Vanilla Buttercream Frosting


Last born had a birthday on Sunday. After warm spinach-artichoke dip and zingy cucumber dip; after frozen strawberry margaritas whose fruit factor was boosted with homemade strawberry jam; after burgers and hot dogs sizzling from the grill,  sweet and bacony baked beans, and potato-egg salad with fronds of fresh dill (that I should have chopped into bits because the herb looked like green hair) …

… after all that, there was cake.

And everyone was too full to eat it.

So the table was cleared to make room to play a few rounds of Five Second Rule,** a game that requires players to “Just Spit it Out!”™ You get five seconds to name three items in a category, like Famous Michaels or Types of Doughnuts or Bacteria, before little ball bearings swirl to the bottom of the neon yellow timer stick. It is great fun, and no smarty pants or millennial or old fart can hog all the points because the categories cover an impossibly broad range. I highly recommend it.

About that cake. Last born couldn’t decide between layers of chocolate or vanilla, so she got both. Magic Chocolate Frosting was the filling, and the top was spread with delicious vanilla buttercream. Normally I wouldn’t speak in dreamy tones about a frosting, but this one merits a love note. It’s exceptionally good.

After some time to let the burgers and beans settle, we presented the cake, sang the birthday song, and H blew out her candles. Not everyone could finish a slice, but it was fun trying.

Happy 27th, H. I’m so glad you were born.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (adapted from a recipe published by Saveur magazine, October 2014 issue)

This amount makes enough to apply a modest cover of frosting on 23 cupcakes, or it will provide a thick and swoopy cap to a nine-inch layer cake. If you intend to both frost and fill a cake with this recipe, make a double amount. Same goes for getting fancy with your cupcakes by piping swirls on with a pastry bag. Double the recipe if that’s your plan.

1/4 cup whole milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

Pinch of fine-grained salt

1 (1-pound box) confectioners’ sugar

Combine the milk, vanilla extract, softened butter, and pinch of salt in a large bowl. Mix at low speed with an electric hand mixer until the butter has broken up into pieces, then dump the confectioners’ sugar over the top. With the mixer on low speed, combine the ingredients until the sugar is incorporated, then increase the mixer speed to high and beat the frosting until it’s fluffy, scraping the beaters and bowl periodically.

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