Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Buttercream Dreams

I have them. Dreams of buttercream. Believe it or not, I'm talking homemade. Yup. That's what I said.

We were invited to someone's house for a get together that was supposed to be a Valentine's kind of thing. When I thought we'd be going on February 13th, I was in Target, I saw this Duff Goldman Valentine's cupcake mix. It was for cupcakes that would be chocolate cake on the bottom and strawberry cake on top. That's right up my alley. I usually prefer raspberry as a flavor for cake or icing or anything really, but strawberry would be my second choice. I hadn't really thought out what I'd do for frosting, but I knew if it came down to needing to get it done quickly, I'd just buy a can of something. In the way, way, WAY back of my mind, I thought for a second, maybe, just maybe, I could make my own frosting.

The host of the get together changed the date to the next week very shortly after making the first date, but after I'd gone to Target. I figured I could get a cake from Zadies if need be, or if I was feeling ambitious, I could try the Duff Goldman mix.

I can bake. I can. I'm pretty good at it. I mean, it doesn't take extraordinary talent to use a mix from a box and get very tasty cupcakes, cake, cookies or brownies. I think it just depends on what you pick. I stick to the tried and true Betty Crocker or Pillsbury. I've tasted some fancier brands and they just don't stack up to the old school stand-bys. I still consider it baking when I use mixes. I've tasted boxed and from scratch cake that was gross. You do have to have some kind of capability. And, if I have to use the oven for something other than storage it's called cooking or baking. It's the "act of" either or both.

My oven, storing pans and such.

I just don't cook or bake that often. And it's always some kind of production. There is always something I don't understand, never heard of, never done, or don't know what it's supposed to mean or look like. I also tend to believe the prep time on a recipe, even though I've been proven wrong every time. Talking to you Blue Apron...and the baby teeth sized garlic pieces. I also tend to assume things are going to be simpler than they really are.

The Duff Goldman box had white frosting on the cupcakes. I didn't want just white frosting. I thought it would be killer to make strawberry buttercream. I never really thought about what that would entail though. I thought I remembered Pam (A La Cupcakes) telling me that the reason her frosting was so much better than the other girl's (the name/business that I refuse to utter) was because she used real puree in her frosting and no Crisco. I don't know what you do with Crisco but I just remember she said Crisco=bad. I just never inquired what else made up frosting. I could've assumed there would be butter in buttercream, but I just never really thought about it.

I had stuff to do after work on Friday so I decided I'd just make the cupcakes on Friday night. I knew I had gymnastics for E on Saturday morning, a supermarket pit-stop to buy a few things I was guessing would be in frosting (frozen strawberries, confectioners sugar which I saw in one of the recipes & I thought I might need more butter). I planned to be home by noon, then a birthday party locally at 3p. In my mind I was making the frosting in the thirty-five minutes I'd seen quickly on a recipe I googled and I'd be able to shower and take E to the party. I knew I'd be there until 4:30p. We were to be at the get together when B would be home around 5-5:30p.

Yeah, no. That's not how it went down. I didn't read the recipes beforehand. I just assumed the word puree meant you throw a bunch of strawberries in a blender and obliterate them. Then I'd throw that in whatever makes frosting. Sadly, no. I also had to defrost the frozen strawberries first, which took way longer than I read. They said two or three minutes and it was more like ten. Luckily, as I was defrosting, I read in the one recipe that I would have to "reduce" the puree, to get rid of the water, otherwise the frosting would be a soupy mess. Oh. Sure. Reduce. WTF does that mean? I know what it means in terms of a subtraction problem, but in food, I don't. It said to take a cup and a half or something and put it in a sauce pan for 10-14 minutes. UNTIL IT IS REDUCED TO THREE TABLESPOONS. Yeah, it took way longer than 10-14 minutes. AND I had already started to do the "rest" in the stand mixer....

In the recipe it said to use the paddle attachment for the mixer. I was picturing a paddle. An actual PADDLE. Why call it a paddle if IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE A PADDLE?? I thought I just didn't have that one. It also said to whisk the nine sticks of butter I had to use. So, I learned that buttercream pretty much only consists of the marriage of butter and confectioners sugar. Who knew? Now, I can never eat it again without feeling like I'm just holding a stick of butter and nawing on it like a dog with a bone. The recipe also said to "whisk" so I used the wiry looking attachment that I definitely have. They say to use the paddle because it's supposed to scrape the sides of the bowl as it's doing it's thing. That doesn't happen with the wiry one. So I had to keep stopping it, pulling the butter off with a spatula, and knocking it down.

Then, was supposed to add in the confectioners sugar. I didn't turn it off and I didn't put the shield thing on, so you can imagine there are clouds of sugar everywhere. It got worse when I put the shield on because I couldn't get the sugar in the hole allotted to me within the shield.

All this time I was also trying to reduce the strawberry puree. I put it in a really small pot that I normally use for couscous. As it was heating, I then thought that maybe that isn't a sauce pan and I needed something flatter. I transferred it from that pot to a pan. I didn't know what the reduction was supposed to look like but I thought of balsamic reduction on something I had at Rocca once. That seemed kind of thick so I aimed for that. The recipe also said I was to check how much it was reduced to as it was going. If it wasn't reduced enough, I was to put it back and keep reducing. You know there was red everywhere from all this transferring. AND NOTHING WAS TAKING THE AMOUNT OF TIME THE RECIPES SAID.

I was never making it to this party on time. I had red in my hair, pink on my sweatshirt, and confectioner's sugar making cumulus clouds around me. I had to call my friend whose son was also attending the party and ask her to take E. Of course she did because she's good like that. I told her I made a mess and needed to deal with it. She didn't even ask any questions. Thanks Nancy.

I finally was reduced and then the recipe told me I needed to put the reduction in the freezer to cool it down. I didn't know how long it needed to cool so I left it in a much in the freezer for like fifteen minutes. I really needed this all to be finished though because I said I was meeting E at the party. Nancy said she'd take him home but I wanted to make it there. I still had to shower and wash my hair!

I poured the cooled reduction into the standing mixer bowl and blended everything together. WELL. It was fan-fucking-tactic. If I do say so myself. I wanted to just sit around eating it off a spoon. Except I couldn't. Because- BUTTER. All that butter. Waaaah. That's all I can think. Don't think I didn't eat a decent amount of it later- like three cupcakes worth. I just couldn't eat it plain. That day.

Fast forward to yesterday- I was fine with just spooning it out. I kept the leftover Tupperware full just for me to eat on whatever, or nothing at all. I'm still continuing to eat it via spoon today.

Of course anything I decide to make has to be a whole scene with a lot of time consuming messy parts. Brisket, kugel, meatloaf....buttercream. I'm going to give you the links for the purée and for the actual cupcakes/buttercream that I used. I also had to double the buttercream recipe (so I thought) which made it more time consuming, more messy, and more confusing. But that left me with a decent amount just for me so I'm okay with it. I can cross homemade buttercream OFF my bucket list.

Strawberry Puree



  1. I was the host and can say these cupcakes were fantastic and I'm not a sweets person. The frosting was TO DIE FOR! Job well done my girl!

  2. Thanks! Now I understand why Pam only made certain flavors on certain days. Because I want more but it's way too time consuming and messy. And she had an industrial kitchen. I can't stop thinking about it though. It's the reduction thing that's the biggest pain but I don't think it would taste as good without it. Well, like the brisket, it probably gets easier and neater with practice!