Kitra: What better time to go deep into our lifelong quest for a recipe that mimics canned chocolate frosting than our 4th birthday!
Jordan: Last year we had to make birthday cakes from our separate homes, which was much more of a bummer. But this year, Kitra is fully vaccinated and I’m halfway there, so we swung in the opposite direction and gathered for a frosting-making extravaganza.
Cake birthdays have escalated from “we made a birthday cake for the concept of making cake, what an absurd thing to do” to “let’s make a half dozen frostings and do a semi-scientific taste test to see what we like best.” Just wait for what we’ve got in store for our 5th birthday…
We started this experiment with some criteria. The goal here is not to make the best chocolate frosting, necessarily, but to make one as close to canned frosting as possible. (Some might argue that canned frosting is in fact the best frosting; that’s another conversation entirely.)
As the last few birthday cakes show, I already have a favorite chocolate frosting, but it’s just not the same thing.
Our ideal frosting needed to be dark brown and aesthetically pleasing. It needed to be nicely spreadable and sturdy enough that you would eat a leftover room-temperature cupcake the next day without a second thought.
And the taste, the taste should be just a little alarmingly fake. We’re not looking for a rich dark chocolate or anything. We’re looking for something that tastes a little mass-produced, and is mild enough to satisfy a child but interesting enough for us to eat on a graham cracker over and over again.
Finally, while this is not a dark chocolate frosting—we have ganache for that—it needs to be fudgy and a little dense. That’s why Kitra’s go-to chocolate frosting doesn’t work here; it’s too fluffy and a little more “chocolate-inspired” than fudge-flavored.
We condensed all of these ideas into the following categories, which we rated on a 1-5 scale: Appearance, Spreadability, Stability, Taste, Crackerability, and Similarity to Canned Frosting.
“Crackerability” is how likely we are to just eat this on graham crackers as a snack, which is the primary way both of us interact with canned frosting.
It’s also the name of our jam band.
- A recipe from Maida Heatter’s Cakes. Not her chocolate buttercream, which involves seven egg yolks(??) and a double boiler, but one that still looked promising.
- The fudge frosting from Vintage Cakes, which includes brown sugar in an otherwise ganache-like base.
- A whipped ganache with mixed milk and dark chocolate.
- A recipe our mom sent us, which she claims is the closest she’s found to canned frosting.
- Joy the Baker’s best chocolate buttercream, which includes a substantial amount of chocolate Ovaltine.
- Hummingbird High’s “THE Chocolate Frosting,” which similarly has a bit of malt powder in it.
We also had a can of Duncan Hines chocolate frosting on hand for comparison (#7 above). The plate shown here was one we assembled for Jordan’s partner, so he also had #8, which was a frankenfrosting made of some of our favorites after the initial tests.Read More