10 Things you never knew about frosting… or is it icing?

These two sweet spreads give a sugary pop to any baked good they grace, and it's no wonder why kids and adults of all ages go crazy over the stuff. But there are some things about these culinary confections you may not know.

1. Icing was invented in 1494

It was originally used as a topping for marchpanes, an almond and sugar dessert.

2. Vinegar keeps icing flowing

Add 1/3 teaspoon of vinegar to boiled icing to keep it from hardening.

3. Icing and frosting are two different things

Icing is a thick, sugary glaze that is spread over baked goods and then hardens when cooling. Frosting is a thick, fluffy spread with a cream or butter base.

4. It's a regional thing

People in the northern half of the country tend to call everything frosting, while most of the rest of the country uses frosting and icing interchangeably or says that the two are different.

5. You can make frosting with a potato

Out of butter? Mash a small boiled potato, and then mix with powdered sugar and vanilla.

6. Add salt or lemon juice to whipped cream frosting

Adding a small amount of either can help the cream whip up more easily.

7. White frosting used to signify wealth

The traditional white wedding cake was invented in 1840. The whiteness of the frosting signified one's wealth, as refined sugar was an expensive luxury in those days.

8. Frosted cupcakes are a recent invention

The first frosted cupcakes appeared in the 1950s. Buttercream frosting was invented around the same time.

9. You can use cornstarch to control icing

Tired of icing running over the edge of your cake? Sprinkle the cake with a light dusting of cornstarch or flour before the icing to keep its flow in check.

10. Butter keeps it smooth

If you're making chocolate icing, then add 1 teaspoon of butter when you melt the chocolate. This will keep the icing nice and smooth.

You can learn even more about icing in this infographic by Sanjay Agnihotri for BiteBar.

More frosting and icing

German chocolate cake frosting truffles
Simple chocolate frosting
Lavender cupcakes with Earl Grey icing

Nutrition Experts Follow This 1 Rule to Ward Off Holiday Weight Gain

Tips For Drinking Safely This Holiday Season

By Chrisanne Grise

Let the fun begin! December is a month full of parties -- and for many people, booze. Great. But if you are going out, it's important to be smart about your drinking. There's nothing merry about a hangover, after all, especially if you did something you regret... whether or not you remember it the next day. So how can we celebrate the season with alcohol, if that's our choice, and still stay safe?

"There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself and cutting loose a bit during the holidays," points out Kenneth Anderson. He's the founder and executive director of the HAMS harm reduction for alcohol network, the author of How to Change Your Drinking and a regular Substance.com contributor -- in other words, the perfect person to ask about safer drinking.


While Anderson has no desire to dampen festive spirits, he's also very aware of how dangerous drinking gone wrong can be. "Always plan for safety above all," he says. "Death is always worse than a hangover." Well, that's for sure. So I asked him, along with a few moderate or not-so-moderate young drinkers, for some safer drinking suggestions.

Plan ahead

Figure out your transportation plans before you leave the house, so you won't have any issues returning home, even if you're inebriated. And if possible, always travel with friends, so you can look out for each other.

A spontaneous night of drinking with friends is fine -- they're sometimes the best kind. But if you're going out frequently during the holidays, you'll do better to arrange your schedule so you avoid alcohol-based socializing multiple days in a row. It may sound nerdy, but your body will thank you for it.

Keep listening to your body, too; make sure you get plenty of sleep in advance, so that you head out feeling well-rested, rather than fatigued. And some prior awareness of how much alcohol your body can handle is also invaluable.

"The major thing that's helped me feel better is being realistic about how much I can drink now," says 24-year-old Allison from New York City. "I can't down eight beers a night like I did in college and feel fine the next morning." These days, she knows and accepts that four drinks are her absolute limit -- and she sticks to that. Once you've found out (hopefully not the hard way) how many drinks your body can withstand, it's well worth making a similar rule.

If you think you may have trouble sticking to your self-defined limits, Anderson recommends writing out a plan for each situation you might encounter to keep your consumption at your chosen level. If a friend insists on drinking a shot with you, for example, you could sip yours slowly over half an hour even if he pounds his down. If Mom insists that everyone have wine with dinner, you can make one glass last the whole meal by drinking water too. And if you think you'll need a reminder of your plan in the moment, write it down and carry the paper in your pocket. Luckily, the kind of situations you'll encounter aren't too hard to predict, which makes preparation a whole lot easier.

Eat and hydrate well

Speaking of preparation, what better form could it take than hearty eating? Drinking on an empty stomach is a bad move, because the alcohol will hit your bloodstream -- and get you drunker -- faster. Instead, help yourself to some fatty food first -- fattier foods slow alcohol absorption most effectively, Anderson says. Make sure you drink lots of water before and during your night out too, because alcohol will dehydrate you, and you'll drink more booze if you're thirsty.

"I've gotten dehydrated from drinking to the point where I've passed out days later because I never replenished those electrolytes," says 27-year-old Brooke, who also lives in New York. Staying well hydrated will ensure that you stay safer and feel better -- both while you're out and while you're recovering the next day.

Choose your drink carefully

In theory, all alcohol is the same -- whatever the drink that contains it -- and if everyone drank it at the same rate, it would have the same effect. But as most of us know, it doesn't always work that way in practice.

"People tend to drink different kinds of alcohol at very different rates," Anderson says. "This is why people barhopping and switching from beer to whiskey to gin tend to wind up with puking blackouts."

You may well find it easier (and safer) to stick with beer or wine instead of doing shots with buddies. And if you usually drink vodka too fast but find you can maintain a steady pace with bourbon, take advantage of that habit. It all comes back to knowing what works for you.

"Generally, the lower the alcohol content and the stronger the flavor, the slower people will drink," says Anderson. "A careful plan of a pre-dinner cocktail, a wine with dinner, and two standard after-dinner drinks will be fine. Chugging a bottle of wine, a six-pack of beer and a pint of gin will leave you with the blind staggers."

That said, if you choose a mixed drink, Anderson warns that carbonated drinks are absorbed more quickly by the body. What's more, drinks made with diet soda result in higher blood alcohol content levels than those made with regular soda. So if you're ordering a beverage with soda in it, be sure to take it slow.

Finally, choosing your drink wisely doesn't just apply to which type of alcohol you pick: Never let a stranger pour your drink.

Pace yourself

There's just no need to chug your beer, no matter what the rest of your buddies are up to.

"Sometimes when I start a drink, I give myself a minimum amount of time that needs to go by before I can finish it," says 30-year-old Robert from Los Angeles. "I feel better that way, but I also figure I'll enjoy the beverage more if I go slow than if I down it all at once."

As well as the enjoyment factor, this is also a pretty good strategy to keep yourself from blacking out -- so much so that Anderson also recommends using a watch to measure the pace of your consumption if necessary. Be sure to stick to a pace that works for you, and don't let anyone pressure you to speed up. Alternating between booze and non-alcoholic drinks throughout the night can be a good way to handle this.

Skip the aspirin -- and just about every other drug

You may have heard rumors that taking aspirin before a night of heavy drinking can prevent a hangover. But this is actually a terrible idea. "If you take aspirin before drinking, you will get much drunker on the same amount of alcohol," Andersen explains. This apparently tends to affect men more than women, but is ultimately dangerous for both sexes.

However, it is generally safe to take an aspirin at the end of the night, as long as you have no tendency to stomach ulcers. (Take it with a big glass of water to help prevent dehydration the next day.)

Mixing alcohol with other drugs can be just asking for trouble. Drug/alcohol combos that are particularly dangerous, as rates of ER visits and overdose can attest, include opioids, benzos and cocaine -- but that's by no means an exhaustive list. Even excessive amounts of something as innocuous-seeming as caffeine can be risky, by encouraging you to keep drinking for much longer than you normally would.

If you're in any doubt about whether the drug you're taking is safe with alcohol, by far the safest thing to do is avoid booze entirely, at least until you can check with a medical practitioner.

Deal with your hangover safely

If you ignore all this wise advice and end up with a horrible hangover after all, the best thing to do is rehydrate and eat some food. Chocolate milk, tomatoes, bananas, and herbal teas are all good options.

But don't just chug vast quantities of water, as that can lead to water intoxication, warns Anderson. In addition, mild exercise like yoga or walking may help you feel better.

Ignore the haters

Drinking should always be a choice -- not something you feel pressured into, no matter what the occasion. If your family or friends give you a hard time about abstaining from alcohol on New Year's Eve, Anderson suggests telling them you're on antibiotics. Or you can quietly drink near-beer, grape juice, or soda and they will likely not even notice a difference.

Whatever your choice, the holidays can be fun with or without booze. "If you don't want to drink at all, that is your right too," Anderson says. "You will find nowadays that more and more people respect that."

Chrisanne Grise is a journalist and magazine editor living in New York City. She blogs at chrisanne-grise.com.

Why the 120 Calories an Apple Contains Is Worth Every Bite

It might feel elementary, but there's something to be said for that apple-a-day habit. Clocking in at just 120 calories per apple, this fruit offers a bunch of healthy benefits that will surprise you.

They can improve your smile: Biting into an apple stimulates the gums, which reduces tooth decay. Of course, it's still important to scrub your pearly whites twice a day, but if you could use a midday cleaning, an apple is a great stand-in.

They can help you lose weight: Just one large apple offers 5.5 grams of fiber; apples are high in pectin - a fiber that's especially filling. If that's not enough to convince you, female participants from one Florida State University study lost an average of 3.3 pounds (and lowered their cholesterol levels) during a yearlong experiment of eating dried apple every day.

They support a healthy heart: Eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away might be true for people dealing with cholesterol issues. According to one study, folks who chowed down on one apple a day lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 40 percent. Looks like that daily-apple habit can seriously reduce your risk for heart disease.

They make you smarter: We're not joking! According to one animal study, apples boost the brain's production of acetylcholine, a chemical that transmits messages between nerve cells. Researchers concluded that eating apples or drinking their juice may improve your memory and keep you sharper as you age.

They're the easiest snack of all time: Is there anything easier than grabbing an apple on your way out the door? I think not! Unlike store-bought chips or crackers full of preservatives, you'll feel satisfied long after you snack on this piece of fresh fruit that's a fraction of the calories.