I have plans to open a bakery some day. Well – not concrete plans to be exact. So I guess I should rephrase that. I have hopes to open a bakery some day?
I have the name already picked out. Sorry. Can’t reveal it. Don’t want someone stealing the name. And until I figure out exactly how to do this (find an investor? take out a business loan? win the lottery?), I’ve taken to perfecting my baking skills and finding the best cakes, pies, cookies, bars and brownies on the planet. When I’m ready to do this, I plan to have the best product around.
I think I’m a decent baker. Good even. I’ve had people tell me I’m an awesome baker. I’ve had plenty of people tell me I need to quit my job and open a bakery. I’m pretty confident in my baking skills. My decorating skills? Not so much. I don’t have a heavy artillery to draw from when it comes to decorating. So when a coworker asks me to bake a specific cake (recently my coworker Jackie asked me to make a red power ranger cake for her fiance), I immediately panic. I’m nothing like the Cake Boss or the Ace of Cakes. Nothing even close to either, actually. Although I’d love to expand my decorating skills, I have a feeling the cakes at my bakery will be simple and understated – much like the cakes sold at Miette in San Francisco.
Today I learned something so simple and basic about frosting I feel a bit of a frosting fool. All this time I thought buttercream frosting was made out of butter, powdered sugar and milk (essentially). Throw in some vanilla or other flavoring or some salt (which I like to add to my frostings) and bam – you’ve got the easiest buttercream frosting ever.
Yes, that is buttercream frosting. No doubt about it. But to be more accurate, that’s American buttercream frosting. What the hell? Different countries have different buttercream frostings?! Buttercream frosting isn’t universal?
Nope! It’s not. Turns out you have not only American buttercream frosting but also French and Italian Buttercream frostings. Which suggests there are other buttercream frostings out there that I’m also not aware of.
For this recipe, I used a classic Italian meringue buttercream frosting (found in Meg Ray’s Miette recipe book) made with egg whites. (For your information, a French buttercream frosting is made with egg yolks.)
I actually made a Swiss meringue buttercream at least once before (not sure what makes it Swiss?). This was before I had a decent tutorial (aka awesome Miette recipe book that explains the steps in detail). And although it ended up turning out OK in the long run, I had the classic first-time failure occur where the frosting deflated before my very eyes. (This is recoverable but I would rather avoid it all together.)
- 2. c. sugar
- 1/3 c. water
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 3 c. (1 1/2 lbs.) butter, cut into tablespoons (room temperature)
- 2 T. vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 c. raspberry juice
- To make raspberry juice, in a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 2 cups fresh raspberries with 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cook, gently stirring the berries to help them break down, until berries are liquified, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain into a heatproof bowl through a fine-mesh sieve. Let cool to room temperature before adding to the buttercream. (This yielded about one-half cup for me, so you might need 5 cups of raspberries, 5 tablespoons of water and 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar.)
- To make the buttercream, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook the mixture until it reaches 248 degrees F, 5 to 10 minutes, keeping a constant eye on it. (It will bubble up. I would suggest using a big enough pot so that it doesn’t threaten to bubble over on your stove. I used a small saucepan and found it too small.)
- Meanwhile, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees F, immediately pour it into a heat-proof measurer. Pour a few tablespoons into the egg whites, away from the whisk so the hot syrup doesn’t splash, and whisk on medium speed for a few seconds. Be careful as the syrup is very hot. Pour in a little more syrup and whisk for a few seconds until incorporated. Repeat until all the syrup has been added. Raise the speed to high and continue to whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature, 70 to 75 degrees F. (I found this took forever – in part because my mixing bowl is metal and retains heat.)
- Only when the meringue is cool enough should you begin adding the butter. Reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and begin to look curdled. Raise the speed to high an continue to add tablespoon-sized pieces of butter, making sure each is completely combined before adding more. When all the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add the raspberry juice and mix to combine.
- Use the buttercream immediately, or cover and refrigerate until needed. Store in a zippered plastic bag for up to 1 week in the refrigerator and up to 2 months in the freezer. (To thaw, leave in the refrigerator overnight, not on the countertop.) To use buttercream that has been chilled, remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 1 hour. You can also soften the buttercream over a bain-marie or a double boiler. The frosting will soften from the outer edges of the bowl, so mix from the outside, folding the frosting inside. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until soft and spreadable, 2 to 3 minutes.
Well, I didn’t really plan ahead for this one so all I had was a half cup of raspberry juice, which didn’t yield a very rich raspberry flavor. That being said, the buttercream frosting itself (set aside the raspberry flavor) was probably the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever made. Very thick, very smooth, very buttery. Pretty much perfect. This recipe is pretty laborious. But I would honestly recommend it to anyone who isn’t afraid of a complicated recipe.