Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday: Having our cake...and eating it, too

Golden cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and homemade royal icing.

This is a first for us - a cake made completely from scratch, down to the icing. A student in Lizz's lab is graduating, and following lab tradition Lizz provided the homemade cake. As you can see, the cake featured a scientific theme (an illustration of the localized surface plasmon resonance of metal nanopaticles), as well as other lovely details, all thanks to Giselle (and a cake decorating kit).

Here's a close-up of the blue rosettes and the purple ribbon along the side of the cake:

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there is in fact a distinction between frosting and icing. Frosting is the softer "all-over" layer, while icing is the harder substance used for the decorative elements.

Buttercream frosting is more or less what it sounds like: copious amounts of creamed butter and confectioner's sugar, plus a smaller amount of cream (or milk). The sugar and cream are added alternately to the butter until everything is blended.

Royal icing, on the other hand, is trickier (and more painful, if you don't have an electric mixer...which we don't). Egg whites are beaten with confectioner's sugar and a little vanilla until the mixture reaches the "stiff peaks" stage. Once it reaches this point, it can be separated into batches and mixed with food coloring. To make the decorations, it is spooned into a pastry bag and piped out through differently-shaped metal tips.

Not to be too modest or anything, but we thought that this cake was a rather amazing accomplishment.

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