Time for something sweet!...

This week I've been tying up some loose ends...

It seems that November is named aptly for me...as in no, I didn't finish my Soctober projects!...but LOOK!...

Lucky thirteen!...November 13th and, count them, 13 minis in my basket!  Woohoo!  I love second chances!...and I love how these little socks look in my son's Easter basket — they remind me of jelly beans and lollipops — just so happy, cheerful and sweet...

Speaking of sweet...

Thanks so much for the cake love!...

It's so funny, my interest in cake baking was, as is so often the case here, inspired by my kids... really all I set out to do was to learn to make pretty cakes for my kids' birthdays {the cakes that I made in those early days looked kind of pathetic...and then there was the puzzle cake incident...came out of the pan in pieces and shards and was promptly dubbed the "The Puzzle Cake"}.  So I decided it was time to tackle cake baking full on,  and one thing led to another...a clear case of be careful what you wish for as evidenced in the cake gallery on my side bar.

I truly love cake baking and decorating though, and I welcome the challenges that my muses throw my way, whether its with cakes or knitting or whatever.  I find it amazing that these kids seem to believe I can do anything, and their believing it makes me want to try all the more.  It really is one of the greatest joys of mothering, those little challenges, that itch to create something that will perfectly fit a need or fulfill an unuttered wish.  It is a gift that my family gives to me over and over again.  For them, I am always willing to summon up the courage to try something new, to learn a new skill, and in the learning I get to flex new muscles, get out of my comfort zone and stretch, and surprisingly, there is no huge risk of failure—they have always and generously received my humble efforts with grace and appreciation.  Quite a gift indeed!  So with that on my mind, I thought I'd share a bit of the love with you...

The Best * Easy-Peasy * Yes, You Can Italian Meringue Buttercream!

 This cupcake is frosted with the chocolate version of the Italian meringue buttercream that I use on all of my cakes.  It is fabulous and makes what could be a tricky recipe easy peasy. 

This recipe makes 4 cups of butter cream frosting.
You will need —
3 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup egg whites (from around 4 to 5 large eggs)
1 1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 t. of vanilla
Flavorings of your choice (see below)

First let all of the ingredients come to room temperature.  Separate the eggs and put them in a large mixing bowl.  Fit the mixer with the whip attachment, if you have one.  Cut the butter into 1" chunks.
Put the water and the sugar into a small sauce pan.  Heat the pan over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved.  Let the sugar mixture come to a boil.  Turn back the heat just a tad (you still want a good boil, just not a rolling boil) and set the timer for 5 minutes.  When the timer goes off, set it for 2 minutes and start mixing the egg whites on high.  Keep the sugar mixture where it is, doing it's thing—it will thicken nicely and you want to turn back the heat if it starts to turn amber.  When the timer goes off, the egg whites should be to the stiff peak stage.  Turn the heat under the sugar mixture off and take the sauce pan over to the mixer.  Keeping the mixer going on high, slowly drizzle the sugar mixture into the egg whites, trying to pour close to the side of the bowl so that you miss hitting the big part of the whip attachment.  Once all of the sugar has been added to the eggs, it's time to wait.  Keep the mixer going at high and leave it going for 15 to 20 minutes.  In my experience you can't keep it going too long (it could even go as long as 30 minutes).  You are waiting for the bowl and it's contents to come to room temperature.

Once the mixture is room temp, begin adding the butter...
{Don't think about it too much * it's called buttercream for a reason and your taste buds will thank you later}

Add the butter one chunk at a time, keeping the mixer going on high all the time and waiting until each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next.

After all the butter has been added, add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Now for the flavorings!...You can keep the buttercream as is, vanilla and perfectly yummy,  or you can add flavors...
Just stir (or mix on low) to incorporate any of the following into the frosting—
Semisweet or Bittersweet Chocolate —4 to 8 oz of melted, room temp chocolate per recipe
Nutella {yum!} — 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Lemon —1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon curd
Jams —1/4 to 1/2 cup of your choice
Liqueurs —1 T of your choice {my faves are Framboise and Grand Marnier}

Voila!...this buttercream is silky smooth and very rich, a dab will do you, and it is soooo flavorful.  It keeps like a dream in the fridge or freezer and can be reconstituted by letting it come to room temp and whipping it on high until it is light and fluffy.  Note:  The first time I tried this, I almost despaired. It looked grainy and curdley, at first.  If this happens to you just keep the faith and keep mixing.  It will come together...like magic!

For the cake, use your favorite cupcake recipe.  I've come up with a couple of decent ones but still haven't nailed down the perfect bite, you know, a cupcake that will really remain moist day after day (not that they actually last that long around here).  Any contenders out there?  I'm always looking for a reason to bake a batch of cupcakes, and I'd be happy to play at being your recipe test kitchen.
; )

Have a sweet weekend sweet friends!...alison