Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cake Decorating Basics - Part 3

First of all, I need to apologize for not adding more posts to this series before. I got sidetracked by all the holiday cookies I ended up making. This post is a continuation of the previous posts Part II and Part I.

This post is dedicated to frostings, frostings and frostings. Base for any frosting is fat (butter, creamcheese, heavy cream, shortening),flavorings (vanilla, almond, butter, lemon or any other extracts) and sugar. Most of the decorators use three kinds of frostings mainly. They are buttercream frosting, cream cheese frosting and whipped cream frosting. There are advantages and disadvantages of each.

Buttercream frostings: There are two kinds of buttercream frosting. Powdered sugar or confectioner's sugar based and the other is egg white based or Meringue buttercream. Powdered sugar buttercream tends to be very sweet, but can be left out at room temperature for more than 24 hours. Meringue buttercream are very soft and not so sweet, but cannot be left out at room temperature for long. Powdered sugar buttercream is the best to make flowers and decorate the cake. You can make some kind of flowers using meringue buttercream, but not all. We'll be concentrating on powdered sugar buttercream frosting in this post. I have never made or ate meringue buttercream since it uses egg and I try to avoid using eggs as much as possible.

Creamcheese frosting: These frostings are great on fruit flavored cake or spice cakes. In these, part of the fat is from creamcheese along with butter and/or shortening. These are very similar to regular powdered sugar buttercream, but are not sickly sweet due to tang of cream cheese. You can pretty much make any decoration using this, but cannot be left out for more than couple of hours. We'll talk about this in the next post.

Whipped cream frosting: This is whipped cream with sugar. This one is not very sweet, so lot of people love them, but is not suited for a lot of decoration. You can frost the cake with this, but even piping a simple border is a challenge. Also, the decorations might lose shape if left out of the refrigerator for couple of hours. These are great to swirl on cupcakes though. There are many ways of making it sturdy by adding pudding mix to this frosting, but they still need to be refrigerated. There is another frosting called 'mocked whip frosting' which can be left out and is made by cooking flour and milk and adding butter and sugar. We'll go over that in future posts.


Did you know that when someone says buttercream frosting, it need not have any butter in it? I did not know that till I took wilton cake decorating courses. I was shocked when I heard about this in the first class. I honestly think that every mom should make her kids' birthday cakes herself with or without decorations. Bakery uses tubs of frostings that come prepared and have high transfat shortening in it. Why? firstly because it is easy to handle shortening based buttercream than butter, secondly shelf life is very long and finally they can withstand the temperature of hottest places in summer. If any of you have used shortening to make the buttercream, you'll know that zero transfat crisco based buttercream tend to melt compared to high transfat shortening based one.

Wilton's all shortening white buttercream

For stiff consistency -
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 TBSP water or milk
1 TBSP meringue powder (This helps in crusting, to make it egglesss, add 1 TBSP of corn starch in its place)
4 cups of powdered sugar.
Flavoring - vanilla or almond or butter or combination of these extracts.

Beat shortening, meringue powder or corn starch and 2 TBSP of water. To avoid sickly sweetening taste, add a pinch of popcorn salt or grind regular salt very finely and add or dissolve salt in 2 TBSP of water and use that instead. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat till mixed very well. This is perfect for making roses, string work.

To make it medium consistency - To the above recipe, add 1 TBSP of liquid and beat. This is used for making drop flowers, borders, flat petaled flowers, stars.
To make it thin consistency - To the above recipe add 2 TBSP of liquid and beat or 1 TBSP of liquid to medium consistency buttercream. This is used for icing the cake, writing, cornelli lace.
You can know more about where to use which consistency icing here. If the consistency is not correct, you can always make it thicker or stiffer by adding more confectioner's sugar and thin by adding more liquid and whipping or mixing again.
This can be stored in refrigerator for 2 weeks if using milk or outside for 2 weeks if you use water.

A tip: If you are planning on coloring this buttercream with violet, make sure you use milk. If you use water, it'll turn blue and never be violet.

Half and Half buttercream

I call it half and half because this is basically the same recipe as mentioned above but uses half shortening and half butter. This is much better tasting buttercream than wilton's all shortening buttercream. But, you might not need all the liquid since butter has some water content in it. There is one important thing no recipe tells you. That is your body heat. Some people have very warm hands. Those people need to make their icing stiffer than usual to prevent sugar melting due to heat and becoming hard to pipe.Once you play with the icing, you'll know what works best for you.

Now coming to my favorite buttercream which crusts beautifully and I can control the consistency very well is here..

My Favorite buttercream
This is a result of my experimenting with various buttercream recipes from different websites and forums. I have come to the conclusion that this is the best suited for me so I am sharing this with you all..

1 cup unsweetened butter at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup of solid vegetable shortening (crisco)
flavoring (I use quite a bit vary according to your taste) - 2 tsp of favorite extracts.
3 pounds of confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
Heavy whipping cream  - 6 to 8 TBSP based on the consistency desired.
Corn syrup to thin the icing if needed.

Beat butter, shortening together till creamy. Add salt and slowly add confectioner's sugar about a cup. Then add whipping cream in steps of 3 TBSP each and alternately add confectioner's sugar and corn starch till you have used up all the sugar.Beat for a minimum of 15 minutes and adjust the consistency using corn syrup.

There is no picture for this post, but I am away for the week and not in my kitchen. So, whatever I write if I write till I get back home will not have pictures. Any questions, leave a comment and I'll answer it to the best of my knowledge.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this post. Pin It


  1. I had no idea there are so many things to know about buttercream frosting.

  2. This is fantastic post! Thanks for sharing!! I wish we get Crisco here in India, it will def make life a lot easier for bakers like me :-)

  3. Parita, vegetable shortening is same as Dalda.

  4. Wish you and your family a happy and prosperous New Year and a great blogging year ahead!

  5. thanks for visiting my spac...e you have a lovely space... and wow.. wot an informative post..

    following u from now on...

  6. Thanks Sandhya. It is just to help out people who cannot take classes due to various reasons.

  7. First time here...Nice post abt frosting...U r right abt whipped frosting,but i heard ,the one u get in India holds well and good for decorating.. The addition of corn starch to buttercream sounds good,qwill try next time...

  8. oh this is great to know as I've never really learned about cake decorating!

  9. This is a very useful post for novice bakers like me! Thanks for posting this!

    Thanks for visiting my blog!! Reg. your query, actually I baked at 350 F only, but I wrote as 325 F by mistake. I never baked at 325 F before. Thanks for pointing it out. I corrected it in my post.

    Happy Holidays!!

  10. First time here..U ahve a wonderful blog!!Iam an amateur in baking..Havent tried frosting..Ur post is very informative..Gonna follow u:)

  11. This surely is a very useful post. Thanks for visiting and leaving your comments, please do participate in the home remedies event, looking forward for your entry.

  12. Thanks for visiting kothiyavunu and lending me to ur lovely space!!
    Very informative post!!Thanks for sharing.

  13. Hey Bangalore Baker,

    I'm glad I came here.... I was happy to see the word Indian on the foodie blog roll & jumped here.....happy to see all the delicacies showcased.... Brilliant!!!! i loved those Mango muffins, Akki rotti the most... I miss Ammana kai Akki rotti...after my wedding....

    Happy blogging!!!! Take Care.....

    Happy Celebrations!!!!

    Wishing You & your family a very happy year ahead....


  14. Hi Champa, I came here from foodie blogroll and so happy to discover ur blog! I have alot to learn from this especially cake decorations! Loved this post..Happy new year!! Do drop by at my blog when time permits.

  15. Hello,

    We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM YUM.
    We would like to add it to the

    We would be delighted if you could add your blog to Petitchef so that our users can, as us,
    enjoy your recipes.

    Petitchef is a french based Cooking recipes Portal. Several hundred Blogs are already members
    and benefit from their exposure on

    To add your site to the Petitchef family you can use or just go to and click on "Add your site"

    Best regards,


  16. Good tips and instructions.A definate book mark.

  17. Hi, followed the trail from my blog - Happy New Year!

  18. Hi champa, that's really informative write up, book marked the page for future reference, thanks for sharing all the details love, I came here today to wish you and your family a very happy new year, love to see lot more of your creations in the new year ahead

  19. Hi,thanks for dropping by and wish you and your family a very happy & a prosperous new year filled with lots of love ,peace & happiness always

  20. Cn you tell me what difference with vegetable shortening and butter??

  21. simplyfood, thanks for taking time to leave comments. Butter is made from milk. Fat from milk is churned into getting butter. Vegetable shortening is made from vegetable or corn or soyabean oils which are compressed to change their molecular structure so that they solidify at room temperature. Lard is also considered shortening, but is the fat from pig which is compressed to solidify too. Hope this helps.

  22. Hi Champa, I have a question for you. I prepared buttercream frosting with 1 cup butter and 1 cup shortening to ice a cake and have some more left. How long can I store this before it becomes bad? I remember my instructor telling that the shortening frosting keeps good in the fridge for 2 weeks or something. I don't want to bake another cake now. I thought that maybe I can bake a cake for Valentines Day and use it up then. Do you think it will hold well that long?


  23. Madhuram,
    You can freeze it for up to 6 months. Just remove it and leave it on the counter for 1 or 2 hours and it'll be good to spread or pipe. I always make ahead and freeze in case I have too many things going on and I need to decorate the cake too.

  24. Which Frossting shoudl be used for Black Forest Cake

  25. Soma, Traditionally Black forest cake is frosted with whipped cream frosting. I'll post the recipe for a stabilized whipped cream soon. Check this out.

  26. Thank you very much Champa. My uncle was visiting us for the weekend from India, so I couldn't get back to you immediately.

  27. hi first time here....nice post about cake decoration...really very informative...recently i took wilton class..while reviewing about class i found ur blog..i used corn starch in my buttercream it worked great..thanks for sharing......

  28. hi champa
    ur posts are just what i needed :P m just getting a hang of the total baking and decorating things n this really helps ... just wanted a clarification .... is corn starch same as the corn flour u get in india?? have been searching for corn flour and applesauce here but not able find it anywhr..

  29. Nandini,
    Corn starch is not the same as corn flour. You can interchange them in baking but not when you are making a frosting. You can just leave it out and try.

  30. Dear Champa,

    how do we make caramel flavoured butter cream? can we just add caramel syrup to the basic butter cream and make it?

  31. Devi,
    That would be one way to do. Do not use any liquid and use caramel syrup. If I remember correctly, there is caramel flavor also available which you can use instead of vanilla extract.

  32. And using brown sugar instead of confectioner's sugar also enhances the caramel flavor, but since brown sugar is grainy, you have to whip it with butter really well to make it smooth. I have not tried it, but just an idea.

  33. I was going through your favourite buttercream recipe and was wondering if there's a typing error. 3lbs of confectioner's sugar = 12 cups roughly. That seems like a lot to me for 1 cup butter and 1/3 cup shortening

    1. Sadaf Afshan,
      You are right about that being too much sugar. But, that is one of the buttercreams that gives you perfectly smoothed top without too much work. Usually for every cup of fat, you use 1 lb or 4 cups of confectioner's sugar but that is not for cake decorating at all. I used to use it before but now I stick to less sugary one. You can use just 2 lbs for it and see how you like it. Since I add corn starch, it takes away the sweetness a bit.

  34. Hi Champa - Just venturing into cake decoration...tried butter cream frosting with only butter, sugar, n milk with disastrous results :( Planning to try one from this post. This veg shortening wd be dalda, correct? Also, I dont have merignue powder or corn starch - will it affect too much? TIA Rashmi

  35. Hi Champa - You are doing some great stuff here. Couple of qns - Is vegetable shortening same as Dalda here? Also dont have corn starch / merignue powder - can I start w/o it or its absolutely necessary?

    1. Rashmi,
      Thanks. Vegetable shortening and dalda are same. You can leave out the meringue powder and corn starch. Use less liquid when you do that.

  36. Hi Champa..... Your favorite buttercream was really good... though i did reduce the sugar a bit..... it came out good and tasted yummy! Thank you!!


If you have a question and you leave it as a comment, I'll surely answer the question to the best of my knowledge. Thanks for visiting.