*Names changed to protect the fabulous
For the past two months or so, I’ve been trying to conquer what I considered to be nigh unconquerable: the evasive Swiss buttercream. A simple enough concoction that’s essentially a meringue with a Paula Deen-approved serving of butter whipped into it, it’s notoriously difficult to master. I’ve seen professional bloggers finally post with glee about it. And pheasants, today, I have done just this: I am Mistress of the Buttercream! I’ve requested M call me this at least once a day for the next week.
From what I’ve seen (and tasted,) the big draw for real meringue-based buttercreams is not only the light and fluffy texture, but the high-gloss shine you get from it, and the fact that it doesn’t crust over the way normal frostings can. It tastes almost deceptively good for you in a light, airy sort of way.
On that note, I can tell you a little somethin’-somethin’ about these mini cupcakes and chocolate frosting: they’re rather addictive. The recipe I made creates two dozen of these little guys, and I’d been planning on a dessert night with our roommate Kamal* tonight. They may not last so long.
I was still making the buttercream when M came home today. As per usual, she immediately dipped a finger in and pronounced it edible. Edible?! I screeched, waving my hand mixer around like a child on speed. I’ve been working for twenty minutes on this! It’d better be tastier than “edible.” She then took one of the little cooling cupcakes from the plate beside me, dipped it in, and popped the entire thing in her mouth. This, she liked. I could see why; the evidence was smeared all over her face!
When it comes to the chocolate bombs, the chipotle puree and Nutella aren’t necessary, but they do bump up the flavor. The mini chocolate chips are also technically unnecessary, but they make the bomb itself very moist and smooth.
The bombs themselves can be made with any cake batter, but the chocolate-chocolate combination was a winner in this apartment.
About the buttercream, I have several tips:
- Check the egg whites every minute or so while they’re on the double boiler. They should never get hot enough to burn your fingers, or anywhere near, but they will end up an opaque, very meringue white at the end.
- Once you’ve added the butter to the frosting, it WILL look like you’ve messed up when it falls, and it may turn to soup. Keep whipping. As you add the butter, it will solidify and become the fluffy, gorgeously silky frosting you were looking for.
- Try out your favorite flavorings, food colorings and additions to it! Experiment, experiment, experiment. There’s really not such a thing as bad frosting, and as long as you aren’t adding heavy items to it, it should hold up just fine.
Pheasant’s chocolate bombs and Swiss buttercream
Yields two dozen chocolate bombs
For the bombs:
3/4 c flour (AP or whole wheat)
1/3 c cocoa powder
1 tsp coffee powder
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 c mini chocolate chips
2/3 c milk minus 2 tbsp
1/8 c vegetable oil (I used soybean)
2 tbsp fat free sour cream
1/8 tsp chipotle puree (optional)
2 tbsp Nutella spread
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350°F (171°C.) Spray a 24-cup (or two 12-cup) mini cupcake tin(s) with Pam.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center and add in the wet, mixing until combined. It should be a rather thick, almost cookie-like batter. Drop by the tablespoonful into the muffin cups. When the batter is all gone, stick the muffin tins in the oven and set your timer for 11 minutes.
Once the cupcakes are done, allow them to cool completely before popping them out of their tins and frosting.
For the buttercream:
2 large egg whites (reserve the yolks for Hollandaise!)
1/3 c sugar
10 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp cocoa powder (or other favorite flavoring)
In a large, heat-proof mixing bowl (I used our Pyrex bowls) mix the egg whites and sugar together. Set a medium sauce pot, half-filled with water to simmer on the stove. Once it’s hot and simmering, place the bowl of egg whites over the water and whisk gently until you can dip (very clean!) finger in and not feel the sugar granules when you test it between your fingers.
Once this is done, using a hand mixer, mix on medium-high until it’s doubled in volume, white, and glossy.
Once you've whipped it well, it should look thick, glossy and beautiful!
At this point, add the vanilla and half the cocoa, as well as one or two tablespoons of butter. Continue to mix until the butter is completely incorporated, then add in the second. The frosting will fall a little as you mix, but don’t despair! It will set up nicely as you beat it. Before adding the last few tablespoons of butter, taste the frosting. If you want it more cocoa-y, add the rest of the powder. If not, don’t!
Once all your butter is incorporated and you’ve got thick frosting, spoon it into a piping bag (or in my case, a zip lock with the tip cut off) and pipe it on!
Try not to eat them all in one sitting ;D