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Calling all new quarantine bakers with new recipes

By Lisa Tindell

I can only assume that with the flour shortage a few weeks ago that baking has become one of the most popular hobbies to pass the time and, of course, satisfy a quarantine sweet tooth.

Now the cake is the whole reason to bake, but you certainly need to add a little something to it to make it pretty and add even more sweetness to the dish.

Everyone has their go-to recipe for vanilla, chocolate and even red velvet cakes. But when it comes to adding a little something extra frostings seem to be the most common addition.

I will say that I have even taken to baking more in recent months and have begun looking at ways to decorate and add some beauty to my cakes. One of the most popular types of frostings is buttercream. The name implies that it uses butter. And most buttercreams are used with only a few ingredients with butter being the main proponent of the recipe. But, in the deep south, as we are, the butter can become soft and even begin to melt causing decorations to slip and slide on the tops and sides of cakes. If you’re looking for something to use as a substitute for butter, there is one simple solution – shortening.

I know that sounds like a contradiction to buttercream, but when you mix in a little vanilla flavoring or cocoa with the powdered sugar, it can become a wonderful way to top your cakes and cupcakes.

I have found that by replacing at least half of the required amount of butter with shortening, you get a nice, creamy frosting that is stable enough for even an August family reunion. Although there are many recipes and styles of buttercream, it seems that American Buttercream is preferred among many bakers for its stability and versatility. I have used the shortening version many times and have even replaced all of the butter in my recipe with shortening with good success. And, if you’re looking for a white frosting, shortening is the best option since butter tends to lend an ivory hue to the frosting. Of course, it’s a matter of taste. That’s why there are literally hundreds of versions of buttercream recipes you can find just about anywhere.

If cupcakes are your thing, using American Buttercream is almost a must. It holds up well and lends itself to piping beautiful designs on the tiny versions of cakes.

With my recent interest in decorating as much as baking, I have also looked into other varieties of buttercream. I haven’t tried them yet, but it is my intention to give Swiss Meringue Buttercream a try the next time I pull out my decorating tools. If you go to the internet, you can simply type in buttercream recipes in your search engine and find a variety of recipes and even some videos on how to create the sweet topping right down to how it should look when mixing and completed.

Keep in mind that with American Buttercream, it may also be referred to as crusting buttercream. That is because once the design is complete and the cake is chilled or allowed to dry a bit, the decorations will have a slight crust to it. This is normal, and it’s actually what you want if the cake is going to be served and stored at room temperature.

I wanted to share the recipe I use for American Buttercream and for the Swiss Meringue Buttercream I plan to try. The only reason I haven’t tried the Swiss version is that it does seem to be a little more labor and time intensive. It will have to wait until I have a day with nothing to do. I’ll even share just how to turn vanilla into chocolate without even breaking a sweat.

Buttercream does require refrigeration if you use all butter in the recipe. The finished cake can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for four or five days. If you replace at least half of the butter with shortening, the confection can be stored covered at room temperature for two to three days.

By the way, if you do any baking or decorating, please share pictures of the finished products with us on our Facebook page. I’d love to see your creations.

American Buttercream

6 cups powdered sugar sifted

2 cups unsalted butter room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring of your choice

4 tbsp heavy whipping cream room temperature

 

Prepare a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk butter (and/or shortening) until creamy. Reduce speed to low and begin adding confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time until well blended. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes or until creamy. Add vanilla and two tablespoons of cream and continue to whip on medium for a minute. Add more cream as needed until desired consistency is reached. The amount you add will be directly related to the humidity. More humidity means less cream but add more or less to reach your perfect consistency. Whip until the frosting is smooth and silky.

 

To make this frosting chocolate, simply add in one-half cup of powdered cocoa. By adding more dry ingredients, this may call for the addition of more cream. Adjust as needed.

To color this frosting, add the gel or paste food coloring before adding the cream. Using liquid food coloring is not recommended as it changes the consistency of the finished product.

 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

6 large egg whites

2 cups granulated sugar

2-3 cups unsalted butter softened but still a bit firm, cubed

Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, just until frothy. Place the bowl over a pot with one to two inches of simmering water and stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch or reads 160F on a candy thermometer. This process can take three to four minutes. Place the bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on medium-high speed until the meringue is stiff and cooled. At this point the bowl should no longer be warm to the touch and getting to that point could take as much as 10 minutes. Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth. Add in 1 tsp. Vanilla, or the flavor of your choice, and continue whipping until stiffened.