Just as with any profession, there are different lines of thought about the status of frosting and icing. It is similar to arguing about whether or not rhubarb is a fruit. Used many ways, rhubarb is extremely like a fruit but all and all it is still a vegetable. Frosting is made from the same ingredients as icing but there is a subtle difference. Baking chefs will not confuse the two because they know frosting has a stiffer texture than icing. So what are the differences between frosting and icing that cause this controversy?
Fortunately, there are visual differences in any bakery. You will recognize frosting by the thickness of the frosting layer. It holds the fancy shapes decorators make such as shells, rosettes, and those lovely streams of border that line the upper and lower edge of cakes. Buttery, creamy frosting stays soft after added as a decoration. Icing is thin with more liquid to it. You will recognize iced cakes by the smooth hardened surface, because it thins out as it dries. When you want smooth shimmery perfection, use icing.
Decorating with frosting offers the opportunity to put the confection on with a rubber spatula or use the blade of a table knife, a method common at home. Add frosting by piping, where frosting is put into a pastry bag or airtight plastic bag that is then attached to a tip designed to make the shapes or style desired. Swirls, lines, and rosettes are a form of art and practice makes perfect. Icing makes a beautiful surface but is a challenge to work with. Pipe the icing to avoid running, especially around the edges. Add sprinkles or other decorations before icing hardens.
- 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 to 4 tablespoons milk or water
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- In a glass medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of the water or milk.
- Mix to the desired consistency. The measurements for both icings and frostings reflect an ideal situation. Things like elevation, humidity, and temperature affect the results. If the results are too thin, add a spoonful of powdered sugar at a time and mix it in. Add more liquid a few drops at a time if it is too thick, until it reaches the consistency needed.
- Pipe the icing onto the cooled cupcakes, swirling upwards with folds. Dust with red sprinkles immediately. (Makes 2 cups icing)
- Vanilla icing is delicious with many different flavors of cupcakes, including spice, chocolate, and pumpkin. Once the cupcakes have baked, move the pans on racks that are away from the hot oven so the cupcake bottom are cooled by the flow of air. Ice the cupcakes when they have cooled. If you place the delicate icing on too soon, it will soak into the cake as it melts.
- There are literally thousands of ways to decorate the icing on cupcakes, from adding a curled orange or lemon peel to extreme layers of fruit or puffs, tiny sugar bells or even dragees. A dragee is a colorful covered candy with a hard outer shell and softer center. Used for decoration, dragees are edible and delicious. You have the right traditional vision if you are thinking the lovely silver-colored sugar orbs that decorate wedding cakes and special cookies. The French term now covers such items as yogurt raisins, Jordan almonds and chocolate-coated nuts and sprinkles. Enjoy your icing experience with creativity.
Just one look at these beautifully iced cupcakes will bring some happy expressions. There are special times for special cupcakes and this icing does the trick. Everyone has a special flavor of cupcake and it does not matter what kind of cupcake you bake because it is the vanilla icing that makes the presentation particularly elegant. Piping the icing on in an incredibly full cupcake swirl is not as difficult as it looks to be and decorating simply with delicate red sprinkles is appealing. Put a finished cupcake on decorated salad plates, dessert plates, or saucers to enhance their beauty.