Okay I’m back with another frosting post but THIS time it’s all about creating something a bit healthier. This is by far the one thing I struggle with the most. I know how bad refined sugar is and in my heart I want everything I make to be %100 free of it. The problem is that a good buttercream frosting depends on powdered sugar; at least I haven’t found a way to make a good one without it.

Pumpkin cupcakes topped with maple buttercream

So lately I’ve been expanding my horizons, scanning the internet for inspiration, and spending time pondering the options. I’ve come across a lot but haven’t found anything that seems ideal to me. A lot of what is out there for sugar free icing involves a coffee grinder (which I don’t have but may as well get soon) and various sugar replacements which are then ground into a powder with the grinder. I’ve seen options that include erythritol, xylitol, cornstarch (with added sweetener), and coconut sugar. Since I always have some coconut sugar on hand, I trialled that and loved the flavour however the colour and texture are not as close to buttercream as I’d like. Erythritol (I had to google this) is a sugar alcohol that tastes like sugar yet has almost no calories. It sounds great but has a list of strange side effects which I’d rather not chance. Xylitol is also a sugar alcohol and although it’s obviously a highly processed food it seems to be a slightly more natural option over erythritol with it being usually made from corncobs and is available in most fruits and vegetables we eat. It doesn’t have as severe a list of side effects as erythritol does but it still has some and it’s also extremely toxic for dogs. I bought some to trial before I’d read up on it as much as I have now so I doubt I will be using it anytime soon…

All this has lead me to believe that it might be best to completely scrap what I know about buttercream frosting and start fresh with a completely new base and ingredients in order to replicate the flavour and texture of buttercream or at the very least create a frosting that is just as delicious without all the strange ingredients and one that’s as clean as possible. I decided recently to try cashews as a base for frosting after seeing a few recipes online. I don’t have a high speed blender but of course I attempted it anyway! In order to get it as smooth as possible though, I had to add a lot of liquid and kept transferring it between my food processor and my blender. It was messy and didn’t create the thick frosting I was after, even after letting it sit in the fridge overnight.

To back up a bit, cashew based frosting usually involves soaking the cashews for a while. There seems to be a lot of differing advice on how long to do it, with some people saying no longer than 6 hours while others say soak them as long as 24. This first attempt didn’t work anyway so I decided to try making vegan cashew cheese instead and using that as a base for a vegan cream cheese frosting. The problem with this is that it takes for-ev-er and involves soaking the cashews for 24 hours, then blending, then letting the mixture sit for 2 hours, then putting it in cheesecloth and hanging it somewhere for another 24 hours until as much liquid has been drained as possible. Then of course storing it in your fridge. I actually loved the result however the recipe I used called for apple cider vinegar and it was too sour to be used for frosting. I ended up enjoying it on salads instead 😛

I decided then to combine both methods to create a thicker frosting but one that didn’t take as much time to prep. I soaked the cashews overnight, blended them with just as much liquid as needed, and strained the mixture through a cloth bag (the same one I use for making nut milks.) I then sweetened with maple syrup. The result was a thick pudding-like frosting that was seriously amazing! I also added some vanilla and just a touch of lemon juice which took it to a whole other level. I was so amped about this frosting I wanted to use it for a recent market I had so I bought a ton of cashews, soaked them for 24 hours (thinking this would lead to a softer more blend-able product) and followed the same steps as before only this time the blended cashews alone had a very slightly sour taste to them. What did I do wrong?? I tried sweetening it etc. anyway but it tasted a bit off to me so of course I never ended up using it for the market and opted for regular buttercream instead… The joys of frosting tests! 

This off flavour can apparently happen when you over-soak cashews. As cashews are never %100 raw (news to me) they can’t be over soaked otherwise they may turn sour and change colour… I couldn’t find anything that said they aren’t safe to eat so I was still eating the cashew mix until I noticed that it turned slightly pink in my fridge. It smells the same and tastes the same but the colour really threw me off. It’s a bummer but what can you do… I still want to try to perfect a cashew based frosting but it will involve less soaking time and I will probably only use these organic raw cashews from Real Food… Although the labelling raw may not mean much in the cashew world…

So confusing! I feel like it may be a while before I can come up with something similar to buttercream but nutritious and free from sugar. Has anyone ever experimented with healthier frostings before?