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I do love making cakes and I do love eating cakes but for the last year and a half, I have been trying to eat more healthily. This has included making vegan cakes with spelt (surprisingly good turnout) and looking for slightly more healthy alternatives to white sugar - which I don't eat any more (except when it is in other foods which I try to limit - see my review on Cocoa Pops).
I have seen white sugar described as 'white death' on several occasions - because it is particularly bad for you. I don't think brown sugar is wonderful either; I have settled for a tiny bit of moscavado every now and again.
However, I love making a cake and icing it too every now and again - so I was pleased to find a product that is made from a more natural process. Billingtons say of their product:
'Billingtons Golden Icing Sugar is milled from natural unrefined cane sugar, which has been simply made by just pressing out, cleaning and crystallising the juice. And that's it.'
I like the sound of that. I have a slight niggle about what they mean by 'cleaning' the juice. I imagine this might rid the juice of some natural goodness that might make the product even darker.
The pack is a strange sort of pink with pale yellow writing and boxes on it and a maroon stripe running around it. You are told that it is a product of Mautitius and that it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. The ingredients are: icing sugar and the anti caking agent, Tricalcium Phosphate. It is produced in a factory which handles eggs.
Using the icing sugar
I have bought a couple of boxes - which means I like the product. It mixes up well - so long as you keep the box nice and tightly shut between uses. The finished icing sugar 'turns a natural golden colour when mixed' but don't expect a finish that shimmers like a teenager's eye-shadow - it just doesn't. This is estate agent speak for beige - (it could also be described as buff, or sand, or candle-glow).
However, I like the colour. I have some 'neutral' decor in my house - it matches nicely. Seriously though, I seem to no longer want things to be processed-white; I like my bread, my cakes, my sauces to all have a good wholemeal appearance. This is the wholemeal equivalent of icing sugar and it goes better with the cakes that I now make (chocolate, carrot, ginger). In fact, if you make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting with it you would not know the difference.
This is the annoying thing; it is quite expensive (especially for something that is so nutritionally lacking). I paid £1.65 for mine at the last shop and that makes it significantly more expensive than your bog-standard icing sugar. That said, I still buy it. I don't know whether I am a sucker - or that less processed icing sugar is really worth the extra. I like to believe the latter.
I often use icing sugar when I've been baking, I'm not overly fond of icing myself so tend to make a lower calorie topping for mine by using a mixture of Quark and icing sugar rather than the pure sugar and water mixture that my granddaughters' love so much. I had a money off voucher for any brand of sugar in Tesco recently and decided to redeem it against a box of Billingtons Golden Icing Sugar, after reading the information on the box I thought it would be a nice way to ring the changes on my granddaughters' Saturday night cakes.
It's certainly different, although I'm not convinced to be honest and will probably revert back to my usual plain Silver Spoon icing sugar next time. The golden colour I was promised is not as nice as it sounds, the icing goes a glossy beige colour after you've beat it for a while but I have yet to create the shimmering gold I was hoping for. The beige doesn't look as bad as it sounds, it has the colour of a coffee buttercream which is fine when used to sandwich cakes together but not so good for icing the tops of biscuits and cakes as it's not as vibrant as white icing and makes the finished article look washed out and dull.
Because of this fairly deep colour in the icing it's awkward to add food colouring too as the results tend to be duller than usual and again this doesn't look terribly good on the top of cakes.
The fine icing sugar powder is not at all clumpy and blends easily with the water to create whatever thickness of icing you're after, it doesn't take much beating to incorporate all the sugar into the water and after a minute there should be hardly any lumps at all and what are there can easily be stirred in or will dissolve themselves when the icing sets.
It does have a nice flavour though, it's an unrefined sugar and has a very subtle treacle flavour which blends beautifully with the overall sweetness of the icing sugar. It compliments all cakes and biscuits well and I think it would go a treat with a nice slice of ginger cake.
This icing sugar is also perfect for icing sugar soup. I can almost see some of you more health conscious readers shaking your heads, but my granddaughters' love the VERY occasional icing sugar soup which although not a healthy snack is really no different to the beef dripping dips I was given as a treat when I was a child. A very unhealthy snack but as long as your child does not have it regularly and brushes their teeth well then there's no harm in icing sugar soup! What is it? Simply a bowl of icing sugar thinned down with water to a spooning consistency, beat for a few minutes and serve with a spoon!
Taste wise this is a lovely icing sugar, but for appearances I shall definitely go back to normal white icing sugar. A subtle taste that isn't always apparent is not worth sacrificing pristine white fairy cakes dotted with silver balls. This Billingtons Golden Icing Sugar is also rather expensive, with a 500g box costing £1.69 which is almost double the price of the equivalent sized box of Silver Spoon. This would be fine if it were the excellent product it's made out to be, but I don't think it performs any better as an icing sugar than other brands and also has the disadvantage of spoiling the look of my baking.