Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vanilla Butter Frosting

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

I'm not one of those goddesses of cake decoration. This cake here is really really advanced for me. And unless you are 4 years old and intensely cute, you should not expect such efforts, even as this from me.

But there are 2 things that you can expect should you ever request a cake made at my hands:
1) It will taste really really great.
2) It will not be fat-free.

I kept making not enough vanilla frosting as a) I am spacially challenged and b) I kept opting to use more of the frosting in various places. Thus I had to keep making more (if you ever wish to torture yourself on someone's birthday, this is an excellent method). Which gave me plenty of opportunity to perfect my vanilla frosting and write down some measurements for you all.

It is a very good frosting. I have feelings about frosting. I will share them with you. I like buttery frostings. Or frostings with cream. Or cream cheese. I don't like frostings with shortening (an exception comes along once in a while). I don't like frostings that are just all sugar and milk. And I utterly hate hate hate Swiss buttercream frosting. I have very strong feelings about Swiss buttercream frosting and they are not good. I'll eat my whipped butter with some sugar (and more than just a measley cup per pound), thank you very much or I'll not eat it at all (that's what we call willpower, folks).

So when I want vanilla frosting, I want it buttery and creamy and smooth. I also want it sweet. Not too sweet, mind you. But sweet enough that one does not feel it should be eaten on toast. (Unless of course it is one's birthday in which case one may spread it one whatever surfaces one chooses.) In essence, I value the same qualities in a good vanilla frosting as I value in a good chocolate frosting (minus the cocoa, of course).

Vanilla Butter Frosting
Makes (oh, who knows how much really--it should ice a 3-layer cake; probably)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $2.85
(sugar: 1.50, butter: 1.35)

1 C (2 sticks) butter
2 lb confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4-8 Tbsp milk or cream

Melt butter or get it pretty dang soft. Add sugar and mix it in. It will be stiff. Add vanilla and mix. Add milk, starting with 4 Tbsp. Mix. It will probably still be pretty thick, especially if you didn't melt your butter all the way. Add more milk in Tbsp increments. I do this by hand some of the time because I never want to get the beaters out (why that seems harder than hand-mixing, I do not know), but when you use beaters it gets especially light and creamy and nice.

Tip: Want something more grown up? Brown your butter first by heating it on low or medium low for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Watch it, you don't want it burned.) If after 15 minutes or so, it's just sitting there looking melted, up the heat a bit, but watch it closely, until it's a medium caramel color.


As for the cake itself, it was swoon-worthy. So, while I won't embarrass myself, by trying to give you some sort of cake decorating tutorial, I will tell you what I did.

The cake was Pioneer Woman's sheet cake (which is beyond excellent) cut into four equal (and by 'equal' I do mean not very equal at all) rectangles.

I put different colored frostings between the layers creating an internal rainbow (come on, tell me I'm brilliant).
(If this project hadn't been dictated by a 4-year-old, I would have stopped here. As it was a chocolate frosting with a rainbow on top was the order of the day.)

After this, I cut the sides to even them out and then frosted the outside with a thin layer of white frosting. I then let that frosting set. I did this because the cake, having been cut, was very crumby. I wanted to cememt those crumbs so they didn't smear all into the other frosting. (I can't tell you what a relief it was to take a picture of food that isn't supposed to look great):

After this, I frosted the entire cake in Pioneer woman's sheet cake frosting (only I left it to cool so it was firm enough to spread). Then I made a rainbow on top, and realized I finally had made way too much vanilla frosting so I did little flowers all over the sides and voila--an amateur, but much loved cake. That tasted completely, ridiculously good.

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