Here are the step by step instructions to make the best whipped frosting! It’s a fluffy vanilla frosting with a texture like whipped cream and a less cloying sweetness than most other recipes!
A good cake has a great frosting to match. Because truly, frosting makes the cake. Right?
I’m glad that we agree. Now, bear with me here because I’m going to talk science and logistics of perfecting that sweet silky cream.
The slight problem I find with many homemade frostings (versus freshly made bakery versions) is that they’re either too heavy or too sweet. Even the best buttercreams have a slightly overpowering presence on cupcakes and layer cakes. They’re delicious, don’t get me wrong, but the flavor is often a little heavy on the unsalted butter (you know that straight slick of cream coating your tongue?) or the powdered sugar isn’t as incorporated as it should be, making it slightly gritty. The texture isn’t silky enough, the flavor isn’t delicate enough, to properly balance a tender, soft-crumbed cake.
The best frostings must be so well balanced and blended that no one flavor note sticks out in isolation. And there’s a word for that perfect blending of flavors: ‘amplitude.’ It occurs when all of the various ingredients in something fuse to create a seamless and uniform crescendo of taste. (Malcolm Gladwell refers to amplitude in his essay, The Ketchup Conundrum, where he writes about how and why Heinz Ketchup secured the throne in the world of ketchup. It’s because of it’s unmatched flavor blending, FYI) The beauty of a frosting with high amplitude is that you don’t taste the components of the frosting separately; you taste them as one intense mix. It’s not a hit of butter, then a gritty tingle of sugar, followed by a vanilla aftertaste. It’s all at once a sweet puff of cream. A single but complex flavor and texture.
That’s what I’m looking for in a frosting.
And that’s what I found in this whipped wonder.
It’s somewhat of a silky, more substantial whipped cream. A puffy cloud of milk and sugar.
It’s luxurious and smooth, but only subtly sweet. Perfectly light and fluffy, and able to make an intense cake somehow delicate and dainty. Really, it’s just the thing to balance an ultra rich chocolate fudge cake.
And it’s not difficult to whip up either. Essentially, you make a roux of milk and flour, which is just a thick creamy paste, and then whip it with softened butter and granulated sugar until you’ve got a big bowl of fluff on your hands. The flavor is gently vanilla; the texture is feather-light.
I made this frosting on Christmas Eve to top a sour cream fudge layer cake. I wanted something light enough to let the melting fudge layers to really take center stage. That kind of cake begs for a break from intensity and unrestrained decadence. It was a huge hit, and the most lovely icing I could have imagined slathered on my favorite cake.
I recommend using this recipe for any or all of the following three things: 1) a bold baked good that needs a light complement, 2) a soft, fluffy crumbed cake, 3) everlasting happiness.
Here is how to make it:
In a medium saucepan, whisk one cup of milk with 5 tablespoons of flour. Heat over medium until the mixture begins to sputter, whisking constantly.
Continue to stir as the mixture thickens. You will know it’s done when it reaches the consistency of thick cake batter, after about 7 minutes of heating and whisking.
Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and set aside to cool COMPLETELY.
Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or using a hand held mixer, beat 2 sticks of softened butter (1 cup) with 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar until light, fluffy, and white in color, about 3 solid minutes of beating on medium-high speed. You want the sugar to be totally incorporated into the butter.
Now, be sure that the milk/flour mixture has completely cooled, and add it to the butter/sugar mixture.
Beat all ingredients for about 1 minute on high speed, scraping down the bowl halfway, until they are smooth and well blended.
The frosting should be as light and fluffy as whipped cream. Use it to frost a layer cake, to generously pipe atop 12 cupcakes, or as a main course. Really.