After making cakes – and other goodies – for nearly 50 years, I’m getting help. No, not that kind of help. Cake decorating classes! It’s such a girly fun thing to do. And we get to play with icing, called frosting in my world. (although the word “fudge” usually precedes the word “frosting.”)
Our first class we didn’t do much more than watch Robin Burns, our certified Wilton instructor, but we have high hopes that next week we’ll be up to our elbows in the sweet stuff.
We were told to bring six sugar cookies to class, so I baked gigantic ones to practice on. However, because of time constraints, we were given homework – to practice stars at home…on the cookies. It’s a hard life.
We did learn lots of tricks and tips to make our decorating more successful and appealing to the eye. We also learned about slicing a cake with a wire, using gel to transfer designs and how to load the icing into a piping bag.
Cleaning those piping bags is another matter entirely. Robin says she lets her pets lick the extra icing. I’m sure my cockapoo, Zoe, would be more than willing, but I decided against that. Paper towels took out most of the goo and then I scrubbed it in hot water.
In a cramped classroom in the back of the Ames Hobby Lobby, Robin demonstrated the correct way to make the magic icing – in three variations of stiffness. Why they call it “buttercream” is a mystery to me, because there is no butter in it. But there are three key ingredients:
1. Solid white vegetable shortening
2. Pure Cane confectioner’s sugar – not beet sugar. This reminded me of the old ad slogan “C & H -Pure Cane sugar from Hawaii.”
3. Meringue powder – or powdered egg whites. This helps the icing set up so you can play with it.
And measuring is required. The best trick was when Robin put all the ingredients – except the powdered sugar – into the mixer and beat until creamy. Then she dumped in all the sugar, put a damp kitchen towel over the mixer, and turned it on and let the mixer do its’ thing. Instead of finding sugar dust everywhere, it’s contained in the towel. Loved that.
The recipe is from the book “Decorating Basics” from the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating, 2011 version.
Ingredients for Stiff Buttercream Icing
1 pound can (2 cups) of solid white vegetable shortening
2 tsp vanilla or almond flavoring or white butter flavoring
4 TBS milk or water (whole milk is best)
2 TBS powdered egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
2 pound bag of pure cane confectioner’s sugar
Put all ingredients – except for the powdered sugar – into the mixer and mix well.
Add the powdered sugar, cover the mixer with a towel and turn on low to incorporate the sugar.
If icing is too stiff, add a teaspoon more of liquid – water, milk or flavoring. Your choice.
Note: According to our Wilton book, the recipe is for the STIFF version of the icing. If you add one teaspoon of water or milk for each cup of stiff icing, you’ll land on medium. Add another teaspoon per cup and you have thin icing, which you can use to ice a cake.