Types of Frostings
Frosting! Get your frosting here! Read all about it! 📰
Sweet, sugary, rich, creamy, delightful- oh, sorry. I was just thinking about what I should talk about for frosting… And then I got distracted, thinking about how yummy frosting is. ☺🤤
But I’m back now.
There are a lot of different types of frosting. Now, I’m not going to get too in depth into any of them. But there are some basic things you need to know about frosting in general. First and foremost: what is it, what’s it used for, and what’s it made out of. All good baseline questions.
Frosting is often the finishing touch on a dessert. It’s made of confectioners’ sugar and other ingredients (like butter, milk, and a flavoring agent) and turned into a kind of sugar paste that goes on your baked and cooled desserts. Since it can be applied in a pattern, it lends itself to being decorative as well as tasty. And depending on the type of frosting, (AKA the recipe) frosting can be a variety of different flavors or consistencies.
All of which you probably knew already. 🤓⭐
But, now that we’re all 100% on the same page, let’s keep exploring!
How to make a Basic Frosting from scratch
Now the most basic of frostings are both sweet and straightforward. 🧁
The skeleton key of all frostings is powdered sugar, butter, milk, and a dash of vanilla for flavor. Simply beat the soft butter with the confectioners’ sugar, adding small splashes of milk until you’ve achieved the desired consistency. That is the most basic, easiest way to make frosting that I know.
And the best part?
If you make a mistake with your consistency, it’s super easy to adjust! In fact, you can continue to tweak the consistency almost indefinitely until you’re happy. How? By adding more confectioners’ sugar to make it thicker, or adding more milk to make it thinner. Of course, be aware that if you double the amount of milk and sugar, you should throw in some more butter in order to keep the ratio of your ingredients proportional.
Ready to spice things up?
Once you know the basics, it’s as easy as adding extra ingredients, or substituting existing ones, to make your frosting more unique! The options here are limitless, so I’m not going to waste your time offering every different flavor combination that I can think of. And even if I did, I bet my list would be lacking. Guys, you’re truly only limited by your imagination here! 🤯
Oh! And don’t forget to taste test, to be sure you’re happy with your experiment! 🧪😋
Now, logistically, you don’t want to add doubles of any of your ingredients. So I recommend you make a 1:1 substitute for any new liquid ingredients. And if you’re adding extra dry ingredients, simply add less confectioners’ sugar to the mixture. This should keep the ratios in check. But, if at any point you’re unhappy with your consistency, you know how to adjust it. (Scroll up three paragraphs.)
Let’s brainstorm additions! Try adding cocoa powder to make homemade chocolate frosting. 🍫 If you plan ahead, you can actually change the flavor of your confectioners’ sugar! Just combine the sugar with some dried lavender buds a day or two in advance. The oils will rub off on the confectioners’ sugar and actually infuses the it with the aroma and flavor of the lavender! Then simply strain out the flowers before making the frosting. (No one likes lumpy frosting! Ew!) 😦😭🤢
And while it does nothing for the flavor profile, you can always add food coloring to give your frosting some extra pizzazz! ✨
Wanna make things even more interesting?
Ready to talk substitutions? Try substituting the milk for coffee- or even alcohol like whiskey, brandy, or Kahlua. 🥛☕🍸 Or replace the vanilla extract with any number of different flavored extracts to completely revolutionize the flavor of your frosting. For example, instead of the prescribed vanilla, add lemon extract to make your frosting citrusy. Or mint. Or maple extract. 🍁
Serious, the sky’s the limit! 🚀
In fact, you could even replace both the milk and the butter with dairy-free alternatives to make a dessert that everyone can enjoy. This works great if you’ve been struggling to feed a vegan friend. Or if someone in your life has serious food allergies and intolerances. Because dessert should be inclusive- and frosting should be no different!
Now the basic frosting recipe you already learned about was made with just four ingredients: powdered sugar, butter, milk, and a dash of vanilla for flavor. But frostings can get delightfully more complex. And the ingredient list can get a lot more creative as well. You can add cream cheese, for example. Or sour cream. Both of which can help with the heavy lifting of the butter and reduce the fat content. You can add meringue powder to it and whip it with a hand mixer until it’s light and fluffy.
You can even make frosting on the stove top.
Of course, when adding flavor to your frosting, it’s a delicate dance.
Most flavor additives are in liquid form. 💧 Which can create an imbalance issue. The question becomes: how do you add enough flavor for a bold taste, without altering your consistency too much? And the answer is that you need to think of ways to reduce the amount of additional moisture in your frosting.
For example, let’s say you want to make a lemon frosting. 🍋
You have three options: lemon juice, lemon extract, and lemon zest. Now, while lemon juice would taste amazing, it takes a lot of moisture to get the flavor you want. At which point, you might have made the consistency too soupy. So you’re left with a choice. Either add more confectioners’ sugar to fix the consistency- which would dilute the lemon flavor you just added- or keep the flavor the way you want it and have a really runny frosting.
Not a good situation, any way you look at it. 🚫
Lemon extract is helpful because of it’s concentrated lemon flavor. So using less liquid will still yield a bold flavor- which is exactly what we want. And lastly, lemon zest. Lemon zest has the least amount of liquid, but the flavor’s not as concentrated as it is with the lemon extract. So, to get the maximum flavor with the smallest amount of liquid, I’d actually recommend using the lemon extract.
Like I said, it’s a balancing act.
And now that I’ve gone through all that, I have to say that none of those were bad options. All of them would make for a truly baller frosting. 🏀 But when you also factor in workability, things get more complicated. And the consistency dilemma remains even when you’re not adding flavor.
Imagine you want to add food coloring to your frosting. You’ll still need to be mindful of your food coloring’s water content. Less water is always a good thing. So, in this situation, I’d recommend using food coloring gel instead of the more liquidy, cheaper food dye. Because you get a vibrant color without too much extra moisture.
Which is a win-win. 👏
Want to get more specific?
By this point, you’ve already read all about how to make a basic frosting recipe. And what to consider when it comes to altering a basic frosting into a basically awesome recipe. So now you want to learn about new and exciting types of frosting.
Which is a fabulous goal.
There are a lot of them out there and they’re all a little different. But I’m only going to talk about three of them. I’ve include three classic frosting pairing ideas in the topic tabs below. So feel free to click into the tabs at your leisure to learn more about cream cheese frosting, chocolate frosting, and buttercream frosting.
And, of course, when I say “at your leisure” I mean go ahead and do that right now. 😅
Now that we’re done with the general frosting knowledge, (All that was only the broad strokes? Geez!) let’s get into the nitty gritty.
It’s time to teach you how to frost a cake with Frosting 101. Ready for some hands on knowledge? ✋🤚 It’s about time! Click the Next Lesson button to get a cracking!