It’s our intern’s 20th birthday, so I took the liberty of being a good role model (a whopping 5 years older than her, but whatever) and giving her a nice gift – food!
Cupcakes, to be specific.
I asked her what her favorite baked good is and she gave me a wordy response that included “chocolate cake or cupcakes” and “strawberries” somewhere in it. Well, following the crazy cupcake trend that’s been spreading throughout the world, I made a nice batch of chocolate-strawberry cupcakes for her.
I used this recipe for the chocolate cupcakes but substituted mayonnaise in place of the sour cream. (You’ve got to work with what you’ve got! You can also use yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo.)
For the buttercream frosting, I basically followed my go-to recipe. I used to be awful at making buttercream frosting, but I soon learned some tricks:
- Don’t be scared of butter! I used to try to use margerine, but it never held and would melt like crazy. No matter how much powdered sugar I’d add, it would never get stiff. Use butter. (I will post, in due time, a recipe for vegan “butter”cream frosting.)
- You don’t need to be exact. I used to measure every half or quarter cup of powdered sugar… every single 1/8 teaspoon of extract. No need! Temperature, age of the butter, how long the sugar has been sitting in your pantry, etc. all affects how things will turn out, so scrutinizing your measurements with something as simple as frosting is a waste of time. Just taste and test as you go, that’s it.
- Get a good mixer. Before I had my Kitchenaid mixer, I had a standing mixer I got for free from my boyfriend’s mom, who got it for cheap at a garage sale. It did its job for a while, but it took forever for frosting (or anything, for that matter!) to come together. Since I was very very young, I dreamed of owning a Kitchenaid stand mixer, and finally I was able to get one after winning a gift card to Amazon.com. I love it, and it makes mixing, beating, whipping, etc. infinitely easier!
Now, onto the recipe.
Stupidly Simple Buttercream
Makes enough to frost & fill 12 cupcakes… at least!
- 1 stick of butter @ room temperature
- roughly 1/3 of a 5lb bag of powdered sugar
- a few drops of vanilla extract
- a drizzle of whipping cream
In a standing mixer (or using a hand-held mixer… or using a whisk, if you’re super-strong) beat the butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Keeping the mixer on medium-high, add the powdered sugar in small batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Continue adding until the frosting is stiff but spreadable.
Add the whipping cream while the mixer is still running. Add powdered sugar if you notice the frosting is too wet and/or won’t hold its shape. Frost cooled cake or cupcakes. Lick the beater until clean, too.
Tip: To get your butter at room temperature in a pinch, put the stick in the microwave for 10-12 seconds.
I made my batch into strawberry buttercream by adding a few heaping spoonfuls of strawberry jam (100% fruit, no added sugar or other garbage). You can use any jam, obviously, to make custom fruity frostings.
You can make chocolate buttercream by adding about 1/4 cup of cocoa powder before you add the cream.
Replace the vanilla extract with any extract you’d like to make it unique. Peppermint, butter, almond, orange… get creative!
I decided to add a little finesse to my cupcakes by not only filling each cupcake with a little of the buttercream, but I also dunked the tops of each in chocolate ganache before piping the frosting on top.
Definitely not health food… and you can bet that after licking the cake batter bowl clean and licking my Kitchenaid mixer’s whisk attachment free of frosting that I went for a 40-minute run up and down stadium stairs! All the pain was worth seeing my coworkers – especially the birthday girl! – enjoy the treats.