The Science Of Cake Frosting
Most of us have experienced the immense joy of dipping a finger into a bowl of delicious cake frosting and then popping it into our mouths. Often it is just as appealing to our senses thanks to its silken texture or its smoothness, as it is for its delicious taste or flavor. What is so interesting about frostings, icings, glazes, fondants, and any other sort of coating for a cake, is that the recipes are so diverse and varied and they each have a very specific sort of appeal.
For example, fans of the many different television programs that focus on professional bakers and the highly decorative cakes that they make, will be very familiar with fondant. This is something made from sugar and water and which can have a glaze-like consistency or can be as pliable and durable as a heavy dough. It can be rolled out into sheets and can, literally, wrap a cake in icing. Naturally, this has a lot of appeal to any sort of baker or cake decorator looking for a very sculptural cake, but also to those who really want to control the end results too. It isn’t, however, the best frosting for a cake that has a very delicate texture or quality because the weight of the icing may cause the cake to collapse.
This means that a baker is going to have to understand the different properties of the different frostings in order to know which are most ideally suited to their decorating needs, and to the needs of the cake. Often, people might get so “caught up” in the design process as to forget that a cake is meant to be eaten and enjoyed. This requires that the cake body be moist and flavorful and that the frosting, icing or glaze be a good companion to it. This might pose a serious challenge to a baker if the decoration is not well-suited to the medium.
Luckily, there is such a diversity of frostings available that there are few times when a specific design scheme cannot be achieved. For instance, there are buttercream recipes that create light and fluffy results, but which are also able to remain a bit thicker for the cake decorator who wants to pipe everything from string and basket work to flowers and borders. There are cloud-like icings that are simply piled up and gently spread over the surface of a cake and which serve as the decoration and frosting at the same time. There are the rigid fondants and the many effects these can achieve, and there are the watery icings and glazes that can be heated and poured over a cake before becoming firm and rigid, and yet giving the cake a highly glossy sheen that serves as an ideal backdrop to many kinds of decorations.
The thing to remember about these many types of frostings is that they should be selected for their good looks, their fine textures, their suitable flavors, and most importantly for their abilities to work well with the cakes selected.