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All About the Icing on the Cake

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Krista Lautenbach, “Master Sugar Shaker” for San Diego’s Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. and a winner on Food Network competition show “Cupcake Wars,” shares her frosting favorites.

Fondant

An extremely versatile edible sugar dough (think Play-Doh), fondant is most often rolled to cover cakes for a smooth, flawless look. It’s the go-to for sculpted cakes, but it also can be twisted, painted, air brushed and used for cutouts, figurines, plaques and toppers, Lautenbach says. Because it’s trickier to work with – it dries fairly quickly and can crack – be prepared to pay at least a dollar more per person. But it’s a great choice for summer soirées as it won’t dissolve in higher heat.

Buttercream

Tasty and affordable, buttercream can be scraped, piped, colored and flavored, says Lautenbach. “My favorite that we make at Sweet Cheeks is Latte Italian-style Buttercream.” She also notes that a good decorator can make this popular frosting look just as smooth as fondant. Skip it if your festivities will take place in warm or humid weather, as the butter base can melt.

Ganache

“Ganache is for the true chocolate lover only!” says Lautenbach of this intense, smooth combination of chocolate and heavy cream. “Use a good quality dark chocolate for the yummiest of results – 65 percent (cocoa) is perfect for me.” It can be poured, dipped, drizzled or even whipped to create a frosting, but if it’s hot out, make sure your cake is stored in a refrigerator or air-conditioned space to prevent any decorations from falling.

Cream Cheese

Faster and easier to make than European buttercream, this mixture of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla can be flavored with some extracts. Just be careful when using dyes, warns Lautenbach, because too much liquid can cause the frosting to break down. To create a richer, less sweet and more sophisticated taste, Lautenbach recommends folding in mascarpone cheese, a trick that helped clinch her “Cupcake Wars” win.

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Tags: cakes, icing, fondant, buttercream, ganache, frosting,