Growing up as a child in the 70s and early 80s I have fond recollections of cake frostings. I really don't like modern frosting. I prefer fondant to buttercream, but I'm not crazy about either one. Although cakes from bakeries are generally too expensive for me to sample I have sampled some in search of this magical frosting that I remember from childhood, and I actually found the frosting to generally be even worse than those often previously frozen, stale, supermarket cake frostings.
Here's what I don't like about frosting nowadays: It's too thick and gooey. I feel like I'm sticking my fork into a stick of butter (or margarine or crisco) with a bit of sugar mixed in. Although I do like the flavor of butter, the idea of biting into a stick of it and eating it the way I might do with cheese disgusts me. And I prefer to leave any butter flavor in the cake itself. To me that flavor just doesn't belong in the frosting.
I can't decide whether I prefer fondant to vegetable shortening based frostings (is there a name for those?), but neither is the frosting I remember. That frosting would sort of crust over in less than a day in the refrigerator, especially uncovered. There would be a hard sugary crust almost like a candy coating and the frosting itself would have a very high content of what I remember to be almost granular sugar. Whatever it was made of it seemed to be mostly sugar. The surface would get crumbly after a while.
I'm thinking that I must be remembering some version of boiled frosting or royal icing. I remember that the decorations on the cake, the little flowers or whatever, would harden more quickly and be even more sugary than the main frosting. I assume that the decorations at least were some form of royal icing.
The old frosting I remember was more like eating cotton candy than nibbling on a sweet stick of butter. The frosting experience was much more candy-like. Does anyone else know what I am talking about? Was boiled frosting more popular in the 70s or early 80s? When did buttercream and fondant become the standard? When did boiled frosting fall from grace? Was there ever a time when it was the primary method of icing a cake? I'd love to know more about the history of cake frosting.
[Note: By 'fondant' I mean [i:f45057ddc0]rolled[/i:f45057ddc0] fondant, not poured fondant which is basically just a variation of boiled frosting. In the case of rolled fondant it's basically the gelatin that I object to.]
When I was growing up, my mom always made what she called "7-minute frosting" or "fluffy frosting." I believe that is what you are describing as being used in the 70s (we used it earlier than that). It is a meringue frosting that does not have any fat in it. It's very light, it crusts (but is still soft underneath), and you can vary the amount of sugar to your taste (and, of course, the amount of all ingredients, depending on how much frosting you need). She never made flowers, so I don't know about those.
Perhaps you are just talking about American Buttercream? It's not used at many (if any) grocery store type bakeries and only some mom-and-pop type bakeries. Basically powdered sugar and butter whipped to oblivion.
And if gelatin is you main gripe with fondant, you'll be happy to know that some of the premade brands (Satin Ice is my favorite) do NOT contain it or any other animal products, in fact the are certified kosher pareve
What you are discribing is 7-minute frosting. I've never had it on anything except Angel Food Cake but I agree, it is divine.
The 7-minute Frosting was the first white frosting I learned to make - - once my dm would let me near the stove. It is brilliantly white and similar to meringue, possibly a forerunner of the meringue bc you'll find here on cc.
My mom's sister (aunt Evelyn) handed down her 'wedding cake' icing recipe to my mom in the early '70s. Then mom handed it down to me when I started decorating cakes in the mid-'80s. It sounds just like what you are describing. It was very similar to indydebs BC icing but without the dream whip. It also contained almond, lemon, orange, and butter flavoring. And you're exactly right, OP...it was delicious!
Most of the bakery cake we got as kids were what they called whipped cream cakes. Loved them.
Thanks for the replies. Even though my mother's mother was French and had the ability to make absolutely sublime baked creations, she herself was not much of a baker. So my memories are mostly of bakery sourced birthday cake frostings. It really seemed like nearly every bakery cake I tried as a child had that wonderful, crumbly, finely granular, candy-like frosting by default until at some point in the 80s when it all somehow transformed into sweetened butter, sweetened vegetable shortening, or marshmallow. To me, boiled frosting wasn't just a particular kind of frosting. It was frosting. There still seems something magical to me about the alchemy of transforming sugar and water and egg white into a white creamy paste that you can frost a cake with.
Nevertheless, I really can't be sure that boiled frosting was in fact the most common kind in those days. It may have just been a coincidence that most of the birthday cakes I tried had that wonderful frosting, but I don't think you ever see it in modern bakeries. Presumably some bakeries do know how to make it though and would be willing to make it as a special request for a custom cake.
There used to be a bakery in my town owned and run by a very old woman. It closed some time ago. I wish I had thought to ask her, "Whatever happened to boiled frosting?" I don't understand why it faded into, not just unpopularity, but utter oblivion.
BTW, I don't mean to imply that there is anything wrong with liking frosting based on butter, shortening or marshmallow. I just happen to prefer sugar syrup based frosting and it seems strange that that once popular frosting has so thoroughly vanished from US bakeries.
Another possibility is that your taste buds have changed, and what is in your memory would not be completely pleasing to you today. It's similar to returning to the house where you grew up, and realizing that the yard is smaller than you remember.
Things I really liked to eat as a child, are not necessarily things I care for today. Did the recipe change? Did my palate change? Probably both.
There's another boiled frosting that has flour in it, but it also has butter or solid shortening.
I haven't tried it.
When I have nostaglic thoughts of frosting .Its my mom's Boiled caramel frosting . I also remember her strawberry Angel food cake with pink frosting .
My mom would make what is called Poor Man's Whipped Cream. Maybe you mean something like that?
I tried to make it once decades ago and failed miserably, but have been thinking of trying again.
I myself make a 3-sticks of butter per 2# conf. sugar based buttercream, and it is YUM!
I just tried the poor mans whipped cream icing, and it is perfect! It is so creamy, and not too sweet. Almost like SMBC, but without the hard work of cooking and whipping the eggs! I used a recipe that used only butter, but the original recipe called for half butter and half something else (probably some type of shortening), so I am going to try again with half and half and see if it will hold up a little stiffer for piping onto cupcakes. A review I read about it was from a professional baker who said that this was the only frosting that she ever used, but she used closer to half and half flour and milk to make the frosting stiffer for piping. Some things to consider and experament with! I reccomend trying this stuff!
7-minute Frosting was the go-to Frosting for a LOT of people back in the 1960's and 1970's. I believe that it fell out of favor the same as baking a homemade angel food cake fell out of favor. People stopped learning how. American Buttercream is easy to make. Beat butter/shortening and powdered sugar, adjust with milk. There. It's hard to screw up. Meringue Frosting is a skill to learn to get it right, and if the weather is touchy it can fail miserably.
My Mother loved to eat the 7-Minute Frosting. She couldn't make it to save her life, but her sister could. My Aunt would serve homemade angel food cakes with PILES of 7-minute frosting on top. Sometimes, looking back at their relationship (very competitive) she did it to shove my Mother's face in it.
Anyway, we never had 7-minute frosting in our house, only Buttercream with a tiny bit of butter, powdered sugar and lots of milk. It was gag-me-hurt-my-teeth sweet. But my mother likes things twice as sweet as the rest of the public.
Before the 7-minute kind, my Grandmother made the cooked milk frosting. That one dates back farther into the 1930's and 1940's. I love that one, even today. It's the favorite to fill Gobs and for Red Velvet Cake in my family.
Betty Crocker still offers a "Fluffy White" frosting mix (so far as I'm aware, the ONLY frosting they still offer as a boxed dry mix). My understanding is that it's a box-mix version of 7 minute frosting, but I don't remember it crusting (and I DO remember it being VERY sticky, and I never particularly liked it).
Up until you complained about frosting being too dense and buttery, I was going to suggest a hand-mixed (rather than whipped) cold-process buttercream (the recipe that's been on the back of the C&H powdered sugar box since before most of us were born, hand-mixed). That's basically a dead-ringer for the "creamy" frostings from box mixes, when hand-mixed (I can say that because it was a dead-ringer back when those box mixes were still offered).
Another possibility is the simplest frosting possible, just the liquid of your choice, thickened with powdered sugar. I did that with Vermont Grade B, and a dash of cinnamon, in order to make a dairy-free cupcake for a fellow docent, so she could share in the Leland Awards cake at the Printing Museum, and if I ever get around to developing a "MacArthur Park" cake (alluding to the Jimmy Webb song, that was originally recorded by Richard Harris, then covered by everybody from Andy Williams to Stan Kenton to Donna Summer), I'll probably use some version of that for a green drizzle-glace (to represent "all the sweet green icing" said to be "flowing down" after "someone left the cake out in the rain").