The Icing on the Cake
The look, taste, and keeping ability of your wedding cake depend, in large measure, on your choice of frosting.
We asked Jay Muse, wedding-cake baker extraordinaire of
Porcelain smooth, matte finish (can be finished with metallic or pearl luster)
Excellent. Fondant creates a suitable base for a variety of colors, textures, and embellishments.
Poor. Many find fondant, which is often manufactured and sold ready-to-use, overly sweet and its texture too firm and chewy or hard (if refrigerated). In addition, most fondant recipes call for hydrogenated vegetable oils to give it a “creamier” texture and longer shelf life.
Excellent. Fondant can keep a cake fresh for several days, even in warm weather, by protecting it from air exposure. It’s like edible plastic wrap.
If your baker makes his fondant from scratch, he can tinker with the recipe to make it tastier and even healthier. At Lulu’s, for example, they use an organic fondant with oat shortening instead of hydrogenated gunk.
Slightly off-white appearance, dull, porous, rustic—sometimes surface imperfections appear
Limited. A few roses or rose petals are about all you can (or should) consider. A heavy cake topper should be avoided.
Excellent. A mix of fresh cream, sugar, and usually vanilla, this is the most flavorful icing of all.
Poor. Whipped cream, aka Creme Chantilly, is the most temperamental of all wedding-cake exteriors.
Some bakers add a stabilizer to their whipped cream, or use a non-dairy “fake” version so that the whipped cream will hold up for the length of a reception. Both measures result in less-than-perfect icing.
Glossy (shinier than fondant), smooth, light texture
Limited. Often, the light texture is not strong enough to support the addition of heavy surface decorations such as cascade sugar and fresh flowers. Small touches, such as clusters and a crown on top of the cake and other light embellishments can work well and textural patterns, including intricate designs, such as lace patterns and swags, are often better achieved through buttercream than fondant.
Very good. Buttercream is made by beating sugar syrup into egg yolks and then adding butter. The result is very rich and smooth.
Poor. French buttercreams melt alarmingly fast in warm weather.
Try American (also called “simple” or “cupcake buttercream”) instead. Made by creaming butter with confectioner’s sugar, this firmer and sweeter icing withstands warmer temperatures (not hot) and holds flowers and other decorations quite well.
Smooth, glossy chocolate
Good. Although you’re limited to the brown chocolate color, ganache is a flexible medium for various patterns, including scrolls, dots, and even a basket weave.
Very good. Ganache is a rich mixture of chocolate and heavy cream so it’s quite rich. It can also be flavored with liqueurs or extracts.
Very good. Ganache is fairly stable.
Get creative with flavor. At Lulu’s, they’ve infused ganache with unique flavors like green tea, Bailey’s Irish Cream, hazelnut, and even black-pepper cardamom.