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Frostings Without Powdered Sugar: Fluffy Coffee Frosting

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Why no powdered sugar, you ask? The answer requires a bit of explanation. I've been involved in an on-going process of improving my diet, removing the unhealthy and adding in the healthy. Every now and then, I get stuck for various reasons, most often because the healthy stuff can be expensive (for example, organic meat. I would prefer to buy organic meat all the time, but right now, it's unaffordable for me.). Sometimes, though, I just get a creative mindblock, and I don't know how to replace an unhealthy item with its healthy counterpart. Like powdered sugar. I got rid of regular sugar quite some time ago, and replaced it with turbinado sugar, which, while still not healthy, is less processed than table sugar and manages to maintain some nutritional value. I also use honey whenever possible. However, I still kept brown sugar and powdered sugar on hand, because, even though they come from regular granulated sugar, they seemed irreplaceable in certain dishes and baked goods. I've since discovered that turbinado sugar nicely replaces brown sugar in a variety of things, but powdered sugar still had me stumped. How do you make a glaze or a frosting without powdered sugar? The vast majority of frosting recipes (Buttercream, the favorite by far, for example) all require several cups of powdered sugar. I consoled myself that I made such things rarely anyway, so it was no big deal to have that minimal amount of powdered sugar.

Until some time last year, when I seriously began researching different frosting recipes that did NOT call for powdered sugar at all, or in such minimal amounts that it could easily be replaced with something else. I was surprised to find that such recipes do exist, and furthermore, they add a lot more flavor and texture to your cake than the typical powdered-sugar-rich frostings do. I've crossed the bridge and have burned it behind me. Goodbye, powdered sugar! I don't need you anymore!

The first powdered-sugar-free frosting I'm going to share with you is the one I used to top the Moist Chocolate Cake I made for my sister-in-law the other day. Because she likes mocha, I made the frosting with coffee to go with the chocolate flavor in the cake, but this frosting can be made in pretty much any flavor you desire. Just replace the coffee with an equal amount of water, and then when you are finished beating the frosting, add a teaspoon of some flavoring (such as vanilla, or almond).

This recipe is an old-fashioned standard often called "Seven-Minute Frosting". To be honest, I don't know why it's called that, because you cannot rely on the clock to be sure you've beaten the frosting the right amount of time. Many variations exist on the recipe, most of them calling for oodles and oodles of sugar with oodles and oodles of corn syrup on top of that. Corn syrup being something else I try to avoid, I went with the recipe that called for the least amount of sugar, and used cream of tartar instead of corn syrup. Trust me, it's plenty sweet enough, even with coffee as the liquid!

Traditionally, a double boiler is used for this recipe, but if you don't have one, that's fine! Just use a sturdy glass Pyrex-type bowl (one that can withstand high heat) on top of a saucepan. Before you start cooking, make sure the bowl fits well in the saucepan. It should be snug but not tight (easily removed but not loose), and there should be several inches between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the saucepan. The bowl should rest safely in the saucepan without you holding it there to stabilize it. And be careful, because the bowl WILL get hot.

What you will need for sure is a hand-held electric mixer. The mixture has to be beaten while heated in the double boiler, and there's no way to do that with a stand mixer.


Fluffy Coffee Frosting
2 egg whites
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar
1/3 cup strong coffee
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Bring an inch or two of water to boil in the saucepan. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a glass bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer until well blended.  Place the glass bowl on top of the saucepan, and continue beating with the mixer until stiff peaks form.

This process supposedly takes about 7 minutes, but don't bother going by the clock. When you lift up the beaters (after turning the mixer off!), you should see stiff peaks remaining, like this:
When you see that, remove the frosting from the heat, and beat it until you reach the desired consistency (this won't take long at all.) If you are using water instead of coffee, add a teaspoon of flavoring such as vanilla or almond and beat until it's blended in. Now you're ready to frost your cake.

I like to use my silicone spatula for basic cake frosting

Be very sure your cake is cool to the touch before attempting to spread this frosting. If your cake is cool enough, this frosting will go on smoothly without a problem, but if it's still warm, the frosting will stick and catch and make a big mess. Once the frosting is spread, you can use the flat side of the spatula (or a knife) to create some texture in the frosting. Swirl it around in big or little swirls, or press it against the frosting and lift straight up to create mini peaks all around, which is what I did. I also sprinkled a little cocoa powder for an extra touch:
Grated baking chocolate could also be used, or sliced strawberries, or other fruit. Even mint leaves would be pretty.

This is a pretty QUICK frosting, I would say, definitely less than 10 minutes, start to finish.

I always thought it was more of a difficult frosting, but to be honest, it's very EASY. It does require some equipment, like the hand mixer, and it does require some perception as far as when it's finished beating.

This recipe is CHEAP in comparison to the others that called for twice as much sugar, and 3 or 4 egg whites. If you don't have cream of tartar, that would be an expensive outlay just for one recipe, but you only use a tiny amount, and then you have it on hand to use again in this and other recipes. And, instead of buying an additional sugar product (powdered sugar), you can just use regular sugar.

HEALTHY? Well, it doesn't have powdered sugar, so that's something. No corn syrup, either, which is a benefit. It does have egg whites which are healthy. Other than that, about all I can say is, enjoy sparingly!

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