Vanilla Butter Cream
4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
6 eggs, at room temperature
2-1/2 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To make the sugar syrup, combine the 4 cups of sugar and 1 cup water in a 2-or 3-quart saucepan and heat over medium-high (moderate) heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to boil. When the mixture boils, put the lid on the pot for a few minutes. Cover now and again to wash the sugar crystals back into the syrup. This is particularly important for decorating purposes so that you do not end up with pieces of sugar clogging your decorating tubes.
Allow the syrup to reach 236 degrees F, using a candy thermometer to determine this. If you do not have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by letting some of the syrup drop off the spoon back into the syrup. It should fall a bit slowly, the drops coming together to form one drop that should lengthen and just begin to form a thread; do not cook longer. If the syrup gets too hot, it will go from the "soft ball" stage to what's called "hard ball" or "hard-crack" stage. This term means that the syrup is on its way to being usable for making hard candy, and when cooled it will become brittle.
If this happens, when you add the syrup to the eggs they will not combine smoothly and instead will form an unusable mixture of sweetened eggs and bits of hard candy. You don't want this to happen, so stop heating when the syrup is at 236 degrees F.
When your syrup is at a perfect soft ball stage, remove it from the heat and cover it. Have your eggs ready in a bowl large enough for the eggs and syrup. Beat the eggs first and then slowly add the hot sugar syrup, using an electric mixer. If you do not have an electric mixer, beat the eggs first in a blender and then gradually add the syrup to the eggs, blending continually. The syrup must be added slowly so as to gradually heat the eggs, avoiding the unpleasantness of chewy bits of candied scrambled egg in your frosting.
The egg and sugar syrup mixture, the "goo," has to cool to room temperature before it is added to the butter. Just allow it to cool in or out of the fridge. The mixture can get a sugar crust on top if it is not covered, so, if you won't be using your frosting right away, you might cover it with plastic wrap or a bowl lid. You can make the egg and sugar syrup well ahead; covered and refrigerated it will keep for several days. Let it warm awhile if it is very cold before you use it.
If you need the mixture cooled quickly, you can hasten the process by putting the mixture in a (preferably) metal bowl and setting this bowl over another larger one filled with ice cubes. Stir occasionally until it has cooled to room temperature.
When the "goo" (the egg and sugar mixture) is cool and you are ready to make butter cream, place the tempered—room temperature—butter into a mixing bowl large enough for everything. Beat the butter with an electric mixer first until it is quite smooth, then gradually add the "goo" until it is completely absorbed. This can take anywhere from 2 to 6 minutes.
For frosting or basting the cake, the butter cream can be quite soft and somewhat airy; for decorating you'll probably want it a bit firmer. Beating the butter cream longer will usually make it whiter and fluffier.
Add the vanilla after you've added the egg mix or at the same time. If the egg and sugar mixture has been stored overnight, sugar crystals will sometimes form. Use a strainer or sieve to strain the mixture and remove anything that might clog your decorating tips before you beat it into the butter.
Makes about 10 cups (enough to decorate one large two-layer cake)
The Cupcake Café Cookbook
by Ann Warren & Joan Lilly
12 full color photographs
Black & white photographs throughout
Reprinted by permission.
The Cupcake Café Cookbook
This page created October 1998