What Is Vanilla Frosting?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing
Vanilla frosting goes well with many flavors of cake.
Vanilla frosting goes well with many flavors of cake.

Vanilla frosting, often called icing, is a sweet substance that can be used to cover and decorate a variety of baked goods, particularly cakes. The primary ingredients usually include lots of sugar, milk, and butter with vanilla as flavoring, and it is fairly easy to prepare with a hand mixer. It pairs well with many other flavors, thereby making it a versatile frosting choice. Vanilla frosting can also be colored with food dye and used to decorate special items. Depending on the frosting's consistency, it can create interesting decorative effects.

As one of the most popular toppings, vanilla frosting is usually used on cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and a variety of other baked goods. It can be applied just on the top and sides of a cake or also between the layers. It's usually soft and spreadable, although the consistency can vary. When using vanilla frosting on a cake or other baked item, it's important to wait until the treat is completely cool before icing it. If the baked item is still warm when the frosting is applied, it won't stick and it will slide off. For optimal results, the frosting should be smooth and soft; it usually spreads best when it is room temperature.

The main ingredients in vanilla frosting include large amounts of granulated or confectioners' sugar, butter or shortening, milk, and vanilla extract. Different recipes call for varying amounts of each ingredient. Preparation is generally simple, involving placing all of the ingredients in a bowl and beating them with a mixer until fluffy and smooth.

The flavor of vanilla frosting pairs well with a variety of other tastes. This makes it very versatile; it can be used on items with a variety of flavors such as spice, chocolate, or classic yellow butter cake. It can also work well with cookies and cupcakes. For cookies, its a good idea to use a lot of confectioners' sugar and very little butter in preparation. This combination yields a thin frosting like a glaze that hardens well to a smooth surface so the cookies can be stacked.

Vanilla frosting is usually a shade of white, thereby making it easy to color using food dye. The coloring does not alter the flavor of the frosting, but it gives baked items a festive appearance. Aside from coloring the frosting, it's possible to add extra butter to achieve a firm consistency. The firm frosting can be used in a decorating bag fitted with one of a variety of shaped tips. In a technique called piping, a baker applies the frosting by squeezing the bag so it comes out through the tip, thus achieving a variety of decorative effects such as scrollwork, flowers, and stars.

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    • Vanilla frosting goes well with many flavors of cake.
      Vanilla frosting goes well with many flavors of cake.