The Icing on the Cake

Icing, or frosting in some cases is by no means necessary to create cupcakes that taste good, but I think a cupcake that has a topping looks much more impressive. The decoration doesn’t have to be incredibly complicated or intricate to make your friends wonder whether you’ve really baked the batch of cupcakes or whether you’ve cheated and bought them from a bakery. I realise that many of you that already bake lots will probably know how to ice or frost a cupcake, but for those that don’t know, don’t worry! The best thing about frosting is that it looks really good, but is actually really easy to make! (Sorry to all you professional bakers who’ve been using this trick for years). There are really only two main types of icing that you can put on a cupcake to make it taste and look amazing- Glacé icing and ‘frosting’ or butter icing. In this post, I’ve put basic recipes for both and a little description of what both are and when you might use them. Until today I’ll admit I didn’t know the difference between icing and frosting- if I’m honest I thought that frosting was just the American way of saying icing (sorry America!). It turns out that ‘icing’ refers to the thinner, more glacé icing type of topping, whereas ‘frosting’ refers to the thicker icing that you can pipe, or so says the source of all student knowledge, Mr Internet.

Glacé Icing
Glacé icing is the more runny icing that you probably used as a kid to cover fairy cakes, the table and your clothes. I used to use it loads when I was little as glue to stick sprinkles onto cakes, which is great if you pour the sprinkles on when the icing isn’t dry yet, but isn’t so great when the icing is dry and the hundreds and thousands slide off the cupcakes and all over the floor. Don’t be put off however by the fact that it’s used a lot by children- it’s a great recipe to whip up quickly to add something to your cupcakes. And if you want to embrace your inner five year old why not get some hundreds and thousands and put sprinkles on your cupcakes? The following recipe covers about eighteen cupcakes:
225g/ 8oz Icing Sugar
2-3 tbsp Boiling Water
1. Put the icing sugar in a bowl and gradually add the icing sugar until the mixture is the consistency of thick cream (so therefore quite runny but should hold a little).
2. Beat until the mixture is smooth and is thick enough to cover a spoon and stay there i.e. not run off into the bowl.
It’s that easy! Handy Hints for this recipe will be at the bottom with the hints for Frosting.

Frosting/ Butter Icing
Butter Icing is great for both the more experienced bakers out there and the less experienced- it looks really professional when piped but can look good too when applied just with a knife. This is my favourite type of icing, especially because I have a sweet tooth so love loads of icing on cakes, but also because I think it makes cupcakes look so much better! You can create loads of variations of butter icing and you can add things like cookie crumbs and cinder toffee to it because it’s thick enough to allow that. The following recipe is for a simple butter icing mix but I will add a more complicated recipe to go with the Hummingbird Bakery cupcake recipe. I haven’t added it in this post as this is getting a bit long and I know how lazy students are, including me, at reading things. I’m baking the recipe tomorrow so I’ll be posting the recipe tomorrow night for that. A simple recipe for butter icing though is here:

140g/ 5oz Butter
280g/ 10oz Icing Sugar
1-2 tbsp Milk
A few drops of vanilla essence
1. Soften the butter by heating it in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds.
2. Add half the icing sugar and beat until combined and smooth (with no clumps of icing sugar).
3. Add the remaining half of the icing sugar and the milk and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla essence.

Handy Hints
For Glacé Icing:
– Add a few drops of vanilla essence to create a bit more flavour to the icing.
– Add a few drops of food colouring to make your cupcakes more colourful!
– To create a natural flavouring of orange or lemon, swap the water for the same amount of juice squeezed from the fruit.
– Chocolate Icing: Add a few teaspoons of cocoa powder to the icing sugar.
For Butter Icing:
– If you aren’t too keen on the vanilla taste then add a different flavour, if you want to brighten things up then add some food colouring!
– If, when all the ingredients are combined, the mixture is a bit runny, add more icing sugar. If it’s too thick and solid, add a bit more milk. It should be a thick texture, much thicker than glace icing, as it stands up on its own.
– To apply the butter icing with a knife, make sure you have a bit dollop of icing on the knife and wipe the knife on the side of the cupcake. This should leave a big bit of icing in the middle of the cupcake. Then, rotating the cupcake in your hand as you go, smooth the icing out to the edges until you have a thick layer. The bigger your sweet tooth, the thicker the layer it can be!
– To pipe, you need a thick nozzle, such as this one:
Start by piping the outside edge, then work towards the middle- the middle of the cupcake is usually the highest point of the icing. I don’t usually bother piping it unless I’m making cupcakes for a special occasion!
– Don’t pipe the icing if you’ve added things such as large biscuit crumbs to the icing, as if one gets stuck in the nozzle, the pressure can burst the piping bag. This is also why it’s important for the mixture to be smooth with no lumps of butter.

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