When I first moved into my own apartment back in college, I was given a big red Betty Crocker cookbook as a gift. Being a sweet lover, one of the first recipes I tried was peanut butter cake with fudge frosting. The cake part turned out okay – just a little over baked. But the frosting was horrible! It was a huge clumpy mess and I had to throw the whole thing out. I was devastated. After that I was scared to attempt frosting again for fear of failure.
Not too long ago I decided to give it a go again. Since that fateful day in college I have acquired one of the greatest tools you can have in your kitchen…..behold the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!
Let’s begin. To make basic buttercream frosting you need the following ingredients – butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. I have seen recipes with varying proportions, but this is what works best for me:
Basic Buttercream Frosting
Enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes
1 stick butter at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons of milk
Begin by placing the stick of butter in the mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter at medium-high speed until it is very soft and creamy. If you are making white frosting this step is important as it makes the butter lighter in color and will make your frosting more white. Next beat in the powdered sugar one cup at a time on low to medium speed. The mixture will be creamy at first, but by the time you add in the last cup it will be dry and crumbly. That is ok. The next step will bring it all together.
Now add the vanilla and one tablespoon of milk. Beat on low first then increase the speed to medium. Check the consistency of the frosting. It should be starting to come together. Beat in another tablespoon of milk. Again watch the consistency. Add a third tablespoon of milk. Beat on medium then high speed for a minute or so to make the frosting extra creamy and spreadable. If the frosting still seems thick, add another tablespoon of milk.
What I’ve found with frosting is that you just have to watch it come together and check the taste and consistency as you go. If you are not sure about it, try to spread some on a cutting board to see if it is hard to spread. If it is then add more milk. If it’s too runny add more powdered sugar.
To frost a cake or cupcakes, the best tool to use is an offset spatula. These can be purchased just about anywhere, but you may need to look in the specialty cake section. If you do not have one or don’t want to purchase one, use a spoon instead of a knife for cupcakes. It gives you more control and is less messy.
Now that you know how to make basic buttercream, you can start making variations. Two that I have made are mint buttercream (very tasty on chocolate cupcakes) and maple buttercream (extremely good on butter pecan cupcakes). All you do is omit the vanilla from the above recipe and add in a different flavored extract. You will probably need to add more than just one teaspoon of flavoring. If that is the case, you will want to use less milk. For the maple buttercream I used pure maple syrup in place of the milk.
So is it worth it? Most definitely! Once you get the hang of it, a batch of homemade frosting can be whipped up fairly quickly, and the taste is far superior to store-bought frosting in a can. I’m not completely sure if there is cost savings, but I know it can’t cost any more than store-bought. And everyone is impressed by homemade frosting.