If there’s one thing that I have really struggled with this past year, it has been to come up with a realistic, healthy, tasty dairy and soy free icing. Something that could hold up to piping on a cake. Something that was pretty to look at, and tasted good. Something that didn’t make me miss that creamy dairy feeling in my mouth. Something that made ‘regular’ people WISH they knew the secret to the fabulous confection they were eating because its so much BETTER than what they’d ever tasted before.
I’ve spent the greater part of this last year trying to figure it out. I tried recipes from GF Goddess. They were good, but I wanted something pink and fruity and multi layerd in its flavour. I tried the frosting from Elana’s Pantry- I sucked at making it- I kept getting it wrong and it wouldn’t turn out. I experimented with grinding cashews and mixing them with honey (good, but, lets face it, not icing).
So I gave up for a while. Until I figured I’d throw some leftover fruit puree into the blender with some organic non-hydrogenated palm oil. Hold on one second, I thought. I’m on to something here.
Experimenting came quickly and crazily as I put myself to the test and made icing form my best buddy’s little one, who needed a dairy and soy free birthday cake. Funny what you’ll do for love, eh? I stressed about it all week. I avoided the kitchen. I sweated over disappointing a 3 year old. I stressed about not being able to deliver all these grandiose promises I made. I felt guilty for saying I “could TOTALLY pull it off no worries!” . Seriously, you just can’t let down your best friend and her little one and especially not at a big family dinner.
I was so worried I woke up at 5 am and started a frantic blendering blitz. And I discovered something.
Its all about ratio.
Fabulous Dairy-Free, Sugar Free Icing
Several key ingredients:
1- 1 cup of organic non hydrogenated palm oil (spectrum organics sells it online I think) (You could also do this with organic virgin coconut oil, but its more expensive) warmed so its like soft butter. (Live in Ottawa? You can get it in bulk super cheap at Pantry Plus in Orleans).
2- 1/4 cup of cooked-down fruit of your choice for colour and flavour. It needs to be super thick. Usually about 3 cups of fruit will cook down to 2/3 cup, or less. You want it a super thick, jammy consistency. If there are seeds or thick skins, try to remove before cooking (like for peaches!), or just when the fruits are softened try to strain the mix while its runny (like raspberry seeds or grape skins), and then return to the pot and keep cooking. Add more of the mix to thin the icing out / intensify the colour or less to keep it thick. Don’t add sugar to the fruit while you cook it- you want that tart punch. It makes the icing phenomenal. Fruit going a bit brownish? Try adding 1/8 tsp citric acid to preserve the colour. If you don’t have time to cook fruit, cheat- try using jams instead.
3- 1/4 cup of liquid sweetener- honey, agave, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or any other kind you prefer. My favorite is honey. If its not sweet enough you can add more. If you want the icing to remain thick, try adding in a few drops of stevia instead, or perhaps soak and puree some dried fruit to add- like prunes for a chocolate icing, etc…
4- Extracts for flavour depth- I like usually to use 2 tsp vanilla plus 1/4 tsp almond extract (almond doesn’t match all the fruits though, so if you aren’t sure, stick to vanilla…). Play! There’s fun ones like chocolate extract, coffee extract, rum extract, coconut extract, mint extract… the possibilities are endless… Oh heck, I just thought- for an ‘adult’ icing, what about a few tablespoons of different flavoured liqueurs? Amaretto (almond), Cointreau (orange), Frangelico (hazelnut), Galliano (vanilla), Limoncello (lemon), Sambuca (licorice), Anisette (anise), Maraschino(cherry) heck, even Marsala or a good ice wine or Port! (uh… I’m feeling my Italian roots coming out here lol)
5- Two or three tbsp of nut or seed butter to give it that dairy-like texture in your mouth and help emulsify the mix (I like macadamia nut butter because its thin and light coloured, cashew butter is also quite dairy-like. For nut free, try 1 tbsp sunflower seed butter. Tahini may be too strong). NOTE: this is not a ‘necessary’ ingredient. If you can’t do nuts or seeds, its perfectly fine to omit this part.
6- A blender, and a personal touch. Scoop in a bit of your cooked fruit mixture, blend, taste. See if you like it. Adjust to please your tastebuds. If you find your icing is too runny (even after putting in the freezer for a bit or fridge) and you don’t want to add more fat, try sprinkling in a tbsp of agar agar powder and blending well- it may swell and hold it together (I haven’t tried it yet, but i think it would be a great option).
7- For decorating, cool the icing to prevent melting. Its that simple.
Now, here’s the magic.
Use the ratios above for fruit, fat, nut butters, extracts, and sweeteners. Try these different fruits for for colours and flavours:
Pink icing- try 2 cups strawberries cooked down till they’re super thick or less- about 1/2 cup. Puree them. Add a spoonful at a time of the strawberries to the fat mix till you get the colour/flavour you like. Can’t do strawberries? What about raspberries? Cherries? Think red fruits, and options start to open up. Hey, what about beets?
Flesh colour – Cook down peaches as much as you can. No peaches? Try some mangoes. Think yellow fruits.
Orange- What about some orange zest or cooked down orange juice? Maybe a papaya? What about shredded carrots?
Green- I’m wondering if I could pull off kiwi, … oh- this just in- Sarah suggested using Spirulina powder. Brilliant!!! Add a little mint extract and bam. Great idea!
Purple- Cook and strain some dark grapes- Concord grapes would be fabulous. A little more work, because you would have to grind out the seeds and skins at a certain point. What about blueberries or blackberries? Delicious.
White icing- Put in a bit more nut butter and keep out the fruit. Or, maybe add a little coconut cream, and coconut or almond extract? .
Chocolate icing- Here’s a secret. For depth, add in about 2tbsp cooked puree of raspberries and blueberries first (you’d start with a cup of the fruit cooked down to 2tbsp), then add in 2-3 heaping tbsp of cocoa powder… and maybe mix the fruit puree with a little espresso, or even pour in some melted unsweetened or semi-sweet chocolate. Seriously, the chocolate combination with fruit is killer. (don’t forget the extracts and nut butter and sweeteners!)
Give me a shout if you need help with yours- myrealfoodlifeatgmaildotcom. I so want you to experience this terrific stuff !
Guys. Its a beautiful thing. Check out the cake below- everything except the green icing, was made with the examples above. Isn’t that terrific? And yup. My BF had a happy 3 year old. … OH! btw- I can’t take credit for the super piping job- I made the icing but a certain BF brother in law was the pro decorator. :)