January 19, 2019
Sweets/Baked Goods

Seven-Minute Frosting

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This old-fashioned frosting is worth reviving. With its satiny, marshmallowy swirls, it looks almost too pretty to eat. It contains not a speck of fat. It is light and lovely, and sweet – but not over-the-top sweet. And it can be browned with a kitchen torch. Seven-Minute Frosting got its name from the whipping time, but that’s more of a sorta than a rule. It is also known as boiled icing, white mountain frosting, marshmallow frosting or meringue frosting. It is indeed like a swiss meringue, but revved up with extra sugar.

   Old-fashioned, satiny, swirly, marshmallowy frosting. Credit: Susan Sampson

3 large egg whites
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) granulated sugar (10-1/2 oz/300 g)
1 tbsp (15 mL) white corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 mL) lukewarm water
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cream of tartar
1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) table salt
1 tsp (5 mL) clear vanilla extract

Add egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water, cream of tartar and salt to large heatproof mixing bowl. Beat with hand-held electric mixer on medium-low speed 1 minute, or until combined, shiny and opaque, with a few small bubbles on top. Let sit 5 minutes, or until sugar starts to dissolve.  

Meanwhile, fill medium pan with 1 inch (2.5 cm) water. Bring to boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain simmer.

Place bowl with egg white mixture in pan over simmering water. Using hand-held electric mixer, beat on high speed 6 minutes, or until temperature reaches 175F (79C), and meringue is shiny, voluminous and fluffy, with stiff peaks.

Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat on high speed 1 minute, or until heavy and very stiff. Let sit 15 to 30 minutes, until cooled to room temperature. Use immediately.  

Makes 5-1/2 cups (1.375 L).

Shopping Cart: Some supermarkets sell white corn syrup. It is actually clear, not white. Choose clear vanilla extract to keep your frosting snowy white — but alas, clear vanilla is always artificial vanilla. 

Kitchen Secrets: Grittiness and a tendency to develop a hard crust are the biggest potential problems with Seven-Minute Frosting. You will encounter neither problem with this recipe. Some secrets: Use lukewarm water in the egg mixture, then let it sit before heating, to give the sugar a head start in dissolving. Add corn syrup to prevent crystallization (and thus eliminate the need to use a damp pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals stuck to the bowl). Don’t scrape up any hardened icing sticking to the mixing bowl. 

Is It Done? Before you remove frosting from the heat, make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Rub some frosting between your fingers. There should be no gritty sugar crystals. The egg white syrup is fully cooked at 175F (79C), so the frosting is thick and creamy, and unlikely to crust over.

Proxies: Substitute almond or other flavour extracts, oils or powders for the vanilla. Anything oil-based should be folded in by hand at the end, as fat may deflate the meringue. You can also change the flavour by using different types of sugar. With brown sugar, Seven-Minute Frosting can become Seven-Minute Seafoam Frosting or Seven-Minute Penuche Frosting.

Make-Ahead: This is an on-the-spot, right-away kind of frosting. After cooling, don’t let Seven-Minute Frosting sit more than 30 minutes before using. It will set slightly and become less spreadable. Once applied, it lasts no longer than 24 hours. The cake wicks moisture from the frosting as it sits, causing it to dry and deflate.

Oh No: This frosting does not require refrigeration (sugar is a powerful preservative). Once refrigerated, it develops a firm marshmallow texture and is no longer spreadable.

Lightning Won’t Strike: If you say no to retro. Although Seven-Minute Frosting is traditionally made on the stovetop with a hand-held mixer, you can try this alternative: Heat the egg white mixture to the proper temperature, then whip it in a stand mixer.