Racine Cake Decorator’s Guide to Icing/Frosting when Ordering a Cake

Lisa Gister of Racine is a senior cake decorator (specializing in wedding cakes) at O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, decorating cakes for close to twenty years.  O&H is one of the premier bakeries in SE Wisconsin and well known for their delicious and gorgeous cakes.     When ordering a cake, a customer has many options, one of them being the type of icing or frosting.   Lisa, as a guest contributor to our blog, lays out our options and gives us some tips when choosing or decorating cakes at home.

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1.  Buttercream – “This is the No. 1 seller for cakes at O&H.  If a customer does not specify the icing, buttercream is what we use.   The base of the icing is butter, lard, and powdered sugar.  It is fluffy, provides a nice decorating surface, can be colored and does not develop a crust.”  Although it is perishable, buttercream does not have to be refrigerated when you pick up the cake.   (It can set on the counter for a few days) Because of this, buttercream is  a great option for large cakes where the size of cake makes it impossible to place in a regular refrigerator.


2.   Chocolate Buttercream – “This is my personal favorite icing we make at O&H but admittedly I would call myself a chocoholic.   The ingredients are the same as regular buttercream, with the addition of cocoa.   The only drawback to using a chocolate buttercream is that because it is darker in color, some designs may not show up as well.”

Choc buttercream

3.   Whipped Cream Frosting – “This is our second most popular icing, its light and not as sweet as buttercream.  The disadvantages are that we do not color whipped cream frosting, the results are not ideal.   Also, with whipped cream frosting, the cake must be refrigerated.   With whipped cream, once in a while the surface toppings may bleed or have a wet look because of the moisture content.   However, if you want that light taste, there is no substitute.”

Whipped cream

4.   German Chocolate Frosting – “This is a frosting made with butter, pecans and coconut.   Obviously it is usually requested in combination with a German chocolate cake.  When this frosting is ordered, we like to use a chocolate buttercream base on the cake, and then top it with german chocolate icing.   Because of the uneven surface, it is difficult to decorate on top of a German chocolate iced cake.”   [Interesting fact: German chocolate cake has nothing to do with Germany, it was a recipe developed by an American baker, Sam German.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_chocolate_cake%5D

German chocolate2

5.   Cream Cheese Icing – “The base of this icing is cream cheese, lard, and powdered sugar.  It is traditionally combined with a carrot or red velvet cake.   It is perishable, but like buttercream, immediate refrigeration is not required.   Cream cheese icing has a tendency sometimes to develop cracks, but if a customer wants a sprayed-on design, cream cheese is a great option.  Colors appear very vibrant with cream cheese icing as a base.”

Cream cheese

O&H offers some specialty options like fondant (kind of a sugary play-doh like icing.) “It can be aesthetically pleasing, but it is more of a cover and not recommended for taste.”

“Whipped cream icing is the only option for a icing without lard but any good buttercream or cream cheese icing must use lard.  Without this ingredient the texture just won’t be the same”

Lisa offers a couple of tips for the home cake baker/decorator.

  •  “Making buttercream frosting is not difficult and homemade frosting always tastes better.  If you absolutely must use frosting out the can, beat if with a mixer for a minute and it will spread easier and have a much better texture.”
  • “If you can do so, bake your cake the day before and put it in the freezer overnight.   Let it thaw a few minutes and then ice it when it is just beyond frozen, no crumbs this way.”
  • “You can buy decorator bags at most of the craft stores and they always come with an “edger” tip.  Use this to frost the sides of the cake.”
  • “Don’t start smoothing your icing until you have all the icing you need on the cake.  This avoids crumbs”

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