The most common way to dress up a cake is to use homemade or commercial frosting. This topping consists of a fat, such as butter, into which confectioners sugar is mixed. Various flavorings or colorings are added and the frosting is applied to the cooled cake with a spatula. Despite the popularity and convenience of standard frosting, many other type of cake treatments are favored as well.
Bakers often treat bundt cakes with a sugar glaze rather than frosting. This glaze is poured over the still-warm cake, flooding the top and cascading down the sides, making an artful presentation. Glazes for lemon cakes often contain lemon juice, while chocolate and yellow cakes taste good with a vanilla glaze. Glazes are made using milk, water or fruit juice combined with powdered sugar. The sugar in the glaze melts further when it comes in contact with the warm cake, and when completely cooled, is hardened so it no longer drips.
Plain, powdered sugar placed in a wire strainer and tapped over a cake gives a nice finish that resembles fallen snow. This type of frosting substitute works well for any cake, including one-layer cakes or informal cakes served from the baking pan rather than removed and placed on a cake stand. To further dress up a powdered sugar topping, place doilies or other stencils on top of the cake where the sugar topping is desired and sift the powdered sugar over it. Remove the stencil carefully to leave the pattern on the cake.
For an extremely smooth and flawless cake surface, consider using rolled fondant to cover a cake. This cake treatment is placed on top of a cake, molding the sides to remove wrinkles and imperfections. This covering works well when the cake is to be decorated, giving the decorations a firm, flat surface on which to sit. Fondant is available in grocery stores on the baking aisle and in craft stores on the cake decorating aisles, but bakers can make their own from a favorite recipe. Add flavors and colors to fondant before applying it to the cake. Thin layers of buttercream icing are recommended for placing underneath the fondant for anchoring purposes, but the fondant takes the place of any visible frosting.
Whipped Cream or Non-Dairy Topping
A lighter alternative to sugar-based frosting is a whipped cream or nondairy topping. These choices create fluffy, easily applied coverings. Flavor or tint these alternatives however you wish. Add other ingredients for variety, choosing finely chopped nuts, crushed peppermint candies or grated chocolate. Add further richness by whipping in softened cream cheese. Place this type of frosting substitute in a decorator icing bag with a large star tip and blanket the cake with dollops to cover. Always refrigerate cakes that have this type of covering.
Ganache covers a cake smoothly, just as glazes and fondants do, giving cakes a glossy appearance. Chocolate lovers appreciate a ganache cake covering because it is made of chocolate melted into cream. Cool this rich covering before pouring over the cake. For a lighter touch, whip the ganache with a whisk or electric mixer to incorporate a bit of air. Create a ganache of a different flavor or look by using white chocolate or flavored baking chips, such as butterscotch or chocolate mint. For a special touch, add a coffee, cream, creme de menthe or berry liqueur, or replace a small portion of the cream with a pureed fruit.
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