Now I'm not saying I'm above eating cake frosting with a spoon out of the can, but let's face it: making your own buttercream is the way to go if you've got a few extra minutes (which you do while your cupcakes are baking). It is stupid simple, all natural and ridonkulously tasty. Here's the recipe I use.
SUGARY SUGARY BUTTERCREAM
- 1.5 cups (3 sticks) butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Beat the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Sift the sugar over the butter and mix together. Start on low speed so you don't poof a cloud of sugar right into your face, and then increase to full speed.
- When combined, your buttercream should be frosty and spreadable. If your icing is more crumbly than spreadable, add more butter 1 tbsp at a time until you reach the right consistency. If your buttercream is still buttery and slippery, sift more sugar into the bowl, 1/8 cup at a time, until it looks how it's supposed to.
- Splash in the vanilla extract and mix everything up well.
Tips and Variations:
- Your buttercream will be the color of whatever butter you used - likely the yellower the better. It takes coloring well, though.
- For some color and added flavor, try adding pureed strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.
- For still more flavor (but not necessarily much in the way of noticeable color), try adding some mashed banana or banana extract.
- A small amount of beet juice will get you a nice, vibrant red or pink without actually tasking of beets.
- A small amount of tumeric will get you a nice yellow color without actually tasting of Indian food.
- For April Fools cupcakes, dump in the tumeric and add some curry powder. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Basic Non-Ugly Icing Technique:
I am not a professional cake decorator, and I do not have children who require Martha Stewart-level birthday confections. I do not own a piping bag, and if I did I wouldn't know what to do with it (ALL those NOZZLES!). But here's a cheap and basic way to ice cupcakes that comes out a bit more polished-looking than haphazard slathering. I also used this technique to create the dots around the base of this cake.
- Let your cupcakes cool completely before icing, or your buttercream will become a melty, runny mess (or at the very least, be hard to spread evenly).
- Transfer buttercream into a ziplock bag and snip a tiny bit off of one corner.
- Squeeze the buttercream out onto the top of each cupcake in a spiral pattern. If you work from the outside in, you'll be able to form a nice peak in the center.
- You can leave the spiral pattern as-is. This will also give you a good, even base if you're inclined to smooth everything down with a butter knife.