You baked a cake or cupcake. Now what? Maybe it’s time to put some bling on your baked confection! Nothing does that better than icing some fancy sprinkles or cake toppers. After all, in this Instagram world, who wouldn’t want something pretty to capture and share? So, with no further ado, let’s venture in this the confectionary world of icing and shares simple recipes for icing.
History of Icing
According to food historians, icing first appeared in 1494 and it was used to decorate marchpanes (better known as marzipan). Marchpanes is a paste made of almonds and sugar and was usually served on special occasions back in the day.
In the 16th century, a French chef was said to have made the first frosted, multi-layered cake. This was the turning point of icing history. In 1700’s, the iconic all white wedding cake which was designed by Queen Victoria of England. It was believed that the whiteness of the cake signaled wealth because of the amount, quality and cost of sugar used to make it.
Putting icing on cupcakes started sometime between 1900 to 1950s. The term cupcake was used by Hostess as the name of their commercially produced snack cake in 1917. Not long after, bakers started to put icing on their cupcakes too.
Types of Icing
We can classify icing into 5 basic types. Each type has their own complexity, versatility, and contribution to confectionary artistry. We’ll share some simple recipes for icing so you can choose which one suits your artistic needs.
Glaze Icing is usually made of water and icing sugar mixed into a paste or thick mixture. These are piped out through a piping bag, drizzled, or poured on donuts, rolls or cakes. Try this Sugar Glaze recipe from tasteoflizzyt.com.
Royal Icing is made of egg whites and icing sugar. It’s smooth at first but hardens when left to dry and becomes matte in texture. It can be piped into cake decorations or toppers like flowers or cartoon characters. They are also used on gingerbreads and sugar cookies. Check out this recipe from allrecipes.com.
Ganache is essentially chocolate icing. Try recipe from sugargeekshow.com.
Fondant has a texture similar to clay and can be molded into flat sheets to cover cakes, or into figures or shapes. Want to make a Louis Vuitton bag cake? This is the icing for you. Here’s a recipe from biggerbolderbaking.com to get you started.
Frosting uses butter or cream cheese as base. These are usually piped on cupcakes or layered over cakes. You can make these 1-2 days in advance and they will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just thaw before using. This recipe is from livewellbakeoten.com.
Start With the Basics
If you are still new to icing cakes or cupcakes, we suggest you start decorating using frosting. It’s easy to make, affordable, and can be used in various decorative ways. There are also some easy to find tools that you can purchase and use.
Tools of the Trade to Get You Frosting
Now that you know the types of icing you can start with, let’s look into how you will use them on your cake or cupcakes. There are lots of tools out there today, but we list here the basic tools you’ll need if you are using frosting on your masterpiece. Frosting is the most basic icing used for decorating.
Cake Turn Table
This resembles a cake stand but the only difference is that the part where the cake is laid is a turn table. Simply drop a dollop of icing on top of the cake layer or on the side and twirl the turn table while pressing on the icing with a metal spatula.
This resembles a metal ruler that has a wooden handle. It is usually used to manually smoothen icing on cakes and cupcakes.
This is the main tool for piping out frosting. It resembles a cone and is usually made of plastic or washable fabric. You place the frosting inside the funnel.
Icing coupler is a cylinder shaped plastic contraption. It has 2 parts, one part screws on top of the other. One part is used on the inside of the piping bag before the icing is placed inside its funnel. This seals the icing and also accommodates the piping tip.
These are usually made of plastic or metal and have patterned slits and holes on them. It is placed in between the 2 part of the coupler. Once icing is squeezed through, they come out it spirals, swirls, or even flowers depending on the piping tip used.
This is not really a tool but adding colors to your icing before piping them allows you to play with colors when decorating your cake or cupcake.
Sprinkles are small candies made of royal icing that is commercially cut into small shapes like hearts, stars, or dinosaur shapes. These are “sprinkled” on top of the frosting.
Like sprinkles, these are also made of royal icing. Cake toppers can be in the shape of 3-D flowers, cartoon characters, bags, etc.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Now you know the tools you need, you need to start getting familiar with how you will frost your icing or cupcake. As with anything, practice makes perfect so just keep frosting!
You can watch this Piping video 101 by sallysbakingaddiction.com to know some of the basic frosting techniques to you practice with.
Here are some tips on piping tips from make-fabulous-cakes.com, which runs you through the basic piping tips, and Russian piping tips and what shapes of icing they pipe out.
And here’s a video tutorial on how to use a cake turn table.
That’s Icing On The Cake For Me!
I guess it’s easy to understand how that famous phrase came about. Because literally, icing does make everything better. You now have the power to put an oomph into your baked confection – so bling it on!