It’s easy to make mistakes when cooking, and it’s even easier to make them when baking. After all, baking is science, and every little gram of ingredient tends to matter. This notion extends to baked goods’ accompaniments, most notably frosting. Frosting is a tricky beast to slay because you have to have the right ratio of fat to stabilizing agent (via Kitchen Science), but it’s always worth it in the end. Frosting is the perfect touch on top of a cake, and it’s perfect for decorating other bakes, such as cookies. Frostings can even be vegan, even if they don’t look like they might be!
According to Bake From Scratch, two of the most common frosting types are meringue and buttercream. Each is delicious, and each only requires a small handful of ingredients. These two types are perfect in a way — they highlight that the mistakes in frosting typically come from simple errors, as most of the construction is on the baker because they require so few ingredients. Essentially, your base ingredients for any frosting are powdered sugar, butter, whipping cream and/or milk, salt and other flavoring agents (like vanilla), and, for meringue frosting, eggs. With these ingredients, you can make the most luscious frostings to top your bakes with — or eat out of the bowl. We’re not judging.
The real lesson when making frosting is one of virtue
It’s a hard pill to swallow when faced with knowing that our frostings may have gone awry because of our cooking skills (or lack thereof), but the positive side is that there’s always room for improvement. For example, according to Yummy.ph, you must master the right ratio of butter to powdered sugar in your frostings. Too much or too little of either can create a frosting that doesn’t have structure (or has too much) and goes past being a frosting. The right ratio will provide you with a silky frosting, so it’s best to search for recipes online before jumping into the kitchen.
Moreover, buttercream may not be the right frosting for you. Food editor Claire Saffitz warns that buttercream and meringue frostings each have their own distinct purposes and are best for certain bakes (via Bon Appétit). For example, an Italian-style buttercream is a stable emulsion that’s great if you need to make a frosting ahead of time. Moreover, in addition to knowing your sugar and butter rations, Saffitz notes that you need to know the right amount of liquid to use. Some recipes call for milk or cream, and if you use too much, you’ll make a puddle in your mixing bowl instead of a luscious treat.
One of the biggest mistakes, though, is lacking patience. According to Saffitz, you’re not going to make a good frosting if you’ve been mixing for less than two minutes. “It takes time for the ingredients to mesh together seamlessly. You may be running the mixer for 10 minutes,” she explains. You don’t want to over mix, but frosting takes a long time to get to the over-mixing point, so take your time with it. Beating air into it will only make a fluffier frosting, too.
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