If you are an avid baker, there’s no doubt that you have a special spot in your heart for any or all of these – icing, fondant, glaze or frosting.
In fact, you always wonder how you can ever get by without them. They breathe new life to otherwise plain baked items. Read on to know how they differ as well as how long they last.
A Brief History
Like me, you may be guilty of enjoying these sweet treats, oblivious to how they came about to exist. Well, sit back and enjoy a brief, sweet history about these items.
The use of icings was first noted in the 15th Century. It was used to coat marzipan – a mixture of sugar and almond paste. Marzipan was a popular treat during celebrations and parties.
Later on, a French chef was attributed to frosting the first multilayered cake. With time, the use of whipped egg whites provided longer lasting frostings and icings.
Decorated cakes were associated with aristocrats. For instance, the timeless white icing wedding cake is attributed to Queen Victoria.
Fondant came about as a softer alternative to royal icing. Besides cakes, cupcakes and muffins became popularised in the early 20th Century. However, cupcake frostings gained momentum from 1950. Their use became ingrained in everyday living.
How Do Frosting, Icing, Glaze and Fondant Differ?
If you were to describe each one of them to a baking newbie, what would you say?
Terms such as icing, glaze and frosting are usually used interchangeably. However, a few differences stand out among them. Check them out below:
This is a mixture used to decorate, coat or fill dessert items. These include cakes, cookies and cupcakes.
Structurally, frosting is made using thick items like cream or cheese. As such, frosting has a thick texture.
Nowadays, you will find additional ingredients like curd, fruit puree as well as custard. Fondant is usually spread using a spatula. You can also pipe it on top of products.
Common examples of frostings include: buttercream frosting, meringue frosting, whipped cream frosting, cooked as well as cream cheese frosting.
Since antiquity, this term has been generally used to mean any coating applied on baked products. However, a basic icing recipe is sugar based.
Additionally, icing has a runny consistency. The common type of sugar used is icing sugar, which is powder-like. The liquid used can be milk, fruit juice or syrup. You can also enrich it with whipped egg whites, melted butter or food coloring.
When dried, icings will harden and set. It is usually applied by pouring or spooning.
Examples of icings include royal icing and chocolate ganache.
In all honesty, a glaze is similar to icing. However, it is thinner in consistency. This is due to a smaller amount of sugar used, compared to icing.
It is a simple mixture of icing sugar and liquids such as water, juice or milk. For example, you can make lemon glaze to pour over lemon pound cake or lemon biscuits.
When applied on items, glaze does not harden on the products. It is usually applied by pouring over the product.
When baking, nothing brings out your playful side than fondant. It is no wonder fondant is commonly known as the ‘edible play-dough’.
This mound is the stiffest and hardest among the four. Besides decorating, fondant is the shining star in cake sculpting.
A basic fondant recipe includes icing sugar, corn syrup and water. This mixture gives you a pour able fondant.
Modified versions are added with glycerin, vegetable oil and gelatin. These additions make the fondant pliable. This type is commonly known as roll-able fondant.
Unlike the other three, fondant is rolled into sheets which you can then cut or shape into desired decorations. You can also mix the fondant with food colorings as desired.
Shelf Life of Frosting, Icing, Glaze and Fondant
All the above cake decorative items expire. How you handle and store them is crucial in their shelf life. Proper storage can extend the shelf life greatly.
When dealing with icings and the rest, you are bound to use homemade or commercially packaged. For health conscious nerds, homemade items are ideal. This is because you know all the ingredients you have used.
Shelf life of Canned and Commercially Packaged
Commercially packaged comes in numerous ways. These include spray bottles, pressure tubes, canned, sheets or carton filled. Additionally, most commercial frostings are sold as dry mixes, whereby you only need to add a liquid before using. Ready to use icings and gel also abound.
Nonetheless, it is imperative to follow manufacturer’s guidelines on usage and storage.
Commercially packaged ones also have a printed ‘best before date’. This is meant to guide you on how long the product remains in good quality. Since it is not a ‘use by date’, you can safely use such products beyond the printed date.
For instance, unopened canned frosting keeps well in the pantry. It remains in good quality for up to 18 months. When opened, use it within 3 weeks at most.
On the other hand, dry frosting mix can serve you for half a year. Always seal the carton well after each use.
When it comes to ready to use icings, they are usually filled in pressure tubes. Once you open and use the pressure tubes, the contents are made in such a way that they harden or liquefy. This makes them ineffective. As such, always replace them.
On the other hand, fondant has a fairly long shelf life. It is also freezer friendly. If you have store-bought fondant, retain its original package. Seal well after each use. Coat any leftover fondant in vegetable oil or shortening. This prevents dryness and moisture absorption. Store in airtight containers. Well frozen fondant keeps well for up to 2 years.
Shelf Life of Homemade Types
Whereas commercially packaged ones last longer, homemade icings and frostings deteriorate quickly. As such, refrigerate your frostings, icings or glaze after each use. Make use of them within 2 weeks.
If not, store in airtight containers. Refrigerate or freeze them. Well refrigerated buttercream can last up to 1 month. You can also freeze your icings for up to 6 months.
Here are a few pointers when identifying spoiled frosting or icings:
- Bulging of cans for canned ones
- Mold growth on fondant
- Change in texture – cream based frostings are likely to have separation and curdling.
- Off – odor
Working with fondant, icing, glaze or fondant is not only fun, it is a wonderful way of bringing out your creativity as a baker.