Late Saturday night I got an email from a dear friend who was in a complete tizz. As she prepared for her son's birthday party the next day, the recipe for buttercream icing she found on a different food website had flopped. "I can NEVER do buttercream icing. I followed the directions to a T, what did I get? Fluffy butter. At least, that's what it looks and tastes like."
No wonder it looked and tasted like fluffy butter. The recipe she used had two sticks of butter and a measly three cups of confectioner's sugar. That's not buttercream icing. That's slightly sweet and powdery butter globs. While those might be tasty on their own, they're not going to suffice when several dozen Spiderman cupcakes need dressing.
I've seen buttercream recipes with awful proportions, like the one that failed my friend. I've seen eggs in recipes - whole, yolks and whites. Corn syrup. Granulated sugar. And my personal favorite: store-bought buttercream icing mixed with marshmallow flavoring.
Butter + cream. Is it really that difficult? Absolutely not! I sent my friend directly to the best buttercream icing recipe I've ever found, via Martha, of course. Billy Reece of Billy's Bakery in Manhattan appeared on an episode of "The Martha Stewart Show" in 2006, working his cupcake and icing magic. His recipes prove that high-quality, simple ingredients and good baking techniques are the real key to baking success.
Billy's Vanilla Buttercream
Makes enough for 30 cupcakes.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 to 8 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.
Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes are just as wonderfully perfect as his buttercream. Martha's website includes a clip of him making his delightful creations.