Recently, I had the chance to make cupcakes for a friend’s baby shower. Since we were expecting quite a few people, I knew I’d have the opportunity to try out a couple different flavors. I spent
hours days weeks way too much time thinking about what I’d make, when suddenly, inspiration struck! Since they’re having boy/girl twins, I’d do one batch chocolate with pink (because what girl doesn’t love chocolate?) and one batch vanilla with blue! Perfect! (This also meant a trip to my favorite bulk food/sprinkle store to pick out the perfect sprinkles and cupcake liners. And we should all be thankful that Andy was with me this time, otherwise I might still be there staring at the sprinkles.)
While both varieties were fun to make (and eat), the vanilla bean frosting was hands down the best part of the entire process. Not only did it taste amazing, but the little flecks of vanilla bean just look so cool in the frosting!
I’ve recently discovered Swiss meringue buttercream, and I don’t think I’ll go back to a standard buttercream again. I was a little intimidated by this frosting at first, but after a lot of reading and research, I decided to give it a whirl. And, I have to admit, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d feared. Plus, it just tastes SO good. Rich, buttery, and sweet (but not too sweet…), it whips up nicely and pipes well. I could have just eaten it straight from the pastry bag, but then I’d have to explain all of the naked cupcakes to everyone.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 cup & 1 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoon-sized chunks
In the metal bowl of a stand mixer (this is one recipe where I am so thankful to own a KitchenAid!), combine the egg whites, sugar and salt. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking often, until the mixture is foamy, reaches 160 degrees, and the sugar dissolves. (I use my candy thermometer for this, clipped to the side of the bowl.)
Remove the bowl from the pan and place on the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. This takes about eight minutes, and the bowl should be cool to the touch when you’re done.
Turn the mixer speed to medium and begin adding the butter, two tablespoons at a time, and beat until all of the butter is incorporated into the meringue. Continue to add butter, two tablespoons at a time, until all of the butter is whipped into the frosting. (Sometimes, it looks soupy, but that’s normal… a little more beating/whipping and it’ll turn into frosting. I promise.) Add in the vanilla extract and scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the frosting. Mix until well incorporated.
Pipe onto cupcakes, spread on layer cakes or eat with a spoon. Extra frosting (what’s that?) can be frozen or refrigerated or spread on graham crackers for a delicious snack.