Since I started teaching my cake decorating classes, one question comes up every lesson. ‘Which icing should I use?’
I decided it was high time to answer this common question so hopefully by the end of this article you will be savvy about sugar! All types of icing have their uses for one project or another, but it’s important to use the right one to get a good finish. Here are the most popular icings that I use and get asked about;
Also known as; icing, ‘ready to roll’ icing, cake covering, fondant (in America) and ‘roll out’ icing. This is the softest icing to use. Because it is so soft, it’s perfect to cover cakes, cupcakes and cookies with as even though it sets slightly, it doesn’t go too hard. With all things, however, you get what you pay for. I personally and in my classes use a professional brand of sugarpaste as it gets you a great finish. That said, nowadays with baking being more popular than ever, supermarkets and the like are putting a lot of time and energy into getting their own brands of sugarpaste up to scratch, appealing to professional and home bakers alike. I wouldn’t recommend modelling with this icing or cutting out delicate shapes as it is just too soft.
Modelling paste is an icing that has been strengthened and dries harder than sugarpaste. It is more elastic and as the name suggests, is perfect for modelling with. It is readily available in cake shops and on cake equipment websites however, those of you may remember one of my first ever blog posts was about Sainsbury’s Flower & Modelling Paste which I still highly recommend as it is great value and gives fab results. It’s easily available in white so you can colour yourself with concentrated food colourings or more recently, I have seen a wide range of coloured modelling paste for sale.
Flower paste (also known as gum paste) is an icing that has been strengthened even more than modelling paste and dries a bit harder. It is perfect for rolling out very thinly to make flowers, stars, butterflies and other delicate decorations. This can also be bought easily in white but several companies now provide a rainbow of colours.
Mexican paste, which I’m pretty sure has nothing to do with Mexico, is a stretchy paste which can be rolled super thin. On my classes, I use Mexican paste with letter cutters such as FMM Tappits or Windsor Clickstix (available from Iced Jems). It is also perfect for patchwork cutters too. Weirdly, I really like the smell of this paste as well. Check out my Tappit Tutorial here.
Royal icing is make using icing sugar, water, lemon juice and egg white and if you didn’t want to make your own, comes in a handy powder that you just mix with water. It is also available to buy ready made. At one time it was the covering of choice for all cake decorators but now is more commonly used to pipe details, messages and decorations. As well as being a solid ‘glue’ for sticking decorations.
This is your standard icing to cover the fairy cakes you made as a kid. Icing sugar and warm water. Perfect for reminiscing and for a soft and sweet finish to your bakes.
Buttercream is a mixture of butter and icing sugar to create a filling for inside cakes, topping cupcakes and for a crumb coat before covering in sugarpaste. You can find my recipe here. Frosting is another name for this but can also mean a filling made with shortening instead of butter.
I hope that has helped clear up questions and provide sugar solutions!
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