Monday, March 11, 2013

Cream Cheese Icing (on a budget)

This weekend, being mother's day weekend, I have been doing nothing but baking. For my own mother some delicate and delicious chocolate desert and for the boyfriend's mother, it has to be, carrot cake. I've previously posted here about the carrot cake recipe that I use. I should mention that it says to use melted butter and I mean clarified melted butter, to ensure the cake is not too heavy but also has that flavour that only butter can bring. However no matter how good your carrot cake recipe as Ina Garten so aptly puts it 'carrot cake is merely a vehicle for the frosting.' Therefore without a good cream cheese frosting, you might as well leave the kitchen all together!!

A good cream cheese frosting is not as easy to make as you might imagine. It can so often be runny, greasy, lacking in volume or, as I once saw, contain lumps of butter. So how do we avoid these pit-falls? Well the lumps of butter was a simple mix-up, the baker must have introduced the butter after the cream-cheese and therefore doomed the frosting from the start. It is essential to whip up room temperature butter, then add the icing sugar and continue to beat for lots of lovely volume. Now for the cream cheese; here-in lies the secret to a thick, firm, luxurious frosting. I also should admit that it was the initial advice of one Eric Lanlard that opened my eyes in this respect. Monsieur Lanlard pointed out that it is essential to purchase 'good,' cream cheese as it contains less liquid and therefore results in the best frosting. But my response is that many of us are lowly students and cannnot afford to purchase our cream cheese from the deli counter, so what do we do????
I will tell you!

This is my little secret to beautiful cream-cheese frosting every time. Buy whatever cream-cheese you like, my one condition is that it must taste good because there's not much we can do there! You will need to buy slightly more than is called for in your recipe, so if your recipe calls for 150g cream cheese, make sure you have a 200g pack to be safe. I chose lidl's finest for the icing you see here.

Now the day before you need to make your frosting, take out your cream cheese, your sieve, a small bowl, some kitchen paper and some cling-film. Place a piece of kitchen roll into your sieve and position your sieve above your bowl as shown below.

Now scoop all your cream cheese into the sieve on top of the paper towels. Use your spoon to push the cream cheese down so that it is tightly pressed into all the edges. How take a second piece of kitchen paper and push this down on top of the cream cheese. Cling-film the s**t out of this bowl. I mean this seriously; there needs to be no way for air to get in, or else your delicious cream cheese may borrow some flavour from your garlic chicken dinner for Tuesday night and you can forget about that carrot cake! Now leave the assembly in the fridge until you are ready to prepare your frosting.

When you remove the cling-film you will notice that the kitchen paper will be wet and probably slightly yellow in colour. Don't worry it should come away from the cheese cleanly without any sticking to the paper. There may be some liquid in the bowl, but that depends on your cheese, the kitchen paper should be saturated. Now you have removed the excess water and you can continue your baking, knowing that you will have a delicious frosting at half the price. Enjoy!

I may or may not have taken a little bit of icing before I even managed this pic ;)

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