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Wednesday 9 April 2014

How to make 100% butter buttercream and icing a fondant covered LEGO minifigure head cake from start to finish Part 2!

So, you've made your cakes and they're nice and cool and ready to frost them before popping fondant on it (if you're feeling adventurous).  I baked 3 pineapple sheet cakes the night before... I only needed two, but I baked a third one for good luck. (Recipe and part 1 with baking/storing cake tips here).  I'm scribbling down my lessons learned from trial cakes and the actual cake I served my friends so when I get old, crotchety and can't remember a darn thing, at least I can bake a cake, ice it and eat it too hahahaha!

There's lots of different icings out there... from glossy beautiful icings out there that involve egg whites, looks fantastic but is temperamental and fussy to make... and then there's the basic buttercream that tastes great, but trades off being super easy to make for a matte look.  Making buttercream is pretty easy... it involves unsalted butter, lots of icing sugar, a bit of water and flavoring.  Some like to swap out some of the butter with vegetable shortening - this make it more stable in places with warmer temperatures, but I find it really affects the flavor.  You're putting in this much effort, just use all butter butter buttaaaaa!  Not too many pictures of the process as I was elbow deep in buttercream when I was crumb coating, then icing.

Tips for making easy peasy buttercream:
1) Do use softened butter.  Take the unsalted butter out of the fridge and let them come up to temperature for a few hours.  You can cube up ice cold butter, but you'll really punish your mixer.  I used a Kitchen Aid pro 600 and heehee.. even it shook and rattled a bit when I tried dropping in ice cold rock hard sticks of butter and beating it up on high.
2) Use a paddle attachment on your mixer. A whisk attachment will add in too much ugly air bubbles to your icing
3) Don't add in all your icing sugar at once... humidity changes whereever you happen to be.. some days you'll need a bit more, some days you'll need a bit less
4) Make a thicker, stiff consistency with more icing sugar for cakes that will be covered in fondant... you don't want the icing getting forced out by the weight of the cakes.. and having your cake's back end blow out.  Yup, it happened to me.. right as I was finishing putting on the final touches and had to rescue it!
5) Use gel or paste colorings if you have on hand.  liquid works, but keep in mind your icing will be runnier since you're adding more liquid. I like the ones from Americolor.. I have an Wilton icing color paste set that will probably last me forever as you don't need to use very much each time.
6) Flavorings: I like using the concentrated liquid candy flavorings.  You only need a few drops so you don't have to worry about the icing consistency changing.  I used this concentrated candy flavoring and it was fine, though I didn't like how there wasn't a dropper or narrowed opening so had to wipe up scented drips.
7) Make extra buttervream if you plan on doing a crumb coat.  Easier to have extra than to soften up more butter to make more.  And you can always save it to ice cupcakes with later! :D

Tips for applying butter cream onto the cake
If you're not planning on putting fondant on top, and just icing the cake, do a crumb coat first.  Its globbing on a normal amount of icing you want inbetween the cake layers, but a really light coat all over, and let it dry out or "crust" for 10-20 min.  This seals all the crumbs to the cake so when you put a nice "finishing" coat of buttercream all over the cake later, you don't get crumbs marring the finish
By hand and spatula
-Glob a fist sized glob into the centre of the cake and using a flat spatula (or flat and bent spatula) and "waving" motions, spread the buttercream evenly all over the top of the cake and push extra over the sides.
-glob small chunks onto the sides and again using waving motions with a flat spatula, spread it evenly all over the sides of the cake
-wiping the spatula clean, gently with a smooth single motion even out the sides.  Using a rotating cake table makes this a lot easier.  Popping the cake onto a plate and then a can also works.  Use a short spatula pushing from edge of the cake to center to help smooth out the top
By icing tip and spatula
-I found while this method requires more effort to dig out a huge icing tip, a large icing bag, packing the icing into the bag, it does make icing the sides a lot easier, and it makes it a breeze to do swirls of icing and alternate with a different colored/flavor of icing or fruit goo on the cake top layers if you want to get really fancy.
-again, using a warm dry and clean flat spatula, smooth out the sides and top of the cake as noted above.

All butter buttercream recipe
-makes 3 cups of icing - enough to crumb coat one 10 inch round cake (cut into a 2 layer cake)
-double up the recipe if you're planning to fondant the cake or just want a nice decent layer of frosting to cover things up
-this recipe is modified from Wilton's recipe here.  I think I ended up 4x or 5x the recipe to cover a 6 layer cake (with a cup or 2 leftover to do cupcakes with later that week)
-1 cup unsalted butter softened
-1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract or a few drops of concentrated candy flavoring
-4 cups sifted confectioners sugar (approximately 1 lb)
-2-4 tablespoons water or milk or cream (use water only if you're not planning to refrigerate cake!)

1) In large bowl, cream butter with paddle attachment on electric mixer. Add in vanilla or whatever flavoring you're using and 2 tablespoons of water. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Stop the mixer and scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.
2) Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.  You can add in up to 4 tablespoons water total to thin out the icing to the consistency you prefer. I like beating it for at least a minute on high after each addition of sugar... and am known to walk off and let it beat on high for about 5 minutes to let it get really light and fluffy at the very end
3) Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap until ready to use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip the heck out of it before using.

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