Friday, April 13, 2012

Buttercream basics

Frosting a cake never tasted so good! If you want a simple alternative to my favorite Swiss Meringue Buttercream, the Basic Buttercream recipe I've been refining does the trick. It also pipes beautifully, smooths perfectly, and tastes divine.

For Dina's school party this year I made cupcakes from a box (don't judge me!) Duncan Hines yellow cake mix (was it Classic Yellow or Butter Recipe Golden? I don't remember.) Here in Eindhoven, this can be found at Jumbo supermarket in Veldhoven or Rohit. Of course I can't just make a box cake mix without some kind of modification so I substitute a low-fat milk for the water in the recipe. I ended up with 24 cupcakes (fill them up about 50-60% of the way so you get a nice domed top) from one box, which meant, once baked, they came just over the top of the cupcake liners.
Normally I bake 22 from a box, and fill them more, for a bigger dome top, but this was for a party with two and three-year-olds. Less is more!

Once the cupcakes cooled, I frosted them with a Basic Buttercream. The key to any frosting is, of course, the ingredients. The butter available everywhere here in the Netherlands kicks serious ass. The powdered sugar... not so much. I've only found proper 'icing' sugar or 'Poeder Suiker' at the Genneper Park molen, and the Dommelsche molen. Those of you listening back home can use Domino 10x, you lucky people. If you are unable to get powdered sugar (do not use AH brand powdered sugar, it is too grainy and will result in frosting that has the texture of sand) you can use a food processor to process the Fine crystal sugar available at AH and sift it, many times, until you achieve the right consistency. The 10x in the Domino brand sugar stands for process and sifted 10 times. I'm lazy so I just stock up when I go to Genneper park- powdered sugar never goes bad.

Basic Buttercream Frosting
230 g unsalted butter
500 g powdered sugar (one bag)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp meringue powder (Wilton brand is what I used)
2 Tbsp water
1/8 tsp salt

Start with the butter at room temperature. Beat the butter in a mixer until it looks smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl after each 100 g (approximately). Once all the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the remaining ingredients. Beat well. If the frosting is too stiff, you can add more water, 1 tsp at a time.

Frosting can be left at room temperature for a few days, but should not be left in direct sunlight, or a very warm room.

I colored the frosting using Wilton gel color purple, and added sprinkles we bought in Germany, which are very similar to American sprinkles.  Using a piping bag with Wilton tip 2D, I piped a swirl on top of each cupcake and let Dina add the sprinkles. They were sitting in the pie-taker on the counter (covered) for about an hour in the morning before I brought them to her school, and in that time, the sunshine from my window actually faded the purple frosting on one edge! Wacky, no?
You can see it at the top of this photo- the edge of several cupcakes looks blue. My husband at first thought it was a lighting effect, but it is actually the color, faded, in just an hour of sunlight, through the clear plastic container!
The Dutch tradition (at least in Dina's school) is for the birthday child to wear a crown (Dina picked purple, of course) and as each child comes to shake her hand, she gives each classmate a cupcake(or other treat). We were excited that among all her dresses, she choose the dress my grandmother made and I wore as a child to wear on her special day.
This lucky kid got to eat TWO cupcakes, one at school and one after dinner on her birthday. Dina insisted that I do something simple for her school cupcakes. The remaining cupcakes got a more fancy treatment, using a Wilton petal tip, and my husband took some photos.


  1. yum...and I love the swiss buttercream...looking forward to the end of Passover to enjoy this recipe!

  2. Thanks for the post, and perfect timing! Keaton's 1st Birthday is next weekend so I'm planning on doing some cake decorating practice this weekend. I was just about to start looking up buttercream frosting recipes when I saw your note on facebook! I'll let you know how it turns out :)


  3. Oh that first photograph makes my heart sing!
    I looove cupcakes, especially lavender-colored ones.
    Happy belated birthday to your little girl!

  4. Thanks so much for the comments, and the birthday wishes! A post on her party and cake is forthcoming...