Many types of cake, cookie, cupcake and dessert are covered with icing. It can be used to decorate a variety of pastries and baked goods, and adds flavor and texture, as well as enabling a chef to decorate her creation so that it is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate. There are seven basic types of icing: buttercream, flat, foam, fondant, fudge, royal, and glazes.
Buttercream icing is one of the most popular types for cakes. It is easy to spread, has a sweet flavor and a soft, smooth texture and is simple to make. Buttercream is made with a type of fat, often butter, and sugar. It can also contain eggs or milk to change the texture and thickness. Most icing found in the supermarket in the cake mix section is basic buttercream.
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Flat icing is one of the most simple types. The basic ingredients are powdered sugar and water. Simple flat icings form the glaze on rolls, danishes and other pastries and can be flavored with fruit or spices to add a new taste to the pastry.
Foam icing comes in a variety of flavors and has a soft, fluffy appearance. A meringue is made of whipped egg whites with a flavored syrup added. Marshmallow foam is a common variety, but other flavors such as chocolate or vanilla can also be added to the meringue.
Fondant gives a cake or pastry an elegant appearance and is popular for wedding cakes and other show pieces. This type is simply sugar and water, with either glucose or cream of tartar used to produce the proper crystallization to give it a smooth, almost porcelain look.
Fudge icing is thick and rich with a strong chocolate flavor. Other flavors, such as almond, peanut butter or mint, are often added. Using both butter and shortening, corn syrup, sugar and a variety of other ingredients, this type can be somewhat time consuming to prepare, but the finished product is stable and can be refrigerated and used at a later time.
Royal icing is similar to the flat variety, but adds egg whites to produce a thicker product which hardens to a brittle texture. It can be used to make beautiful, artistic decorations because it hardens when dried, but the same property makes it less enjoyable to eat. Royal icing is used primarily for decorative additions to cakes and for show work such as sugar sculptures.
Glazes are thin, watery icings which form a hard, crisp shell when poured or brushed over cakes and pastries. They are usually made with a fruit flavor, although other flavors, such as chocolate or coffee, are sometimes popular as well. Like flat, glazes can be used on sweet breakfast pastries like coffee cakes. They add flavor, and also help keep the pastry moist and improve its shelf life.
With seven basic types to choose from, and myriad possibilities within each type, pastry chefs have a great variety of options when topping their creations. By using one of these varieties, an experienced chef can produce countless delicious creations.