Licorice Delight: Vanilla Almond & Anise Cupcakes

Anisette Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

My kitchen can be a wondrous place at times. What comes into it as a delightful cookie, milkshake, or other treat recipe, often leaves as a frilly cake or cupcake–it’s a magical occurrence that I simply can’t explain. I suppose that’s not a tragic thing, but it is quite mysterious. That is, in fact, how these Licorice Delight cupcakes came to be. See, Nanny (also known as Grant’s mom and Mary Lou) is Italian, and she has been making the most delicious Italian Anise Cookies (or, as they are called to us, ”Anisettes”) since long before I came along. She makes them on holidays, and, since everyone loves them so, many other times throughout the year. Her mother (also known as Nanny) made them for what I imagine was most of her life, and who knows, perhaps even her mother and grandmother made them back in Italy. The cookies are a melt-in-your-mouth buttery cookie with a subtle-but-distinct anise flavour (think similar to natural licorice), and are either topped with a sweet confectioners’ glaze and topped with colourful sprinkles (what I’ve discovered to be a more traditional method), or, as Nanny makes them, and her mother made them, topped with a generous spreading of vanilla buttercream frosting and sprinkles.

Grant, my 50% Italian, non-dessert man decided long before we met that Anisette cookies are the one and only treat that he will compromise his otherwise freakish healthy diet for, by eating an entire tin of them at one sitting. This is true, and it’s quite fascinating for the rest of us to witness. Did I mention that he cannot stand licorice? Black jelly beans? Never. So anise and licorice are technically two different plants altogether, but the flavours are so similar. That’s the wonderful thing about anise–it has such a delicious natural flavour that non-licorice lovers seem to love it (and, actually, when I tell Grant that anise is what is often added to black jelly beans to bring out the licorice flavour, he actually tells me I must be mistaken because he would never eat such a thing) and licorice lovers seem to pick up on the flavour immediately and, of course, celebrate its delightfulness.

Anisette Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

 Since I also adore Nanny’s cookies, I had every intention of blogging and sharing them with you, and I likely still will, but for the longest time now I’ve been wanting to turn them into cupcakes. With such simple and cupcake-friendly flavours, I just knew they would taste so good that way. So, this past week while Reese was at school, Neve and I made a batch and, as I suspected, they are delicious and simple, but unique. Sort of a family tradition reinvented. For the cupcakes themselves, I started with a vanilla cupcake recipe that I love and have used (such as here) many times, as I love the light and fluffy texture, but I added some almond extract, as almond and anise pair really well. Now, I’ve reversed Nanny’s Anisette Cookie method by tying the anise into the icing rather than the cupcake, but I felt compelled to do it that way. You can definitely put anise in both the cupcake and the frosting, but to keep it subtle, I opted for anise frosting only. I couldn’t resist using my recent favourite recipe for whipped vanilla frosting, so I made that with a good hit of vanilla and natural anise extract, which is heaven. Whipped vanilla licorice-ish-but-not anise heaven.

Sweetapolita

Even ask Neve–I bet she’d agree.

Sweetapolita

Sometimes it’s the sweetest little things that bring the most joy, and that’s really what it’s all about. Baking with my kids and keeping it light and fun often makes for the yummiest and most memorable treats. Nothing fancy, just homespun and super delicious.

Anisette Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

I wanted to embrace the licorice-ness, and so I used some white DeRuijter Anise sprinkles on some of them and mini licorice all-sorts. Since anise isn’t officially licorice, but just an incredible authentic flavour of its own, you certainly don’t need to emphasize the candy aspect. You could go with a simple frosting swirl and even a few white sprinkles. Adding a vanilla bean to the frosting would also be a beautiful and classic take on it. Really, just the combination of almond, vanilla, and anise is a winner and would work in so many ways. Did someone say Licorice Delight Cake? Good thinking.

These cupcakes are so fluffy and moist vanilla, that I, literally, could not stop eating them when I was frosting them. Believe it or not, that doesn’t happen as much as you would expect. I can often run on autopilot and just do what I need to do without eating every baked good in sight, but these were really incredible.

Anisette Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Now, typically friends don’t let friends photograph hot espresso and cupcakes while using a MacGyver’d foam core board rested against any random object to reflect light, but that’s how I roll, seemingly. 

Anisette Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

That’s okay, because around here we always know when it’s time to take a cupcake break.

 

Licorice Delight: Vanilla Almond & Anise Cupcakes

Yield: 30 standard cupcakes (you can halve this recipe)

Moist & fluffy vanilla-almond cupcakes topped with whipped anise frosting and mini licorice allsorts.

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1-3/4 cups (175 g) cake flour (aka cake & pastry flour)
  • 1-1/4 cups (157 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks)(227 g) unsalted butter cut into 1-inch cubes, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure almond extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups (475 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons (37.5 ml) milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.75 ml), or to taste, pure anise extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line standard cupcake pans with your favourite paper cupcake liners. (I love black & white liners for the Anise Cupcakes!)
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder and salt) and mix on low until blended. On medium-low, add cubes of butter, a few at a time, and mix each one for a moment before adding the next few, until each cube of butter is incorporated. Be sure there are no large chunks of butter in the batter.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Be sure each egg has been incorporated before adding the next.
  4. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together milk, vanilla, and almond extract. With mixer on medium, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula after each addition. Beat until just incorporated (try not to over-beat).
  5. Using a 1.5 oz cookie scoop (or your cake batter tool of choice), divide batter among liners (should be 2/3 full). Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and immediately transfer the cupcakes onto a cooling rack by inverting the tray. Carefully turn the cupcakes right-side-up and let cool completely before frosting.
  7. For the Frosting:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium. Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  9. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  10. You can include one seeded and scraped vanilla bean and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of pure vanilla extract for a deeper vanilla flavour (and the glorious vanilla bean specks).
  11. Once cupcakes are completely cool, spread frosting over each one using a small offset spatula or you can pipe frosting using a piping bag and your desired pastry tip. I used Ateco #887. Top with sprinkles, black jelly beans, Goodies, or, as I used, Mini Licorice Allsorts.
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[Cupcake batter recipe adapted from Billy's Bakery Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes via Martha Stewart]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Fluffy Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

8640 minutes, 144 hours, 25 loads of dishes, 7 recipes, 8 pounds of butter, a few tears, a couple of happy children, and 1 relieved husband later, I have finally found it: a new favourite classic vanilla cake recipe! The perfect fluffy vanilla cake and creamy vanilla frosting–sounds simple, right? Well, yes and no. Or no and yes. Or not at all. As a matter of fact, I think I need a hug. I must confess: I baked and frosted a delightful vanilla cake last Tuesday with every intention on blogging about it that night. I think I even promised a few people it was coming, when they asked if I had the ultimate vanilla cake recipe. But then something happened. Something sort of frustrating, really. And then it happened again. And again. And again. And, while I’m being honest–again! Oh, and one more time after that. All with different vanilla cake recipes every day over the course of the past week.

After I baked, frosted, and then ate some (it’s been known to happen) of each cake, I thought I’d succeeded in finding a really light and fluffy cake, but, then upon second taste, I was a bit disappointed with them and I wasn’t inspired to share them with you for that reason. See, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for the lightest, fluffiest, and yummiest white scratch cake I can find. True, I have shared several vanilla cakes with you so far over the months, and I stand behind those cakes completely–they are all classic recipes that yield moist and flavourful vanilla cakes.

The thing is, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a recipe out there that yields a fluffy vanilla cake, you know, one that is as close as can be to the boxed white cake we all love so much (yep, I said it!). You know I love to bake, and, if you’ve been visiting me here, you likely know that I bake everything I can from scratch. The truth is, though, that boxed white cake tastes so good! The bad news, is that they are filled with whiteners and chemicals that make them super white, super light, and super moist. The same thing goes for the canned frostings, but man, do they taste good. So creamy and rich, but not too thick. The good (or even great) news is that, this morning I baked one last vanilla cake. Alas, it was the best of all, and officially my new go-to vanilla cake recipe when I want something fluffy and moist. It definitely still has the homemade taste, and will never be as pure white or airy as a boxed cake, but for my taste, it’s pretty delicious. And . . . the frosting. Oh, the frosting!

Fluffy Frosting via Sweetapolita

Here’s what’s kind of interesting about both the frosting and the cake recipes, even though they aren’t adapted from the same source: What makes them particularly amazing is in the method, even though the ingredients and ratios are all very standard. The cake recipe has all of the typical ingredients in a vanilla cake: cake flour, butter, milk, egg whites, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. The difference, though, is rather than creaming the butter and sugar together and alternating the wet and dry ingredients, the dry ingredients are combined, followed by the addition of the butter and partial milk for a few moments, and finally the gradual addition of the remaining milk/vanilla/egg white mixture in 3 even batches. This method is known as the two-stage method of cake mixing. It’s considered a “high-ratio cake” due to the high ratio of sugar to flour. This type of cake also has more liquid than traditional creamed-method cake recipes, making the batter more more liquidy.

This method is found in many of the cakes in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book entitled The Cake Bible, and it really does yield an incredibly fluffy cake. This was the first official baking book I bought after it was recommended to me by the pastry chef teaching the first baking course I took. If you like to bake, and something tells me you do, this is an absolute must. It is a huge book, filled with every cake recipe you can imagine, along with helpful background, method, and tricks. Now, I did make Rose’s White Velvet Butter Cake from that book, and it was incredible, but I then discovered a version on Baking Bites that had more egg whites and less flour, so I was curious to give that a try. In the end, I loved it the best! I adapted it only slightly by increasing the vanilla and omitting the almond extract the recipe called for. Just be careful to not overbake, or it will dry the cake out. I’m convinced that even fabulous vanilla cake recipes get a bad review for being dry because, in reality, they are over-baked. I should also mention that a recipe such as this one, that features the wonderful flavour of real vanilla, is most delicious when you use a pure vanilla extract.

The frosting I adapted from a Donna Hay recipe, and let me tell you how incredible it is. You’ve probably caught on that I do love the wonderful and not-so-sweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but sometimes the world (and my husband)  just needs a creamy, sweet vanilla frosting and fluffy vanilla cake. It’s also great for kids’ cakes, and for days when you want to just whip up a quick frosting/filling. Again, the ingredients are those of a very standard frosting: butter, icing sugar, milk, and vanilla (I used vanilla bean too). But . . . it’s a whipping frenzy! It’s fabulous. The first step is the whipping of the butter, and right then and there I was in love. When butter is whipped for several minutes (in this case, 8), it becomes very pale and fluffy, which is a gorgeous base for a frosting. Once the remaining ingredients are whipped up for another 6 minutes, it turns into the most incredibly light and creamy frosting I have ever seen or tasted. For some inexplicable reason, it tastes exactly like homemade vanilla ice cream so, in other words, sweet heaven.

If you have a vanilla cake recipe that you feel is the lightest and fluffiest cake out there, I’d love for you to share a link in the comments section. I’m kind of vanilla-cake-obssessed right now, and although it’s freaking me out a little, I can’t let it go quite yet . . .

Before I go, I wanted to talk a little bit about transporting your baked masterpieces. I’ve had several people ask me what is the best way to get cakes and cupcakes from A to B, and so I thought it may be helpful to share what I do. As with anything, everyone has their preferences, so this is just what I do. There may be even better ways out there, but this seems to work for me:

Transporting Cakes

1. When I know I have to bring a cake somewhere, I always build the cake on a thin silver cake board (3/16″ thin boards, not the 1/4″ cake drums) the same diameter as my cake, such as PME Sugarcraft Round Cake Board – 8″. I find that the cardboard rounds, tend to get soggy and greasy, so I stick to the silver boards. When your cake is on a board, you can move it all around to and from the refrigerator during the frosting process, as well as on and off a cake pedestal or plate once you get to your destination. These are also the boards that cake tiers are built on when doing a multi-tiered cake, so that the tiers can be stacked. You can also buy these at your local baker’s supply shop, or online.

2. If my cake is only 1 tier and standard height, I will take it with me in a bakery-style cake box that I buy from my local cake supply. They are relatively inexpensive and come in many sizes and even fun bakery colours, such as pink and turquoise. Kind of fun when bringing a cake to a dinner party and small events.

2. If my cake doesn’t fit in a cake box (which is often the case with my frequent sky-high cakes), I use my Wilton Cake Caddy, which is great because then once I get to the cottage, or other destination, the cake stays fresh over the course of the weekend, since the caddy is airtight. To ensure the cake doesn’t move around in the caddy, I always use a small square of rubber grip between the bottom of the cake board and the caddy base. I couldn’t survive without these bits of rubber mesh, and I use them for everything cake-related. These are the rubber grip mats you buy for under your rugs. I buy them at our HomeSense for a good price, and then cut squares and bits as I need it. I find about 4″ squares work well for under pretty much any standard cake board.

3. To get my cakes from the cake plate to the box or caddy (or from any plate, turntable, etc.), I always use this handy tool: Wilton Cake and Cookie Lifter. Please don’t make me imagine a world without it.

4. Once my cake is safely in the box or caddy, I then clear a flat space on the car floor or trunk, with a big square of the same rubber mesh between the floor and box/caddy. If you give it a little test move with your hands, you’ll feel that it’s pretty solid. Incidentally, this is the same way I transport wedding cakes on the cake drum (thick board) – in the back of my truck on the rubber mat with a layer of the rubber mesh on top, then the cake. It’s amazing how secure this method really is. Someday, when we know each other even better, and you care to hear about some of the crazy stories I have up my sleeve, I’ll tell you all about our 6-tiered wedding cake that didn’t quite make it to our wedding in one piece. Ouch! But, yes, believe it or not, even I know that a cake is just a cake, and we lived to tell the story!

That being said, it would be ideal to get your cake, whether it’s big or small, fancy or homespun, to its destination in one piece…

Transporting Cupcakes

1. If I’m transporting more than 3 dozen, I will use designated cupcake bakery boxes and always with the insert (such as Goldas Kitchen Cupcake Insert – Standard – Holds 12 – 10 pack) and place them in the trunk in the same manner I do the cakes — with the rubber mesh under the boxes. I will tie 3 stacked cupcake boxes together using baker’s twine or string and transport them that way.

2. If I’m transporting 3 dozen or less, I use my cupcake courier Cupcake Courier 36-Cupcake Plastic Storage Container, Petal Pink, which again is great because when I get to my destination, it keeps them fresh for us while we snack on them over the course of a few days.

A Final Note About Transporting Cakes & Cupcakes: In the warmer weather, I always run the air conditioning in our vehicle as cool as we (my husband) can tolerate. If I’m transporting a smaller cake that needs refrigeration (such as a whip cream covered cake, or other delicate frosting), I usually place it on the front passenger’s side floor and have the a/c blow straight on it. If the sun is shining onto the floor, I will cover the box/caddy with a black garbage bag.

I hope this helps!

05/08/13 EDIT — I have updated this recipe for an even *better* version of the same cake, and to ensure more consistent results among readers/bakers.

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Yield: One 2-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Fluffy Vanilla Cake:
  • 5 large egg whites (150 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup whole milk (237 ml), at room temperature
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (12 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (17 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 12 tablespoons (170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 24 even pieces
  • For the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups sifted (475 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Fluffy Vanilla Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment, and flour two round 8-inch pans.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, whole egg, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed (I use the "stir" setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter one piece at a time, about every 10 seconds, ensuring it's cold (you can keep some in refrigerator while you're adding pieces). Continue to mix on low until the mixture is a fine crumbly texture. Add milk, and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches, mixing until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. (You want to ensure that the batter is homogenous.) Fold once or twice to ensure the batter at bottom of bowl is incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers.
  6. Bake until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs when inserted into the center, about 30 minutes. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and then set the timer for 5 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  7. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best eaten the same day as baked.
  8. For the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting:
  9. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  10. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy.
  11. Best used right away.
  12. You can eliminate the vanilla bean and use a total of 1-1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.
  13. Assembly:
  14. Place bottom cake layer on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board and spread 1 cup of frosting on top with a small offset spatula.
  15. Gently place 2nd cake layer face down on top. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset spatula and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  16. Remove from refrigerator and apply a final "coat" of frosting.
  17. Store in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Best eaten day 1.

Notes

[cake layer recipe adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum]

[frosting recipe adapted from Donna Hay]

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Good luck & enjoy! Now, excuse me while I go make something chocolate . . .


Related posts:

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes & More About Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes

Happy Thursday! You know what’s funny? That very greeting always makes me laugh at myself, but yet I can’t help but write it — “Happy Thursday!” It’s so enthusiastic and peppy, yet, truthfully, when I’m composing these posts, 99% of the time it’s late at night, once the girls are asleep, and I’m often exhausted and feeling not even a wee bit exclamation mark-ish. Somehow, though, my inner enthusiast manages to get that out and keep it there. And not once, but twice: I had actually deleted it a few seconds after writing it, but then there it is again! Oh, and yet another. It’s a condition, I’m certain.

Before I get started with tonight’s post, I’m excited to announce the winner of this gorgeous print of the original painting “Violetta and the Tiny Tea Set” by Vanessa Valencia, (the incredible talent behind A Fanciful Twist) . This prize is courtesy of Vanessa, as a sweet gesture to one of my readers who visited and commented on my last post, “Ruffles & Roses: A Mad(ish) Tea Party.”  I was the lucky honorary guest this year to Vanessa’s popular virtual Mad Tea Party, and I had so much fun stepping even one pink-painted toe into her magical world. She is so unbelievably talented, and I adore her. So, the winner is…

#25 Bourbonnatrix: “Oh Rosie, what a pretty tea party! Love LOVE your cakes and sweets. Absolutely beautiful, and the rain, on some pics made it that much more special :) Great post!”

Congratulations, Bourbonnatrix (and thank you for the sweet words)!

So, tonight I want to chat about this fun cupcake version of my Inside-Out Neapolitan Cakes (truly, one of my favourites), and I also want to talk more about Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Would you believe that I get more emails with Swiss Meringue Buttercream related questions than anything else? Many readers write to tell me how it’s changed their lives, and they adore it with all of their being, and others write perplexed and filled with questions about troubleshooting, or just general concerns, etc. I thought it may be helpful to shed more light on the topic of the beloved Swiss Meringue Buttercream tonight, based on your questions and experiences.

I’ll quickly talk about these yummy cupcakes, which are, incidentally, filled with 3 flavours of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. A few months back I decided to turn a few of my favourite cake recipes/combinations into cupcakes, and it was a lot of fun and kind of a refreshing change from lofty layer cakes. After posting about the Campfire Delight Cupcakes, followed by the Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cupcakes, this was my third cake-into-cupcake experience, and they were as flavourful and moist as the mama version, but definitely a simpler alternative for those who don’t feel like embarking upon the layer cake process. If you do make the layer cake (and I do urge you to; it’s a crowd pleaser!), the cupcakes are a great addition to it — you can bake a quick batch of the cupcakes and then use your remaining Swiss Meringue Buttercream trio and fill the cupcakes. Who wouldn’t love their own little layered Neapolitan cupcake?

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

So here is the original Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake: 3 layers of a southern take on Devil’s Food Cake, including some rich and decadent ingredients such as mayonnaise, butter, and, of course, my favourite cocoa powder, (Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark), which makes every chocolate cake rich and incredibly chocolaty, in my opinion, and filled with a layer of each Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I particularly love the contrast of the cloud-like buttercream and the rich chocolate cake, and when the Neapolitan flavour combination comes from the filling and not the cake itself, it adds an interesting (and delicious) dynamic to Neapolitan cake.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes

For the layered cupcake effect, I simply baked the cupcakes as muffins (in greased and floured muffin tins with no cupcake liners), and then, once cooled, sliced each one into 3, then piped each flavour of Swiss Meringue Buttercream between and on top, then added some chocolate sprinkles. I was happy with the cake-to-buttercream ratio in the end, after worrying it would be too much buttercream. The Swiss Meringue Buttercream is not overpowering, so is the perfect pairing to these cupcakes, and the dark, rich, southern Devil’s Food Cake can definitely hold its own surrounded by all three flavours. If you’d like to try these, I’ve included the recipe below. In the meanwhile, I want to chat more about making, using, eating, and storing Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream, or SMB, or SMBC as most call it can be an intimidating endeavour, but, honestly, once you get the hang of it, you may never look back. Let’s just get it all out in the open right  now. Truly, let’s just stay up all night talking it through until we’ve run the gamut of emotions and can, finally, share a group hug and skip off into the horizon, armed with our whisks and unwavering confidence to make it, use it, and decorate with it. Since this post comes as an answer to your emails and questions following my previous post, Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystifyed, I’ll put it in point form and  Q&A format, and hopefully I cover it all. So, let us talk Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB):

*If you would simply like to read the cupcake and buttercream recipe, they are at the bottom of this post.

A few quick facts about my deep and meaningful relationship with Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

1. No, I didn’t invent SMB, but I love its not-too-sweet taste and satiny texture, and I use it for all of my wedding cakes, gourmet cakes, and even many casual cakes and cupcakes. I’m not an SMB expert, but I make it often, love it, and was taught how to make it by professionals at Bonnie Gordon Confectionary College in Toronto.

2. The first time I tried SMB, I was used to sugary confectioners’ sugar-based , and I didn’t like the taste of SMB at all; I felt it tasted oily and too buttery. I didn’t think there was hope  for my converting to an SMB lover, or even liker.

3. I still love sugary frostings from time to time (as you will see some of my other posts), but once I acquired a taste for it, SMB quickly became my favourite frosting (after a few tries).

4. The first few times I made SMB, I used a lower grade butter, and it would not hold  my batch together; it wasn’t creamy, or satiny, but rather almost separated. It wasn’t until I was advised to try a better quality butter, that I figured out how to make the ultimate batch of SMB. I now use only premium butter, with my favourite being Lactancia.

5. One of my favourite treats in the entire world, and out of everything I’ve ever made, is a dark chocolate cake frosted with vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s just that good.

Now, onto the questions and answers:

Q: My SMB was coming along fine, but then, once I added all of the butter, it was still too runny. What did I do wrong, and is there hope at this stage?

A:Yes, there is hope! Actually, there’s nothing hopeless about this situation, but rather just an extra step involved. If you added your butter and the SMB is still runny, then 1 of 2 things (or both) has likely happened, in my opinion: 1. Your butter was much too soft (should be cool, but  not cold, which is about 20 minutes out of fridge for me) when you added it to your meringue. 2. Your meringue was still too warm when you started adding the butter. Be patient, because I know it takes seemingly forever for the bottom of the mixing bowl to feel neutral before you add the butter, but it needs to be, or, as you can imagine, the butter essentially melts when you add it. As for repairing this runny batch, you can take the entire mixing bowl, cover it, and place it in the fridge until it chills up a bit, say 30 minutes or so (or even in the freezer for 15 or so), and then re whip. It’s not an exact science, as far as how many minutes, or how cold, etc, but I can tell you this: in my experience, it is practically impossible to ruin a batch of SMB to the point of no repair. If your meringue has whipped up nicely, then you can get away with a lot from that point on, and it’s most often fixable. I promise, promise, promise!

Q: My SMB suddenly curdled, and looked like scrambled eggs in the bowl. Why did it do this, and is it ruined?

A: It often does hit this “scrambled egg” stage, and this happens to my batches occasionally as well. Basically, from what I can tell, this happens when the meringue is a little “shocked” by butter that is too cold, but after mixing for a few more moments, the butter blends in nicely, and it magically becomes smooth and satiny. Is it ruined? Never!

Q: I had no problem making my SMB, and it looked so beautiful and satiny, but when I tasted it, it tasted like pure butter. What did I do wrong?

A:You did nothing wrong, and I have a feeling you did everything right! Here’s the thing about SMB: It tastes much like butter and not a lot like sugary sugar, which to many is the draw, but if you are used to sugary frostings, chances are your palate hasn’t developed the tastebuds for SMB yet, and you simply aren’t used to it. There is also a chance that you just don’t like it – as with any food, it’s not for everyone. If you’re making it for fun, for your own friends and family, you may want to stick with the frostings you love, and revisit it at a later time, or not at all. If you’re aspiring to make wedding cakes and gourmet cakes, you will likely need to continue making it, in which case, trust me, you will probably find yourself licking the bowl and spatula clean, begging for more, a few batches down the road. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Q: Why do I have to use pure vanilla extract in my SMB when I have imitation vanilla extract on hand? Will anyone taste the difference?

A:If we’re being honest, then yes, they will. And so will you, I imagine. You have to keep in mind that sugary frosting (those made with icing sugar/confectioners’ sugar) are dominated by the taste of sugar, and the vanilla can be a little overpowered by the intense sweetness. With SMB, the sugar takes a backseat (albeit delightfully sweet, it’s still subtle), and the flavours, let it be simply vanilla, or others, shine through. That’s why it’s such a great base for almost any flavour you can dream of: coffee, liqueur, citrus, chocolate, berries, and more. It’s also important to add that pinch of salt, particularly when opting for vanilla flavoured SMB, because no, it doesn’t result in a salty flavoured frosting, but it really pulls the true flavours out — kind of crazy, but true.

Q: I refrigerated my SMB, then thawed it on the counter overnight, as suggested, but when I went to use it on my cake, it wasn’t satiny or smooth anymore, but rather airy and thick. What can I do to fix it?

A: The great thing about SMB is that it can be made in big batches and frozen, or refrigerated for up to a week. The only thing is you need to take a moment to reconstitute it back to its glorious satiny texture when you’re ready to use it. If it’s frozen or refrigerated, you need to thaw it at room temperature; this can take overnight if it’s frozen, and several hours if it’s refrigerated. There are a few ways you can revive it, but I do 1 of 2 things: 1. I take the thawed (but sometimes still cool) SMB in a microwavable container, and I warm it up for about 10 seconds, then remove container from microwave and stir it aggressively with a rubber spatula in kind of a back and forth motion, repeatedly until it’s smooth. If I think I need to warm it up a bit more, I microwave again but am careful not to melt it. I mix it really well with the spatula, to remove the air bubbles. 2. I take about 1/3 of the SMB I thawed and I warm it up by the above method, and put the remaining 2/3 in the electric mixer bowl. I add the 1/3 warmed SMB to the 2/3 cool SMB and mix on medium or medium-high speed with the paddle attachment (flat beater) until smooth and satiny.

Q: After I make my SMB, and add gel food colour to it, the SMB seems to “reject” the colour. What am I doing wrong?

A:I’ve been asked this question many times, and I hate to do this, I really do, but it’s seemingly the truth: In my experience, using Wilton brand colours are the culprit here. I know this can be an issue as far as availability goes, because sometimes the premium colour brands such as Sugarflair, Americolor, and Ateco colours are difficult to get, particularly outside of North America, but if you find you will be doing this kind of work often, I personally feel it would be worth it to get your hands on these colours.

Q: Is SMB stable enough to pipe such things as flowers, basketweave, etc.?

A:Yes! SMB is what you will see Martha Stewart uses for all of these techniques, and for good reason: it’s so light and fluffy yet super stable and resilient. Kind of perfection, really.

Q: Once my cake is frosted in SMB, does it have to be refrigerated?

A: Well, you know, it seems that all baker’s have a different opinion on this topic, but all I can do is tell you what I do. Many will tell you that it’s okay to leave SMB frosted cakes out for a few days, but, personally I like to refrigerate my cakes overnight, and then take them out first thing in the morning so that they are nice and soft and fluffy when I serve them. If I’m making it on the day of serving, I would just keep it out. I just find that Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is too warm isn’t appealing, and it if it’s too cool, it’s too buttery in texture. Definitely a fine line, but mostly, it’s just heaven.

I hope this helps in some way! All of that being said, I promise you with all my heart that it’s A. Not really as difficult as it may seem, and B. Even if it was, it’s worth it!

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes

Yield: 18 layered cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (230 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 2 teaspoons (115 g) all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons (38 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (5 g) kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) mayonnaise
  • For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 5 large fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cup (250 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour standard cupcake pans as you would for muffins, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting, and whisk dry ingredients.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.
  5. Fold mayonnaise into batter with a whisk, until just blended.
  6. Fill cupcake pans 2/3 each (I like to use a 1.5 oz cookie scoop) and bake for approximately 17 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out just barely clean (a few crumbs). This works well for moist chocolate cake (not vanilla).
  7. Let cupcakes cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely.
  8. For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  9. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  10. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with whisk attachment. Whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).
  11. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  12. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more, but always add the vanilla first, as it brings out the true taste of the other flavours.
  13. Assembly of the Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes:
  14. Divide buttercream evenly into 3 bowls. Flavour 1/3 chocolate, 1/3 strawberry, and leave final 1/3 vanilla (using instructions above). Add a few drops of pink gel colour to strawberry buttercream.
  15. Using a very sharp serrated knife, slice cupcakes twice, horizontally, resulting in 3 "layers."
  16. Fill one layer of each flavour (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla), and top with sprinkles, if desired.
  17. Best eaten at room temperature on the day they were made, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days (in refrigerator overnight).

Notes

*Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

***For Chocolate Buttercream, add 150 g (3/4 cup) melted bittersweet Belgian chocolate (the best you can get--I use Callebaut) to Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and beat until incorporated.

****For Strawberry Buttercream, add strawberry puree to taste, OR a few drops of LorAnn Strawberry Flavor Oil.

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Southern Devil’s Cake Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, by David Guas.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, and Happy Independence Day to our American friends! Wishing you all a safe and happy weekend!

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Ruffles & Roses: A Mad(ish) Tea Party

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

You made it! You are so sweet for coming to my first tea party in honour of my enchanting friend and talented artist, Vanessa Valencia and her annual A Fanciful Twist virtual Mad Tea Party. So perhaps her tea party will be a teeny, tiny bit madder than mine, and nothing short of magical, but of course it will. That, my friends, is why she is the one and only Vanessa Valencia. I, however, am more than thrilled to share my Sweetapolita spin on a mad tea party with you all, and to me, a tea party, mad or not, could only be complete with some fancy tea-time treats. Now, let us see if we can find our way to those treats . . .

Oh my goodness, I’ve a feeling we’re not in suburbia anymore. Many miles away from suburbia, the air is different, there are open fields, seemingly endless trees and flowers, and we can hear the loons. It’s definitely a lovely day for some tea, ruffles and roses.

Sweetapolita

Why yes, roses! Now, if you can just find your way past these lovely roses, you may find a much needed cup of tea and treats.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Finally, you’ve arrived, and you’ve spotted something petite and sweet . . .

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Fairy cakes? What a pleasant change from cupcakes with towering frosting (although I think I have spotted a few of those as well, and that’s never bad news!). Although I’ve heard of many different ideas and descriptions as to what a fairy cake really is, I can’t imagine a cuter name for a l and tastier cupcake, and so that’s what we’ll call this: a tender and buttery vanilla cupcake topped with a sugary glaze, basically a royal icing (meringue powder, confectioners’ sugar, and water). What I really like about it, aside from how lovely and pure white it is (a rare luxury that isn’t possible with butter-based frosting), is the fact that, even though the icing is very sweet, there is so little of it that it really just highlights the vanilla in the cupcake and offers a hit of sweet. And, what do you know? They are perfectly delightful with a cup of tea.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Can you tell we had a little bit of rain on our tea party day? Actually, it rained the entire day, and as it should be, everything was outside! You can see the petite fondant ribbon roses on the fairy cakes and the icing are shiny and glossy, which happens when there’s so much moisture in the air. But, we weren’t going to let a little rain (or a torrential downpour) stop our fun or our indulgence, and, actually, what’s lovelier than a tea party in warm summer rain?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

If you decide to make your own fairy cakes, you can always flavour the icing with a little bit almond, clear vanilla, or rosewater perhaps. Really, as long as it’s not oil-based, you can add a wee bit of any flavour your heart desires. I left these classic, but there is a lot of room for experimenting.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

I agree–we should have one now.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And no mad tea party would be complete without mad buttercream ruffles! In the name of petite tea party treats, why not create a few petite ruffle cakes?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And petite teacup cupcakes?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And,  yes, more petite ruffle cakes! Under all of those angelic Swiss Meringue Buttercream ruffles, you’ll find a rich, Devil’s Food Layer Cake, which is always a nice surprise for tea party guests to reveal when they slice into this cake-for-two (or a few).

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And yet another petite ruffle cake . . . that is why I love the petite 4″ version, because you can fill a table with them, as opposed to one full-size cake. With ruffle cakes everywhere you turn, it would madder than mad to not take a slice.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Through the ruffles and roses, I see more tea party sweets: vanilla cupcakes with simple buttercream rose swirls.  With all of that Swiss Meringue Buttercream already created for the ruffle cakes, and all of the delightfully vanilla cupcakes from the fairy cakes already made, why not take a few moments to pipe some roses on them and offer your tea party guests another treat?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And since you have the open star pastry tip already out and ready to go from your buttercream roses, perhaps baking a batch of raspberry rose meringues would be a nice addition to the tea-time menu? Sweet and crunchy baked meringue is the loveliest (and simplest) of treats, however, I don’t see them offered as much as I wish they were. These have some freeze-dried raspberries and a quick and easy (and possibly unexpected) raspberry ingredient that gives them their bright pink hue.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Well, I knew you were coming, so I baked a cake. Or four. Ruffles, ruffles, and more ruffles for us to share.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Or one mad and not-so-petite bite-full? That would be one divine bite, I believe.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Or perhaps you’d prefer more cake, less ruffles?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Some little guests appear to love cupcakes and tea, or, is it teacakes in cups . . .

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Shh . . . what’s that sound? This little cakelet seems to hear some buzzing overhead. What could it bee?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Ahh, of course, the mad sugar bee has landed. Those darn country bees are like no city bee we’ve ever seen. Must be something in those country roses.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Either way, this tea party guest isn’t sharing her cupcake.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Unless, of course, it’s with her beloved rabbit. What’s a mad tea party without a peculiar rabbit?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Finally, after we’ve shared tea-time stories, tales, and treats it’s almost time to part, until next time, of course. Wait a mad moment–is it just me, or have our petite cakes grown? I suppose we just never know what madness will unfold over tea and cakes, but you are always welcome here. We love the company!

And truly, no tea party would be complete without a tiny tea set: Meet Violetta (and her tiny tea set). She is one of Vanessa’s most recent paintings, and, as you can see, she is gorgeous and mysterious,  just as all of Vanessa’s enchanting pieces are. ”Violetta and the Tiny Tea Set” is my current favourite painting in the A Fanciful Twist Etsy shop, and Vanessa has generously offered to give away an 8 x 10 print of this original artwork to one lucky reader (so sweet, right?).  To enter (and anyone can enter, as she will ship the print anywhere in the world), simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite tea-time treat is or would be. That’s it & good luck! Winner will be selected Monday, June 27th at 12pm EST.  *CONTEST HAS ENDED

*Winner will be randomly selected using random. org.

If you’re wondering where the non-suburban gorgeous setting for my tea party was, it was in Hillier, Ontario (Prince Edward County). What  an incredible setting.

If you would like to make some of these tea-time treats, here are the recipes:

Fairy Cakes         {click to print}

 

 

 

 

One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Fairy Cakes

Yield: 2.5 dozen

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups (175 g) cake flour, not self-rising

1 1/4 cups (157 g) all-purpose flour

2 cups (400 g) sugar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) baking powder

3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt

1 cup (2 sticks, 227 g) unsalted butter cut into 1-inch cubes, room temperature

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (250 mL/8 liquid ounces) whole milk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract for all of my baking)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Line standard cupcake pans with your favourite paper cupcake liners.

2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and mix on low speed until blended. Add cubes of butter, one at a time, and mix again until all butter is coated with flour.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, to mixer and blend until incorporated.

4. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together milk and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula after each addition. Beat until just incorporated (try not to over beat).

4. Using a 1.5 oz cookie scoop (or your cake batter tool of choice), divide batter among liners (should be 2/3 full). Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and immediately transfer the cupcakes onto  a cooling rack by inverting the tray. Carefully turn the cupcakes right-side-up and let cool completely before frosting.

*Recipe source: Billy’s Bakery Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes via Martha Stewart

Fairy Cake Icing (Royal Icing)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (125 mL) water

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cream of tartar

2 tablespoons (30 mL) meringue powder (I avoid Wilton brand and I like Ateco 480 Meringue Powder, 20 oz.)

*Optional: Flavouring/extract to taste (nothing oil-based) such as, almond extract, rosewater, vanilla extract (clear if you want the icing to remain very white), etc.

1 lb (454 g, about 3 3/4 cups) icing (powdered, confectioners’) sugar

Few drops food colour gel (optional)

Method:

1. Place meringue powder, cream of tartar, and water (and extract, if using) in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and mix on low speed until frothy.

2. Add the icing sugar, and mix on low speed for 10 minutes. You can use the paddle attachment or the whisk attachment and see which you prefer (I tend to use the paddle attachment because it’s how I was taught by Bonnie Gordon, but I’ve done it both ways, and they both work!). The icing will be fairly thick, but glossy and not as thick as regular royal icing at this point.

3. If too thick, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, mixing well after each addition, until the icing just runs off a spoon and is glossy and spreadable (but not too watered down). I was also taught at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts that you can run the tip of a knife through the icing and count how many seconds until the line disappears, and when it takes about 8 seconds (in this case), I find it to be the best consistency for these fairy cakes.

4. Cover with Glad “Press’n Seal” until you are ready to use, and in between use. You can also use a damp cloth over top of it to keep it from drying out, but you need to keep it covered as it will dry out and get crusty very quickly if it’s exposed to the air for too long.

5. Best used right away, but as the brilliant Callye from The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle explained, you can, if necessary, keep in refrigerator in the mixing bowl itself with a damp cloth and dinner plate over top, and it keeps well that way overnight. Genius! This was quite a revelation considering I used to throw unused royal icing in the garbage *cringe* after being told it couldn’t be used after day 1.

Assembly of the Fairy Cakes

1. Make your mini fondant ribbon roses: colour approximately 8 ounces of fondant desired colour (I used Sugarflair “Pink”) and seal in small Ziploc-style bag. Remove quarter-size ball from bag and roll out into a long strip 1/8″ onto lightly icing-sugar-dusted surface. Using a pizza cutter, cut out approximately 3″ x 1″ strips, folding each one in half lengthwise and thinning the folded edge slightly by pressing down gently withyour fingertips (you can place a small piece of plastic wrap between the fondant strip and your fingers). Roll the strip fairly tightly until you get a rose-like effect. Trim the underside with a small, sharp knife and set aside to dry.

2. If you would like to include the green leaves, you can either use a small silicone leaf mold, or you can always colour and roll green fondant (I use Sugarflair “Gooseberry” for a more authentic leafy green) 1/8″ thick and simply cut small leaves by hand. Set aside to dry.

2. If you would like pastel fairy cakes, divide your icing into small bowls and colour as desired (since royal icing is pure white, you need very, very little colour, particularly if you want pastel shades).

3.. Holding the cupcake in one hand, add a spoonful of icing onto the cupcake and tilt the cupcake so the icing spreads itself and clings to the sides of the paper liners. You can also use the bottom of the spoon to spread it, but be careful to not get crumbs in the icing. The last thing we want to do is to make the fairies cringe when they see crumby fairy cakes! If you find your icing is too thick, add a bit more water to the bowl of icing.

3. Set each one aside as you finish icing them, and gently add your fondant rose (or any other decoration you may choose) and leaves about a minute after you’ve iced each one. Try to avoid picking them up again until they have completely set (a few hours), or the surface won’t be as smooth as it should be, and will likely crack. I like to place them into a cupcake carrier, as I go, so that when they are complete I can just pop the lid onto the carrier to keep them fresh and to avoid too much handling.

Raspberry Rose Meringues           {click to print}

 

 

 

 

Yield: 28 2″ meringues

Ingredients

3 large egg whites, room temperature

pinch of salt

1 package (3 ounces) Raspberry Jell-O

1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries (optional)

1/4 cup (50 g) sugar

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200°F (94°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Grind the sugar and freeze-dried raspberries in a food processor until it reaches a powdery consistency. (If not using freeze-dried raspberries, omit this step and add sugar on its own in step 3.)

3. Place the room temperature egg whites and salt in a grease-free bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until frothy. Add the Jell-O and sugar mixture into the mixing bowl in a steady stream, and turn the mixer speed to med-high, beating until meringue is stiff, thick, and glossy — about 5 minutes.

4. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.

5. Place the meringue into a large pastry bag (such as 14″) fitted with 1M pastry tip (or other desired open star tip) and pipe the roses onto the baking sheets. Begin in the middle and, moving outwards, pipe 2 complete circles. Keep roses about 1 1/2″ apart.

6. Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and keep the trays in the oven overnight.

*Store in airtight containers or Ziploc-style bags at room temperature and away from moisture. Trust me!

*Recipe adapted from uTry.it

Petite Ruffle Cakes  

1. Bake and cool your favourite cake recipe in 4′ round cake pans. I used Devil’s Food Layer Cake, from this post. Keeping with the “petite” cake, I used only 2 layers per cake.

2. Make a batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

3. Trim first cake layer so the top is nice and flat (if necessary) and place face up on a 6″ round cake board, or plate. Place 1/2 cup of Swiss Meringue Buttercream(or filling of choice) on top of layer and smoothwith a small offset palette knife. Trim the second layer, and place face down on the cake.

4. Apply a thin layer of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (I don’t recomment using sugary buttercream, but Italian or French Meringue Buttercreamswork nicely as well) over the cake, smoothing top and sides with a small offset palette knife (as you can see, I use this all of the time!) to seal in crumbs and to give the buttercream ruffles something to adhere to.

5. Using the a petal decorating tip of your choice (they come in different sizes, but I use the larger size Wilton #123 or sometimes a smaller size, such as Wilton #104) use the buttercream ruffling technique found in this previous post, complete the cake and serve!

Thanks so much for joining me at my mad(ish) tea party! I hope you enjoyed your visit, and I’ll see you soon with another baking post this coming week!

Good luck & enjoy!

Love, Rosie xo

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Love, Cake & Sprinkles {Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake}

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

When I first met my husband, Grant, by chance while I was living in Grand Cayman in 1999, well, let’s just say that our meeting was a tad untimely. Sure, his gorgeous hazel eyes, true-blue demeanor, sincere compassion, and a few other remarkable (and seemingly rare) characteristics (that may or may not include a Calvin Klein model’s physique…if you don’t believe me, check him out in this previous post, here), were all striking and impossible to ignore, but it simply wasn’t the right time for us. After several years (4 to be precise), a move back to Canada, and a fresh start and move-in with a mutual friend in Toronto, he landed on our doorstep, almost literally. At that point, the timing was better, but still not perfect. A few weeks, and a bit of spring cleaning later, the timing was suddenly, well, perfect. We started to “date,” and it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was finally home.

I can recall one cold Sunday afternoon date in particular. We went for lunch to what soon became our favourite and most frequented greasy spoon, The New York Cafe, or as we like to call it, “The New Yorker” on “The Danforth” in Toronto. After that lunch date, for some reason (and yes, I’m in denial and swear it wasn’t our beloved New Yorker’s fault), I felt so ill. I managed to get the 40 paces home, but barely, and I could keep my eyes open no longer; I had to rest. I did feel a little weird about the whole needing-to-pass-out-or-die thing, considering we were on a date and really didn’t know each other that well (yes, I sure know how to wow a man, don’t I?), but it was really life or death, or so it felt. Grant asked me, in his sweet and famously compassionate manner, if there was anything he could get me, and I jokingly replied, “I’d give anything for cherry chip birthday cake with pink frosting and sprinkles.” Although this may seem logical, considering, I really cannot explain any of the following: A. Why I would crave cake when I was sicker than sick. B. What I thought he was going to do about it, even if I was joking, considering he’d never baked a cake in his life. C. If this was actually some kind of pseudo-subconscious dater’s test on my behalf. I can tell you, though, that if it was indeed a test of any kind, he passed; he rocked it, actually. While I was sleeping, he walked to the grocery store in the blistery-cold, came back armed with the provisions for making my cake wishes come true, and before I could say ”father my children,” he presented me with what was possibly the loveliest-but-most-dilapidated cherry chip, pink frosting, and sprinkle-happy cake–talk about a serious kiss-ass romantic, but I was genuinely impressed and touched. It was such a fun and thoughtful thing to do, and, of course, the visual of this science-minded newly-graduated Chiropractor swirling pink icing and sprinkles all over his first-ever cake attempt, well, it definitely got us off to a sweet start.

If we fast forward 2 years from that day, and 6 years ago this exact moment, the night before our wedding, I was about to return alone to the quaint little single-cottage honeymoon suite at The Waring House in the beautiful countryside of Picton, Ontario. We had just finished up our rehearsal dinner at Grant’s father’s home on the farm property on which Grant was raised, and I was most ready for a good night’s sleep (back when I knew what that was) before our “big day” the next day. When I walked into the cottage suite room, there on the table was the cake I remembered so well, and could never forget: cherry chip layer cake smothered in fluffy pink frosting and covered in colourful sprinkles. And a card. An impeccably written but candid and heartfelt card, in which he expressed that if he has it his way, he will spend the rest of his days making sure my days were filled with such cakes and sprinkles. And, although we know that marriage and life are never filled solely with such literal and figurative loveliness, it sure helps. ♥

This week, to celebrate our anniversary, I made us a classic 3-layer vanilla bean cake with pink vanilla buttercream, and heaps of colourful sprinkles. Before we talk more about that cake, I thought it would be fun to share some snippets of my night-before-the-wedding cake surprise, and our wedding day, June 4th, 2005:

Sweetapolita

Not bad, right? Grant explained that he was so proud of his second attempt (yes, he did indeed wait the full 2 years to make this cake, but we’ll go easy on him), and I think he should be. He confessed that the back right portion of the first cake he made me, years before, had fallen off and the rest was held together strictly by strategically-placed gobs of frosting. I decided that night that I should wait until the wedding day morning to cut into this cake, and so I did. Seeing as this was long before my budding food photography days or, well, even my Sweetapolita days, I’m particularly pleased that the wedding photographer thought to take these photos. And, yes, that’s me on the morning of my wedding day, hovering over a table eating cake before going to the church. To think that the Sweetapolita in me had not yet been born; she would have been so proud! Looking back, it was a respectable and ironic way to start one of the best days of my life, and I love that Grant knew me well enough to come up with such a surprise. Here are a few more sprinkles from our wedding day (best I could do without digital files, but I still wanted to share):

Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Yes, we’re both drinking wine on the loose, but the good news is that the entire bridal party was doing the same. More good news is that we had a handy (and huge) limo bus to carry our insanely large and possibly tipsy bridal party back to the reception. And even more good news is that we were on the gorgeous Chadsey’s Winery property, in Prince Edward County, doing wine tastings and getting rustic country photos taken, so it all made sense at the time. Wait, there really is no bad news in this story.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

So, as I mentioned, in honour of our 6th wedding anniversary this weekend, I wanted to make a cake reminiscent of Grant’s pink cake with sprinkles. I made his favourite flavour, vanilla bean, with a version of pink vanilla buttercream that I’d never tried before: it’s a white sugar and meringue base buttercream, similar to Italian Meringue Buttercream, but much quicker. The main difference technique-wise is that it doesn’t require a candy thermometer; the main difference ingredient-wise is that it uses light corn syrup. I found the texture to be incredibly fluffy, satiny, and stable; and the taste to be very similar to the meringue buttercreams. I will admit, that although this is a fabulously quick and easy classic buttercream, I still adore the corn-syrup-free Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Don’t get me wrong, this one is gorgeous, and I love that it doesn’t have powdered sugar. On a sidenote, I thought I’d point out that I bought so much pink ribbon for our wedding that I am still trying to come with ways to use it, such as above! You’ll likely see, and may have already seen, it make its way into my photos often; let’s think of it as the “Where’s Waldo” of food photography.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

The cake itself is one of my favourites, the Vanilla Bean Layer Cake from the previous Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake post. A fairly dense, but stable, moist, and wonderfully vanilla cake (it’s also a great option for cakes that will be covered in buttercream and fondant).

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

Wishing you a weekend (and more) of love, cake & sprinkles!

*Wedding photos by Click Photo Co.

Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (341 g)(3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2-2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
  • 9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups (575 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 cups (480 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract, best quality
  • For the Vanilla Buttercream:
  • 5 large (150 g) egg whites
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (213 g) light corn syrup
  • 2 cups (454 g) (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 drops pink gel food colour

Instructions

    For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. (If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers.) Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes clean.
  6. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  7. For the Vanilla Buttercream:
  8. Wipe a mixer bowl with dampened with some lemon juice to remove any traces of grease.
  9. Place the egg whites in the mixer bowl and, in the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-high speed until foamy.
  10. Gradually add 6 tablespoons (72 g) of the sugar and beat on high speed to medium peaks (the whites should be smooth, full, and shiny, and the peaks should curl a little).
  11. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring briefly to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook just until the mixture comes to a rolling boil; there should be bubbles covering the entire surface, and no pockets of sugar undissolved on the surface.
  12. Promptly remove the syrup from the heat and, with the mixer set on medium-high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream between the bowl and whisk, being very careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk (otherwise you end up with sticky hot syrup splatters stuck to the sides of the bowl).
  13. Set the mixer to medium speed and whisk until the bottom of the mixer bowl feels neutral to the touch. Add the butter in, 1 tablespoon at a time (doesn't have to be precise, just in small chunks), until it has all been incorporated.
  14. Add vanilla extract, pinch of salt, and a few drops of any food colouring gel you want to use, and beat until thickened and smooth.
  15. Assembly of the Pink Vanilla Cake:
  16. Place bottom layer face-up on a cake stand, plate, or thin cake board. Spread and smooth ~ 1 cup frosting using a small palette knife. Repeat with second cake layer.
  17. Gently place third cake layer, face-down, on top.
  18. Spread a thin layer (also known as a crumb coat) all over cake using an the offset palette knife for the top and straight palette knife for the sides. Then, using a bench scraper, gently scrape off excess frosting from the cake, for a smooth finish. This works best while slowly spinning your rotating cake stand with one hand and holding the bench scraper with the other.
  19. Refrigerate your cake for at least 30-60 minutes.
  20. Use remaining frosting to decorate your cake.
  21. Add sprinkles or any other decorations that make you happy!
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You may enjoy this previous post, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Good luck & enjoy!

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