This past weekend I decided to bake something for a colleague who was leaving the agency for which I work. She had been a pillar in our clinic for years, and it was hard for our team not to be able to celebrate her. We organized a parade of cars, in true COVID fashion, and while some of us wrote beautiful signs, I just wanted to show my love and appreciation with pastry. So I armed myself with the essentials for safe baking: a scale to measure ingredients and ensure recipe success, and mask and gloves to protect it from contamination.
I decided to bake Chocolate Cupcakes for her and her family. One thing I learned when I had my bakery was that a good cake recipe would work for cupcakes as well. A staple on my bookshelves is a book by Trish Boyle, The Cake Book. Characteristic of her desserts is simplicity combined with balance of flavors, and I have loved and adapted many of her recipes. A month or so ago I made my version of her Sour Cream Chocolate Cake for a birthday cake. It was moist and fluffy, and I thought that I would use it for my Chocolate Cupcakes. This time, though, I opted for American Buttercream instead of Italian Buttercream.
American Buttercream is deliciously creamy, super sweet, and incredibly fluffy, and by far the easiest buttercream to master. It’s just a matter of beating softened butter until it’s fluffy, adding powdered sugar, cream, and a little vanilla and whipping it all together.
Italian buttercream is silky and luscious. A meringue is made with egg whites and sugar. Then sugar syrup cooked to at least the soft ball stage (240°F) is poured into it with the mixer running. This sets the egg whites and forms a stable base for the frosting. Once the meringue is cooled to 80°F (with the mixer running the whole time), soft butter is added, a lump at a time, until the frosting comes together.
I personally prefer Italian Buttercream, and not for the obvious reason. In my opinion it is smooth and less sweet, and it pipes beautifully. Though, knowing that my colleague has teenagers in her family, I thought that the taste of American Buttercream would be more appropriate and familiar.