Buttercream 101

Would you believe that this time last year, I was moving into my sixth month of pure and undiluted no-sugar veganism? I’d Master Cleansed body, soul, and colon, washed away fifteen pounds of booty-jiggling chub and felt certain I could maintain said lifestyle until the end of time.
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Then, one afternoon, over a ladylike luncheon of salad and a honey-bran muffin,
I was visited by the Diet Epiphany Angel.
Hovering above me with her harp, she whispered a word which I knew I could no longer live without.
She sang the song of cloudlike creaminess, invited me to slather and smell and partake.
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Butter. Butter. Butter. Butter.
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Until that day, I’d discovered that I could very possibly live a life without milk. If needed, I could do without eggs. I could even tolerate desserts without sugar or cream or chicken gravy. But, I couldn’t get over butter.
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That soft melted puddle on hot toast.
That creamy mound, peppered on an ear of fresh corn.
That crisp crunch ’round the edge of warm cookies.
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And, frosting.
Did I mention frosting?
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That thick, sweet bite of homewhipped buttercream atop a baked delight.
How do you ever get over that?
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Well, I suppose you start a blog and bake like a woman saved.
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Praise Butter.

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Buttercream 101
A good tasting, good looking cupcake doesn’t need require an afternoon budget splurge at a professional bakery, nor the shipping in of exotic ingredients, nor the sacrifice of a sunny day as you hand-mold marzipan daisies for decor. Perhaps one of the most attractive qualities of a good cupcake is this: simplicity.
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First, you need a good vanilla or chocolate cake recipe.
Second, you need a good buttercream.
Third, you need a simple yet striking decorating plan.
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For now, let’s focus on step two.
Because, well. Buttercream has butter in it.
And, I believe in butter.
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The secret to a stand-up-and-sing buttercream is a pack of pure butter. When butter is skimped upon, a stiff, super-sweet frosting occurs, bogging down the fluffy cake below.
A good, basic buttercream should be simply that, basic. So basic, in fact, that you don’t actually need a recipe. You need only the right base of ingredients. Beginning with such allows you to create a multitude of succulent frosting flavors without sacrificing texture or taste.
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Do you see what this means for a world such as ours?
It means a vanilla-vanilla cupcake can be turned into a Lemon Lover’s Delight.
It means a chocolate cupcake can become a Peanut Butter Parfait.
It means any old batch of cupcakes can become a bushel of bakery-quality marvels that look and feel and taste better than your prettiest dreams.
And it can be accomplished in a snap. Here’s how…
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~SNAP~
Grab a big bowl, an electric mixer or beater, and the following:
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2 sticks butter, slightly softened
Flavorings or Extracts
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/2 c. milk

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To create a fluffy, flavorful basic buttercream, begin by whipping the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add any flavorings (1/4 tsp. -1/2 tsp. of a flavored extract, a splash of fruit juice, a scoop of cocoa powder, a spoonful of peanut butter, etc.) then add half of the powdered sugar. Whip with an electric mixer. Slowly begin to add milk a few tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached. For a slightly thicker frosting, add powdered sugar by the half cup, as needed. If you’ll need more frosting than 2 lbs. of sugar can make, be sure to add a stick of butter for every 1 lb. of powdered sugar to keep the taste of the buttercream perfectly heavenly (and not too sweet).

Description of cupcake photos above, starting at the top and moving left to right
(1) GRAPFRUIT ESSENCE: Buttercream made with a smidgen of lemon extract and several teaspoons of grapefruit juice, topped with grapefruit TicTac’s.
(2) LOLLIPOP DELIGHT: Basic vanilla buttercream tinted blue with jimmies and Charms mini lollipops
(3) PEANUT BUTTER BEAUTY: Vanilla buttercream made with a spoonful of peanut butter, topped with PB Whoppers.
(4) CANDY CANE FEVER: Light chocolate buttercream with a hint of mint extract. Vanilla buttercream piped around edges and finished off with peppermint sparkling sugar and candy.
(5) MINT CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE: Vanilla buttercream with mint extract, tinted green. Topped with a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory mint truffle.
(6) BUBBLEGUM BABY: Basic vanilla buttercream, DubbleBubble bubblegum balls (purchased in the ‘movie theatre candy section’ of Walmart.)
(7) CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE: Vanilla buttercream with french vanilla extract, mini chocolate chips and a Chips Ahoy cookie.
(8) LEMON LANE: Vanilla buttercream, lemon extract, yellow coloring, topped with sugared lemon candy slice.
(9) GRANNY’S LICORICE CARAMEL: Vanilla buttercream with a drop of molasses and anise flavoring. Colored black, then topped with a ring twisty black licorice (purchased at mall candy store)
(10) POPPERBERRY: Vanilla buttercream with drop of strawberry flavoring. Topped with Pop Rocks and candy crystals.
(11) SPRINKLY TWINKLY: Thick vanilla buttercream, topped with sprinkles and a sprinkle bubblegum ball (from a mall vending machine).
(12) ALMOND JOY: Chocolate buttercream topped with sliced almonds, coconut and chocolate jimmies.
(13) FOR KWON YONG, OUR KOREAN EXCHANGE STUDENT: Please forgive the severe lack of sticky rice and seaweed presented through our painfully American dinner fare. As a peace offering, I’ve made you the cupcake below. Thanks so very much for being patient with us, dear boy.

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Hoping your week is better than butter.

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37 Responses to “Buttercream 101”

  1. 1

    SweetThings on September 8, 2009 at 6:44 am Reply

    I love this post – you are hilarious! And your cupcake pics are amazing and so very creative!

  2. 2

    Ry and Kris Jones on September 8, 2009 at 6:55 am Reply

    Can I just say, I love you!!!

  3. 3

    John McLay on September 8, 2009 at 7:02 am Reply

    Beautiful post, sweetheart. And… DELICIOUS cupcakes!

    Love,
    Your Favorite Taste-tester

  4. 4

    Mrsblocko on September 8, 2009 at 7:19 am Reply

    AMEN! Everythings better with butter.

    ps Your cupcake pics made me smile!

  5. 5

    mosey along on September 8, 2009 at 8:12 am Reply

    Hallelujah sister. I too am a firm believer in butter.

  6. 6

    Noah's Mommy on September 8, 2009 at 8:31 am Reply

    you said it….butter makes everything better!

  7. 7

    Mary Frances on September 8, 2009 at 8:32 am Reply

    I think I just gained 5 pounds reading this post!!! Wooooooooooooooohooooooooo!!!! ;)

  8. 8

    Chablis on September 8, 2009 at 10:08 am Reply

    Oh My Gosh you kill me!

    I've always wanted to be the "veganistic" "master cleanse" kinda girl. But I've never gotten over the butter.

    Loved this post!! xoxo

  9. 9

    pam on September 8, 2009 at 10:25 am Reply

    HALLALUJAH !!!!
    ( you have seen the butter light … and not "light butter" !)
    Love your blog !!

  10. 10

    Sabrina @ Twiggles and Trunks on September 8, 2009 at 11:45 am Reply

    high five my friend, HIGH FIVE!

  11. 11

    Tovah on September 8, 2009 at 2:08 pm Reply

    That last cupcake! Awesome! I still have not mastered a good frosting of any kind. I'm definitely trying yours next time. Here's hoping it's the one that I can master!:)

  12. 12

    John & Melanie on September 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm Reply

    You make me want to raise myself to greatness, especially when cupcakes are concerned.

  13. 13

    John & Melanie on September 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm Reply

    You make me want to raise myself to greatness, especially when cupcakes are concerned.

  14. 14

    John & Melanie on September 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm Reply

    You make me want to raise myself to greatness, especially when cupcakes are concerned.

  15. 15

    John & Melanie on September 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm Reply

    You make me want to raise myself to greatness, especially when cupcakes are concerned.

  16. 16

    Stephanie on September 8, 2009 at 5:40 pm Reply

    Oh, YES!!! I am thrilled to have this recipe! Butter cream frosting is always the best, always!
    - From one butter lover to another, thanks!

  17. 17

    rachel on September 8, 2009 at 7:12 pm Reply

    You are awesome!

  18. 18

    Katrina on September 8, 2009 at 8:26 pm Reply

    Love your new header (I may be late on noticing). GREAT post. Lovin' butta and thanks for the buttercream recipe, for some reason I grew up in a house that always used shortening–even for frosting and I have seen the light–butta, baby!

  19. 19

    Sara @ Our Best Bites on September 8, 2009 at 10:44 pm Reply

    I could live without a lot of things, and butter is not one of them!

  20. 20

    Jaime on September 8, 2009 at 10:55 pm Reply

    Oh, Brooke.
    Lovely, lovely, Brooke.
    Those are absolutely delightful.
    Well done.

  21. 21

    the quirky mom on September 8, 2009 at 10:56 pm Reply

    i worship you for posting this…:D

  22. 22

    Phantomkid on September 9, 2009 at 7:29 am Reply

    Wow mo this is my most favorite post EVER! AMAZING! I loveed the Sprinkle bubblegum, and the suhi cupcake is hilaririous!

  23. 23

    mo on September 9, 2009 at 10:34 am Reply

    Ahhhh Butter. The other white meat.
    I need to go bake me some cupcakes now!

  24. 24

    tastestopping on September 9, 2009 at 11:38 am Reply

    I like you. I really like you. And your buttercream. If there aren't cupcakes on my counter, at the very least there is usually a container of leftover buttercream in my fridge, waiting for an empty spoon. You have inspired me to look beyond my basic buttercream recipe and start throwing down with peanut butter and lemon and some of the raspberry puree in my freezer (just not, perhaps, all in the same batch!). Thanks for the laugh today!

    Anyway, I found you through TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.

    Best,
    Casey
    Editor
    http://www.tastestopping.wordpress.com

  25. 25

    RecipeGirl on September 9, 2009 at 1:18 pm Reply

    How is it that I have never, ever visited your delightful blog?? I absolutely adore it. I'll be back again & again… I'm addicted to baking too.

  26. 26

    Conversation Pieces on September 10, 2009 at 3:21 am Reply

    As I am loving your blog (it makes me want cupcakes all the time though!), I've given you a blog award… x

  27. 27

    tinahead81 on September 10, 2009 at 9:46 am Reply

    all i have to say is AMEN!! loved reading that! :o)

  28. 28

    Emily on September 10, 2009 at 10:48 pm Reply

    Love the lolipop delight and candy cane cupcakes. Pictures are amazing with detail.

  29. 29

    Anonymous on September 12, 2009 at 12:30 pm Reply

    i absolutely adore your blog! your cupcakes are just precious :)

  30. 30

    Shannon on September 12, 2009 at 8:07 pm Reply

    You had me at "buttercream"
    xoxo

  31. 31

    lyndsay on September 13, 2009 at 3:40 pm Reply

    you rule. so hard. !!!

  32. 32

    Lisa on September 13, 2009 at 5:15 pm Reply

    The only thing better than butter is butter and sugar! I am going to try your buttercream icing next weekend. Thanks for sharing it!

  33. 33

    The Cake Lady on September 13, 2009 at 6:51 pm Reply

    Brooke,
    You just keep me amazed! I LOVE THERE CUPCAKES!!
    When I have time to just peek at a few blogs yours is where I find myself!
    I do remember the 'conversation' we had about no sugar :)
    Thanks for sharing your talent with me… You motivate me to keep going when i think I am done 'caking'
    Shelley

  34. 34

    smita on September 16, 2009 at 8:13 pm Reply

    Such lovely cupcakes , truly each is a piece of art!!!

    I simply love food art u can check out my creations for picky lil eaters on -
    http://littlefoodjunction.blogspot.com/

  35. 35

    best at home colon cleansing on September 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm Reply

    thanks for the information

  36. 36

    MySweetCreations on February 23, 2010 at 11:33 pm Reply

    You are such an inspiration. I need to start baking more cupcakes!

  37. 37

    L.R. M-J on April 25, 2010 at 6:33 am Reply

    I just wanted to let you know that in your new format (I loved the old one! :( ) the right hand side of this post is cut off by your big margin on the right and some of the recipe information is not legible!

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