One childhood staple that never goes out of fashion is the confetti cake. It's a very thing to bake, whether you're preparing for a kid birthday party or just indulging a nostalgic whim. Most major brands have a boxed confetti-cake mix, but at heart it's nothing more than a plain white cake or angel-food cake with colored sprinkles or "jimmies" stirred into the cake batter. There are several suitable frostings, depending which type of cake you've made.
There are a great many types of frosting and variations on them, depending on your skill level, patience and time constraints. The simplest is just powdered sugar whipped into butter, with a bit of milk and vanilla flavoring. Others might require fussing over double boilers or simmering sugar syrups to precise temperatures. The most important detail is matching your frosting to the cake. A scratch-made white cake is relatively sturdy, so you can use the simplest and thickest of buttercreams. Boxed mixes are more delicate, while angel-food cakes require the lightest and fluffiest icing you can muster.
From the pragmatic perspective, the best frosting for the job is the one you can reliably make well. Often, that's the basic variety made with powdered sugar. Cream the butter and sugar with your stand or hand mixer for as long as you can, adding the milk and vanilla toward the end. The longer it's creamed, the lighter, fluffier and more spreadable the icing will be. You can substitute shortening for the butter if you want a pure-white icing, which shows off the colorful cake to advantage. Pure white frosting also takes colors well, if you're planning to decorate the cake. Basic buttercream is suitable for a scratch-made cake, and if it's well whipped it's soft enough for boxed mixes as well.
Boiled icing, or seven-minute icing, is an old-fashioned favorite. You make it either by whipping egg whites, water and sugar over a double boiler, or by heating a sugar syrup and pouring it into the egg whites in a thin stream. It gives a light, fluffy, pure-white icing with a marshmallowy taste, well suited to kid birthdays. It's light enough to spread easily on any cake, and its snowy-white color provides a perfect backdrop for additional sprinkles as a decoration. It's also fat-free, a consideration if adults will be sharing the cake.
Swiss or Italian Buttercream
If you like the light, fluffy, easy-spreading texture of boiled icing but prefer the richer flavor of a buttercream icing, Swiss or Italian buttercream is your best choice. Both start with boiled icing as their base. If you take boiled icing made by the double-boiler method and whip softened butter into it, you have Swiss buttercream. If you take boiled icing made by the sugar-syrup method and whip softened butter into it, you have Italian buttercream. Both are light and fluffy enough to go on even an angel-food cake. Italian buttercream is more stable, so it holds up better overnight or in hot, humid climates.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- Baking 911: Types - Frosting or Icing, Fillings and Glazes
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images