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The Truth About Toppings: Cake Topping Tales

From the simple form of sweet honey bread invented in ancient Egypt, to the colossal novelties we see on Cake Boss; cake has come a long way since it’s presumed debut in 3000 B.C. But, while we try to wrap our heads around the fact that you can literally visit a room made entirely out of cake, we’d still like to talk about something adventurous, but a little less intimidating – cake topping tips! 

If you’re bored of the predictable buttercream icing you slap onto every cake you bake, this article is for you! So, take a trip into the adventurous world of cake toppings as we tell you the tales of frosting and list some tasty cake topping ideas.  

Layered yellow cake with raspberry cake topping

Cake Topping Tales: The History of Cake Toppings 

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to trace back the invention of cake, let alone cake toppings and decorating. But, we’ll go with the rumor we like most and say that France is where is all started. A French baker in the 1840’s wanted to increase the prices of his cakes, and thus his solution was to decorate them. But, although it was the French that popularized the concept of dessert and decorated cakes, it only truly made its mark in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. 

Charles II returned from exile in France to reclaim the English throne in 1660, and  brought with him a new found love of French cooking and some of his favorite French pastry chefs. It was these men who, finding the English almond bun unappetizing to their trained eyes, suggested they should be iced with a crust of sugar and then adorned with trinkets.

And, once the idea of decorating cake with trinkets had been embraced, Europe’s greatest chefs of the time wanted to create more wonderful decorations. Competition was enormous, with every chef looking to create something fit for the king’s table! And, if we consider where cakes stand today, it’s clear that with a little imagination and a whole lot of practice – anything is possible! 

6 Cake Topping Ideas

While the cake decorating we often see is on the westernized side of the table, there are plenty of traditional cake topping styles from around the world. That’s why we’re bringing them back in style! Find a few of our favorite cake topping styles from different countries down below: 

Cake topped with coloured icing flowers

American Buttercream

This cake topping crawled, so the rest could walk! And although it’s giving ‘been there, done that’ vibes, it wouldn’t be fair to just leave it off of our list. Softer and more spreadable than most icing, buttercream is the first choice for a delectable cake topping. It is versatile in that in can be used as a filling or as decoration! Made by blending butter and icing sugar together, the quality of butter or fat used will affect the taste. 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream 

Also more simply known as Swiss Buttercream, this cake topping is popular amongst the cake baking pros. It is trickier and more time-consuming to create than American Buttercream, but it’s silk-like smoothness and light texture makes it worth the effort! Egg whites and sugar form the Swiss Meringue which gives this buttercream its name. These ingredients are whisked over a gentle heat and cooled before the butter is added. Temperature is paramount in the production of this cake topping, but the result is a soft and fluffy frosting which can be piped on cupcakes or between cake layers. Unlike American Buttercream, it does not form a crust, but maintains its silky texture. If you aren’t a fan of overly sweet buttercream, Swiss Meringue Buttercream may be the one for you! 

Cream Cheese Frosting

So, this is technically another American-based cake topping, but too good not to mention! And, would you believe that this tasty and tangy topping was invented by accident? In the 1870’s, a man named William Lawrence was attempting to make french cheese, but it turned out slightly softer than cheese due to the high content of moisture – and he just went with it! Soon enough, he started selling them in foil wrapping, now known as the beloved brand Philadelphia cream cheese. The recipe is quite similar to how you would make buttercream, but it’s tangy taste can never be mistaken! 

French Fondant Cake Topping

Fondant is presumed to have originated in the 19th century France and comes from the french word fonder which means ‘to melt’. This popular and heavy frosting can be easily sculpted and is often used for celebration and novelty cakes. Buddy from Cake Boss has entered the chat. Basic fondant ingredients include water, gelatin, sugar (icing or castor), glycerine and shortening. The ideal texture is when this cake topping can be stretched without tearing and can be worked into different shapes for decorating. 

British Royal Icing 

Made by beating together egg whites, icing sugar, lime juice, and glycerine, you’ll often find this icing on dense desserts like fruitcake. It is a pure white fluid paste at first, and then dries to become a smooth and matte texture. Made with edible food coloring, it makes a good icing for novelty cakes too. 

Korean Whipped Cream 

If this topping doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve probably seen the popular Korean whipped cream cake on TikTok or Instagram. Fluffy and adorned with fresh strawberries, this dessert was and is synonymous with the K-pop craze. And although it looks quite rich, it’s actually the ideal cake for someone who doesn’t have a big sweet tooth. The frosting itself is usually made with ingredients such as heavy cream, vanilla, sugar, gelatin, and water. 

Try Something New With Cakes Overseas

Cake Topping: Person grabbing a small white frosted cake from a plate

As wizards of all things cake, we understand that trying something new can feel a little daunting. But, trying a new recipe can also be exciting. And we think there’s no better time to embrace change than in the first month of the new year! So, let’s get baking and experimenting with new cake toppings in 2023!

You’ve learned all about cake topping ideas from around the globe, now what? 

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