Why is this frosting so good?
February 7, 2008 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to make the type of frosting that comes in a can? I love that frosting, but I also love cooking from scratch. I do not like buttercream or thin glazes much. Is there a name for the type of frosting that you usually find in a can? Can it be approximated at home? What gives it its distinctive taste? Do you have a recipe?
posted by lgyre to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The Cooks Illustrated American Classic recipe for chocolate frosting is what canned frosting was supposed to be, once upon a time. I do not have the recipe with me just now, but all it requires is light corn syrup, dark chocolate, heavy cream, and a dash of vanilla (or mint if you want). Very easy.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:52 PM on February 7, 2008

Countess Elena seems to be talking about this.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:42 PM on February 7, 2008

I haven't actually tried this one myself, but I love their Chocolate Ganache. I hope they don't get mad I posted this...

Ultra-Rich and Creamy Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
Published: March 1, 2005
Cook's Illustrated
Makes about 2 cups

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons corn syrup
Pinch table salt
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 8 pieces

Place chocolate in food processor fitted with metal blade. Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to boil in small saucepan (or in microwave); stir to combine. With food processor running, gradually add hot cream mixture through feed tube; process until mixture is smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl once. Add sugar and vanilla; process until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once. With machine running, add butter one piece at a time; process until smooth and no butter chunks remain, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer to small bowl and let stand at cool room temperature until thick and spreadable, about 30 minutes.
posted by mgogol at 5:44 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

SCDB: yes, that's very much it, with the exception of the directions. The recipe in the cookbook I read says to refrigerate the frosting and whip it by hand every 15 minutes, until desired texture is achieved. That, I think, is what gives it the texture that makes me think of what canned frosting should be.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:49 PM on February 7, 2008

Ganache really, really great, but only really comes in chocolate, since that's where your fat is coming from. Canned frostings, unfortunately, usually rely on hydrogenated oils, which are stable, and tend not to go rancid---both good qualities for frosting packed in a can which sits on the shelf at the supermarket for months.
If you want something not-chocolate, there are several excellent frosting recipes in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible; it's worth a trip to the library.
In general, I think you might be looking for a "boiled frosting", for which the sugar is cooked to soft-ball (248-250F, if I remember) before mixing it with the other ingredients. Many but not all boiled frostings are buttercreams, that is, the fat in the frosting is butterfat, but they won't be the same as a non-boiled buttercream. In my opinion, boiled buttercream is night-and-day better, but I love my butter--and have at least one friend who thinks they're intolerably rich. If you're one of those people, other boiled frostings include things like whipped egg whites for a lighter texture.
posted by pullayup at 6:11 PM on February 7, 2008

Oh yeah: if you only try one boiled frosting, give the neoclassic buttercream (from the Cake Bible) a shot.
posted by pullayup at 6:15 PM on February 7, 2008

Shoot, mangled the link: neoclassic buttercream.
posted by pullayup at 6:17 PM on February 7, 2008

I think canned frosting has the major ingredient of Crisco.
posted by konolia at 7:09 PM on February 7, 2008

I'm with konolia; the closest I've ever had to 'canned frosting' that wasn't canned frosting were frostings that basically involved mixing Crisco and powdered sugar with a little vanilla.

When you've seen the stuff made, it's a whole lot less appetizing ... but the taste is right on. Here is one recipe. It uses some regular Crisco and then a stick of 'butter-flavored Crisco' (must be a new product they're flogging). I've seen it done with just regular Crisco; I assume the only difference would be that it wouldn't taste buttery. I'm not positive but I think the recipe might be on the back of the large-size can.

Bottom line: it's an giant heaping scoop of hydrogenated vegetable oil, plus sugar and flavoring. Mmmm...
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:16 PM on February 7, 2008

This month's issue of Cooks Illustrated (Mar/Apr 08) has a tasty looking chocolate frosting recipe. It goes something like this:

20 T unsalted butter, softened
1C confectioners' sugar
3/4C Dutch-process cocoa
Pinch of salt
3/4C light corn syrup
1 t vanilla extract
8 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

Using a food processor, combine butter, sugar, cocoa and salt until smooth, scraping bowl as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined. Scrape bowl then add chocolate and pulse until creamy. Use immediately or refrigerate.
posted by slogger at 8:17 PM on February 7, 2008

BTW: "corn syrup" has been tradtionally "corn syrup" - i.e.: mostly glucose with a small amount of other natural sugars -- but that's been completely demolished and most of what you can find now in stores (e.g.: Karo) is made with HFCS instead. It's become VERY hard to find corn syrup that is corn syrup only. It has a much thicker texture and is not as sharply sweet. I find it significantly preferable, and, ironically, also much cheaper.

I like the Golden Barrel brand.
posted by Caviar at 1:07 PM on February 8, 2008

Konolia is right- all those frostings are sugar, Crisco, corn syrup and artificial flavors. I'm not sure you'll be able to exactly replicate them at home.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:50 PM on February 8, 2008

This is the basic recipe for decorator cake frosting:
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 3/4 tsp. Egg White Powder
1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp. clear vanilla, clear butter or other flavor
1/4 cup water

Stir together dry ingredients. Cream together wet ingredients. Beat together until fluffy.

Canned frosting has some extra preservatives, cellulose gum, corn starch, gelatin, and sodium laurel sulfate (to aid in whipping). None of those appear to be the secret to the flavor. If you want to modify the basic decorator recipe to taste more "Betty Crocker-esque" you could try tinkering with the flavoring...more vanilla or butter extract is probably part of it.

Canned frosting does have a distinctive taste that spans all of it's flavors - I've always thought it was the plastic tub that gave it that taste.
posted by 26.2 at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2008

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