Perfect cream cheese icing

I had a victory yesterday. A cream cheese victory. I hear you asking, ‘can cream cheese be anything other than victorious?’ and I agree but in this case I’m talking about cream cheese icing. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried making it, but mine always goes runny. I’ve researched it and up until now have not been able to make any progress, with forums saying time and time again that it’s just nature of the beast. The sweetener will make the icing runny.

But yesterday I was determined to achieve a firm, robust icing for a cake I’d make for some Aussie guests visiting. A pastry chef no less. The pressure was on. I managed to find a morsel of helpful advice on the Hummingbird Bakery Blog, where incidentally the cake recipe was from – remember the Chocolate and Guinness cake? They said cream cheese goes runny from over mixing and could also be from not using full fat cream cheese.

So how then does one not over mix icing sugar and cream cheese – there is by the nature of the icing sugar a certain amount of mixing required. So I came up with the idea of using a liquid sweetener like golden syrup or honey. I made experimental batches and it worked like a charm. I even made a small amount using treacle, just to see if the black gold would translate to icing on a chocolate Guinness cake. It was a taste sensation, but it is only one for treacle die-hards as the bitterness of the treacle and Guinness flavour of the cake, transformed the experience into an intense one. Perfect for a sophisticated adult cocktail event or just those people who love to be challenged. But I knew the cake itself would be challenging enough for those who had not tried it before.

The golden syrup icing was perfect. I mixed it by hand, adding about 1-2 tbs of syrup to a whole tub of cream cheese. It held it’s shape and sat like a perfect gentleman on the top of the cake.

And just for the record, heed the advice when it is recommended to use Philadelphia brand cream cheese. I did a taste test between a generic (full fat) brand and Philly, and the winner – hands down – was Philly. It had a far superior flavour. Don’t skimp out on the cream cheese when making cream cheese icing – invest in the best and your icing will be amazing. And remember, full fat, liquid sweetener and mix only till combined (mix by hand) and you should end up with firm icing.