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.
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?