This stuff needs an extra ingredient to be kept in your pantry, but since it has a really long shelf life, just go ahead and buy it and keep it on hand. (I've got a container of the stuff I've been using out of for about 5 years!)
The nice thing about this recipe is there is nothing in it that requires you to keep whatever you frost with it in the refridgerator --- which means it's safe to use on a cake you're taking to the office or a picnic --- (poisoning the guests is probably a deal breaker!)
You can use this to frost the cake and to put through a pastry tube and make pretty decorations too if you're so inclined.
1 cup white shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla (if you want it to be really white, use clear vanilla)
1 teaspoon almond extract (or some other flavoring -- depending on the cake it's going on)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of water
1 tablespoon meringue powder (this is that "lasts forever" shelf ingredient)
1 pound (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
Cream together the shortening, water and flavorings until well incorporated (no liquid should be visible).
Add dry ingredients (put in the meringue powder with the first batch of sugar) and mix until well blended.
Beat at medium speed for one to two minutes.
I like the consistancy I get with this better if I use my stand mixer, it's more even and less likely to be too stiff.
If the frosting seems too stiff, add 1/2 a teaspoon of water and rebeat. Consistancy depends a lot on the humidity and the temperature when the frosting is made.
This recipe makes 3 cups of frosting, which will generously frost a 2 layer cake.
You can store the left overs in the refridgerator for later use (within a week or so), just bring it to room temperature and rebeat before using.
If you want to color this, use gel colors (like Wilton), or reduce the water in the recipe slightly, then add the liquid color and beat well. Using liquid colors requires more "fiddling" with the liquids to get the right consistency.
You can cut this recipe in half, or double it and it works equally well.