I have a confession to make: I hate buttercream icing. It’s just too sweet and sickly. The only time I like it is when it’s chocolate, because I can replace some of the icing sugar with cocoa powder. Other times, buttercream, for me, is just to cover and decorate cakes.
That was until I stumbled upon the concept of cooking icing. It produces a very fluffy, light, but strong icing that’s not very sweet at all! In fact, it’s just like stabilised whipped cream, but tastier. This is the icing I’ve been waiting for.
The only cooking you do is to create a thickened milk paste using corn starch or all-purpose flour. I prefer corn starch because it thickens at a lower temperature than flour, i.e., it cooks faster. But if you want to use flour (or only have that in your kitchen), then just use double the amount as for corn starch.
Just like the standard fat-sugar ratio in traditional buttercream, I believe that for every cup of milk used, there should be an equal weight of fat (butter or shortening) to caster sugar. Oh, did I mention that you use caster sugar instead of icing sugar in this recipe? That’s another great perk of this icing.
1 cup milk
3 tbsp corn starch
200g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter (or vegetable shortening; or combination or both)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Makes enough to ice cake sizes of 6 to 8 inches.
Step 1: In a saucepan, mix the milk and cornstarch until dissolved. Heat the milk until it thickens to a paste consistency. Cool to room temperature.
Step 2: Cream the sugar, butter and salt together. Add the vanilla and cooled milk paste and beat until the mixture is smooth and light. Use to ice and decorate cake.
And that’s about it really. This cooked buttercream icing never hardens in the fridge. It’s always soft and fluffy. Your mixer will have to work a little bit harder to make sure all the sugar has dissolved, but the end product is so light and glossy that the (little) time and effort you put in to making it is more than worth it.
I’ve had polarised views on this icing from some of my friends. Some adore it because it’s the first time they’ve tasted icing that’s not sickly sweet; another group thinks it’s not sweet enough. If you want this icing to be slightly sweeter, just simply add more sugar!
UPDATE! (March 30, 2014) If you want this icing for piping, it’s possible but you will have to make a few easy changes. If the cake is going to be sitting in warm place, replace some or all of the butter with shortening. Then, replace all of the caster sugar with an equal amount of icing sugar. Icing sugar contains some cornstarch to prevent clumping, so it’ll help your icing crust over a bit. Make your icing and if it’s still not stiff enough to your satisfaction, simply keep adding more icing sugar and mixing until you get what you want. Obviously it’ll be less “less-sweet”, but that’s just what you have to do! I find actually, if you add about 25% to 50% more sugar, the icing is already pretty good for piping.