Icing for Icing Haters | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Icing for Icing Haters

Hell, I don’t like cake that much.

click to enlarge The author at around age 3, eating birthday cake with her cousins - PHOTO COURTESY OF SUELLEN ROBERTS
Photo courtesy of Suellen Roberts
The author at around age 3, eating birthday cake with her cousins

I’m not big on sweets. I’m one of those icing haters. I am that person who annoys everyone at parties by taking my little white plastic fork and carefully scraping off almost all of the globby, going-to-send-you-into-diabetic-shock-immediately icing clinging to a perfectly good piece of baker’s confectionary. Hell, I don’t like cake that much, but every year on my birthday, I ask for exactly the same one: chocolate with chocolate whipped-cream icing. I can’t remember ever having another kind of birthday cake, much to the chagrin of my mom, who is probably sick of making them. It doesn’t help that my brother and dad never want anything else either. One year I remember her making a pointed request to have a fruit tart on her birthday, selfishly met by groans from the rest of us. 

It’s not even about the cake, it’s about the frosting: beautiful cocoa waves, whipped into crests, that immediately melt in your mouth. It manages to be extremely light, while maintaining the richness that a dense chocolate cake requires. While I’m dedicated to chocolate cake, feel free to experiment with other flavors; vanilla or almond would make excellent choices. It’s also incredibly simple to make, although cooks beware: I usually eat enough spoonfuls for “taste testing” to make myself queasy before I even ice the cake. 


  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • ½ cup semi-sweet cocoa (go for the gold here and buy some nice cocoa powder. It will taste a lot better, plus you’ll finally have an excuse to buy the brand you’ve been staring at longingly)
  • 1½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla


Whisk ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the mixture for 45 minutes at a minimum, or prepare the day before and chill overnight. Beat the mixture with a hand mixer until the whipping cream starts to form thick peaks. If it isn’t whipped enough, it will melt quickly when exposed to room-temperature air when serving the cake. This recipe makes about six cups.

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