Frosting... how can I find it so difficult? I make BRIOCHE, for god's sake

I’m obviously doing something wrong.

I love a good chocolate frosting… or a good vanilla. It’s creamy and buttery and sugary and SMOOTH and SILKY and delicious. The frosting that was on Sara Lee chocolate cakes 30 years ago was worth buying the cake just to eat the yummy frosting.

The frosting on the chocolate cake I can get in 7-eleven today is good… I know the brand, I just can’t think of it. They make carrot cake and a few others, too.

I’m a very good cook, and an excellent baker. (My opinion, but one that is shared by everyone) I have a knack with food, sugar, flour… I usually understand what makes food behave in a certain way.

But frosting escapes me, so I conclude that I’m missing what makes the frosting I like the frosting I like.

I always thought that the frosting I like was some combination of: powdered sugar, butter, cream, vanilla, pinch of salt perhaps, and if I’m going chocolate, then cocoa or baking chocolate or semisweet.

I have tried every way I can think of to combine these ingredients. I never even get CLOSE to the frosting I like. The “powder” (cornstarch) taste of the powdered sugar bleeds through no matter what I try, which includes heating and lots of liquid, the chocolate flavor is either non-existent or just overbearing, and the texture is jsut never right… I look for it to be shiny, smooth, silky and buttery. Not fluffy, gritty, thick…

So I guess the kind of frosting I like is probably made by a more labor-intensive, elaborate recipe involving… eggs? Something else?

Please enlighten me.

I’m reminded that the lady who won the (at the time) largest Colorado Lottery (some $20 million) bought her ticket on a whim while buying frosting for her boyfriend’s birthday cake at 7-11.

If you like mass-produced frosting, it seems to me it would be a lot easier to go buy it rather than reproduce it. Plus, you might win the lottery.

I don’t like most frosting, but Sara Lee did make great frosting 30 years ago and this little California company makes good rosting. The only other frosting I’ve ever liked was homemade, because bakery frosting is invariably much prettier than it is tasty.

The commercial frosting available on the cake aisle is gross.

my grandmother made frosting similar to this. She used a double boiler. Or you can put a small pot in a bigger pot of water.


Ingredients :
1 stick butter or margarine
4 tbsp. cocoa
6 tbsp. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. nuts
3 c. powdered sugar

Preparation :
Melt butter, cocoa, buttermilk and vanilla over low heat and bring
to a rapid boil. Remove from heat and let cool several minutes then
add 3 cups sifted powdered sugar gradually, one cup at a time and
beat after each cup. Spread on cool cake. Sprinkle chopped nuts on

It’s not you, it’s the frosting. In order to get rid of the powderiness/grit, it kind of has to be cooked.

For traditional buttercream, one thing to try is to use granulated sugar, but blend it to powder in the blender and then cream it with the butter at slow speed but for a long time. To flavor the chocolate frosting, either melt good chocolate that you would like to eat, or use half dutch process cocoa and half natural. Natural cocoa is acidic but to me dutch process misses some of the flavor notes, so half and half does it right.

This recipe is the closest I ever came to a good commercial frosting.
When I made it, I used:
10 ounces dark chocolate Dove promises, coarsely chopped - Don’t use chocolate chips!
½ cup heavy cream
¾ cup (1½ sticks) salted sweet cream butter

Melt the chopped chocolate with the cream in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until melted. To cool it, I set the mixing bowl into a bowl of ice water and that worked well.

Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and it is smooth. Cool until spreadable. The change from runny to silky and spreadable happened quickly.

The best icing I ever made was when I combined powdered sugar, food coloring, and butter. Salted butter.

So you could be doing a whole lot worse.

you mean ganache =)

And yes, good frosting with chocolate needs to be cooked. I have never had a noncooked chocolate frosting that I thought compared with either a cooked ‘fudge’ frosting or a ganache. And you really do need to use good quality chocolate. Chocolate picks up odd flavors easily, and to me nestles chips have an odd burnt taste.

Joe Pastry is a great reference in pictorial blog form - here’s a couple of easy chocolate frosting recipes involving nothing but chocolate and butter. Or you could make a buttercream and add melted chocolate to it.

I can’t stand the frosting on cakes at restaurants these days. The stuff reminds me of chocolate pudding smeared on the cake. Gross!

I like cake aisle frosting just fine. The frosting I hate is on the bakery cakes, and it leaves a scummy film on your mouth after you eat it - agh!

It’s been a while since I’ve made frosting, but I’ve made some darn good frosting before and this sounds like a good start. I’d avoid the buttermilk, though, since in this case all I see it adding is sourness. I’d sub regular milk or maybe some half&half if I wanted something extra rich. A mix of cream and coffee could also be very good. A hint of coffee in chocolate frosting can go over well.

Here are a couple of recipes that I have collected, but not made, so I can’t vouch for either one. I’m skeptical about the Cook’s Illustrated one not being grainy. The first recipe looks more likely. I’ve also seen many recipes that call for regular granulated sugar beaten with the butter for 5 minutes or more which might dissolve the sugar.

Chocolate Frosting

1 1/2 Cups Sugar
6 Tbsp Butter
6 Tbsp Milk
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Tsp Vanilla

Heat the sugar, butter and milk together. Boil for 1 minute only. Remove from heat and add the chips and vanilla. Stir until melted.

Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 2 cups
This frosting needs about an hour to cool before it can be used, so begin making it when the cake comes out of the oven.
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch table salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (or dark)
10 ounces milk chocolate , chopped
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cold, cut into 8 pieces
Heat cream, salt, and corn syrup in microwave-safe measuring cup on high until simmering, about 1 minute, or bring to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Place chocolate in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. With machine running, gradually add hot cream mixture through feed tube; process 1 minute after cream has been added. Stop machine; add confectioners´ sugar to workbowl and process to combine, about 30 seconds. With machine running, add butter through feed tube one piece at a time; process until incorporated and smooth, about 20 seconds longer. Transfer frosting to medium bowl and cool at room temperature, stirring frequently, until thick and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Sometimes you can get powdered/confectioner’s sugar without the cornstarch. Look for ‘pure icing sugar’ or something like that. If it has cornstarch, it needs to be heated enough to kill the flour taste. Once you start heating sugar you are in candy-making territory, and the final texture is very susceptible to correct handling.

Which brand? Betty Crocker and Pillsbury frosting are made with high fructose corn syrup as the main sweetener, which makes the frosting goopy, and it seems to absorb water from the air over time. Duncan Hines, on the other hand, uses sugar as the main sweetener, like you’d use yourself. Check the ingredient list to see what the first ingredient is.

If you’ve only tried Betty Crocker or Pillsbury, you might find Duncan Hines to be better.

Have you tried cooked frosting? There’s one version, in which you make an Italian (cooked) meringue and beat in butter, and another where you cook together milk and flour and sugar and then beat in the butter. I love both.