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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: It's All About The Frosting, Baby

This weekend was crazy.  We had an Under The Sea themed joint birthday party for the girls; good food, great friends and family.  The culinary highlight of the evening, I think, at least for the grown-ups, was the Swiss Meringue Buttercream on these cupcakes.  Ooooooh Martha it was good.  I wanted to swim in it, like that old gal on Patch Adams whose life dream was to swim in a pool of noodles.  The cupcakes themselves were great too, all Martha of course, (click here for all the recipes--side note: I added the seeds of one vanilla bean to the Vanilla Cupcake recipe) but I really want to focus on the frosting.

I had no idea how many different preparations of buttercream existed--thank you Wikipedia!  The Swiss is magical, and not for timid beginners.  It took a lot of mixing and I don't know how you would do this one without a stand mixer.  It would be wonderful on any cake, or on sugar cookies, or in a bowl accompanied by a hot cup of coffee... I'm having strong feelings for this frosting.  I'm in love.  So what if the recipe takes two  entire  boxes of butter.  Throw caution to the wind!  Your happiness depends on you tasting this frosting.

From MarthaStewart.com
You'll need:
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 10 large egg whites
  • 4 cups (8 sticks) of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Sheer joy.  This frosting (which isn't even an adequate word to describe it) is perfect for mounding on top of cupcakes or smoothing thin layers on a cake.  Because of the preparation it will never 'dry out' or form a crust on the top layer--it will remain glossy and sticky to the touch.  These directions are straight from the woman herself--I took no liberties with Martha's buttercream.
Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.

Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.

Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.

Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.
I do have a couple things to add.  As it says in step 3, the buttercream WILL appear curdled after you get all the butter in.  You will panic.  Have a glass of wine and step away from the mixer.  Everything's going to be fine.    It's magic!  Culinary magic!  Also, if you're preparing it ahead of time, there will be more moments of panic.  I pulled it out of the fridge the morning of the party and let it 'come to room temperature' for two and a half hours.  It wasn't long enough.  In the mixer, it turned into something that looked like aqua blue cottage cheese in blue milk.  Gasp.  Not the canned stuff....  I had a Plan B but I wasn't eager to use it.  In Martha I Trust.  I turned the Kitchenaid on Medium/High, put my hands around the bowl of the mixer to warm it, and closed my eyes.  Six minutes later all was well--smooth, creamy perfection. 

I hope you'll try it.  Leave me a note if you do.  It will be a looooove note, I'm sure. xo

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