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This gooey, yet light mock version of “boiled” icing is easily made by a fool-proof technique for novices and seasoned cooks alike. My 7 Minute “Fake it” Frosting has great shine, luscious texture, and a delicate flavor. The best part is it can be used as a blank pallet for any flavored cake with a simple switch of extracts or toppings. Its versatility, and delectable flavor will make it a staple in your baking repertoire.
7 Minute Frosting, also known as boiled icing, is a popular finishing touch for cakes baked in the South. It’s commonly atop Traditional Coconut Cakes and often layered slices of Red Velvet. To be honest, I can’t stand the stuff. Well, I couldn’t stand it. Each time I ate the gooey topping, its achingly sweet and sticky consistency was off-putting, and overwhelmed the flavor of whichever cake it iced. According to the Georgia and Florida Southerners among which I lived, there’s an implicit rule requiring boiled icing to have gritty pieces of sugar running throughout. This was just so counter-intuitive because my training and experience taught me to avoid re-crystallized grains of sugar at all costs. Particularly so when making frosting given that whether its buttercream, or Italian Meringue, it’s meant to be smooth, not too dense, and with good effortless structure.
In a buttercream kind of mood? Try my Lighter Ermine Frosting; Guilt Free Roux Buttercream
Boiled or Scrambled?
The process to make boiled icing poses a unique challenge in several ways. 7 minute frosting, or “boiled Icing”, combines egg whites and sugar while being cooked over a water bath. Sounds simple right? Well, not quite. There is a few things that may go wrong, most likely if you aren’t well practiced. If your bowl touches the simmering water, it’ll inadvertently cook the icing too quickly. The edges of the whites could be missed and not be scraped well enough with the whisk lacing your frosting with lumps of burnt egg. Your arm may fatigue before the icing is finished. And those don’t even consider the weather.
Ironically, this is popular in the most humid parts of our country, yet is less likely to be made successfully on a humid or rainy day. The moisture in the air can cause the sugar to re-crystalized as you are beating the whites, even after it’s been cooked. When that happens, you end up with chunks of gritty sugar running throughout, despite having melted it over heat. Are you as stressed and terrified of this frosting as I am?!
The Italian Fix to the Southern Frosting
I was able to create a lighter version of the traditional 7 minute Frosting, both in calories and density. In addition, this technique is much more fool-proof and not dependent on the weather. I made my “fake” frosting using an Italian Meringue method which keeps the eggs off the heat, and the water-bath in your tub. Sounds fancy, right? Well, although it’ll look lavish and elegant, this is an easier, grit-less, and non-sticky replacement.
The Technique to Avoid Cooked Eggs and Crystallization
As I suggested earlier, avoiding crystallization in your sugar will guarantee a smooth frosting. We can do that by melting the sugar with a bit of water and cooking the mixture into a syrup before incorporating it into your meringue. But, the syrup can similarly crystallize, so it’s essential to be deliberate about your technique. Wiping down the inner sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush ensures that dry sugar crystals don’t fall in after the rest of the sugar has been transformed. Also important is to resist the urge to stir your syrup as it cooks. I know it’s tempting, but that will make sugar crystals, undoing your work. Keeping “hands off” is the simplest way to tackle this method. The set of steps sound rather involved, but after you do it once, you’ll see it’s much easier than pastry shops make it appear.
What flavorings would you use to customize this frosting, and for which cakes?
7 Minute “Fake it” Frosting
Enough to frost a 10″ 2-layer cake
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp cream of tarter
- 2 tbsp water, plus a small bowl from brushing.
- 3 eggs white, MUST BE at room temp
- 1/8 tsp coconut flavor (for my Low Fat, Low Calorie *Southern Style Coconut Cake*; Made with the Usual Baking Ingredients) or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- In a small heavy bottom saucepan, pour in your sugar. Add in the water and using your finger, make circles to combine it all so all the sugar is combined and looks like wet sand. (When you are doing this, be careful not to let it splash up too much on the sides. It’ll make the next step easier.)
- Using a pastry brush, dip it in water and brush the sugar down off the sides. Heat the mixture over medium heat and boil to 243°. It should only take a few minutes.
- WHILE the sugar is cooking, combine the egg whites and cream of tarter and using your hand/stand mixer use the whisk attachment to whisk to soft peaks. Here’s a great article on how to know when your whites are at each stage: How to whip egg whites (without screwing it up)
- As soon as sugar reaches temperature, with the mixer whisking at medium to medium high speed, SLOWLY in a thin, steady stream, incorporate in all the cooked sugar. Continue to whisk until the meringue is at stiff peaks and completely cooled.
- Whisk in the 1/8 tsp coconut flavor if you decide to use it.