You have a cake or a cookie or a muffin.
Actually, this is the Internet, so I don’t know if you really do, but pretend, okay?
How can you make your ordinary and undistinguished cake or cookie or muffin or fruit loaf or WHATEVER, really, look special? Cover it with more sugar!
Icing or frosting, the basics:
The best invention ever; if you’re icing a whole cake, do it twice. The first layer is the crumb layer.
1 cup powder sugar (aka icing sugar). This is very, very fine-grained sugar that blows about with a puff of air. You can sub in 1/3 of a cup of cocoa for 1/4 cup of sugar, if you want to make a chocolate icing.
2 tablespoons liquid.
1 teaspoon glycerine, if the cake is not to be eaten immediately: it saves the icing from drying out.
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of additional flavouring, if the liquid is not sufficient.
The liquid can be anything. Use wine or brandy or liqueur for a rather grown-up taste: use lemon or lime juice for something sharper. Use coffee if you are making a chocolate cake. Coffee icing on a chocolate cake is THE WIN, if you can’t make chocolate ganache, see below. You can even use a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of vanilla essence. Put the icing sugar into a big bowl. Wear old clothes. Shoo the cats out of the kitchen. (Their hair will stick to the icing. Yuck.)
Add the liquid to the powdered sugar, and beat well. The icing sugar flies about the kitchen. You’re grateful I told you to wear old clothes. If the icing seems a little dry, add small amounts of more liquid, but it should be fairly thick and sticky for the crumb layer. You can expand this recipe just by doubling quantities. Four tablespoons of liquid is one-eighth of a cup, to be added to 2 cups of powdered sugar .
Spread on the first layer of icing. It will take up crumbs from the cake, but that’s okay. No one will see it. Cover the whole cake. You can use a knife dipped briefly into boiling water to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Wait for the first layer to cool and dry. It doesn’t need to set completely.
Mix up the second batch of icing – this can be a little bit more liquid BUT NOT MUCH – and pour over the first layer. Presto: you have a perfectly frosted cake.
Buttercream is even easier and you use it to layer the cake together. So, if you just frosted your cake according to my instructions above, you should now take it apart to put in the buttercream frosting, cursing yourself for not reading my instructions to the end.
1 cup of soft brown sugar.
2 tablespoons butter or vegan margarine.
1 tablespoon vanilla essence, or other flavouring of your choice. You could also add 1/3 cup cocoa, or a couple of tablespoons of honey.
Beat the soft butter into the sugar until you have a thick brown paste. (You could, of course, use plain white granulated sugar and use food colourings, if you want sparkly colours instead of the yummy brown-sugar-butter-vanilla flavour. Peasant.)
Spread the buttercream on one layer of the cake. Cover thickly. People will thank you for it. Drop the second layer on top of the first. Repeat as necessary.
Chocolate ganache: Melt 8 ounces/200g good chocolate in 1/4 cup of soy milk. (Heat the milk till it’s quite warm, not boiling, break the chocolate into the warm milk in small pieces, put the bowl with the milk into a larger bowl with just-boiled water – and stir the contents of the bowl until the chocolate has all melted. This is a foolproof technique: the milk doesn’t need to be kept VERY warm to melt the chocolate, and a bath of very hot water around the bowl works a treat.) Add a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey. When the chocolate is all melted, spoon the liquid ganache over the cake. When this sets, it will be like solid chocolate, only slightly softer. Delicious. You can use this to layer cakes together or to cover them or even as just a layer on top of the cupcake.