What in the world is shortening?
Why should cake decorators use it?
- Butter imparts a yellow tinge when used in icing, but has great flavor. Shortening allows you to achieve a clean, white color that serves as a perfect canvas for your artistry. The shortening and butter combination gives a whiter buttercream that still has great flavor.
- Shortening has a higher melting point, so your buttercream won’t melt as quickly when handling the piping bag. Decorations will be more stable in hot weather.
- The higher melting point also prevents icing from spreading or losing its shape when piped.
- Shortening imparts a light and fluffy texture. Keep reading for a science lesson in how it manages to do that!
A Brief History of Shortening
What does this mean?
The solid fat in vegetable shortening or lard melts into the item while baking, creating spaces which disrupt the gluten. If too much gluten develops within a dough, it becomes more stretchy and elastic — but as the shortening melts slowly, it cuts the gluten into shorter strands and prevents the flour from absorbing water. It’s science!
Initially, vegetable shortening was created in 1910 by Procter & Gamble as a cheaper alternative for lard and tallow, which was used in soap and candle making*. A year later, the company decided to make the product available to American cooks, marketing it as a healthier and kosher-friendly substitute for lard or butter. These days, there are plenty of shortening options that appeal to bakers of all preferences, from lard lovers to ingredient-conscious vegans
*Forristal, Linda Joyce. “The Rise and Fall of Crisco“. The Weston A. Price Foundation. February 23, 2009.
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