Monday, July 13, 2009

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

In my case, it's "teaching an old cake decorator new techniques." Lately, I have been researching new decorating techniques and recipes on the internet. It's never too late to learn something new, right? Anyway, since we've moved to Colorado, I have never been quite happy with my buttercream icing recipe. It just doesn't go together as well as it did back in Arizona. It could be the altitude, the humidity, or lack of humidity, or whatever. All I know is that it's not ever as smooth as I wanted it. So, I have been researching ideas to "tweak" my recipe, and I think I finally came up with a recipe I like. First of all, I found an article somewhere that talked about the fact that because Crisco now uses a "no trans fat" recipe, you have to add more fat back into your icing recipe. So I now use a small amount of butter in with my Crisco, and add cream instead of water. I beat it a bit differently, too, and walla...nice smooth buttercream again. I also find that depending on what I'm icing, and whether I need it to crust or not, will depend on how much butter or cream I use. For example, I did another cake for an Air Force Academy promotion today and I needed the icing to crust so I could press the pattern into the top, so I used less milk and butter than I did for a cake I did over the weekend that I just needed a basic outline and the rest was done freehand. I also want a stiffer consistency if I'm making flowers. Go ahead and experiment with this recipe until you get it the consistency you want. So here is the basic recipe:

1-1 1/2 cups Crisco shortening
1/2 - 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
(Total shortening and butter should equal 2 cups)
1/2 tsp. salt (leave out or use less if you use salted butter)
1-2 tsp. butter vanilla emulsion
8 cups sifted powdered sugar
4 - 6 oz. cream

You must use a heavy duty stand mixer (like a Kitchenaid) to make this recipe. Using the flat beater attachment (this will add less air bubbles and make a smoother icing), combine the butter and Crisco and beat 5-10 minutes at medium speed until very smooth and fluffy. Add flavoring and salt and beat again. Scrape bowl several times while beating the shortening mixture to make sure it is all incorporated. Next, add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time until it is all mixed in. You may not need to sift it as long as you don't have a bunch of lumps in it. It seems to turn out smoother for me when I sift it. (Tip: just use a large metal sieve to sift-it works better than a sifter.) At this point, it will be very stiff. Then add the cream, a little at a time and continue to beat with the flat beater at medium until smooth and fluffy, scraping the bowl often. Start with only 1/2 cup of cream, and add just a little more at a time until it is the consistency you want. I use 4 oz. (1/2 cup) for a good crusting buttercream, and 5 1/2 or 6 oz. for a very soft (almost like whipped cream) consistency.

Cake using stiffer consistency buttercream

Cake using softer consistency buttercream

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