Buttercream icing is made with butter -- hence the name -- which adds a milder flavour than cream cheese-based icings. Cream cheese icing is tangier than buttercream icing, which makes it perfect for vegetable or fruit-flavour cakes. Buttercream icing holds up a bit better than cream, so they're a better choice for decorated cakes.
Here's how to make icing from scratch:
Step 1: Gather your ingredients
For a two-layer 8- or 9-inch round cake,* you'll need:
- 3/4 cup butter
- 8 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Food coloring (optional)
*Halve the recipe to frost the top of a 13x9x2-inch cake.
Step 2: Prep your ingredients
Soften the butter by bringing it to room temperature. Soft butter will ensure that it easily blends with the other ingredients, giving you smooth icing. Meanwhile, sift the powdered sugar.
Note: Never use melted butter when a recipe calls for softened butter. The icing will not mix properly and the texture will thin out and act as more of a glaze than a thick, luscious icing.
Step 3: Cream together ingredients
In a large mixing bowl beat the softened butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in 1/3 cup milk and the vanilla. Gradually beat in the remaining powdered sugar.
Step 4: Beat icing to spreadable consistency
You want icing that will spread effortlessly. If the icing is too thick, beat in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach a thick but spreadable consistency.
Make sure the milk is fully incorporated before adding the next teaspoon: Just a teaspoon or two is sometimes all you need to go from too stiff to the perfect texture. If your icing gets a bit too soft, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes or stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup more powdered sugar to firm it up.
If desired, add a few drops of food coloring or flavourings to tint or flavor the frosting.
How to add flavour to icing
Once you know how to make icing from scratch, try incorporating these flavourings for a spin on traditional vanilla buttercream icing:
Almond: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for the vanilla. Garnish iced cake or cupcakes with toasted sliced almonds.
Milk Chocolate: Melt 1 cup milk chocolate pieces; cool. Beat chocolate into the butter before adding the powdered sugar.
Strawberry: Beat 1/3 cup strawberry jam into the butter before adding the powdered sugar.
Peanut Butter: Beat 1/2 cup peanut butter into the butter before adding the powdered sugar. Garnish iced cake or cupcakes with chopped peanuts.
Irish Cream: Substitute Irish cream liqueur for the milk.
Peppermint: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract for the vanilla; tint with red food colouring, if desired. Top garnished cake or cupcakes with peppermint candies.
Dark Chocolate: Substitute 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar.
Coffee: Add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or coffee crystals, or substitute brewed coffee for the milk.
Citrus: Substitute lemon or orange juice for the milk; stir 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange peel into the finished frosting. Garnish frosted cake or cupcakes with thin strips of lemon or orange peel.
This article originally appeared on www.bhg.com