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by Heather Harris Brady

Okay, here we go with finishing these babies up! Brace yourself, this post is going to be a long one. There are a few things to think about in advance – 1) what type of filling you want and 2) if/how you want to cover the outside of each one.

Filling – I’m using two layers, one lemon curd and one apricot preserves plus some Italian buttercream, because I love it. You can use any type of thick jam or jelly. The thicker the better, because that’s what’s going to glue your layers together when it comes to the outside coating. If you’re going to skip the outside coating (by far the easiest thing!) you can use either jam or buttercream between your layers.

Coating – I tried several different poured fondant recipes and couldn’t find one that was successful enough to share. By that then I was running short on time so I defaulted to chocolate couverture. If I had more time I would have made a batch of ganache for the coating.

If you decide not to use buttercream you can skip the following recipe and go straight to the assembly section below. If you haven’t had true Italian buttercream all I can say is it’s the most luxurious, smooth, rich frosting imaginable. There are lots of recipes out there, but they are all basically the same. Dede Wilson’s from her Wedding Cake Book has always been my go-to. While it’s possible to do this in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, a stand mixer really makes it easy.

Italian Meringue Buttercream, Makes enough to generously frost one 8″ double-layer cake or 24 cupcakes

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 t. cider vinegar
  • 2 t. high-quality vanilla
  • 1 t. almond extract

Put the egg whites in the mixing bowl and beat to soft peaks. Beat in the 1/3 c. sugar a tablespoon at a time, and whip to stiff peaks. Set aside while you make the syrup.

Combine the water, vinegar and granulated sugar in a heavy saucepan. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar and cook over medium heat to the soft-ball stage, about 235 on a candy thermometer.

When it starts to look syrupy and the bubbles struggle a bit to get to the surface you’re almost there.

When you hit the temperature turn your mixer on high and drizzle the hot syrup directly into the beaten egg whites. You have to be quick and decisive about this. This egg whites will foam up as you beat them together.

Beat until the sides of the bowl are close to room temperature. Then start to add the butter, a few pieces at a time.

It will make your egg whites turn a little soupy but that’s okay! Keep going. When you get all the butter in it will magically come together. (You’re making an emulsion, like mayonnaise.) When it comes together, beat in your flavorings.

Set the buttercream aside until you’re ready to use it.


ASSEMBLY

8 oz. marzipan

Get out your almond cake from the previous recipe.

Decide how many layers you want, and plan your cutting. I’m doing four layers – with lemon curd, buttercream, and apricot in between. (This was a little tall, you might want to stop at three cake layers.) I cut it in half, and then in half again.

I stacked these to create two cake “sandwiches”, one with lemon curd in the middle and one with apricot in the middle. I spread buttercream on top of one, stacked the other on top, and covered the whole thing in buttercream. Put it in the refrigerator to set the icing. (If you’re making petit fours with uncovered sides leave them uniced.)

Divide your marzipan in half and roll it to fit the top of your cake.

Trim it to fit. Turn the cake over and do the same for the bottom. Chill again, as long as you can spare. I also weighted my cake, to make sure the layers would stick together. When you’re ready to finish them get a sharp knife and cut your brick of cake into your desired sizes and shapes.

Keep your knife clean and dip it in hot water for clean cuts.

To finish with couverture melt your chocolate until smooth. Dip the bottom of each cake first and let it set up.

Then grasp each one by the bottom, and dip the uncovered portion. Work fast – especially if you have buttercream between the layers!

I made some little rolled roses with extra marzipan and put one on each cake. The good news is, after all that work, the little cakes are pretty much indestructible once coated in chocolate. Store them in the refrigerator and take them out a few hours before serving. Freeze for longer storage.

Having to resort to chocolate, while delicious, was not the smooth fondant covering I had pictured. I will keep trying to come up with a good reliable poured fondant recipe!

buttercream7_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

I once used this on a wedding cake for a lovely cardiologist’s daughter, despite the fact there’s over a pound of butter IN ONE BATCH, he had two servings. It’s that good! I only make it on special occasions now, but back in the wedding cake heyday I made two or three batches a day. There’s nothing like it: warm ivory in color, silky, delicate, with a beautiful sheen and mild flavor that enhances any type of layer cake. I do recommend storing the icing and the finished cake in the fridge. The buttercream will set up rock-hard, so take it out at least 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.

This recipe is from Dede Wilson’s Wedding Cake Book. I’ve made it more times than I can count, and it has never failed. You do, however, need a large Kitchenaid with the 5 qt. bowl. The meringue will come right up to the top.

Classic Italian Buttercream, Makes about six cups (enough for one 10″ layer cake)

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1-1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 t. vinegar or lemon juice
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1-1/2 lbs. butter at cool room temperature, soft but not melting (that’s not a typ0 – six entire sticks of butter)
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1 t. almond extract

Combine the water and the 1-1/2 c. sugar in a saucepan with the vinegar over medium heat. We’ll be boiling it to 248 degrees.

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While the sugar syrup is bubbling, put the egg whites in the mixer bowl and beat them to soft peaks. Beat in the 1/3 c. sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks. Your goal to to have the syrup at temperature and the egg whites ready at the same time. It’s okay if the whites are done early, just turn the mixer down to 2 and let them wait.

When the sugar syrup has reached 248 it will get a thick film of bubbles on the top, kind of like this:

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Turn the mixer up to high and drizzle the sugar syrup into the whites. They will puff up to the top of the bowl.

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When the bottom of the bowl is comfortable to the touch you can start whipping in the butter a tablespoon at a time. I just start hacking the sticks into chunks and let them fall into the bowl. You’ll lose a lot of volume right away but don’t worry. When you get to your last couple of sticks it will all magically come together into fluffy clouds of deliciousness.

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Lastly beat in the flavorings and assemble your cake.

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The cake sandwich with a blob on top ready to spread.

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Then I add a skim coat to the side and put the cake in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. This will lock all those unsightly crumbs into the bottom layer of icing.

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Then add the second layer of frosting to the side.

One year ago: Date Conserve

 

Christmas Cookies, Little House by the Dunes

I hope everyone has been enjoying some terrific winter holidays this month! A sudden snowstorm last Thursday left us with 18″ of beautiful fluffy snow – and an extra day at home to get more baking done! Everyone got into the act, even the American Girls~

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The frosted sugar cookies are always a big hit, and they are so pretty mixed in with the rest of the assortment. Let’s get baking!

Frosted Sugar Cookies, Recipe

1 recipe milanderli dough

1 batch of American buttercream frosting (below)

The dough is easy to handle and rolls out beautifully.

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When you’ve cut out all your shapes, bake them at 325 for about 10 minutes, or until they just begin to color.

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Let them cool completely while you make the frosting. When I did wedding cakes I typically used an Italian buttercream but for cookies I always use an American style buttercream. Since the cookies aren’t very sweet, they can handle the sweeter frosting.

American Buttercream Frosting, Recipe

6 T. butter, softened

4 c. powdered sugar

2 t. vanilla

1 t. almond extract

3-4 T. heavy whipping cream

Combine the butter, sugar and extracts in a mixing bowl. Whip at medium speed until combined. Turn the mixer to high and drizzle in the cream until you reach the desired consistency. I keep mine a little on the firm side, because if you add coloring it will thin a little bit.

Continue to whip for another five minutes. This will give you a super creamy texture.

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Keep the buttercream covered until you are ready to use it because a crust will form over the top.

Since I keep all my cookies a little on the small side, the sprinkles I had seemed really huge. So I put them in the food processor and whirled them until they were smaller.

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They were a little dusty but otherwise fine.

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Divide your buttercream and spread each cookie. I let them sit out for about an hour to allow the frosting to crust over a little bit. For longer storage freeze them in a single layer as shown before packing them into ziplock bags.  These will keep for a month if well wrapped, and give you a headstart on any later holiday parties.

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I like to give the frosting job to the kids. . .it adds a certain charm I think!

 

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