Sometime in the 1950s, powdered sugar was used for the first time to make icing for cupcakes, and cooked icing became a thing of the past. However, you can still make icing without powdered sugar. Your old-fashioned icing might even be the talk of the party! Here’s how to make icing with regular sugar and water.
What is Regular Sugar?
Regular sugar, or white granulated sugar, is the most common form of table sugar used in baked goods, candy, and cooking. This sugar is ground into evenly sized particles and bleached. When sugar was first invented, the grinding process was inexact and resulted in sugar of varying sizes. Bakers would sift the sugar to separate fine grains from larger grains and use the different sizes of sugar for different purposes. This was the precursor to modern-day powdered sugar.
What is Powdered Sugar?
Powdered sugar is nothing more than finely ground granulated sugar. It took its current form sometime in the 1800s when sugar manufacturers perfected the machinery to grind perfectly equal grains of sugar. Cupcakes frosted with powdered sugar frosting were first made in the 1950s.
Making Powdered Sugar from Regular Sugar
If you need to make icing with regular sugar and water, I would first suggest turning your regular sugar into powdered sugar. This takes just a couple of minutes. If you have a food processor or blender, simply place the sugar in the bowl of the food processor and pulse it until your sugar becomes powdered. This will allow you to make a quick and easy glaze without cooking.
How to Make Icing Using Granulated Sugar
Maybe you don’t have a food processor or blender, and that’s okay. You can still save dessert and serve your family or guests something quite delicious. If turning the regular sugar into powdered sugar isn’t possible, I recommend making one of the recipes below.
Make a simple syrup for anything where you can use a simple glaze, such as donuts, cakes, or cookies. This is made by heating equal parts water and regular sugar in a saucepan. Boil it until it thickens slightly. Let it cool slightly and pour over your dessert of choice.
Basic Granulated Sugar Icing
Combine ½ cup of milk with three tablespoons of flour over medium heat in a saucepan until it thickens. While it is cooling, cream together ½ cup of granulated sugar and ½ cup of butter or shortening. Add the cooled milk mixture and whip the mixture until it looks like whipped cream. Add one teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. You can substitute lemon, orange, almond, or any extract you like.
Granulated Sugar Buttercream Frosting
Mix four eggs, one cup of granulated sugar, and two teaspoons of vanilla extract in a metal mixing bowl until they are combined well. Put a half inch of water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and set the mixing bowl on top. If you have a double boiler, use that instead. Whisk this mixture constantly until it reaches 160ºF. Remove it from the heat. Beat the eggs for five minutes. Wait until the mixing bowl has cooled, then add a pound of butter and a half teaspoon of salt. I recommend adding a few tablespoons of butter at a time. Mix until all the lumps are gone.
Seven Minute Frosting
This recipe has been around for many years and was a standard before powdered sugar became readily available. It is a fantastic, fluffy frosting with a texture almost like marshmallow cream. It’s perfect for cupcakes, sponge cakes, or any cake at all, and it also works for frosting cookies. Mix all of the following ingredients in a mixing bowl: 2 egg whites, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or ½ tablespoon of light corn syrup, a pinch of salt, and 1/3 cup water. Place this mixture in a double boiler or fit the mixing bowl with boiling water on top of a saucepan. Continue to whisk the mixture for seven more minutes. To finish it off, beat in 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Pro Tip: Seven minute frosting will fail if any egg yolk slips in. Use an egg white separator and pay attention to make sure you have pure, uncontaminated egg whites.
Cream Cheese Frosting with Granulated Sugar
This simple recipe is perfect for spice cake or red velvet cake. Whip together a box of cream cheese (8 ounces in the US), one cup of granulated sugar, and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Separately, whip 1.5 cups of heavy whipping cream until it forms whipped cream. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture to make a delightful cream cheese frosting with regular sugar.