Did I forget to mention it’s also called “mock buttercream”? This is something that a handful of readers have asked me about lately. It was little Jo’s turn to submit a cake for the cake wheel at last Friday’s fish fry, so it seemed like a good time to make it.
But just what is “heritage” a.k.a. “boiled” a.k.a. “flour” a.k.a. “cooked flour” a.k.a. “gravy” a.k.a. “cloudburst” frosting? Well let’s just say that if you happened to be a housewife during World War II, it was a recipe that allowed you to deliver the birthday cake you promised to your seven-year-old without using up the entire month’s butter and sugar ration.
It is a preparation that answers the age-old question: how do you make an icing and/or filling that’s thick, rich and spreadable without using lots and lots of expensive butter? And it does so ingeniously. In place of butter or meringue (which would have required equally hard-to-find eggs) it employs a cooked flour-and-milk goo, a sort-of béchamel sauce, to give the mixture body. The result is more than an ersatz frosting, it’s a stunningly silky and delicious low-cost reproduction of real buttercream — with half the butter and not terribly much sugar. It’s so good that it has adherents to this day.
So how do you make “heritage” a.k.a. “boiled” a.k.a. “flour” a.k.a. “cooked flour” a.k.a. “gravy” a.k.a. “cloudburst” frosting? Just like this. Put four tablespoons of flour (1 1/4 ounces) into a small saucepan.
Slowly add a cup of whole milk…
…whisking all the while.
Cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches the boil. After about 30 seconds of full boil, the mixture is as thick as it’s going to get. Allow it to cool about ten minutes…
…then apply some plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the mixture. Let it cool another fifteen minutes or so, then put the saucepan in the refrigerator. Let it cool down for about an hour.
At the end of that time, it should take on a consistency about like this:
Kinda yucky? Stay with me, it gets better. Combine two sticks (8 ounces) of butter and 7 ounces of granulated or powdered sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the beater. Back in the day, truly resource-poor homemakers used half shortening. Unless you’re a stickler for authenticity, there’s no need to do that.
Beat about 4 minutes until very light and fluffy.
With the mixer running, beat in the milk mixture.
Beat for about another minute until you have a sweet and silky faux buttercream (if it looks curdled or broken, follow the golden rule of buttercream and just keep beating until it’s where you want it). Beat in two teaspoons of vanilla extract, or the flavoring of your choice.
Does it taste exactly like buttercream? Darn close. And while it does have a vague “cooked” flavor to it, it doesn’t have the floury, cereal taste you’d expect. For those who find real all-butter buttercream too much to stand, you might be surprised at how much you like this. Mrs. Pastry, who can’t take full-on buttercream, loves this.
On the down side, it doesn’t spread on as smoothly as buttercream. But if you can live with that, you’ll have a new weapon in your arsenal to satisfy kids and/or grownups who prefer a less rich icing or filling. Have fun — and buy bonds!