If I could still eat chocolate, I’d make a batch of this and eat it with a spoon. Made with cocoa powder, this glossy chocolate icing is easy to prepare and makes a wonderful companion for a variety of treats. Today’s batch went onto these chocolate cupcakes with vanilla cream filling, pictured at left.
I’ve made this icing once before and it turned out a bit more drizzly then than it did today, but today’s consistency was much better for my cupcakes. Just be careful to work quickly, as it sets pretty fast. If you’re not able to spread it, add just a bit more milk to thin it slightly, about a half-teaspoon at a time. You can always add more if you need to, but remember that you can never take the liquid back out of an icing once it’s there.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons milk
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in cocoa powder, then remove from heat.
Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk and stir well until you reach a very smooth consistency; it will become glossy once it’s done. Use immediately, as it sets very fast! Makes enough for about 16 cupcakes.
What can you do with vanilla cream filling? A ton of stuff, actually. This filling is great for various types of sandwich cookies and filled cupcakes…even as its own frosting, if you like.
This recipe makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups, I’d guess – honestly, I didn’t measure the end result. I need to figure out smaller batches, because I always end up making two different treats with it; today’s batch went into both snickerdoodle sandwich cookies and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla cream filling. It’s not as fluffy as the filling you’d get in a Hostess cupcake, but not as dry or dense as the filling in an Oreo cookie – a wonderful balance of both, I’d say!
- 8 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and shortening.
Add powdered sugar in small batches, beating until combined. Once all sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for two minutes
Add vanilla and beat to combine.
If you need to store it before using, do so in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups, plenty for two dozen filled cupcakes or about 48 sandwich cookies.
This summer I made a delicious lemon blackberry cake to test both my piping and filling-making skills. I used frozen blackberries from last year’s crop – our blackberry plants bloom very late in the season – and it turned out very well. If you’re using frozen berries, just let them thaw first.
As with raspberry filling, blackberry filling requires some serious sieving time to remove the seeds. Blackberry seeds are larger than raspberry seeds, so you’ll want to clean out your sieve a few times during the straining process. I also recommend working in small batches, rather than trying to press your entire mixture through the sieve at once.
While my original recipe made about 1/3 cup, the recipe below would yield around 1 cup.
- 18 ounces blackberries, mashed
- 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 6 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 teaspoon lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, stir together blackberries, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture boils, then allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring well, until the mixture thickens.
Remove from heat and press through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds. Allow to cool before using.
Raspberry is a classic cupcake and cake filling, and I always wonder who came up with this idea. Whoever they were, they’re a genius.
Homemade filling does take some time, and the bulk of the work comes in straining your berry mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds. You could leave the seeds in if you want to save time; I’ve certainly done so, but for some treats – like the more delicate lemon raspberry cupcakes pictured in this photo, I think straining is worth it.
If you want to make raspberry filling at a time of year when fresh raspberries aren’t readily available at your local market, you can always use frozen berries. I recommend letting them thaw out first, but you can also pulse them in a food processor to break them down a bit before cooking them.
- 12 ounces raspberries, mashed
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, stir together raspberries, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then allow it to boil for 1 minute, stirring well, until the mixture thickens.
Remove from heat and press through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds. Allow to cool before using; makes about 1 cup.
This frosting, which I first used on cherry limeade cupcakes, could work very well on vanilla, lemon, or chocolate cupcakes. Because it uses the juice from maraschino cherries, it’s a good option for year-round baking, and you can always add the cherries themselves to top your cupcakes or cake if you like.
This recipe yields enough for at least 18 cupcakes, but I believe it could frost about 2 dozen if you use more modest portions on each cupcake than I used on my cherry limeade cupcakes. The recipe can be easily doubled to cover two-layer cakes or sheet cakes.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
Beat butter in a mixing bowl for 1-2 minutes. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and allow the sugar to fully incorporate into the butter; this will take several minutes.
Add almond extract and 1/4 cup cherry juice; beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, then add another cup of powdered sugar and additional juice. Beat on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes.
We have lemon curd, so why not lime? I used Martha Stewart’s key lime curd recipe and adapted it using regular limes. I was also surprised to see that this recipe doesn’t require tempering some of the lime mixture into the eggs, then returning the tempered mixture back into the pan for further cooking, like you do with lemon curd.
It does take a while for this mixture to reach the right consistency, so prepare to stand at your stove for about 12-15 minutes. The end result is absolutely worth it, though. You can use this curd in vanilla lime cupcakes, coconut cupcakes, or whatever else your heart desires.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- zest of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 medium limes)
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Place a bowl and sieve next to your stove for easy access once your curd is cooked.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, eggs, lime zest, and lime juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture holds the shape of the whisk – this will take about 12-15 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter a few pieces at a time until butter completely melts.
Strain the curd through your sieve and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Chill for about 3 hours before using; I chilled mine overnight.
Homemade butterscotch is very easy to make. I admit that my first batch, which went into butterscotch cupcakes, turned out better than my second batch; I suspect I cooked this batch on higher heat than I should have, which resulted in a much thicker confection once it cooled.
This sauce turns out best when simmered, rather than actually boiled; use medium-low heat, and look for small to medium-sized bubbles – if you see large bubbles on the surface, turn your heat down slightly to keep the sauce at more of a simmer.
The sauce will thicken as it cools, but should still be easy to drizzle. If you happen to cook your sauce at a higher heat than you should and it turns out too thick to drizzle, simply thin it out using a few tablespoons of heavy cream to get it back to drizzling consistency. It will still taste delicious…believe me.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in brown sugar, then heavy cream.
Bring mixture to a simmer/gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract and salt.
Allow to cool completely before serving. Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week.