Icing and frosting are the two classic ways of covering a cake. Seems pretty standard, but if standards fail the whole effect is ruined. If the icing is wrong we don’t even bother decorating the cake. It’s a matter made all the more difficult by the effects of temperature and humidity; remembering the conditions may change when you serve the cake. But common sense will show us that adding more confectionary sugar helps thin icing, and more liquid help icing that is too thick.
DECORATIONS: also made of icing. If it’s going to be a 3D sculpture that supports its own weight it needs to be quite thick. Flowers are the classis shape. If it cracks more than a little then the icing is too thick; if it droops it is too thin.
FLAT DECORATIONS: such a star shapes, flat flowers, anything that can be drawn as a child’s illustrated book, use a medium consistency for their icing mix.
WRITING and other things draw onto the cake require thin consistency. Adding corn syrup to the mix allows the end result to be a little more elastic.
COLOURED ICING: Mixing food colouring into icing provides basic colours, but complications occur. Deep colours require more food colouring liquid, and this tend to tin out the mixture slightly. Additionally, darker colours do fade a little when setting.
Lemon juice or cream of tartar can cause food colours to change. This can ruin decorations, so find an alternative, or even a different recipe!
Frozen cakes can cause the colours to blur together when defrosting. Wait till the cake is defrosted before decorating.
Red food colouring can taste bitter in large quantities. It’s fine for pink icing, but dark red icing requires so much that the result has an aftertaste. If you must have red icing use ‘Red No-Taste’ or a colouring that does not contain red-3 [additive 127].
ROYAL ICING: Add 1- 2 teaspoons of Meringue powder for every cup of confectioners’ sugar.
BUTTERCREAM ICING: uses ½ cup vegetable shortening, ½ butter, 4 cup confectionary sugar and 2 tablespoon of milk. Sweeten with 1 teaspoon of clean vanilla extract. Google for more details.
GANACHE: chocolate flavoured icing. Fine tasting. Probably best when the decorations are lighter in colour.
Custom made cakes include cakes you decorate yourself.
For some classes on the subject or just a little inspiration look to Sweet Olivia in Sydney’s North Ryde.