Do you ever indulge in heavy research mode for a recipe? I browsed friends’ cookbook collections and even went to the library for this one – all for the sake of a birthday request. My mission? To create a dessert that brought cheesecake and carrot cake together. Because I had a carrot cake recipe that I really loved, I decided to focus on creating a frosting that would evoke cheesecake. I started looking for an option that would be an alternative to the ubiquitous cream cheese frosting made with confectioners’ sugar. Though we all secretly love this (don’t deny it), this type of frosting is often way too sweet and distracts from the nature of the carrot cake.
So, after a lot of looking (and a lot of boring my friends with discussions about frosting), I discovered an “old fashioned” way of creating a cream cheese frosting. Essentially, you make a sweet roux and then mix in the butter and cream cheese. The result is a lightly sweet and creamy frosting that feels like pudding on your tongue. It was not difficult to make, but it definitely took some time and patience. (As R. said, this was a recipe created for a time when you were in the kitchen all day anyway.) Pay close attention to the temperature of ingredients and you will have success.
This frosting can be made ahead and refrigerated. I iced my first cake on the day it was made. The frosting went on easily, smoothly, and had a little glisten to it. I then refrigerated the rest of the batch and used it on the third day after it was made. The frosting tasted unchanged, but the texture was a little more grainy. (Still beautiful, but had a different sheen than on the first day.) Refer to the notes below for more specifics on how to hold the frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting (without confectioners’ sugar)
For one cake with layers (and a little left over)
16 tbls. unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 c. AP flour
3 tbls. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla
- Set out butter and cream cheese on your counter to come to room temperature. (Go ahead and just do this when you wake up in the morning, so you won’t forget.) If you are patient and wait until these ingredients can be squished with your finger, you’ll know your frosting will be smooth. There really is no way to simulate this with heating. Have patience.
- Combine sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in milk.
- Pour the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve (to remove lumps) into a medium saucepan. If there is extra sugar in the bottom of your sieve, try to press it through with a rubber spatula.
- Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils. This will take about 7-15 minutes and it will look very thick (and a little splattery – so be careful of hot bubbles.)
- Transfer the boiled milk mixture to the bowl of your mixer. Let cool completely. This takes about 2-3 hours.
- When cool, add vanilla to mixture and beat with the whisk attachment on your mixer until blended or about 30 seconds.
- With the mixer running on low, add the butter and cream cheese in small pieces (about 2 tablespoons each.)
- Increase the mixer to medium and beat until fluffy, an additional five minutes.
- Frosting should be used at room temperature. If you’re making it ahead of time, refrigerate it in a container with a tight fitting lid. Before you want to spread it, let it sit on the counter for about an hour. Beat briefly with the whisk attachment on your mixer to return a little fluffiness.
- Frosting will last about a week in the refrigerator.
- Serve with carrot cake (or maybe a dark chocolate cake).
- This turned out to also be the perfect topping for birthday cinnamon rolls.
- I eventually found this recipe on the Cook’s Country website and worked through it. They have a lot of great down-home and “vintage” recipes that can be read with a subscription.