In Professional and Amateur hockey, icing is possibly the most confusing call, despite being one of the most frequent. It's really not very difficult to understand, but people are often not presented with the motivation for the call, which in turn makes it seem rather arbitrary.

In general, icing is called when a player shoots the puck from their own half of the ice (divided by the red or red-and-white center line) all the way to the opponent's goal line (the red line near the end of the rink that passes across the front of the net).

In amateur hockey, icing is called as soon as the puck crosses the opposing goal line, but in professional hockey (e.g. the NHL), icing is only called if the opposing team is the first to touch the puck afterwards. If icing is called against a team, the puck is taken all the way back to the infracting team's zone, where a face-off occurs in the nearer face-off circle. It's not a penalty, no one is taken off the ice, but it's something of an annoyance to send the puck all the way down, just to have it come all the way back.

The all important motivation for the icing call is to improve game play. Icing prevents players from dumping the puck deep into their opponent's zone, which would otherwise be tempting, since it's a hell of a lot better than having the puck in your own zone. This is worth preventing though, because it slows down game play a lot, with each team dumping the puck across the rink, then everyone racing over to grab it, then repeating in the other direction. With an icing rule in effect, players have to actually take the puck down themselves, which means more conflict, more short passes, and more speed.

While culinary writers have long emphasized the decorative and aesthetic application of icing -- the sugar-rich coating embellishing cakes, buns, and pastry, also known as frosting -- few have addressed its impact on the sense of taste. Like a puff of steamed milk on the brim of a cappuccino or the deep richness of a glazed doughnut, icing, through its decadent warmth, overwhelms the taste receptors. In doing so, the dessert is marked both by sight and by taste as an object of celebration. The following discussion focuses on the various forms of icing, its culinary and visual manifestations.

The most simple icing is a syrup or glaze of sugar and water, or sugar and milk. The mixture is boiled and then brushed over the tops of yeast-raised foods while warm. Once dry, the result exudes a pearly radiance.

A simple icing of water and powdered sugar adorns common English desserts such as Victoria sandwich cakes (a plain cake made by the creaming method, closely related to pound cake) and danishes.

More complex is the glacé form in which icing sugar is added to boiling sugar syrup and beaten. To this glossy mixture is added floral (violet, jasmine, rose), fruited (orange, lemon, raspberry), or autumnal (chocolate, coffee, cinammon) essences. Cakes topped with these icings are often halved and lined with buttercream (one part butter to two parts icing sugar creamed together to a fluffy consistency).

These relatively simple icing cakes are ceremoniously ornamented with glacé cherries, angelica (more about these in candied fruit), silver dragées (French sweetmeat composed of a nut - usually an almond - or fruit coated with layers of hard sugar, lined with liqueur), hundreds and thousands (tiny dragées made by coating individual sugar crystals with sugar syrup; the result is brightly scented and colored in red, orange, pink and yellow), and other colorful delights.

A fondant icing -- fondant being a milky-sweet coating applied to fresh fruit, espresso beans (since the late-1940's), mint, or chopped nuts -- adds warm syrup, flavor, and fragrance to ordinary fondant. The resultant icing exudes a soft, satiny sheen for use on show cakes.

Royal icing aspires for a stiff, opaque brilliance for use on expensive British Christmas and wedding cakes. It is prepared by beating icing sugar with egg whites, lemon juice or orange flower water (produced by the distillation of orange flowers; Middle Eastern in origin), and an almost imperceptible amount of powdered sugar. The master confectioner can exhibit his or her virtuosity by applying royal icing in the following ways:

  1. By producing a perfectly flat, smooth surface on to which decorative etchings may be applied;
  2. By embedding layer upon layer of intricate borders, patterns, and trellis work which convey fragility even while being very firm when set;
  3. By making runouts, flat shapes of icing which are allowed to dry and then mounted onto the cake as collars, plaques, or free-standing ornaments.

A royal icing is most often applied atop a thin layer of marzipan (paste of crushed almonds, egg, and sugar, with a rich, luxurious texture) or a hazelnut spread. While the pleasure of eating a cake with a double spread is immense, the application has a practical purpose as well: the smooth surface of the marzipan acts a seal, protecting a properly finished cake for months.

Source: Healy, Bruce. The Art of the Cake. New York: William Morrow, 1999.

I"cing (?), n.

A coating or covering resembling ice, as of sugar and milk or white of egg; frosting.


© Webster 1913.

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