Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream is something I think should be in every baker’s arsenal. It’s versatile. It can be used on cakes, cupcakes, and French macarons. It can also be flavored any way you want. I think you can even use it in pies?? Well, ok, I’m not sure about that but I know I’ve been using it in many different applications.

This entry talks about the caramel flavor variation from the classic vanilla buttercream recipe. My method to create this is the Swiss Meringue Method which is basically dealing with egg whites and sugar.

Continuing from yesterday’s Tasty Pursuits cupcake recipe, I’ll show part 2 of the cupcake building process: the frosting. Many cupcake shops like to pile on the frosting. That is fine and dandy but I personally think that it makes the cupcake overly sweet. After baking for some time, I see how much sugar really goes into these dessert! I decide that I’ll try to cut back on sugar wherever I can. Therefore, I got the original recipe in half and will try to frost 24 cupcakes with 1/2 of the original buttercream. Does it work? Let’s see.

2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Separate the whites from the egg yolks. There are many ways to do this. I have three different ways of doing it.

  • The egg shell method: Break the egg shells in half and transfer the egg yolk from one half to the other until the whites separate and fall into a bowl.
  • The slotted spoon method: drop the egg on top of the spoon and watch the whites ooze through the slots into a bowl while the yolk stays safely on the spoon.
  • Au naturel: On VERY clean hands, drop the egg into the palm of your hand and slowly spread open your fingers to let the whites through while the yolk stays atop your fingers.

I usually do the egg shell method.

Whisk at medium speed the egg whites with the salt until it becomes frothy.

Continue to whisk at medium speed while slowly adding the 1/4 cup sugar. Slow is important because you want to gradually and evenly incorporate the sugar into the egg whites.

Continue to whisk at medium speed until you get “soft peaks.” What this means is how stiff the egg white-sugar mixture is. To test, dip the whisk into the mix at a 90 degree angle, take it out and hold it upside down. If the points curl back down and keeps that shape, then that’s soft peak. If the point stays pointed up, then that’s “stiff peaks”. That means you whisked too long. Start over.

Making the caramel.
The first time I made caramel, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. It’s just sugar and water boiled! You basically use twice as much sugar as water and boil it until it turns a nice amber color.

I put the 1/2 cup sugar and water into a small sauce pan at medium heat.

Do not stir, but keep it boiling, swirling every so often.

The color is starting to change, so this is where you really have to keep an eye on it because if you mess up, you’ll get candy instead of caramel.

I poured the caramel into my measuring cup and I realize the following things:
That was stupid

  1. Stupid for photo op. I couldn’t get the color because I had a dark colored saucepan, so I wanted it in a clear glass on top of a white counter.
  2. Stupid. Cooked too long, so it candied when it cooled. I actually didn’t realize it until later.

Whisk the egg whites on medium while pouring in the caramel.

I must confess that between the last photo and this one, 11 pictures were taken. I was waiting for the camera to take the picture but I couldn’t pour the caramel fast enough. And then later, the mixture totally solidified making it not pourable.

Being a person who doesn’t like to waste, I was thinking how can I save it. I microwaved it. Microwaving for 30 seconds melted the sugar enough to make it pourable, but I totally lost the caramel consistency. However, even in this state, the sugar mixture tasted like caramel.

Continue to whisk at medium speed while adding 1 tablespoon of butter at a time. Don’t add the next pat of butter until the last pat is fully incorporated into the egg white mixture.

After the last pat of butter, continue to whisk for another 6 or so minutes. The mixture should start to become shiny and solid and creamy looking. It’s done! The buttercream is ready to be applied.

Lessons learned:

  • Do not play wordfeud AND Facebook while you are watching your caramel cook
  • Need better piping apparatus



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