Have you ever watched a child eat a cupcake? The way they dive right into the frosting, lick off every last bit, then ask for more?
Have you ever stood there wondering if it would be remotely acceptable to do the same? No? Oh. Just me.
Okay then, while I’m at it, I might as well make another confession. I like supermarket cake. Supermarket cakes are surprisingly good. But supermarket frostings are not. They’re way too sweet. They leave a strange aftertaste in your mouth. And don’t even look at the list of ingredients.
The solution, of course, is homemade frosting. But making frosting is not for the faint of heart. It's like watching the sausage being made. You really don't want to know how much sugar and butter (and butter and butter) goes into it.
And frosting recipes — recipes for Swiss buttercream frosting, at least — are kind of intimidating. They involve making a meringue. Have you ever made a meringue? Me either.
But if you dare to overcome these obstacles, there’s a mighty reward waiting for you on the other side. Frosting. Buttercream frosting. Homemade buttercream frosting. Rich. Creamy. Sweet. Tasting purely of butter and sugar and good vanilla extract. So good that
Don’t worry. No one’s looking.
Put sugar and egg whites into a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.
Whisk until the sugar dissolves, and the mixture thickens and becomes frothy.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on, beat in one stick of butter at a time, until the butter is incorporated.
Then, beat at medium-high speed for 6 to 10 minutes. Now listen closely. This is important. While you are beating the frosting, the mixture might separate and look like it has curdled, like this. DO NOT PANIC. Keep beating and the mixture will come back together again. I promise.
Beat in the vanilla. You will have a beautiful, delicious buttercream frosting.
Spread or pipe onto a cupcake. Decorate with rainbow sprinkles. (
The Best Buttercream Frosting
Recipe slightly adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl. Fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
2. Put the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Working with the whisk attachment, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one. Add salt and then the butter, one stick at a time, beating until smooth.
4. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate. Just keep on beating and it will come together again.
5. On medium speed, gradually beat in the vanilla.
6. You should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream.