What is Frosting and Icing?

Cherry Pink Chiffon Cupcake Decorating Tutorial Frosting or icing, fillings and glazes are typically a sweet, sugar-based soft mixture used to fill, coat, add flavor, and improve the appearance and texture, They are used on baked recipes such as cakes, cupcakes, cookies and pastries, or formed and used when decorating as a Crafty Baker, ranging from simple to elaborate. The filling is applied before the frosting or glaze is applied.

How Much Frosting or Icing Do I Need to Cover and Decorate my Cake With?
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How much Fondant do I need to cover my cake with? Answer

In addition to sugar, frosting can contain a combination of other ingredients including butter, milk, water, eggs and various flavorings. It can be cooked (as with boiled icing) or uncooked (as with buttercream), and can range from thick to thin. There are so many choices. The flavors, colors and consistencies should compliment what's inside; one should not overpower the other. Some are cooked, while others can be uncooked, and many can be purchased ready-made from a baking supply store online. Make sure you understand the storage requirements of each.

The goal in frosting or glazing a cake is to put it on smoothly, while keeping the cake crumbs out. It also adds a protective shield that preserves freshness in a baked dessert. Usually two layers of frosting are put on: a crumb coat or a thin layer and a final coat. Sometimes a third icing coat can be applied, if necessary. 

After finishing the cake, it will stay fresh at least a couple of days, depending on the type of icing and filling used. Once cut, keep the cut edges of the main cake covered with plastic wrap or waxed or parchment paper. If it contains any perishable items, the cake MUST BE refrigerated, and can only stay out of refrigeration for no more than two hours for food safety reasons. 
SARAH SAYS: I personally think cake is better the next day after serving, but maybe that has something to do with the "naughty-ness" of cake for breakfast! smile 

If you have additional questions, please post them in our CraftyBaking.com Forum, and we will be happy to answer them.

Thankful Cookie Tree Recipe TutorialQUESTION: Is it an icing or a frosting?
SARAH SAYS: Here, in the United States, we commonly refer to these sugary spreads as frostings, but it can get confusing because we also call them icings. In other countries, icing is the more popular term because confectioners' / powdered sugars are known as icing sugars!

A handful of culinary dictionaries state that frosting and icing are one and the same, but most other sources differentiate the two: They define frostings as relatively thick, sometimes fluffy recipes that are used to fill and/or are spread over a cake. Icings are considered to be typically white, have a thinner consistency and are usually poured or drizzled over cakes, forming smooth, shiny coatings. 

The main requirement for frosting or icing is that it be thick enough to adhere to the item being coated, yet soft enough to spread easily. It has three main functions:

  1. Frosting contributes flavor and richness to the cake. It also adds interest and provides a smooth surface for decorating on; 
  2. Frosting improves the cake's appearance. Special occasion cakes become more festive with frosting and decorations; and, 
  3. Frosting improves the keeping the qualities of the cake by forming a protective coating around it, sealing in moisture and flavor and allowing it to be eaten over a couple of days.

QUESTION: I have heard the term "crusting" when it comes to icing or frosting. When does it mean?
SARAH SAYS: Crusting means "a hard crisp covering or surface". When an icing has a higher ration of sugar to fat, as it dries, it develops a sugar-crust on the outside. This can happen after the cake is frosted or when the icing sits in the mixing bowl if it isn't covered. 

If the icing crusts after applying a "crumb coat" (a thin layer of icing to seal in the crumbs), this will make it easier to apply the finish coating of icing to the cake.

When the icing crusts after coating the cake - I have more control in the borders I choose to finish the cake with, especially borders that requires me to slightly drag the tip to the surface of the cake. If this was an icing that didn't crust - then I must be extremely careful in piping and not make too many mistakes. When an icing crusts, I can easily remove a piped error on the cake.

If I don't cover the bowl with an icing that crusts, then I get hard pieces of icing in the bowl when I stir the icing. Some of this may not smooth-out and thus clog-up my pastry tips. Also, with hard pieces in my finished icing, I won't get a smooth surface when I ice additional cake layers.

It's important to discuss crusting as it can affect the way your icing performs. Also, if I use an icing that crusts, then it has more stability, especially in warm weather. Also, if I am using an icing that crusts, then I can lightly touch the cake without creating a disturbance to the finished look.

SARAH SAYS: Make sure the frosting you use spreads easily because it is soft enough to go on the cake. A stiff frosting will not go on smoothly and you may tear the cake while doing so, creating a lot of unnecessary crumbs and uneven surfaces. It may be too cold to spread, so let it warm to room temperature. Some can be thinned with 3 - 4 tablespoons of corn syrup or milk to thin it down, so it spreads easier. Others may need the addition of more liquid. Also, make sure the icing is SMOOTH (not full of air pockets) or LIGHT (fluffy) for icing the cake. 

QUESTION: My icing is starting to thin on the cake. What's causing this?
 You may be "playing" with the icing too much and trying to make it too smooth on the cake. Try not and make the cake perfect because you'll start to pop the air bubbles previously beaten into the frosting and it will start to thin and bleed water. That's where you'll start seeing your cake showing through both the frosting and crumb coat layer. To fix, apple a patch of icing with your icing spatula flat against the cake. Let it set a few minutes. 

Anything that goes between the layers of a cake is called the filling. A filling can be inside the cake, if it's rolled up such as for a Jelly Roll Cake, placed inside of a cupcake or sandwiched in between two cookies. Some recipes, such as cakes, use more than one type of filling, such as whipped cream and berries between two layers, or alternating fillings between different layers, such as ganache between some and buttercream between others. Some fillings can also be used to cover the outside of the cake, such as Buttercream.

A coating, as of syrup, applied to food is called a glaze. Glaze can be poured, drizzled or brushed on with a pastry brush on the outside of cakes or cookies or in between cake layers for different looks, called glazing. Once applied, the glaze sets up very quickly, so you only have a small window of time in which to use it.

Several dessert sauces, including salted caramel, rum raisin, bourbon, or butterscotch sauce, roasted balsamic strawberries or raspberry puree, are just some of the sauce recipes that are great to serve over cake, ice cream, pies, and other desserts. They add flavor, color, and texture to baking recipes. We have an abundance of recipes that you can mix and match as your heart desires. 

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