Yes, you read that right! Besides being delicious and screaming to be eaten, frosting actually has a purpose. Can you believe that? Something that tastes so great and is often the favored part of the whole cake has a purpose. I know shocking! So, lets get to it.
Originally cakes were left unfrosted. And I keep using the word frosting here like thats what came first. No, no, no! Another little, did ya know, icing and frosting are not the same thing. What came first, the icing or the frosting?
Icing is usually used to glaze pastries or cakes, and tastes more sugary than frosting. The Williams-Sonoma cookbook states that “icing is generally thinner and glossier,” Think, scone topping. While its counterpart frosting is “a thick, fluffy mixture, used to coat the outside of a cake.” Thats the kind I like!
Icing was created in the mid 1600’s. Tada! Icing came first. The main ingredients were sugar, egg white and sometimes flavor was added. The mixture was then poured over the cake and baked. This would create a tasty barrier to keep the cake moist. And there you have it…the purpose!
As time went on icing was bumped up to frosting. Frosting as we know is a sweet, often creamy glaze made of sugar with a thinner such as water or milk, that is often enriched with things like butter, egg whites, cream cheese, or flavorings. Now we have created something we can work with! Frosting adds a decorative quality icing could never compare to. Now days cakes really are a work of art.
Who knew the original purpose of icing or frosting was to keep the cake from becoming stale as it sat on the counter in earlier days. Where an oil cake can sit for a day or two and be just fine, a butter cake will dry out much faster. The invention of frosting acted like a plastic wrap to keep the cake moist. And guess what? It taste great too. What a perfect pair!
Now it seems the only problem is deciding what flavors to pair together and if you want it iced or frosted.