Elevate Your Frosting With This Simple Step

One of the best parts about noshing on cake is, arguably, the frosting. Whether it's a buttercream piped on birthday cupcakes or a decadent brown butter frosting separating layers of cardamom-spiced cake, this sweet stuff is highly versatile and adapts well to almost any recipe.

At its core, classic vanilla buttercream frosting requires a short list of ingredients, including butter, powdered sugar, maybe milk or cream, vanilla, and salt. This list can then be modified to create many other types of frosting, such as Swiss meringue buttercream, cream cheese frosting, and whipped cream frosting (via MasterClass).

Frosting recipes are often enough to satisfy one's sweet tooth, but sometimes, a home cook may yearn for elevated flavors without adding more ingredients to the mix. In this case, we have a pretty sweet solution for stepping up your frosting game, and all you need is a glass or ceramic baking dish and some granulated sugar.

To toast or not to toast?

Toasting spices to elevate the flavor is commonplace in the kitchen, so why not do the same with sugar? The result is like a more complex version of the regular stuff, albeit not as cloyingly sweet, explains King Arthur Baking

There are a few ways to toast sugar, but we recommend doing so in the oven, which is one of the more hands-off methods, according to the Kitchn. Some stirring is still required, but overall, you don't have to tend to the sugar as much compared to the stovetop method. If you're a fan of more pronounced flavors, you can keep toasting the sugar (up to five hours at least, per Serious Eats), which will deepen the color and boost the vanilla, caramel, and molasses flavors.

Serious Eats describes this process as low-heat caramelization, which allows the sugar to slowly caramelize with the granules remaining intact. If we look at a single sugar molecule, we'll find that fructose and glucose are the only monosaccharides present, per The Sugar Association. When heated, these sugar building blocks dehydrate, changing the sugar's color and flavor.

Though it's a bit of a long process, toasted sugar is simple to make and can balance out the sweetness levels of frosting with its complex and unique flavor. As it is most often created in a larger batch, you'll also have plenty left over to amp up sugar cookies or coffee custard, so think of this as an investment for your future baking needs.