Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Apricot Buttercream

This post is supposed to be about the Apricot Buttercream. And I will get there. But ...

These butterflies are just about the prettiest thing I've ever made, so let me give credit upfront to Ann Reardon of the amazing How To Cook That blog and YouTube channel. This post tells you how to make these butterflies from craft store candy melts. And it's easy, so don't be surprised if you see color coordinated butterflies on every cake I make from here on out. Reardon's videos are the best - there's a link to this one at the bottom of the post.

Now, back to that buttercream.

Originally, I made as a version of my own Baltimore Buttercream Frosting, i.e. I added a sugar syrup to a meringue of beaten egg whites, before beating in the butter, apricot puree and powdered sugar. But this was a bit, ummm ... squelchy. You know how salad bars in the 80s all had a vat of Jell-O mixed with Cool Whip? I actually put that stuff in my mouth once and lived to tell the tale. But only one time in 1984, since the novelty of a substance that is simultaneously wet and greasy wears off fast.

That's a long way of saying that this recipe is an American Buttercream, which is ridiculously simple. Yay!

Unfortunately, the apricot puree takes a little extra time. Boo!

I used a vanilla-buttermilk cake to support this apricot frosting. Use any three-layer cake you like, chocolate or vanilla. We loved the vanilla cake, but I sandwiched some of the extra frosting between chocolate macaron shells with great results, too. Sadly, the macarons were one of many footless batches I made before realizing that they needed to cook five minutes longer or they'd collapse outside the oven, so no pictures. Live and learn. (Also, cry and stomp your feet like a toddler.)

Apricot Puree
adapted from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
1 cup dried apricots (170g)
1 cup water
juice from half a lemon

Apricot Buttercream
2 sticks butter, softened (230g)
6 cups powdered sugar (960g)
3 tablespoons apricot puree (75g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons milk or cream

For the Puree:
In a small saucepan with a lid, soak apricots in the water for two to four hours. On the stove, bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot, and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. When most of the water has been absorbed, allow the apricots to rest, covered for half an hour. Using a stick blender or in the food processor, puree the apricots, lemon juice, and any liquid left unabsorbed. You should have a very thick, orange paste. Refrigerate before using in the frosting. Keeps for three weeks in the fridge.

For the Frosting:
Beat the butter on medium speed in the stand mixer for a minute to soften, then add three cups of powdered sugar. Beat slowly to incorporate, then add the apricot puree and the vanilla extract. Beating this in will cause your icing to look curdled. You should panic! No, not really. Just beat in the rest of the powdered sugar, and it will come back together in no time. Add enough milk or cream to get to a spreading consistency, and get to frosting.

Crumb coat.

Second coat, unsmoothed.

Assembling the Cake:
Some days you just want to get cake in your belly. Glop it on, grab a fork, good enough. But if you've put in the effort to make the butterflies, or if you're having company, you might as well spend a little more time polishing it up. Trim your layers level, then spread a few tablespoons of frosting between them. Apply a thin crumb coat to the top and sides of your cake, smoothing out the space between layers. Refrigerate for twenty minutes to form a crust, then apply the rest of your frosting as evenly as possible. Return cake to the refrigerator for two hours to firm up. The tiny apricot chunks in this icing make it difficult to achieve a perfect finish on the first pass, but this is easily solved. Pour hot water into a tall glass, then dip your frosting spatula into the water. Dry the warm spatula on paper towels, smooth a section of the frosting, then repeat until your cake is where you want it. (Not recommended for persons with OCD! If my husband hadn't threatened to eat all the butterflies, I'd still be there smoothing.)

Here's that video by Ann Reardon. It's her world - we're just living in it.

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