugar in the mixture thoroughly by frequent beating with a mixer on medium-low every couple of minutes, taking up to 10 minutes in total usually necessary when using table sugar;
2. "Wash down" the crystals left on the sides of the pan at the beginning of cooking by creating steam from a lid and washing with a wet pastry brush; and,
3. Don't scrape the bowl. Hardened icing makes the batch gritty.

3 large egg whites; separate eggs while cold and can use when cold in recipe
1 1/2 cups sugar or superfine
1/4 cup tepid (warm) water; about 98 degrees F or body temperature - do not use hot water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 Tahitian vanilla bean (about 2-inches long), halved and scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (Since the recipe contains no fat, extracts won't flavor the recipe as strongly as vanilla beans will.)

SARAH SAYS: To extract the vanilla bean seeds: Set the bean on a flat surface, and holding it flat with one hand, split the bean in half lengthwise with a paring knife. Use the dull side of the paring knife's blade to scrape the dark, moist pulp from the bean. Do not discard the seedless cut bean - immerse it in a jar of sugar where it will scent it a wonderful vanilla flavor! When kept tightly sealed in the refrigerator, beans last for up to six months.

NOTE: Do not flavor the mixture with candy oils or chocolate; oil, as an ingredient, will deflate beaten egg whites.

1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water. Make sure the bottom of the top bowl does not touch the water beneath, otherwise the touching water will super heat the contents of the bowl. If it does, reduce the water to no less than 2 inches. Set aside.

2. Place egg whites, sugar, tepid water, and cream of tartar in the top part of a double boiler. For a more marshmallow-like texture, add the corn syrup now. (For a fluffier texture, omit in Step #1 and beat into icing in Step #4 - icing will not keep its texture as long as a result.)

3. With a hand-held mixer, beat the ingredients for 30 seconds on low speed to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes, beating frequently on medium to dissolve the sugar crystals until the mixture feels like fine sand when rubbed between your thumb and forefinger.

Using a pastry brush, wipe the side of the top of the double boiler with water to prevent crystals from forming and the icing from becoming grainy.
SARAH SAYS: Dip the pastry brush in fresh water after each time you brush the sides of the double boiler. 
I have incorporated these candy making techniques or preventing the formation of sugar crystals when making my Seven Minute icings; I found it helps to eliminate the common problem of getting gritty or soupy (won't whip) results when making these types of cooked egg white icings.

When there are a couple of minutes left, turn on the stove's heat to high and bring the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a rapid boil. When it does, reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

Set the top over the bottom of the double boiler, cover and cook the egg white ingredients for 1 minute. Remove the lid and stir briefly. Using a pastry brush, wipe the side of the top of the double boiler with water. Cover and cook 30 seconds longer.

4. Beat the egg white mixture at high speed over simmering water for a minimum of 7 minutes, or until thick, fluffy and forming soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Remove from the heat when thick enough.
SARAH SAYS: Make sure you move the mixer around the bowl at all times so you can evenly whip the egg white mixture as it cooks.

When you beat the icing, it takes time to thicken and form soft peaks well into the cooking time. When it does, remove the icing from the heat source. 

Progression of the frosting's consistency while cooking until soft peaks are reached:

5. If you want a fluffier texture and did not add the corn syrup in Step 1, add it now, and then beat the mixture for 1 minute or until well combined.

6. Remove from heat and add the vanilla seeds and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds to combine.
SARAH SAYS: I flavored my frosting with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract instead of using vanilla seeds!

Seven-Minute Icings are best used within a day or two, because they start to deflate, and can be stored at room temperature. When refrigerated, they become more marshmallow-like. They do not freeze well.

Coconut Seven Minute Icing: Press 1, 7-ounce cup of packaged coconut all over the outside of the cake right after icing. Allow to set before serving. (To tint coconut, place the coconut in a large bowl and sprinkle a few drops of food coloring. Don’t overdo it, you can always add more. Wearing gloves, toss the mixture until uniform in color.)

Lemon Seven Minute Icing: Substitute 1/8 cup water with freshly squeezed lemon juice. At the end, beat in 2 teaspoons finely minced lemon peel and 1 teaspoon lemon extract.

Mocha Seven Minute Frosting

Penuche Seven Minute Icing: Substitute 1 1/2 cups sugar with 1 cup light brown, packed and 1/2 cup sugar. Omit vanilla beans and add in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon maple extract, instead.

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