Using confectioner's sugar is only one way to frost a cake, and a baker can make a thick and rich frosting from ingredients like cream cheese. Originating in Italy, mascarpone is a thick and smooth type of cream cheese that is sweeter than most other cream cheeses. To make a suitable cake mascarpone frosting, the cheese needs to be mixed with a sugar source first to dilute the savoriness of the product.
Generally, mascarpone is a very smoothly textured cream cheese that is spreadable and comes in a tub. Although it is suitable as a thickener for savory dishes, in a similar manner to cream, mascarpone also finds applications in the sweet side of cooking, as an ingredient or in the same way as a dollop of cream. The similarities in cooking with cream arise from the fact that although mascarpone is regarded as a cream cheese, it is really a fermented cream product.
Sugar is often necessary to sweeten the mascarpone frosting up sufficiently to be a cake topping. This sugar can be in different forms. For example, confectioner's sugar is a useful addition, which needs to be whisked into the cheese to mix it through thoroughly. Maple syrup is another option, as are darker forms of powdered sugar like muscovado.
Often the mascarpone frosting contains added fats, like cream or butter. For these frostings, the cream is whipped and the butter beaten with sugar before the cheese is added. Bakers recommend not to mix the mascarpone for longer time periods that is necessary to achieve a smooth product, as the cheese may split. An advantage of mascarpone frosting over other forms of frosting, like butter-cream, is that the baker can pile it high on the cake for a visually appealing look of richness and luxury.
Suitable additions to a mascarpone cream include crushed nuts like pistachios, or fruit that the baker has chopped up very finely. Lemon or lime can also add flavor to the frosting, in the form of juice or as zest. A baker can also beat up the mascarpone frosting with a spoon or two of powdered coffee, if the cake requires a hint of coffee.
Mascarpone frosting is a suitable topping for cakes such as carrot cakes and sponge cakes. The cheese itself is an essential ingredient in tiramisu, the Italian dessert with amaretti biscuits and coffee flavoring. Cheesecakes can also use mascarpone as the main bulking ingredient, due to its smoothness and slight savory taste.