playing with buttercream

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Who wouldn’t want to spend an evening playing with icing? My first major run-in with buttercream icing was in grade 12 as a teacher’s assistant for a grade 10 foods class. Our teacher was a pro at making technical food skills fun. The classroom was always lighthearted and an appropriate amount of messing and exploration was always going on. That particular day I was to prepare icing (a much more enjoyable task than cleaning out the unused freezer that had meat rotting in it for over a month because someone unplugged it). In the electric mixer that first gave me Kitchen Aid envy I measured in icing sugar, butter, milk … and then many different colours of food colouring. We made every colour of icing in the rainbow before we realised that the class would never use it all. One other student was my taste tester, because you always need to taste the icing to make sure it’s alright with. He was sick by the end of the class. It might have had something to do with trying a tablespoon full of every colour we made.

Last week it was time to pull out the buttercream skills again. I made some light chocolate cupcakes at home so they would be cool by the time I arrived for the mentoring programme I help out at. I googled a recipe on my phone and read out the ingredients one by one. Having forgotten the beaters for my electric mixer at home we ended up using a hand blender which was still far easier than mixing by hand. From there it was time to add the colouring. Watching the girl I mentor add the colour was as fun as doing it myself as a teen.

A little bit of blue and then a little bit more. Add a bit of red and see what happens. STOP! The swirls look really cool. Let’s use it like that.

Piping bag filled, we swirled the icing until each cupcake became a masterpiece.

Read on for the recipes.

Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Put cupcake liners into the cupcake tin.

In one bowl put in:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup hot water

Mix or let sit until the butter is melted.

In another bowl sift together:

  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt

Make a well and add:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

With the electric mixer on low slowly pour in the butter and water mixture to the rest of the ingredients. Mix until well combined.

Pour batter into cupcake liners so they are ¾ full. Bake just until you press down on the top of one and it springs back up. I forgot to time it but it’s somewhere around 18-20 minutes. I left them to cool in the tin.


Buttercream Icing

We did it this way because we improvised with our measuring tools.

  • 3 parts icing sugar to 1 part butter
  • A bit of vanilla
  • Only enough milk to make it soft enough to go through a piping bag but thick enough to keep its shape

Or, if you want the measurements we were supposed to use

  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. milk

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