Shortening Can Be Troublesome & Controversial

Decorating By chubbyalaskagriz Updated 12 Aug 2010 , 9:55pm by Rose_N_Crantz

chubbyalaskagriz Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 6:32am
post #1 of 146

I've been a member for over a year. I observe and puruse far more often than I actually participate... but very respectfully, I'd like to introduce a topic for discussion that could prove somewhat controversial- and I look forward to much wisdom from varied sources.

I'm a former executive chef who worked at country clubs, hotels, resorts, a cruiselines and for remote site Alaskan work camps for the oil industry- and pastry/cake decorating is just a side-bar to that which was always chief in my career.

We're all familiar w/ the bad rep that some styles of cake decorating and specifically frosting recipes have amongst the purchasing public. Many (most?) folks tend to harbor a real dislike toward shortening-based frostings. In fact, folks dislike the taste and idea of shortening so much that wedding cakes often rank right up there w/ fruitcakes as far as ridicule and resentment- and unpopularity.

How do ya'll deal with and cope with that?

For instance- the number one company out there as far as training and product also happens to be among the forerunners in promoting the standard use of shortening-based frostings. But in my experience those who buy cakes consider these recipes inferior, and they are not as well received by the paying public.

But this is just my own experience... what's YOURS?

Do you as a baker/cake decorator develop and adapt recipes for higher-end stylized frostings and fillings that don't have shortening anywhere near the list of added ingredients? Do you use real cream, real butter, cream cheese, mascarpone, cooked corn syrup options, etc. Or do the tried and true shortening-based recipes work well for you and your client-base?

What are your own feelings about this? Do you use and enjoy shortening-based frostings? Are they received well? Do you get any feedback specific to shortening as an ingredient? Do you offer alternative recipe frostings that do not use shortening and do you notice a difference in their popularity at all?

145 replies
bmarlow001 Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 7:16am
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I use both shortening and real butter in mine and everyone seems to like it. I personally don't like buttercream because of how sweet it is but to each his own, right? icon_razz.gif

jstoops08 Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 7:42am
post #3 of 146

I'm not a fan of shortening based icings. I hate the waxy taste and the mouth feel of it. I prefer using real butter. If I have to use shortening, I use hi-ratio like Sweetex. I have just started experimenting with Swiss meringue butter cream. So far everyone that has tried it has really enjoyed it. It isn't too sweet and the texture is gorgeous.

Texas_Rose Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 7:44am
post #4 of 146

It's just too hot here to use butter in the summertime, at least for me. I don't use the standard Wilton recipe and I've never had anyone ask if there's shortening in my buttercream.

Keep in mind that the Wilton recipes are designed to be used by beginners. They're designed to be simple, with ingredients that you can buy at the grocery store and you can mix up without having any special equipment. They're not claiming to be gourmet, just easy to use. I don't think they're promoting the standard use of shortening-based frostings, they just use what's easiest. Imagine if you had a class full of beginners and you told them to go home and whip up a batch of meringue buttercream. You'd never see half of them again icon_biggrin.gif

Anyhow, the people I've encountered seemed to care more what the cake looked like than what it tasted like.

indydebi Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 8:09am
post #5 of 146

I was unaware the cake buying public was so vocal about icing. Most cake civilians that I encounter have no idea what's in the icing. icon_confused.gif

neelycharmed Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 9:54am
post #6 of 146

I like all types of buttercream, and the majority of clients don't care what's in the icing , as long as it tastes good. thumbs_up.gif
Jodi icon_smile.gif

leily Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 10:17am
post #7 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I was unaware the cake buying public was so vocal about icing. Most cake civilians that I encounter have no idea what's in the icing. icon_confused.gif




Same here.
And i see grocery store's and supercenter bakeries "promoting" the shortening based buttercream more than Wilton. Since it's usually one of two icing availalbe.

artscallion Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 10:26am
post #8 of 146

I think the average person who doesn't make frosting, doesn't even realize it's made with shortening. On the occasions I've told someone it was, each and every one of them was shocked.

But I do agree that, whether they know what's in it or not, there is a general prejudice against what folks think of as thick, sugary "bakery frosting". But not all frostings are suited to all applications. So I use whichever's appropriate to what I'm doing.

jonahsmom Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 2:15pm
post #9 of 146

I have used both. You know which ones my friends and family prefer? The shortening based one. If you do it right (like IndyDebi or Sugarshack!) it tastes awesome. In fact - hubby very much disliked when I used real butter. He thought it was gross. Maybe a lot of it depends on location as well?

And I've never had anyone ask me what is in my frosting. I would think that if they were asking it would be because they, too, are a caker and have a specific preference in THEIR cakes.

mamawrobin Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 2:31pm
post #10 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I was unaware the cake buying public was so vocal about icing. Most cake civilians that I encounter have no idea what's in the icing. icon_confused.gif





Same here. icon_surprised.gif As a matter of fact in tastings Indydebi's bc ALWAYS wins...'hands down'.

Kiddiekakes Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 2:34pm
post #11 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I was unaware the cake buying public was so vocal about icing. Most cake civilians that I encounter have no idea what's in the icing. icon_confused.gif




Ditto...I exclusively use Whimisical BakeHouse Buttercream which is primarily 80% shortening but that is what my customers like!! They want/expect a whipped bakery icing that is not sweet and I find other BC recipes with less shortening or none to be too sweet.

Occasionally I have had a customer ask whether the shortening was animal based or vegetable due to their religion but once I state I use Crisco vegetable shortening...they are fine with it!

Caths_Cakes Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 2:42pm
post #12 of 146

I think it also depends on where you live, Im from the UK, so fruitcakes are very popular (keeping up with tradition icon_smile.gif

But also, shortening based recipes are almost unheard of over here, I have tried it, and tested it out on lots of people, And every one hated it, It wasn't so much the flavor that was the issue, it was the greasy feeling it left in peoples mouths, Ive tried different brands of shortening and always had the same results , Perhaps the Uk's version is different to the US's

For me and my customers, Its not about having extravagant flavors, Most people when they order a cake, Want something they know and were brought up on, so its usually chocolate with chocolate, or vanilla with jam and butter cream

Plus, We dont have leading brands over here like wilton, Although there are places that sell it, its not a huge thing here, But from personal experience, in the supermarkets here, They note they fact they use real butter in there butter icing icon_smile.gif

bakencake Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 2:46pm
post #13 of 146

I've always used the shortening butter cream icing, always!!!! I guess it's because nobody really knows exactly what's inside it. I never really knew untill i started to bake. I think that if people knew that cups of shortening and pounds of sugar was the main ingredient they would rethink their desserts. I know that when ever I want a piece of cake i scrape off half the icing. but i digress, one day a friend asked me if I could make him a cake but told me not to use shortening. I have no clue what to do. I guess it's a good time to start experimenting with new non shortening icings.

mamawrobin Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 2:51pm
post #14 of 146

Caths_Cakes...I agree with you on location being a factor.

Also...as far as shortenings..I won't use anything but Crisco for Indydebi's bc recipe. I've tried the cheaper store brands but hated the results. I also pulverize the Crisco (fat) until it looks like sour cream. I completely break it down until it doesn't even resemble shortening. I think that is also a big factor in how your icing turns out. I completely change the texture of the Crisco by beating it for at least 15 minutes before adding any other ingredient.

Ruth0209 Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 3:09pm
post #15 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I was unaware the cake buying public was so vocal about icing. Most cake civilians that I encounter have no idea what's in the icing. icon_confused.gif




I agree, Debi. I've never had anyone ask me what's in the buttercream. They taste mine at the tasting and like it, so I don't think they care.

I use only Sweetex high ratio shortening. I love it because it doesn't leave the greasy feeling in your mouth. I use Tonedna's buttercream recipe and it is hands down the best American buttercream I've ever used. I do add more vanilla because I like a stronger vanilla flavor. Otherwise, it's smooth and creamy every time.

I just don't actually sense any big controvery among the icing-buying public - only among decorators.

ddaigle Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 3:25pm
post #16 of 146

The only comments I ever hear about icing is whether it is too sweet or not. In the summer, I only use a shortening based icing. Fall/winter I use half butter/half shortening.

I agree with IndyDebi...cake civilians don't have a clue and probably don't want to know that they are eating a shortening based icing. I don't tell anyone....they'd freak out!

PiccoloChellie Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 3:32pm
post #17 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruth0209

I just don't actually sense any big controvery among the icing-buying public - only among decorators.




thumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif


As long as one's customers/friends/family are happy with a shortening-based buttercream, where's the controversy? My customers prefer the shortening ones; other folks' customers prefer meringue buttercreams.

I quite like my IMBC but it's pointless for me to offer it as a standard icing. Customers either think it's "too rich" or they don't want to deal with the hassle of temperature control once the cake is in their hands. *shrug* Fine by me. They can have whatever they prefer and I'll happily make it for them. icon_smile.gif

kansaslaura Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 3:47pm
post #18 of 146

Well I'm another one who seldom, if ever hears anything but WOW that's delicious when it comes to my frosting. I do use (95% of the time) shortening based (hi-ratio) with a little butter thrown in.

Ruth0209 Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 3:55pm
post #19 of 146

I have a feeling that we CAN all agree that grocery store icing is disgusting. That's the only thing I ever hear people comment on. Even most cake civilians can tell it's nasty, although I still see people sucking it up like it's solid gold whenever someone brings a store cake to work. Some people will eat anything as long as it's sweet and free.

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 4:02pm
post #20 of 146

In my experience, it's only been people who are cakers that have an opinion on their frosting. As far as how it's made I mean. My first few recipes that I used with my family was shortening based and they all raved about it. I started introducing half butter half shortening or IMBC and they all just kinda shrugged about it. I think the norm in my area is shortening based frostings so that is what everyone is used to.

Kinda frustrating for me because I prefer IMBC hands down. I would rather eat and use that on every cake. But I've only had one person say they like it.

mamawrobin Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 5:17pm
post #21 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rose_N_Crantz



Kinda frustrating for me because I prefer IMBC hands down. I would rather eat and use that on every cake. But I've only had one person say they like it.




Same here, and that would be my daughter. No one else cares for it.

Loucinda Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 5:21pm
post #22 of 146

I agree with all the above about no one asking/caring how or what the icing is made of. I have made the IMBC and it is hands down my DH's favorite, but only ONE time has a client liked and ordered it. It isn't what the general public is "used" to here, so most don't care for it. I get rave reviews for sugarshack's buttercream recipe - if it ain't broke, don't fix it! icon_biggrin.gif

Rachel5370 Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 5:43pm
post #23 of 146

To the OP-
I am "transitioning" from chef to cake decorator and I get what you're saying. There was no shortening in culinary school. I will be opening my shop soon and I hope not to use shortening in my icing or anything else. Chefs are trained from a "European" perspective and shortening is an American thing. But, I do live in America! I see that there are merits to using shortening and maybe that's what the general American population prefers. I use SMBC- and people love it. They say it's fluffy and not overly sweet. I will do whatever the customers like, but so far they like what I do now.

Price Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 5:53pm
post #24 of 146

I use Sugarshack's BC recipe. I only know 1 person who hasn't cared for it and that's my husband, but he is not one who likes sweets, so he doesn't count! icon_smile.gif

indydebi Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 7:49pm
post #25 of 146

You guys are going to laugh at me (and it's perfectly ok!) but when I was given my icing recipe years ago, the lady told me "This is wedding cake icing." I swear to god I thought it was the ONLY "wedding cake icing" ever used. I used to tell people "There's no butter in buttercream." I honestly had never heard of using butter in 'wedding cake' icing. icon_redface.gif

Yes, you've all educated me. thumbs_up.gif I still prefer my crisco-based-dream-whip icing but at least now I know there are other options!

dillpicklebetty Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 10:11pm
post #26 of 146

Im new here so maybe I haven't earned the right to speak out, but I have to agree w/ the orignal poster. I think some cakers are simply in denial. I feel Crisco Icings do have a very bad reputation. Much as fruitcakes do just like the OP said. Golly the world LAUGHS at wedding cakes and their awful greazy taste!I know cakers who dont even offer pure white icing simply so they arent confused w/ those who use shortening. They tout themselves as cooks who use real butter, real vanilla and real FOOD in their rpodcuts and don't want to be mixed up w/ a product like Crisco or even the hi ratio shortening stuff some use. And this is not only a real selling point for them but it's something that allows them to expand their price point greatly too.. Do you think those high dollar bakeries in Manhattan and Beverly Hills that get boo-coo bucks per portion are using Crsico in their frosting? Not on your life! Not to demean anyone whom uses shortening at all but there are many options out there. Beautiful delicious cakes have been on this planet for eons yet Crisco was invented when? 50 years ago? What did the world do before this dreadful stuff came to be?

Hopefully I havent made any enemies here but I'm a outspoken gal! And I look forward to being here w/ ya'll much more!

PiccoloChellie Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 10:19pm
post #27 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by dillpicklebetty

Do you think those high dollar bakeries in Manhattan and Beverly Hills that get boo-coo bucks per portion are using Crsico in their frosting? Not on your life!




icon_confused.gif

Toba Garrett. I figure you can call her a "high dollar" baker who gets beaucoup bucks for her cakes, right?
http://www.tobagarrett.com/cakes.html


Enjoy one of her buttercream recipes:
http://www.cakesandmore.org/blog/2009/02/decorators-buttercream-recipe-by-toba-garrett/

indydebi Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 10:20pm
post #28 of 146

Welcome to CC where you will find we LOVE to debate all kinds of things! We're like a big family of siblings .... we argue, disagree and love each other like no one else!! thumbs_up.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by dillpicklebetty

Golly the world LAUGHS at wedding cakes and their awful greazy taste!


But I've never really heard this. The negative things I've heard about wedding cakes is how dry and tasteless they are, but I've never heard a word about the icing on them.

dillpicklebetty Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 10:24pm
post #29 of 146

I stand corrected in this baker's case. Apologies.
Question: In any of Martha Stewart's lavish publications with her hundreds of stunning cakes have you ever seen a recipe for frostings comprised of anything other than real food items?
Clay and plaster-of-Paris are wonderful mediums for shaping/sculpting/molding too... but that doesnt mean we use them to forst wedding cakes with. same with shortening. IMO.


Quote:
Originally Posted by PiccoloChellie

Quote:
Originally Posted by dillpicklebetty

Do you think those high dollar bakeries in Manhattan and Beverly Hills that get boo-coo bucks per portion are using Crsico in their frosting? Not on your life!



icon_confused.gif

Toba Garrett. I figure you can call her a "high dollar" baker who gets beaucoup bucks for her cakes, right?
http://www.tobagarrett.com/cakes.html


Enjoy one of her buttercream recipes:
http://www.cakesandmore.org/blog/2009/02/decorators-buttercream-recipe-by-toba-garrett/


ddaigle Posted 8 Aug 2010 , 10:30pm
post #30 of 146

I would bet many cakers be it Hollywood or BFE are using shortening in their icing. They do not buy crisco, but a high ratio shortening that is not greasy or yuk. I don't find Crisco greasy at all and I work at a bakery where we buy the high ratio good stuff. The stuff at home I make tastes as good as the bakeries. Once you get your shortening- powdered sugar ratio figured out, it is all about the flavorings that makes it taste good.

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