Traditionally glossy royal icing would be used to cover a Christmas and if all you want is to create a snow effect on the surface, then this is the best icing to use.
Royal icing has an egg-white base that sets hard on standing (it dried on contact with air) and therefore it is also ideal for frosting cookies.
Royal icing is also used for making flowers, piping decorations and for decorating cookies and gingerbread houses since it has quite a sweet flavour.
On the other hand, royal icing dries to bone-hard consistency, becoming brittle and easy to crack. Therefore, royal icing decorations have to be handled carefully to prevent breaking. Exposure to moisture makes royal icing soft and gummy again but perhaps spoiling decorations and altering the consistency.
In comparison, fondant, also a classic icing to clover a Christmas cake needs practice and expertise to apply.
Fondant is also a type of icing that is used in different ways to ice cakes. Fondant has a clay-like consistency that can be shaped to make flowers and decorations and also rolled out to cover cakes.
In fact it is the ideal icing for a fruitcake since it covers cakes completely and seals out air, hence it preserves the cake very well.
There are two main types of fondant used in cake decorating:
- Rolled fondant is the traditional fondant used to roll out and cover cakes smoothly. It has to be kneaded like dough and has to be covered during use to prevent drying out.
- Quick-pour fondant is made over the stove and poured over cakes and petit fours to dry and harden, making a satin-smooth finishing possible over baked goods. Leftover fondant can be reheated and used again.
Fondant can be made at home, but many decorators prefer the easy availability of ready-made fondant.
Professional cake decorators prefer using fondant because of is ease of use and finish that fondant gives to cakes; Marshmallow fondant is a standard recipe for wedding cakes for example.
The consistency of fondant depends on the recipe used. Unlike buttercream icing that can be thinned out using water, fondant has to be made from scratch from a different recipe if you want a different consistency.
Fondant remains soft after decorating and does not dry out completely. It might form a crust, but never dries hard.
Buttercream is a popular icing that is made with a combination of butter, powdered sugar and flavouring. These are mixed together to make a rich, sweet, and creamy frosting. It spreads easily and is therefore perfect for smoothing over cakes, but also for piping designs and flowers, and writing. It stays well at room temperature and can be coloured using liquid or gel food colours.
Buttercream Icing goes really well with any kind of cupcake since it can be piped on top the cupcake becoming eye candy!
The consistency of buttercream can be varied depending on the use. Stiff buttercream can be used to pipe flowers and borders. Slightly thinned out buttercream can be used to spread smoothly over cakes and pipe lace-like decorations to cover cake surfaces.
Glazes are thin, watery icings which form a hard, crisp shell when poured or brushed over cakes and pastries. Glazes are usually made with a fruit flavour, although other flavours, such as chocolate or coffee, are sometimes popular as well. Like flat icing, glazes can be used on sweet breakfast pastries like coffee cakes. They add flavour, and also help keep the pastry moist and improve its shelf life.
Chocolate ganache is another cupcake frosting alternative. A ganache has a beautiful rich, smooth texture that transforms a cupcake into a magnificent dessert. It is easy to make and I guarantee you'll receive compliments from everyone who tries it.
Cream Cheese Frosting is a perfect partner for just about any cupcake recipe. You can play around with the quantities of butter and cream cheese to achieve a unique flavour.