Confectioner’s sugar frosting is a sweet, creamy food that is often used to top cakes and cupcakes before serving. As the name suggests, this type of frosting is made primarily from confectioner’s sugar, which is also called powdered or icing sugar in different areas. This is typically combined with milk and a little flavoring, though richer recipes can call for the use of butter in addition to the milk. Confectioner’s sugar frosting is fairly similar to buttercream frosting, though it’s a bit simpler to make, and it has a natural white appearance that is excellent for dying and for use in decorating cakes.
The primary ingredient in just about all recipes for confectioner’s sugar frosting is the namesake sweetener, confectioner’s sugar. This is basically plain, white sugar that is ground down into very fine powder rather than the more sizable crystals found in granulated sugar. A little bit of cornstarch is typically added to this sugar to keep it from clumping together, which is important for those interested in making powdered sugar at home. The use of this sweetener in confectioner’s sugar frosting allows it to dissolve properly in cold milk and butter, rather than requiring heating like granulated sugar often does.
There are many different recipes for confectioner’s sugar frosting that can be used, though they all tend to have similar ingredients and processes for making them. Confectioner’s sugar is typically added to a small amount of milk and then beaten either by hand with a whisk or through the use of an electric mixer. Additional milk can be added a small amount at a time to reach the desired consistency for the frosting. Flavors such as vanilla extract or cocoa powder can be added to the confectioner’s sugar frosting to enhance its taste, and some recipes may call for a small amount of butter.
Confectioner’s sugar frosting is fairly similar to some types of buttercream frosting, though there are important differences between this and Italian buttercream. Recipes for Italian buttercream frosting require the use of a number of egg whites, which are beaten and then sugar syrup is prepared and added to them. Butter is then added and the entire mixture is whipped until it takes on a light and fluffy consistency. Simpler recipes for buttercream frosting are usually similar to confectioner’s sugar frosting, but often begin with whipped butter. Powdered sugar is added, followed by a small amount of milk to thin out the icing.