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Feb 2, 2005 06:34 PM

ISO Not-Too-Sweet Frosting Recipe

  • p

I make layer cakes often, but I'm frustrated by the frosting recipes that come with, which require 2,3,4 cups of confectioners sugar. My last cake with a caramel frosting was a disaster when initially I tried to cut the amount of sugar in the recipe resulting in a runny frosting, then when I added the required amount of sugar to fluff it up, I ended up having to scrape the frosting off the cake because it was so sweet, it was giving me raging sugar headaches.

I am looking for recipes that limit the sugar while still maintaining the lovely taste and texture. Or any tips that allow me to cut the sugar from an existing recipe while still being spreadable.

Please, no wimpy frosting suggestions like whipped cream or meringue-type frostings and no sugar substitute suggestions, like Equal or Splenda.

Thanks so much for your help, chowhounders!

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  1. Assuming this is not a wimpy suggestion, have you ever used ganache? Very easy to make and use, simpler than frostings. Chocolate ganache is merely one part heavy cream to one to two parts dark (bitter or semi sweet) chocolate; comparatively light in the sweetness department as frostings go (though there are variations on ganache that add sugar/corn syrup and butter, plus flavorings like vanilla or espresso).

    1. Here's an easy chocolate glaze that isn't terribly sweet. In a saucepan, bring to a boil 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter, and 1/3 cup milk. Boil for one minute by the clock. Immediately stir in 1 cup chocolate chips until they melt. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Immediately pour over warm cake. It will harden as the cake cools.

      1. c

        Traditional buttercream isn't very sweet. It is very rich. People who like it tend to think powdered sugar "buttercream" is an achingly sweet thief to the name. People who like powdered sugar frostings tend to think people who like buttercream are obsessed with butterfat. (Speaking personally, this may be true.)

        Anyway, here's the basic recipe:

        4 large egg whites
        1 cup sugar

        Place in a bowl over simmering water and whisk until warm to the touch.
        Remove from heat. Whip until cool. Add, in small chunks

        3 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature

        Beat the bejesus out of it. It should be fluffy and light and smooth as silk. If seems heavy and slimey, you need to whip it longer. If it breaks, it's probably too cold, though it could be too warm (if you really melted some of the butter by putting it in the warm meringue). Easily fixed by warming/chilling and beating some more. Flavor as you wish with up to 2 T of liquid (booze, coffee, etc.), melted chocolate, or whatnot. You can also make buttercreams with liquid sugars (honey, maple syrup, caramel), but the procedure is slightly more complicated. Let me know if you would like more info on that.

        I assume that you didn't mean buttercream when you mentioned meringue-type frostings, that you were referring to boiled frostings and so forth. But if I am wrong, my apologies (I hate it when people don't actually read the post they're responding to.)

        4 Replies
        1. re: curiousbaker

          I had the same thought as curiousbaker. Try a European buttercream, not an American. Although I generally make mine with egg whites, it can also be made with whole egg (IIRC, it's more stable, but, not as white as when made with egg whites only).

          When I've made an Italian meringue buttercream, I've usually whipped the egg whites to no more than soft peak and added boiling sugar syrup (I think to the softball stage). whip until cool, add butter. Incredibly rich, not achingly sweet. Don't be fooled by the meringue in the title, it's not some 'light' icing.

          I've never done one the way curious baker describes, but that's just because I'm too lazy to whip the egg whites and sugar by hand over simmering water and I don't have a hand-held mixer. The method curious describes is pretty standard.

          Good luck,


          P.S. Curious--the re-work you mentioned for using liquid sugar, is that the method I use for making my buttercream?

          1. re: Smokey

            You don't actually whip the egg whites and sugar over simmering water. That would cause the mixture to become gritty. You're just carefully heating the mixture and stirring slowly until the sugar dissolves and it's warm to the touch. Then you beat it until stiff and cool, slowly add butter, etc.

            1. re: meta

              Yes, that's a better description. I use a whisk, but the mix just gets a little frothy, not properly whipped.

            2. re: Smokey

              Yes, that's it. Bring the sugar up to the softball stage, then pour into the softly whipped egg whites. That's the method you use with whole eggs (or even just yolks), too. That's an Italian buttercream, and it's a bit more stable than a Swiss, but also a bit more work, requires a candy thermometer, and so on, so I usually recommend the Swiss style for people who haven't made buttercream before.

              I LOVE maple buttercream made the Italian way. I have also made caramel buttercream with 1 1/3 cups sugar (not as sweet when caramelized), cook into a caramel, add a bit of water, then bring again to soft-ball stage. There's probably an easier way, but that's how I do it, and it's very nice.

              Oh, and as meta mentions below, you don't need to really whip the whites over the water. I just use a whisk and mix them a bit, then put the bowl back on the KitchenAid and let it rip.

          2. For a dead easy chocolate frosting that's not too sweet you might want to try Chocolate Sour Cream frosting. It retains the tang of sour cream and is very smooth - no grit whatsoever. The flavour of sour cream can be a bit intrusive, if you don't like that kind of thing - but you can't beat it for simplicity.

            2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
            1-1/2 cups sour cream
            1 tsp. vanilla

            In a double boiler, or in a saucepan set over a pan of hot (not boiling) water, melt the chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

            Add the sour cream and the vanilla and beat, with an electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth and creamy. Let cool just slightly - until the frosting begins to thicken. But don’t wait too long because it will quickly thicken beyond spreadability.

            Makes enough to fill and frost one 9-inch (23 cm) two-layer cake, or a couple of pans of brownies.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Nyleve

              Do you think you could sub the sour cream for creme fraiche for a less "sour" taste, or would in be too runny?

              1. re: Funwithfood

                If the creme fraiche is good and thick, I think you could do it. But first I'd try it with sour cream - sour cream is cheaper and more generally available. I personally like the flavour. But you know, you could add a touch of icing sugar to take the edge off if you prefer.

            2. How about the boiled flour type frostings? Doesn't sound very appetizing, but the flour adds thickening so you don't have to use so much sugar. And it's milk based. I haven't used the particular recipe linked below, but have tried similar.