What could possibly be better than buttercream??? Bettercreme! (Yes, my spelling is correct.) I bought a 15 lb. bucket of the stuff from Sam's Club and it is every bit as good as I remember. It is similar in taste and texture to Cool Whip. I am very excited about my new bucket of heavenly frosting, even though there are a few draw-backs. So, I thought I would blog about the various icings I have worked with for icing a cake, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. (This is the teacher in me coming out!) Not that anyone besides me cares, but here goes:
This sugary concoction is made with a base of shortening and confectioner's sugar. When people think of "wedding cake frosting" this is usually the type of frosting they are thinking of! The ratio of sugar to fat is usually about 4:1 so this is a VERY sweet frosting! My favorite recipe for this type of frosting (thus far) is a combination of SugarEd and IndyDebi - I use DreamWhip and liquid coffee creamer in the recipe and have found it to be creamy and tasty. I haven't been able to get my hands on hi-ratio shortening yet, but I have read that this improves that taste and texture of the frosting. The advantages of this frosting are that it crusts (which allows you to smooth it), it is very stable in higher temperatures, and it holds its shape well for decorations like roses. It is also very easy and relatively inexpensive to make. Disadvantages are that unless you use hi-ratio shortening, this frosting usually has a "greasy" taste and is extremely sweet (too sweet to many people).
Meringue Buttercreams (Swiss and Italian)
These frostings are composed of egg whites, sugar, and butter. The ratio of sugar to fat is somewhere around 1:3 or 2:3 - but there is always more fat than sugar. (That's a LOT of butter!) Each is made with a meringue base and the butter is added in. I prefer Swiss Meringue Buttercream because it is a little easier for me to make. Advantages are that these frostings taste lighter than other buttercreams, they have a smooth, glossy finish on cakes, and firm up when refrigerated. Disadvantages are that these frostings are not as stable in heat, they do not crust, they do not hold shape as well, and are more difficult and expensive to make.
Other Cooked Buttercreams (French, Mock-whipped, etc.)
These frostings usually contain flour and milk cooked together, cooled and whipped. They may use butter or shortening in the recipes. I have tried French buttercream and a mock-whipped recipe and was not crazy about either one. Advantages would be taste and texture again (like the meringues) and they are cheaper than other buttercreams to make. I personally found the 20 minutes of high speed mixing to create the fluffiness of the frosting to be hard on my mixer. I also thought the French buttercream melted faster than the Swiss Meringue buttercream in high temperatures.
Bettercreme, Pastry Pride, etc.
A non-diary whipped icing similar in taste and texture to Cool Whip. These companies are not about to give up the recipes for these products, so making your own is out of the question! Advantages are definitely the taste and texture. The pre-whipped kind also has the advantage of being ready-made, just scoop and frost! If purchased from a company like Costco or Sam's Club, it is also VERY cheap!!! Disadvantages are that this frosting is difficult to add color to (too much stirring makes it dry and clumpy), it can be tricky to frost a cake smooth with, and it can be difficult to purchase if you do not have a provider in your area!
Fondant is made a variety of ways (I make mine with marshmallows!) and can be purchased ready-made. It is usually pretty sweet - similar to buttercream in sweetness - and has a chewy texture. Advantages are that you can do anything with this stuff that you could do with playdoh! It has a beautifully smooth, matte finish on cakes and can be dried in shapes. It holds up in extremely high temperatures, making it a great choice for weddings. Disadvantages are that some people do not like the taste and texture of fondant on cakes and it can be more expensive to make or buy. It is tricky to work with and can behave differently based on the temperature and humidity of the room.
If you love to decorate cakes, I would recommend trying all of these varieties and decide which one you like best! If you would like to try my recipes, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org