Cake & Frosting Recipes
Thom's Recipe File
Baking is the technique of cooking food in an oven by dry heat applied
evenly throughout the oven. The person that does the baking is called a
and meat (see also roasting) are often baked, and baking is the primary
cooking technique used to produce cakes and pastry-based goods such as pies,
tarts, and quiches. Such items are sometimes referred to as "baked goods,"
and are sold at a bakery.
The dry heat of baking
gelatinizes starch and causes the outside of the food to brown or char,
giving it an attractive appearance and taste, as well as partially sealing
in the food's moisture. The browning is caused by caramelization of sugars
and the Maillard reaction. Moisture is never really entirely "sealed in,"
however; over time, an item being baked will become drier and drier. This is
often an advantage, especially in situations where drying is the desired
outcome, for example in drying herbs or in roasting certain types of
vegetables. The most common baked item is bread. Variations in the ovens,
ingredients and recipes used in the baking of bread result in the wide
variety of breads produced around the world.
To compensate for moisture
loss, some items (usually meats) are basted on the surface with butter or
oil to slow the loss of moisture through the skin. Some foods are
replenished with moisture during baking by placing a small amount of liquid
(such as water or broth) in the bottom of the pan, and letting it steam up
into or around the food. The term baking is not usually associated with the
cooking of meats in this manner, it is instead termed roasting.
Over time baked goods become
hard in a process known as going stale, this is not primarily due to
moisture being lost from the baked products but a reorganization of the way
in which the water and starch are associated over time, a process similar to
For many people, the frosting is the best part of a cake or cookie. I
classify frosting into six types: butter cream, cooked, whipped cream, royal
icing, gnashes, and glazes.
Butter or margarine is
combined with powdered sugar, flavorings, and liquid. Powdered sugar is used
because it dissolves easily during beaten and contains a small amount of
cornstarch which helps stabilize the frosting. There are butter cream
frostings that use granulated sugar, but these take a long time to make and
can be difficult. Classic butter cream usually involves making a custard,
then beating butter into it until a frosting consistency is reached. I
prefer simple butter cream frostings, beating softened butter with powdered
sugar, liquids and flavorings. Beat the frosting longer than you think is
necessary for the smoothest and fluffiest results. It's really not possible
to over beat this type of frosting.
Seven-minute frosting is the
classic cooked frosting. Egg whites and sugar, along with flavorings, are
combined in the top of a double boiler. The mixture is gently heated while
continuously beating with a mixer. Please use a mixer if you choose this
type of frosting; you can beat it by hand with an eggbeater, but it's really
difficult. As the mixture cooks, a meringue forms, which is stabilized as it
grows because it is being heated. Cooked frostings hold their shape because
the egg white proteins have been coagulated by the heat. These frostings
must be cooked to a temperature of 140 degrees for safety. These frostings
are delicate and can be absorbed into the cake if not eaten the first day.
If you prefer, you can use meringue powder to make seven-minute frosting
without fear of food poisoning from eggs.
Powdered sugar, flavorings,
and whipped cream make whipped cream frostings - what could be simpler?
Again, the cornstarch in the powdered sugar helps stabilize the frosting. It
is possible to over beat this type of frosting, so just beat until firm
peaks appear when you stop beating and lift the beater straight up from the
frosting. Cakes, cupcakes, and cookies with this type of frosting must be
This icing is used for
decorating cakes and cookies. You can make it from scratch, using powdered
sugar, egg whites, and liquid, but I prefer using meringue powder, which you
can buy at bakery supply stores and even some grocery stores. The meringue
powder is combined with a liquid, then usually tinted with food coloring.
The proper consistency for royal icing is about the consistency of pancake
batter. It should flow easily since it's usually used in pastry bags with
decorating tips, but set quickly so the design holds.
This fancy term is simply
chocolate melted with heavy cream. This frosting makes a beautiful shiny
glaze on cakes and cookies. If you chill a ganache, beat it until it's
fluffy and stiff, then form it into balls, you'll end up with truffles. You
can also chill and beat a ganache and use the fluffy result to quickly frost
a layer cake.
Glazes are the simplest
frostings. Powdered sugar is combined with a liquid to form a thin
consistency. Glazes are usually poured or drizzled over the tops of cakes
and cookies. This forms a shiny hard crust when the glaze sets. Melted
chocolate can be used as a glaze on its own.