Lemon Cupcakes + Cream Cheese Icing = ooooh yeah!

I'm a real fan of lemon flavored desserts... and lemon cake is a huge winner in my book. Leave it to the inimitable Dorie Greenspan and her Perfect Party Cake recipe to be the perfect cake for a killer cream cheese icing!

Recall that back in March the Daring Bakers chose Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake as the monthly challenge. As soon as I completed that cake, and tasted it, I knew it was a recipe that I'd carry in my repertoire for a long long time to come. Here is a link to that post. I enjoyed making that cake very much. The physical processes involved were very pleasing... for example combining the lemon zest and granulated sugar with my fingers really made me feel like an actual baker!!

Lately I've been playing around trying to come up with a cream-cheese icing that sets up well enough to be piped from a pastry bag. And I've been failing pretty dramatically. Don't get me wrong, the icing ends up tasting fantastic but it just doesn't set up for piping. One of my friends has repeated extolled the virtues of the combination of lemon cake with cream cheese icing. I figured I had some extremely tasty cc-icing so why not give it a try.

In a word... WOW! The tang of the cream cheese paired with the faint lemony goodness of Dorie's Perfect Party Cake is a serious winner! I just made the cake part of Dorie's recipe into cupcakes and used a very basic combination of cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract as the icing. It doesn't get any easier than that :)

To dress them up a little I used a bit of buttercream icing (recipe here) tinted pink (with ChefMaster brand Ribbon Pink gel icing color) and with a very small amount of raspberry extract. The piece-de-resistánce... a single silver dragée for a touch of elegance. That's all there is to it :) Fantastic flavor payoff without a whole lot of effort.

If anyone has a pipeable cream cheese frosting recipe to share, please let me know!! In the meantime, I'll keep playing to see what I can come up with.

Have a delicious day!
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Quick-n-Easy Cinna-bites

Ever have a taste for cinnamon rolls but don't feel like going thru the effort of making the dough? Recently that is what I was faced with and came up with a quick & easy way to make something like those cinnaminis you can get at one of the national fast food chains.

I had a tube of crescent roll dough that was edging past the "best used by" date and thought there had to be something I could make with this other than just regular crescent rolls. Considering it was early morning... on a weekend... crescent rolls just didn't sound appealing. I guess I could have put them back in the fridge and waited until later in the day to make them but delay of gratification is not something I'm really known for ;-)

I took the dough and instead of breaking apart at the perforations, I just kept it in the rectangle. Placed some pats of butter on it, evenly space. Sprinkled on a generous portion of brown sugar. Dusted with a generous amount of cinnamon. Grabbed the long side of the rectangular dough... rolled it up not-as-tightly-as-I-should-have... sliced it and placed the slices on end in a tartlett pan coated with Baker's Joy.

Baked at 375F for 11 minutes. Thank heaven I was smart enough to put a big pizza baking sheet on the lower rack because the melted butter spilled over the edges of the tartlett pans and that woulda been a bear to clean off the oven itself! After 11 minutes I turned the oven to HI-BROIL setting to brown them. (I love this shot cuz you can see the blue-hot flame from the broiler element)

Removed from the oven and drizzled some homemade cream cheese frosting over them...

Put them on a nice plate...

... then decided it was too easy to eat the whole thing in one sitting so I separated them apart and voilá we had cinnabites :) In all of about 20 minutes!

This is so quick and so easy... and soooooo yummy!! You gotta make em!

Have a delicious day :)

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Opéra Cake - Daring Bakers May Challenge

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was Opéra Cake - and what a challenge it was. Just seeing all those layers, I mean, it looks downright complicated, overwhelming and scary... eeep! And while my initial reading of the multi-page recipe was rather daunting and left me thinking "holy mother of pearl - what have I gotten myself into this time?!?!" it ended up being a lot less difficult than I had expected, and a whole lot more fun! I'd love to share this month's adventure with you so please continue reading after the jump...
This month's challenge was hosted by Lis and Ivonne (the two who started the Daring Bakers!!), along with Fran and Shea - I gotta give them props for coming up with a great one :)

For those unfamiliar with Opéra Cake, it's an extremely elegant and polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s. Many people credit a gentleman by the name of Louis Clichy with inventing the cake and that's why it's sometimes referred to as Clichy Cake.

So what exactly is an Opéra Cake?

Well it's a cake that is typically comprised of five components: a joconde (a cake layer made from almond flour), a syrup (to wet the joconde - I chose raspberry flavor syrup), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers - I chose lemon), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer - I chose to do mousse) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse). Typically, Opéra Cake is done in chocolate and coffee flavors but since it's Spring we were challenged to lighten it up both in colors and flavors :)

This recipe we were provided is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

First I'll list out the full recipe... and after that, give you a quick step-by-step assembly tutorial in words and pictures (I'm a visual kinda gal! LOL)

For the joconde

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula


1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 250◦F on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer


7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler


14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.


Start with the bottom layer of joconde...

Look at all this lemony zesty buttercream goodness....

Layer part of the buttercream on the bottom layer of the joconde...

Take the two rectangle pieces of joconde and place them in a layer on the buttercream

Add another layer of buttercream...

Ooooh... it's starting to look like an Opéra Cake!!!...

... top with the final layer of joconde...

...add the mousse layer...

... and finally the white chocolate glaze.... M'mmmm :)

Be sure to refrigerate well at this point because it really helps the mousse layer separate from the white chocolate glaze layer

Now that you've seen how I did it, check out the rest of the Daring Bakers Blogroll. This month's challenge was just that... a challenge! But I learned some new techniques and am actually pretty pleased with the final outcome :)

Have a delicious day!
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Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

What better way to complete a holiday BBQ dinner than with some homemade ice cream! If you've got an ice cream maker, it doesn't get any easier than this :)

I remember when I was a kid sometimes my parents would have people over for cookouts and end the meal by making homemade ice cream. It was a rather involved process in which my father would buy a big bag of rock salt, dig the ice-cream maker out of the garage and everyone would sit around trying to hold a conversation while dad continuously checked on things and kept adding rock salt along the way to ensure the ice cream maker worked it's magic. It was always vanilla... it was always "soupy"... and truth be told I was never impressed! LOL

Oh how times have changed!

When I decided to buy a stand mixer last December, one of the big reasons I chose KitchenAid was the fact there are so many attachments. When the thought to buy an ice cream maker began ruminating in my mind a few weeks ago, I was torn between buying a stand-alone Cuisinart model or the ice cream maker attachment for my KA stand mixer. I went back and forth... and forth and back... finally deciding on the KA attachment and though admittedly I've only used it once, I'm very pleased with it!

I looked thru oodles and oodles of recipes both online and in print. Most sounded fantastic, especially Alton Brown's ice cream recipes, but started with a custard base that included eggs and needed to be cooked. I think I may have mentioned a time or two that I'm extremely LAZY so none of those recipes would work. I mean, it's bad enough the ice cream maker bowl needs to be in the freezer for 15 hours before the magic can begin ... that's enough "fore thought" for me! LOL. I didn't begin searching for recipes until the bowl had been frozen for 18 hours so any recipe that **then** required me to cook ingredients and let them cool for 4hrs, well, let's just say that wasn't about to happen! LOL

I came across a recipe on AllRecipes.com that was right up my alley. Just a handful of ingredients and nothing that required cooking :) DJ and the kids are big chocolate fans so I went for Mint Chocolate Chip to initiate our new gadget. Next week, though, it'll be lemon sorbet... all for me :)

If you've got an ice cream maker this is something you really should try. Here's a link to the recipe for Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Okay so think about making some ice cream... or at least eating some ice cream... cuz if there's one thing I know for sure it's that there's always room for ice cream :)

PS... this entry has been submitted in Mike's You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Frozen Desserts blog event

Have a delicious day!
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Happy Memorial Day

No real post today - it's a holiday... but there's additional pictures inside

Hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day 2008. It's a holiday so I'm taking the day off :)
Forthcoming will be recipes for both the cake and the icing. For now I'll just tell you the icing is Italian Meringue Buttercreme and the cake is Dorie Greenspan's Cocoa Buttermilk Cake.

Whatever your plans, have a delicious day!
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Glazed Lemon Cupcakes

When the April edition of Bon Appétit arrived in my mailbox the beautiful Lemon-Raspberry cupcakes on the cover, immediately grabbed my attention.

I admit that I'm a sucker for most anything lemon. It's my preferred flavor for desserts. I'll never fight ya for chocolate anything but lemon? Oh yeah, I'll go to great lengths to enjoy some lemon goodness. Luckily most people in my circle prefer the chocolate so I don't have to throw down very often ;-)

The full recipe that was featured on the cover called for adding a dollop of raspberry jam in with the batter before baking. That was a deal-breaker for me since I've never successfully accomplished this. Usually the jam ends up sinking to the bottom during cooking and sticking to the wrapper even when I layer it in the middle or the top. Instead, I omitted the raspberry jam altogether and just made the lemon cake part and the glaze :) Instead of Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes a lá Bon Appetít, I ended up with Glazed Lemon Cupcakes a lá The Repressed Pastry Chef :)

Glazed Lemon Cupcakes
adapted from Bon Appétit

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel, divided
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Using electric mixer, beat butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and 3 teaspoons lemon peel in large bowl until blended, then beat until fluffy and pale yellow. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in half of flour. Add buttermilk and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; beat to blend. Beat in remaining flour.

Drop 2 rounded tablespoons of batter into each muffin liner.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted halfway into centers comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan on rack.

Meanwhile to make the glaze, whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon peel in small bowl. Separate half the icing into a second bowl. To the first bowl add yellow gel or powder icing color. To the second bowl add pink gel or powder icing color. Spoon the pink glaze over 6 cupcakes. Spoon the yellow glaze over the remaining cupcakes. Let stand until glaze sets, about 30 minutes.
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Totally -O- Chocolate Cupcakes

I think I've mentioned a time or two that I'm not a huge fan of chocolate. Now, before you start flooding my inbox with hate-mail and nasty-grams, realize that I don't **dislike** chocolate. It's just not a real draw for me. But trust me, if a box full of cupcakes magically appeared and they were all varieties of chocolate, I would most certainly indulge (note, I didn't say I'd eat *one* LOL!!). Tonight I made some chocolate cupcakes that were so far out of this world, I have to share with you how it's done so that **you too** can have your very own "Totally -O- Chocolate Cupcakes"

I read a lot of blogs. As a food blogger, I think it's my responsibility to (plus it's a LOT of fun!!). If you're into making cupcakes from scratch, I definitely suggest checking out this blog as inspiration. It definitely inspires me even though the recipes are far more complex than anything I'd really make or have a strong desire to attempt making. But you can pick up ideas anywhere and use them as a jumping-off point to create your very own masterpiece! And that's how my Totally -O- Chocolate Cupcakes came about.

For the cake part I followed a rather simple recipe but here's a few cupcake baking tips that I've picked up from others as well as from my own personal experience:

read and understand all directions before you start (I'm a dolt and read two or three times)
make sure you've added ALL the ingredients in the right proportions before filling the cups (when I made this recipe the first time, after the cupcakes were in the oven for about 2 minutes and I was cleaning up, I noticed I had a couple of eggs on the counter... eeep! I'd forgotten to add them so I quickly removed everything from the oven, poured the batter back into the mixing bowl, added the eggs and re-beat everything... easily avoidable disaster so don't be like me! LOL!!)

fill cups no more than 2/3 full (for me, I can only fill them 1/2 full since my "eyeballing" what I think it 2/3 full always is too much and overflows making a big mess)

if using nut or souffle cups as cupcake wrappers, be sure to spray the insides with baking spray (otherwise you'll never get those wrappers off... yes, I've had this happen a time or two... or ten! LOL!!!)

do not open the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking - resist all temptation - if you're insanely curious turn on the oven light and peek thru the door but -do not- open it ... leave your cupcakes alone and let them bake

Okay enough words of wisdom, let's get on with the recipe

Totally -O- Chocolate Cupcakes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups super fine or caster sugar (granulated sugar *will* work)
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375F
Measure flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder into a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Measure the milk then add the vanilla to it and combine. Set aside.

In a stand mixer cream butter until softened. Add sugar and cream until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes)

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until well combined

Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and combine well. Add about half of the milk/vanilla combo and combine well. Add another third of the dry ingredients and combine well. Add the remaining milk/vanilla combo and combine well. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients and combine well.

Fill cups one-half to two-thirds full. Do not overfill!! Turn oven temp down to 350F and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out cleanly.

Cool in pan for 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

While the freshly baked cupcakes are cooling, you can start on the icing. Recall that here I provided my favorite recipe for buttercream icing. In order to make this what-I-consider-to-be amazing chocolate buttercream icing, I used this basic buttercream recipe and added Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder. Now, I'm sure you *can* use other cocoa powders instead of what I used. How will it compare, you ask? Honestly, I don't really know since I used Hershey's Special Dark. If you use something else, write and let me know your results because I'm definitely interested :)

In the "How to Make Buttercream Icing" tutorial linked above, I mentioned the icing can be stored in the fridge. In writing the tutorial the other day, when I made that big batch, I didn't use it, I just put it all in a big ol mason jar and kept it refrigerated. When I wanted to use it for these Totally -O- Chocolate Cupcakes, I just brought it to a bit colder than room temperature and it was ready to use. I scooped a couple/three cups of frosting into a separate bowl, and added in a total of *about* 3 heaping tablespoons of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder and mixed by hand with a small icing spatula. I added the tablespoons one at a time to prevent a dark cloud of cocoa dust from descending over my kitchen (yeah, that's happened a time or two... or five LOL!!). You can add less or you can add more depending on how chocolaty you want the icing to be. The taste was great -but- the resulting color was more grey than dark brown so I added a bit of Wilton Icing Color in "Brown" to get it to the shade I wanted. Flexibility - it's a good thing :) If you're unfamiliar with Wilton Icing Colors, check out this link here.

That's it! That's really all there is to making totally orgasmic chocolate cupcakes. I'm not even a huge fan of chocolate but these are amazingly good. DJ is a big chocolate lover and while I won't tell you exactly how many in a row he scarfed down (okay, it was an odd number... more than 2 and less than 4) he loved them and raved enthusiastically these were the best chocolate cupcakes he'd ever had. THAT'S a compliment!

As a bit of a switch up (and to use up some extra icing I had from the PB&B cupcakes), I frosted a few with peanut butter buttercream. Topping off the chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing was goooooood :)

If you have a hankerin for some really good chocolate cupcakes, give these a try. And even if they're not "totally -O-" for you, I think you'll really like them - - - especially with the chocolate buttercream icing! M'mmm M'mmm Good!!!

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Buttercream Icing

One question I come across all the time is "does anyone have a really good recipe for Buttercream Icing?". In response I've posted this recipe more times than I can count. If you're looking for a stand-up-and-take-notice, rave-worthy, knock-it-out-of-the-park recipe for buttercream icing, bookmark this post right now because the one I'm about to share is what you've been looking for! This is the world's best buttercream icing :)

Okay okay... maybe not world's best... yet... but it will be. I'm confident that if you try this you will love it :) If not, well, then I was wrong... but I'm not... you will love this!

In another life, I was into cake decorating. I got into it by taking Wilton cake decorating classes thru the parks & recreation system. The classes were one weeknight each week at the High School down the street. We had full kitchen facilities though we never *baked* the cakes in class.

I found I really enjoyed it - and after I completed the Level 1 class I decided to continue to Level 2... and then Level 3. I'd make the cakes, decorate them and since I was single at the time, I'd bring them to work and let my colleagues devour them :) It wasn't long until people were asking me to make cakes for them... and they paid me. I loved it, I really really did. Fast forward many years later... and while I no longer make cakes for customers, I still enjoy making them for family and friends.... and for me! I love cake. I really do :)

This recipe for buttercream icing is without a doubt the absolutely best Buttercream icing I've ever found. And it's really pretty simple. It's just butter, shortening, clear vanilla extract, confectioner's sugar and milk. But don't let the simplicity fool you into thinking this is just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill buttercream. The end results is positively fantastic! After all, this is the world's best buttercream icing - at least in *my* world :)

Buttercream Dream Icing
1 stick salted butter - room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter - room temperature
1 cup shortening
1 tablespoon Clear Vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar, 10x)
4-6 tablespoons very cold milk

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the clear vanilla extract and combine well. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk... one tablespoon at a time, combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high to high speed) until you reach the desired consistency.

Here's a tutorial in words and pictures...

Put one cup of shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer...

... add one stick of salted butter and one stick of unsalted butter each at room temperature...

... cream together the butter and shortening...

... This is Clear Vanilla Extract and it's what you want to use for white icing. The reason you want to use clear vanilla extract is because it creates WHITE icing. Now, if you're going to color your icing a darker color, you can probably get away with using regular vanilla extract which is brown. But if you want white buttercream as your end result or if you want to color your icing a pale color, you definitely need to use **clear** vanilla extract. And speaking of coloring your icing, use gel or powder colors, don't use liquid food color because it will change the consistency of your icing...

... add one tablespoon of Clear vanilla extract... see how it's like a very pale light yellow color? This won't effect your icing color at all :)

At this point, you want to mix in the vanilla. I didn't take a picture of this step but you can figure it out :)

... next you want to start adding the confectioner's sugar. Don't add it all at once or your kitchen will be covered in a white cloud of powdered sugar... not that I've ever done that or anything! LOL. I use a 2-pound bag and usually add the sugar about 1/4th of the bag at a time...

... this is what it will look like after you've mixed in the first amount of confectioner's sugar...

... continue adding in more sugar and mixing very well after each addition...

... finish adding in all of the confectioners sugar and mix very well... I love this shot because you can see the paddle attachment just flying!

... now that you've mixed in all the confectioner's sugar, start adding the milk, one tablespoon at a time and mixing well after each addition...

... after adding about 4 tablespoons of milk this is what it will look like... you might decide it's perfect this way and if so, you're all done...

... if you decided to add more milk, after 5 tablespoons this is what it will look like... again, you might decide it's perfect and you're all done...

... but sometimes you decide you want to add all 6 tablespoons of milk and if so this is what your buttercream will look like... it's light... it's fluffy... and best of all it tastes terrific.

The important thing is to work slowly when adding the milk. You can always add more... but you can't take it away if you add too much and the icing is too thin. You want it to be thick enough to set up well... but you don't want it so thick that you can't pipe it out of a pastry bag or spread it with a spatula.

Yes, this recipe does make quite a bit but keep in mind you can refrigerate the icing in a covered bowl. I usually make a whole batch of it, transfer to a large mason-style jar and just leave it in the fridge. When I need to use it, I just take it out, bring it to room temperature and give it some mixing by hand.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you need to make buttercream, I urge you to try this recipe. Honestly, it's the absolute best I have ever found. Heck, even if you don't NEED to, you might just WANT to... and now that you have all this fantastic buttercream icing, you'll need some cupcakes or a cake to use it on, right? Right. Why not try the recipe I posted here for tropical cupcakes (just use the basic cupcake recipe) or the one I posted here for Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake (just make the basic cake recipe).

Have a delicious day!

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