Tag Archives: dessert

Buttercream Harumph! / Delicious Science

This was very nearly going to be a cranky post.

Instead, it is a tale of overcoming hardship broken, oogy buttercream frosting.

I really should have taken a picture of it, but I was so upset at the time that I didn’t think to. Let’s rewind.

This was my first attempt at buttercream frosting, to go along with my first attempt at making cupcakes from scratch. The cupcakes were brilliant, so I think I got a little cocky. I started the buttercream frosting, excited to think of the yumminess that would be the reward for my hard work. It started off well enough. I followed the instructions carefully, even looking online to try to figure out the difference between “hard peaks” and “dry peaks”. I added in the butter and things got a little chunky. Not to worry!! The recipe said this might happen, and to just keep mixing it at medium-high speed.

It just got worse.

It went from “almost there, just a little lumpy” to “oogy, clumpy and soupy”. I stopped the mixer and just stared at it, my face falling. Then, I picked up my computer.

“How to fix a broken buttercream frosting”

“Lumpy buttercream frosting”

“Butercream frosting disaster!”

Finally, I found a post on a board where someone had the same problem I did… and an answer that made me think I could still pull it off.

Published March 1, 2001. From Cook’s Illustrated.

Can I save broken or curdled buttercream frosting?

Given proper proportions and supervision when its sugar base is cooked, buttercream frosting can be made quickly and easily. But cooks are inclined to read catastrophe into their finished efforts if the icing looks curdled or broken. However, appearances can be deceiving and most problems with buttercreams can easily be corrected.

The biggest threat a buttercream faces is temperature. If the frosting appears soupy and slippery, it’s likely grown too warm. Plunge the bowl into an ice bath and whisk briskly until the icing becomes silky and cohesive again. If the buttercream resembles fine-curd cottage cheese and slides about in the bowl, it’s likely too cold (from cold butter or a chilly ambient temperature). Wrap a steaming hot dish towel, turbanlike, around the bowl to heat it up and whisk or stir it with a wooden spoon to bring the icing back to its shiny, satiny self.

I had to read it a couple of times, and then I laughed. My frosting seemed to have a little bit of both problems, being both soupy and clumpy. First, I plunged it into an ice bath and while things started to firm up a bit, it really just turned back into butter. I put it back on the stand mixer, with no success. I then decided to put it back on the steam to melt it all down and start over. After it melted down, I plunged it back into the ice bath and whisked it by hand as the mixture cooled. Once I thought it had cooled enough, I pulled it out of the cold water and kept whisking. My arm was getting tired and sore (can you tell I don’t do this kind of thing often?!), and I was just about to give up on the clumpy mess when it suddenly began to change, and become a smooth and creamy mixture.

Mini Cupcake with Buttercream Frosting

Mini Cupcake with Buttercream Frosting

I did it! I actually fixed it!

In some ways, this was probably better than the recipe working out right away. It made me do a little problem solving, put in a little bit of elbow grease, and in the end I was proud of what I had learned.

As I keep learning, it isn’t about the recipes that go off without a hitch, it’s learning what to do when there is a hitch.

I added a bit of colour to my newly made frosting, added some to a piping bag and did a few test swirls on some mini cupcakes.

What delicious science!

(P.S. I was using the Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes book)

A Cupcake Spring

Distillery Cupcakes - Café Mocha


I don’t eat them often, but I have always enjoyed them. I have never made them from scratch, and have even recently made some from a box. Yes, I know – shame!!

This Spring, I plan to explore the world of the springy treat with gusto!!

The Plan: Visit a few different gourmet cupcake establishments, and see what it takes to be a delicious gourmet cupcake. Then, try my hand at making some. I am enlisting the help of some of my girls (and, undoubtedly, my guinea pig J) and we will all figure out what all the fuss is about!

My first stop was at a wee location tucked inside one of the buildings in the Distillery District, The Sweet Escape.

Being a smaller shop, they don’t have hundreds of cupcakes on hand. That said, I didn’t have any trouble finding exactly what I wanted to try. I narrowed it down to two: Red Velvet and Café Mocha. Before you start to judge – I didn’t eat them both myself!!! I split them with J (he deserves it!).

Distillery Cupcakes - Red Velvet

Sweet Escape Cupcakes – Red Velvet, anyone?
  • Red Velvet – nice light cocoa cake, with a rich cream cheese frosting
  • Café Mocha – rich chocolatey cake, with a delicious espresso buttercream frosting and topped with an espresso bean

I enjoyed both of these quite a bit, but my vote has to go with the Café Mocha. I prefer its richer chocolate over the light cocoa taste of the Red Velvet, and I’m a sucker for coffee infused anything! The icings on both were rich, creamy and nicely flavoured.  Definitely a great start to my adventure!

But it doesn’t end there. I had to try a new (to me) tasty treat.

Distillery Cupcakes - Macarons



I’ve been told that cupcakes are on their way “out”. That’s pretty funny. What’s supposedly coming up in popularity is the french macaron, which I believe because I’ve been seeing them everywhere. Having never tried one before, I thought this would be a good opportunity. I read that they are French macaroons, which led me to believe that they were full of coconut (even though I couldn’t see any evidence of it on first glance). Let me reassure you, these are NOTHING like the coconut-filled macaroons that we have here in Canada. The coconut ones are commonly found in Scotland, North America and Germany and really don’t taste anything like the French macaron.

This was heavenly – light, crispy meringue outer shell, a soft and chewy middle, with a fine nuttiness. I instantly regret buying only one. I didn’t even share it with J.

Is this the beginning of the end for me? Will I decide that cupcakes are an appropriate food item for every meal? Not likely. But I think this is going to be a fun Spring!!


Crêpes d’Amour

Crêpes. They’re the kind of dessert that you can pretend are a meal. At least, that’s how I do it.

My valentine breakfast included some of these buttery, pliable treats filled with homemade crème pâtissière and raspberry rhubarb sauce. They were sweet, sour, creamy and delicious.

Empty Plate

They were so good that I forgot to take a picture.

I swore to take a picture of round 2, later on.


3 Dessert Crêpes

Round 2 crêpes were filled with three different fillings: my usual favourite, nutella and banana; nutella and cream cheese (tastes like a cheese cake!) and the rest of the custard and rhubarb sauce from breakfast. Sooooo good!!

This time, I used a crêpe recipe from the Martha Stewart site. Next time, I’m going to try one from Vegetarian Times as a comparison. The main difference between the two is the number of eggs (three) and inclusion of butter in the Martha batter. The VT version only contains one egg, which should affect both the texture and flavour.

I’m also going to have to try savoury crepes, or galettes, using buckwheat flour. These could be filled with just about anything, cheeses, pesto, spinach, mushrooms, peppers. Yup, still lots of fun to be had!!

Recipes (from the Martha Stewart website):