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Ramblings About Different Icings (and recipes!)

8 Nov

Those of you who have followed my work for a while know that I decorate most of my cookies with what I call Meringue Powder Buttercream.  I occasionally dabble in other mediums, but I always go back to MPB.

It all started about 13 years ago. I was a full-time cake decorator at the time, and frequently visited a message board full of cake decorators (sort of like Cake Central, before there was Cake Central). Although I had done tons of cookies in the past, I wasn’t thinking “cookies” at the time, because I was so eyeball-deep in wedding cakes. There was a trend at the time to put roses and other piped flowers on the sides of cakes, and I had been getting requests for these, but people didn’t want royal icing flowers because they were too crunchy. I went to the cake decorator’s message board to see if there was any way to make buttercream flowers stay on the sides of cakes. A lady sent me a recipe for “Quick Crusting Buttercream”, that she said would work. So I started using it to make roses, pansies, and other flowers.

Here’s a cake from back in the day:

I couldn’t find a photo of one with the flowers on the sides of the cake, but you can picture it, right?

Pretty soon afterward, I got a request for some Christmas cookies (from my mom!). I had used Royal Icing a lot, but didn’t like that it dried chalky and matte. I wondered if this new “Quick-Crusting Buttercream” recipe would dry enough to use on cookies, and be able to bag them, pack them up, and ship them to my mom.  I altered it a little so it wasn’t so stiff, and gave it a whirl. It worked! And I’ve been using it ever since. Here are some cookies done with MPB:

I could post 200 or more pictures here, but you get the idea.

I love how it has a consistent sheen. It works well, comes out of the tips smooth and lovely, and it doesn’t get those pesky craters that come with other icings. But it has a problem. I get a lot of feedback from people who say it never dries enough to stack or bag. I’m pretty sure it must be a climate thing, but I haven’t figured out a fool-proof fix for it.  So I’ve played around with other icings so that I could have something else to recommend when people have trouble with MPB.

Like Corn Syrup Glaze. Cookie Crazie Pam uses it for all of her cookies, and they’re amazing! So I’ve played around with it.

It’s a great icing. I enjoy playing with it. I use it occasionally for different cookie projects. But I still end up going back to MPB. Maybe old habits die hard. Maybe I’m just used to working with it.

I’ve also tried fondant and candy clay.

Wow, those are nice pictures. I can tell Mike took them! :D Candy Clay and fondant are also really fun for certain projects. But I STILL always come back to MPB.

The one icing I have  tried not to touch with a 10-foot pole was royal icing. It always dried so ugly for me.  I used it last December for some winter cookies.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it’s not just matte. It’s chalky. That is what RI has always been for me, and why I haven’t liked it.

Until now.

I went to Cookie Camp back in September, and the recipe they used there was royal icing. And guess what? It dried shiny! I mean, not super-duper shiny, but shiny enough. Definitely not matte or chalky.

See? There’s definitely a bit of shine on those. They used a version of Antonia74 royal icing. I don’t know the original source of this recipe, but it’s been floating around the web for a long time. Do a quick google search and see how many references come up when you put in Antonia74.  There are all kinds of versions and variations of it.

So anyway, I came home and decided to give Royal Icing another chance. I made these pumpkins with it:

Look! Shiny! In fact, they were so shiny that I actually had kind of a tough time getting a good shot of them. Go figure!

So I don’t know if I’m a complete convert yet. I still love my MPB.  BUT– if you’ve tried the MPB and had trouble with it, give Royal Icing or Corn Syrup Glaze or Candy Clay a shot.  Here are all four recipes for you. Try them all and see what fits with your style.



Royal Icing

(a version of Antonia74’s recipe)

3/4 cup warm water
5 T meringue powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2.25 lbs. powdered icing sugar

Put water, meringue powder, and cream of tartar into a glass or metal mixing bowl. Whisk until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and mix with paddle attachment until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in any flavorings you desire. (I use 1 1/2 tsp. clear vanilla, 1/2 tsp. clear butter, and 1/4 tsp. almond emulsion)


Meringue Powder Buttercream
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 to 4 T. meringue powder (more for humid climates)
  • ½ cup Crisco shortening (can cut this down in humid climates)
  • 4 ½ cups powdered sugar (1 lb. 3 oz. If you have a scale)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (use clear vanilla if you want a pure white icing)
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
Place half of the powdered sugar and the meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk together well. Turn on mixer (use whip attachment) and, while motor is running, slowly stream in the water. Mix until everything is incorporated. Turn mixer to high speed and whip until stiff peaks form. Add flavorings and mix well. Change to paddle attachment (for stand mixer) or dough hook (for Bosch). If using a hand mixer, use the same beaters you were using before. Add remaining powdered sugar and shortening and whip for 2-3 minutes more.Note: Don’t skimp on the whipping time after adding the shortening. You really need to whip it well to prevent separation later.



Corn Syrup Glaze Icing
  • 2 lb powdered sugar
  • ½ C plus 2 T milk (10 T)
  • ½ C plus 2 T corn syrup (10 T)
  • 1 T. flavoring, any combination (I like 2 tsp. clear vanilla, ½ tsp. Almond Emulsion, and ½ tsp. clear butter flavoring, but you can get creative and try different things.)
Mix together till smooth. Divide up and color as desired.You can use this icing just the way it is for both outlining and filling in. If you’re looking for more detail, you can thicken up your outline color with a bit more powdered sugar if desired. The formula is not set in stone, feel free to experiment with different ratios of liquid to sugar to get the consistency you like the best.



Candy Clay
  • 10 oz chocolate (white, milk, dark, or colored candy melts)
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup (like Karo, but any brand works)
Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave at 50% power. (If using very high-quality chocolate, microwaving is NOT recommended) Once chocolate is completely melted, remove from heat and quickly stir in corn syrup all at once. Stir briskly until it stiffens up and forms a dough. Pour at once onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and let sit at room temperature overnight before using. If you are in a hurry, you can refrigerate it for a couple of hours).To soften, break off small pieces of dough at a time and knead gently until it forms a soft clay. Knead in drops of food coloring if desired.Because candy clay is made from chocolate, it will soften and melt if overworked. If your clay gets too soft from overhandling, wrap it in plastic and let it sit for an hour and it will stiffen back up.
Roll out candy clay and cut with the same cookie cutters you used to cut your cookies. Place on cookies, and attach with thinned icing or piping gel.
Note: Any grade of chocolate will work, but the higher the grade, the more finicky it can be. The cocoa butter tends to want to separate out of the good stuff. You may want to practice on lower quality chocolate first to get the hang of it and then try it with the best stuff if desired.To see a video on how to make candy clay, click here.

Baby Cutter Set Winner (and MPB recipe)

1 Mar

I guess I just have to come to terms with the fact that Mondays are not good blogging days! :) So if I have a blog giveaway that ends on a weekend, you’ll probably  need to expect the winner to be announced on a Tuesday.  And that brings me to the winner…

Donna! (with kewl granny in her email address– which I love, by the way!) She said:

Your pony cookies are fabulous and the eyes on the blue bear are my favorite too. I wish I had just half of your talent.

Aww, thanks Donna! And thanks for liking my rocking horses, too. :) I’ve sent you an email, so just respond to that, or send us an email at contact at karenscookies dot net.

Thanks once again to all who entered! I appreciate all the great comments!  A few people asked what kind of frosting I used on these.  I always forget to say that! These (and all of my recent posts) were done with Meringue Powder Buttercream. I use that almost exclusively, so if I ever forget to specify which frosting I used, you can bet that it’s MPB.  Since I use the others a lot less often, I’ll be sure to say when I’m using something else.  The recipe is on my web site, but I should probably get it here on the blog, so here it is, with a few notations that might be helpful.

MERINGUE POWDER BUTTERCREAM

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 to 4  T. meringue powder*
  • ½ cup Crisco shortening**
  • 4 ½ cups powdered sugar (1 lb. 3 oz. If you have a scale)***
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (use clear vanilla if you want a pure white icing)
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
Place half of the powdered sugar and the meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk together well. Turn on mixer (use whip attachment) and, while motor is running, slowly stream in the water. Mix until everything is incorporated. Turn mixer to high speed and whip until stiff peaks form. Add flavorings and mix well. Change to paddle attachment (for stand mixer) or dough hook (for Bosch). If using a hand mixer, use the same beaters you were using before. Add remaining powdered sugar and shortening and whip for 2-3 minutes more. 

Note: Don’t skimp on the whipping time after adding the shortening. You really need to whip it well to prevent separation later.

*If egg whites are the first ingredient on your meringue powder, you can use the smaller amount. If egg whites come later in the ingredient list, or if you live in a very high humidity area, I recommend using 4 T.  You can also add a tablespoon of pure dried egg whites along with your meringue powder to give it extra drying power.
**I recommend Crisco shortening, because it has the most consistent results. There are some store brands that will work, but some do not (they cause ugly separation when you thin it down for glaze), so just to be safe, I recommend only using Crisco brand. If you have an aversion to using shortening, I completely understand, and you can use butter instead– however, I have had mixed results using butter. The first few times I used butter, it worked beautifully, and then the next couple of times, it separated and didn’t dry well. I have no idea what made the difference. So anyway, if you use butter, be aware that there may be some separation issues if you thin it down for glaze, and you also might need to add a little extra powdered sugar  because it’s quite a lot softer when using butter. Also, if you find you have trouble with your MPB drying, you can cut down the shortening to as much as half (so use 1/4 cup per batch) and it will help it to dry faster and more thoroughly.
***I really recommend weighing the powdered sugar if at all possible. Powdered sugar is a bugger to measure. It seems like it varies SO much. If you don’t have a scale, stir or sift your powdered sugar before measuring to make sure it’s light and fluffy.
If you do everything exactly “right”, and your frosting still comes out way too stiff or way too soft, never fear! It is a very forgiving medium! Feel free to add water to make it softer, or add powdered sugar to stiffen it up. It won’t ruin anything!

Peanut Butter Pops

11 Feb

I’m sure by now everyone has seen Bakerella’s cake pops. If you haven’t, you really must head over there to see her cute stuff. She even made cheesecake pops, which I am totally going to try. But anyway, I was going to make some cake pops as my final Valentine idea post, but my cake pop “dough” totally flopped. Did I add too much frosting? Was my cake too moist to begin with? I have no idea, but it was not working. I was bummed because I think cake pops are super cute. I was just about to bake up another cake and try again when I happened to link over to this post, which is on the Happy When Not Hungry blog, written by Kara, who commented on my Fortune Cookie post, which is how I found it. Are you following me so far?  So her Peanut Butter and Nutella Rice Krispy bites (which sound amazing, by the way) reminded me of my Christmas peanut butter balls recipe, and I got to wondering if they would work on sticks. So I tried it.

And they were good.

It’s funny, I’ve made all kinds of treats for this blog– cupcakes, fortune cookies, decorated cookies, rice krispy treats, etc., and nothing excited my kids like these did. They walked in the door from school yesterday and said “Woa!! COOL! Can we have one? You know– after you take your pictures.”  (They are well-trained)  These are definitely kid-pleasers.

Here’s how you do it:

First the recipe.

2 T. light corn syrup

2 T. butter, melted

3/4 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup plus 2 T. smooth peanut butter (I’ve used both Jif and Skippy with good results)

Mix together the corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and salt in a medium-large bowl.

Add the powdered sugar

and the peanut butter

Stir carefully (so the powdered sugar doesn’t poof all over you). At first it will look like this:

And then it will form a dough, almost like peanut butter cookie dough.

Now you need to roll it into small balls. What I do to get them even is scoop them with my cookie scoop:

And then cut those in half. Kind of weird, but it makes the right size. You really don’t want huge balls of this, or the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate will be off. The smaller ones will be more like Reeses Peanut Butter cups. If you have a smaller cookie scoop than I do, you might be able to just use that.

So after you cut the scoops in half, roll them into balls. and put them in a pan so that you can put them in the freezer.

Freeze them for about 20 minutes. You don’t want them frozen solid, or they’ll crack when you put the stick in, but you want them pretty firm.

While they’re in the freezer, melt some “chocolate”. I put chocolate in quotes because this isn’t real chocolate. You can certainly use real chocolate if you want, but I’m a terrible chocolate temperer (is that a word?) My friend Tara is a real-life chocolatier, and she wouldn’t be caught dead using this stuff. But for me and my kids… yeah, I’m all over it. I actually really love using Merkens wafers. They’re pretty good for fake chocolate, and it’s so easy to work with. So melt some fake chocolate. Valentine colors are fun, so I picked pink to start with.

Dip a lollipop stick in the chocolate just so the bottom 1/4″ or so is covered.

Then take one of your firmed-up peanut butter balls and insert the stick.

And by the way, I used 6″ sticks for these, but 4″ sticks would also work.

Next, dip them into the chocolate. You’ll want to go straight down, and use a spoon to help cover them. If you’re swirling them around too much, they could come loose and fall off the stick.  If you want a really great video on this, check out the Amazon page for Bakerella’s book, and it’s the exact same process. She does a good job showing you how to do it.  I’m sure that video is on her web site somewhere, too, but I couldn’t find it.

You’ll want to lightly tap off the excess.

If you don’t want to put them on sticks, you can also dip the balls by themselves. I like to use two forks and a spoon for dipping. First, I dip the bottom of the ball into the chocolate, then set it on a fork. Then I use the spoon to pour chocolate over it. Then I tap the fork on the edge of the bowl to get rid of the excess. I move it over to a sheet of parchment paper, and use the second fork to push it off the first fork onto the paper. I hope that makes sense, because the only picture of the process I got was this one:

Which pretty much shows you nothing.

While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with assorted decorations. I made a mixture of white, pink, and red non pariels for some:

And of course I had to use the mini hearts because I love them.

They’re super cute without sticks, too.

I loved the crunch that the sprinkles gave them.

Yum!

Ok, that’s it for Valentine’s ideas. From here on out, you’re on your own. :D Have a great weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day!!

I’ll be back next week with some cookies that I can’t wait to show you!  My kids told me what to make (they even gave me sketches to go by) and I recreated their ideas in cookie form. I’d better finish ‘em up before they get home from school. They’re going to love them, and I hope you do, too!

Fortune Cookies

10 Feb

Ok, remember when I said at the beginning of the week that I was going to post a bunch of simple, easy ideas for Valentine’s day. Wellll…. this sort of does and sort of doesn’t fit into that category.  I guess this is an easy idea for someone who is up for a little bit more of a challenge. (Does that even make sense??) It actually is very easy and very simple, but it takes a little patience to get the hang of it.  The ingredients don’t get any more simple, and I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of you have them in your kitchen right now. So you should try it!

Before you start making your batter, you’re going to need a template. Actually, this isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s very helpful. If you don’t want to take the time to make a template, you can skip this part and just spread your dough out free-form.

To make the template, get a large disposable lid, or other piece of thin plastic. A cool whip, yogurt, margarine or sour cream lid are all good, as long as it’s at LEAST a 4″ diameter, not including the rim.

Find a 3″ circle to trace around.

This is the 3 1/16″ circle from the plastic circle set. It is very well-used and loved, so the measurement has been worn off!

After you trace it, use an x-acto knife to cut out the circle.

Then cut off the rim of the lid so that it lays (lies?) completely flat. You can use scissors or an x-acto knife.

After that you’ll have a nice, reusable template. Wash it to get rid of all pen/pencil marks because those will definitely get on your fortune cookie dough if you don’t. Don’t ask me how I know that.

One more thing you need to do before you make the batter is to write your fortunes and have them ready. Cut strips of paper 1/2″ by 4″ if you want the fortunes to come out the edges of the cookie, or 1/2″ by 3″ if you want them all hidden inside. I did mine 4″, but I think I’d do 3″ next time.

I think this is where you could let your creativity fly. I was not very creative with these. At all. But you could print them on fancy paper, and you could do fortunes that would match the personality of the recipient. I think writing cute things for your kids and slipping them into their lunch for school would be really fun. Be creative.

Oh, and one more thing before you make the batter– Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

The batter is super simple. It takes exactly 1 minute to mix this up. Ok, maybe 2. But it’s fast. This is adapted from a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. It makes 12 fortune cookies. Here are the ingredients:

1 egg white

1/8 tsp. vanilla

3 T. sugar

1 pinch salt

1/4 cup flour

Put the egg white and vanilla in a bowl. Whisk until it gets foamy. Add the sugar and salt and whisk until smooth. Stir in the flour until a smooth batter forms. It’s actually kind of a batter/dough hybrid. It is thicker than a batter, but a pretty runny dough.

Sorry I don’t have pictures of the dough-making process. But it really is simple enough that you don’t need pictures, right? :D

About the surface you’ll be baking on– You can bake on a plain (very-well-greased) sheet pan. But it is tons easier and more fool-proof if you bake on either silicone liners or parchment. Even if you use silicone or parchment, you’ll need to grease it or spray it with Pam, so if you’re using a plain cookie sheet, you’re really going to have to grease the heck out of it to get them to not stick. So if you have silicone or parchment, use it! Oh– and if you’re using parchment, you really could just trace some 3″ circles right onto the parchment for your guide instead of making the template.

I used silicone liners for mine, and I’m sorry they look so nasty. I’ve been using these for almost a decade, so even when they’re clean they look kind of gross. Sorry.

Spray silicone or parchment with Pam, or grease the heck out of your pans. Place your template on the pan and put exactly 1 teaspoon of batter in the center.

Use an offset spatula to spread the batter around inside the template.

Go all the way to the edges. If you aren’t using a template, just eye-ball a 3″ circle. The batter will be very thin. You may even be able to see right through it in spots. That’s ok. And, um, sorry about the water spots on my spatula. I have hard water, ok?

Lift off the template, and repeat up to 3 times, for a maximum of 4 cookies per sheet.

Four is really the max that one person can do at a time. You have to work really fast at folding when they come out of the oven, or they’ll get too stiff to fold. If you have helping hands in your kitchen, you might be able to do 6 per sheet. I actually recommend only doing 2 for your first batch and work up to 3 or 4 as you get the hang of it.

Bake them in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, or until they start to get brown around the edges.

Determining when they are ready is probably the trickiest part of the whole thing. They need to be lightly browned if they’re going to set up nice and crisp, but the browner they get, the faster you have to work with them. The paler ones are easier to fold, but they won’t crisp up as well. So you have to learn in your first couple of batches what the happy medium is.

Ok, so as soon as you pull them out of the oven, start folding. I think it’s easier to just peel them off the pan with my hands, rather than trying to use a spatula. A spatula can tend to mush them up, but if your hands are really heat-sensitive, a spatula might be your only choice. If you do go that route, I would grease it first.  So either peel one off, or use a spatula, and flip it onto a wooden cutting board or counter so that it’s upside-down. Quickly lay one of your fortunes across the center.

Then, fold it in half like a taco.

Next, you’ll take the outside “corners” of your taco and pull them down towards each other.

If they cool too much while you’re working with them and they won’t fold, you can put them back in the oven for 20-30 seconds to heat them back up again.

As soon as you’re done folding one, plop it into a muffin tin. The round muffin cavities will help them keep their shape while they cool.

Aren’t they cute?

You can be done right there. Or… if you’re feeling extra festive and fancy, you can dip them in chocolate and sprinkle them with some Valentine sprinkles.

Place them on wax paper or parchment while the chocolate sets up.

Look how fancy these are! And you can make them as personal as you want, since you’re writing your own fortunes. I think that would be a fun ending to a special Valentine’s dinner.

And did I mention that they taste REALLY good? They are so much tastier than store-bought fortune cookies. Yum!

Valentine Cupcakes

9 Feb

These were amazing. I revisited a frosting recipe that I haven’t used in a few years. I forgot how completely heavenly it is, and you really must make it.  But before I get to that recipe, let’s talk about the cake. I told you in my last cupcake posts that what I usually do for my cakes is use Betty Crocker cake mix, but I substitute buttermilk for the water, and add flavorings. This time I used a new cake mix. I buy a lot of my supplies for resale from CK Products, and recently they added some “Premium Cake Mixes” to their line of products.

I bought a few with my last order to try them out. I was a little skeptical, because they seemed exactly like any other store-bought cake mix that I’ve ever bought. You add the exact same ingredients (3 eggs, 1 1/4 cups water, 1/3 cup oil), and I figured it’s probably more of the same, just repackaged and re-branded. Well I have to tell you, I am pleasantly surprised. I’ve made the chocolate and the yellow so far, and mixed exactly as directed on the bag, and they really are something special. I don’t sell them in my store yet– I’m not sure if there’s enough interest among cookie decorators, but you can get them at Country Kitchen. They’re more expensive than regular cake mix, plus you’ll probably have to pay some shipping, but I think its worth the extra money. Let me know if it’s something you’d like to see in my store, too.

Anyway, back to the frosting. This is a super simple chocolate whipped cream recipe that is so very delicious. I found the recipe years ago in this book:

I think it might actually be the frosting that’s on the cover cake. It only has 3 ingredients:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar (superfine is great for this)

1/3 cup cocoa

I really really love this with Dutch Process Cocoa. I think it is significantly better than regular cocoa. Unfortunately, Dutch Process Cocoa can be kind of hard to find, and I’m having a tough time finding it in my town. I did find this:

Which is a mixture of regular and Dutched. It was a good substitute. But if you can get pure Dutch, try it! It is so delicious.

What you’ll do is pour the whipping cream in a bowl (metal is the best).

Add the sugar

And the cocoa

Stir around with the beaters (they don’t have to be connected to the mixer yet) until everything is nicely combined.

It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth– just so all the dry ingredients get mixed in. Refrigerate the mixture (along with the beaters) for at least 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, get it out of the fridge and beat until thick and creamy and stiff peaks form.

Oh man, this is so good! It tastes like chocolate ice cream, only a lot less cold. You really don’t want to under-beat this, so take it pretty far with the whipping. If you under-beat, it will soften up and break down. If you take it farther and make sure it’s really good and stiff, it has remarkable stability.  In fact, I accidentally left a small bowl of this on the counter last night, and when I got up this morning it was still holding strong, and hadn’t watered out. That was 10+ hours at room temperature. You don’t want to do that on purpose– definitely refrigerate this, but just as a point of interest…. :)

Anyway, then you can use a decorating bag and large tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. I used a 1M tip here, but if you want a round swirl, you could use a 1A or a 2A.

Yum. I wish these weren’t all gone.

I sprinkled half with mini hearts sprinkles (which I LOVE. Aren’t they the cutest?), and half with red non pareils. They were super cute all together on my cake stand.

When I got these all together for a picture, I really wished I had a party going on because they look so fun and Valentine-party-like. But we just ate them instead.

Oh, and I baked these in the red gingham baking cups, but because this was such a dark chocolate cake, it made the cups harder to see after baking. So I slipped them into a second cup because I thought they were so cute and wanted them to show up better.

I gave some to my friend in this cute box

Isn’t that fun? Mmm… cupcakes make me happy lately.

Cupcake Frosting

11 Jan

I found this recipe quite a while ago, printed on the giant box of meringue powder that I get from CK Products. I filed it away, and while looking for a good cupcake frosting recently, I decided to dig it up and give it a whirl (hardy har har). The original recipe called for shortening instead of butter, but that sounded really gross to me, so I took a chance and tried it with butter.  Luckily, it was a winner! If you’ve ever tried making Italian Meringue Buttercream, this is kind of the same idea. I made Italian meringue a few times back in my cake decorating days, but I always worried about the safety of it (does the sugar syrup REALLY cook those eggs?), so back then I went with another option. This one appealed to me because it’s the same idea– sugar syrup, whipped egg whites, butter– but instead of fresh egg whites, you use meringue powder.  Here’s what you do:

Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. When it comes to a boil, pour in 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

Remove from heat and stir gently until all sugar crystals are gone.

You’ll know when it’s all dissolved because you won’t feel the sugar crystals scrape on the bottom of the pan while you’re stirring, and the liquid will be clear. Make sure there aren’t any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Set it aside to cool. You can let it cool for 1/2 hour, or a whole day– doesn’t matter. Just as long as it’s cool to the touch.

Pour into a mixer bowl and add 1/4 cup meringue powder.

Using the whisk attachment, (or beaters of a hand mixer), beat at high speed for several minutes.  This is what it looks like at first:

As it goes, it will get thicker and thicker. You’ll see that the beaters will start to leave distinct “tracks” behind as it mixes.

When it’s done, it will form stiff peaks when you lift the beater(s) out of the bowl.

When you have it at a nice, fluffy, stiff peak, beat in 1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 1/2 cups, but I recommend weighing if possible).

Mix slowly at first to keep the powdered sugar from flying all over the place, and then increase the speed. When the powdered sugar is all incorporated (it will look pretty stiff and dry), beat in 2 cups of butter. I just leave the mixer flying at high speed and throw in a stick at a time.

As it turns out, it’s pretty tricky to get a shot of that! Ha ha! If you look closely, you’ll see a cube of butter to the right of the beater that just landed. If you used unsalted butter, throw in a couple of pinches of salt at this point, too.

Beat until smooth and creamy and beautiful.

It’s pretty much done at this point, except you’ll notice that there is no flavoring yet. That’s where these come in:

Plus a few things I forgot to put in the picture, including maraschino cherries, crushed pineapple, and orange zest. I’ll get the hang of this yet…

So for this experiment, I divided up the one batch of frosting into several small containers and mixed in small amounts of flavorings to get different kinds of frosting. Unfortunately, because of that, I don’t have exact measurements to give you. I plan on eventually making full batches of each of these so that I can give you some exact measurements, but let me tell you right now: That’ll take a while. So if you want to try this yourself soon, I recommend experimenting like I did and come up with some good combos. Just start with small amounts of flavoring and add more if it needs it. It’s a lot easier to add more flavoring than to take some out! Here’s what I did for each:

For Raspberry/Vanilla, I flavored the cake batter (see my previous post about how to mix up the batter) with pure vanilla extract. For the frosting, I used LorAnn Raspberry flavoring and a teeny drop of Fuchsia food coloring. The little raspberry thing on top is just a raspberry candy. I really wanted a real raspberry, but they were about $5 for a half a cup, so maybe next summer!

For Chocolate Mint, I used plain chocolate cake batter for the cake, and for the frosting I added a couple of drops of LorAnn Peppermint Oil and a tiny drop of Mint Green food coloring. I topped it off with an Andes mint cut on the diagonal. They’re a little tricky to cut, but if you run your knife under super hot water first, it helps to get a clean cut. If that doesn’t work, microwave it for about 5 seconds and then cut.

Yummmmmmmm… the Pina Colada was sooo good. I flavored the cake batter with Coconut Emulsion. For the frosting, I took some canned crushed pineapple and squeezed every bit of juice I could out of it by putting it in a mesh strainer and pressing out the juice with a spoon. I stirred the dry(ish) pineapple into the frosting, along with a tiny bit of vanilla. After frosting the cupcake, I dipped the top into shredded coconut, and topped it off with a well-drained maraschino cherry. When I make these again (and I will!) I think I’ll try toasted coconut.

For Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese, I used a plain chocolate cupcake. For the frosting, I softened a little bit of cream cheese and mixed it into the frosting along with a spoonful of raspberry jam. I really wished I had some homemade raspberry freezer jam, but I didn’t, so I used store-bought. It was still very good! I didn’t add any coloring to this one. The jam made it a nice, natural pinkish color.

Cherry Almond. I flavored the cake batter with Almond Emulsion. For the frosting, I chopped up some maraschino cherries, and left them pretty juicy. I stirred those into the frosting, along with a tiny drop of almond extract.

Chocolate/Chocolate. This one was just ok. I need to experiment some more. I just made plain chocolate cakes and stirred some cocoa powder (Dutch process) into the frosting. I wonder if some melted chocolate stirred in might be better. I’ll experiment some more, and you should, too!

This one was awesome! For the cake, I added Lemon Emulsion to the batter. For the frosting, I really wanted to make some lemon curd to mix in. I LOVE lemon curd, and I really enjoy making it, but when I went to the store to buy lemons, they were almost a dollar a piece! I knew I would need 5 or 6 of them, so I decided not to. Then when I was in the peanut butter and jelly aisle, I spotted this:

Um… Yum! It tastes exactly like homemade! And much cheaper if lemons are almost a buck a piece. So I stirred some of this deliciousness into the frosting and added just the tiniest drop of lemon yellow food coloring. It was so good!  Before I frosted the cupcakes, I used a bismark tip to fill them with a bit of raspberry jam, then frosted with the lemon frosting. So good!

For Orange/Orange, I flavored the cake batter with Orange Emulsion and the zest of an orange.  For the frosting, I added LorAnn Orange Oil and a little bit of orange zest. I also added a teensy drop of orange food coloring.

This one is as easy as it gets. The cake is just plain chocolate cake, and for the frosting, I mixed in a spoonful of creamy peanut butter. For the topper, I cut a mini peanut butter cup in half and plopped it on there. For being so simple, this was completely delicious.

To frost all of these, I used a pastry bag and a #12 tip. I think any tip from 10-12 would work great, but if you add chunks (like the pineapple or cherries), you’ll probably want the 12. These are mini cupcakes. If I were making standard-size cupcakes, I would use a much larger tip.

Whew! That was a long one! I assure you that most of my posts won’t be this long.

Have fun and experiment!

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