Prep 10 mins
Cook 15 mins
The smell of powdered sugar makes me gag, so when I came up with this buttercream (loosely adapted from Alton Brown's Buttercream recipe), I knew I could never go the sickly sweet frosting route again for my cupcakes. This frosting is so fluffy and light and buttery and not too sweet. This frosting, however, does not set, so it's not good for piping flowers onto cakes, although is sturdy enough to support decorations made out of royal icing or "Crisco and powdered sugar" buttercream. If you have vanilla bean paste (you can get this at Williams Sonoma for the same price ounce for ounce as vanilla extract), use 1 teaspoon of the paste with 1 teaspoon of extract for that special, delicious effect of vanilla bean specks throughout the frosting.
- 7 egg whites
- 1 2⁄3 cups sugar
- 1⁄3 cup water
- 3 1⁄2 cups butter (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- In a heavy-duty saucepan, mix water with sugar until it is of even consistency.
- Put saucepan on low-med heat.
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium until they start getting stiff, then opaque. This takes about 45 seconds per egg white.
- When the sugar syrup in the pan goes into a boil for at least a minute (without burning), turn off the heat.
- With the mixer still on medium speed, pour the boiling sugar syrup into the stiffened egg whites, using a funnel. The funnel should aim directly at the egg whites in the bowl, using care not to let the sugar syrup touch the side of the bowl or the whisk, as this could cause stringy sugar crystals to form in the icing, which should be silky smooth.
- Keep the mixer on medium speed for about 10 minutes - scraping the sides of the bowl every 3 minutes or so.
- When the egg whites resembles thick marshmallow fluff, keep the mixer on low to medium speed, and start adding the butter, one half-stick at a time.
- Wait until the entire half stick is incorporated before adding the next.
- When you've added the fifth or sixth stick of butter, the mixture may begin to look watery and lumpy, like cottage cheese. This is alright - simply keep adding the rest of the butter and leave the mixer on.
- Add vanilla.
- Once all the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and watch it turn from lumpy, greasy cottage cheese into a silken smooth, dense, whipped cloud of heavenly, delicious, smooth buttercream.
- Use buttercream right away, or it can be refrigerated.
- If refrigerated, let buttercream come to room temperature for at least 2 hours before attempting to re-beat it. Otherwise, you will, once again, have the greasy cottage cheese effect, and it does take considerable effort to rebeat it to the perfect consistency.