Glossy Chocolate Icing

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.


Cherry Frosting

cherry limeade cupcakesThis 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.

Sugar Cookie Icing

sugar cookie icingEveryone loves sugar cookies…except me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll certainly eat them, but they’re not my favorite. I’d much rather have a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey’s Kiss on it, or a pumpkin chocolate chip, or a molasses cookie. Sugar cookies are popular though, because they’re so easy to customize.

This is the first time I worked with this icing, which I found over at Sally’s Baking Addiction; it looked much easier to work with than royal icing, and it certainly was. This icing works well with a technique similar to piping and flooding,where you outline your cookie to make a border, then fill in the center – the only difference was that I didn’t use a thinner version of the icing when I flooded the center.

The recipe below is adapted from Sally’s to make enough icing for about 3 dozen cookies. It’s important to note that this icing needs about 24 hours to harden completely; I put iced cookies in single layers in various containers while the icing set.


  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • About 6-7 tablespoons room temperature water
  • Food coloring, for tinting


In a large mixing bowl, combine sifted powdered sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla.

Add 2 tablespoons water and stir; icing will be very thick and paste-like, so continue to add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach a thick drizzling consistency; if you drizzle some of the icing with your spoon, it should hold for just a moment before melting back into the rest.

If tinting, divide icing into bowls and tint with desired colors. I tinted mine pink, orange, light green, and purple.

Place icing in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe a border around the outside of your cookie, then fill in the center using circular motions or swirls to cover most of the center. Using a small offset spatula, gently spread the icing in the center so it reaches the border and makes a smooth layer.

Store cookies in containers, in a single layer, for 24 hours to be sure the icing hardens completely. Once the icing is fully set, you can store the cookies between sheets of waxed paper.


Orange Cream Frosting

orange cream cupcakeOrange cream always makes me think of summer. It’s the middle of winter right now and we’re just digging out from a snowstorm, but how else would we appreciate the summer without the winter?

This frosting originally appeared with orange cream cupcakes and would yield enough for 2 dozen miniature cupcakes or at least 1 dozen regular-sized cupcakes. You could very easily double the recipe for 2 dozen cupcakes or a two-layer, 8-inch round cake.


  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract*
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • Yellow liquid food coloring
  • Red liquid food coloring

*Substitute orange juice if you don’t have orange extract.


In a mixing bowl, beat butter on low speed for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, orange extract, and vanilla; beat on low speed until well-combined. Add second cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice and beat until well-combined. Add additional orange juice, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, to reach a smooth (but not runny) consistency.

With your mixer running on low, add about 3-4 drops of yellow liquid food coloring, followed by 1 drop of red. Beat on medium speed until color is well-distributed, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, to achieve a pale orange color.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

honey cupcakesLet’s take a moment to thank the bees of the world for making honey. I love that there are so many varieties, and that honey from bees in Maryland will taste different than honey from bees in Pennsylvania. My favorite honey can be found at the market at Soergel Orchards in Wexford, just north of Pittsburgh; they stock locally-made wildflower honey that is excellent for baking.

I first made this frosting for honey cupcakes a few years ago at Rosh Hoshannah, but you certainly don’t have to reserve this recipe for the Jewish New Year. It would go very well on spice cake, or just a regular vanilla cake. The recipe below will frost at least 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 dozen cupcakes and a single-layer 8-inch round.


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar


In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until well-combined and fluffy. Add honey and vanilla extract and beat until very well-combined. Add powdered sugar, one half-cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

Note: various web sources claim that you can store cream cheese frosting in the fridge for a few weeks, but I’d use it quickly, within a week at least.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

cinnamon roll cupcakesCinnamon is among my favorite spices, and when you add it to cream cheese frosting, something magical happens. Besides cinnamon roll cupcakes, you could use this delightful frosting for spice cake, gingerbread, or an orange spice cake (note to self: find recipe for orange spice cake).

Cream cheese frosting is easy to work with, but it does need to be refrigerated once it’s made to keep from spoiling. Unlike buttercream, which you can store at room temperature, the sugar to butter ratio in cream cheese frosting isn’t high enough to prevent bacteria growth. You can bring your treats to room temperature before serving them if you like, but this frosting is also delicious when it’s cold.


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons cinnamon


In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and cinnamon and beat well, scraping the sides of the bowl often.

Marshmallow Creme Frosting

cherry cola cakeI love old cookbooks, especially the kind that feature recipes from church picnics and community potluck suppers. My Aunt Liz has a few amazing ones, and I bet somewhere in there, we’d find a recipe like this.

Marshmallow creme frosting packs a serious wallop of sugar, and while this is going to sound counter-intuitive, I need you to trust me: if at first taste it’s too sweet, add a bit more powdered sugar. I don’t know why, but it mellows out the flavor a great deal.

This frosting originally appeared on the cherry cola cake pictured on the left. I tinted that frosting pink, but you could certainly leave it plain or choose another color depending on what you’re baking. This recipe made enough to frost the top and middle of a two-layer 8-inch round cake; to frost the whole cake, I’d increase the ingredients by half.


  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme


Beat butter and powdered sugar until completely combined.

Add marshmallow creme and beat until well-combined.

Butter Pecan Frosting

butterpecancakeThis frosting will change your life. Seriously, folks – it’s among the most delicious I’ve ever made.

Originally featured on this butter pecan cake and cupcakes, this frosting would pair very well with a vanilla cake or cupcakes and offers an old-fashioned, go-visiting-on-Sunday kind of flavor. I suspect my grandmothers would have loved it.

The batch below can frost a three-layer cake or at least three dozen cupcakes, but you could cut it in half for a smaller batch.


For the butter pecans

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter

For the frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the butter pecans:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, extending the foil over all four sides.

Place pecans and butter onto the baking sheet; bake for about 8-9 minutes, stirring frequently, until pecans are toasted and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them – pecans can burn easily after several minutes in the oven.

Remove pecans from the baking sheet and place on a platter to cool completely before using. Chop to medium-fine pieces.

For the frosting:

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute.

Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is completely incorporated into the butter. I cover my mixer with a towel to prevent a sugar storm.

Add vanilla and beat until combined; check your consistency and if it is too thin, add another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Stir in butter pecans.

Chocolate Ganache

bostoncreamcupcakesEvery baker should have a good recipe for chocolate ganache. This one uses bittersweet chocolate, an essential ingredient for the right flavor profile of a Boston cream pie (or as pictured here, Boston cream cupcakes). You could substitute other types of chocolate depending on what you’re making; semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate will yield a much milder flavor and would be good for things like chocolate cake or peanut butter cupcakes.

Heavy cream is a must for ganache-making, and if you have some left over you can always whip it up (literally) for topping, or use it to make pastry cream.


  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, corn syrup, chocolate, and vanilla over medium heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from heat and allow to cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches room temperature; mixture will thicken and become glossy.

Spread over cooled cake or cupcakes.

Almond Buttercream

burnt almond torteAlmond buttercream is a great go-to frosting because it pairs well with a range of other flavors, from chocolate or vanilla to lemon or orange. The recipe below plays a big role in burnt almond torte, which you see here on the left.

If you don’t have heavy cream, you can substitute regular milk to thin your frosting and help make it fluffy. Remember, always add liquids sparingly, especially when working with frostings. You can always add more, but you can never take it away.

This recipe can enerously gfrost one single-layer 8 x 8 square, 8-inch round, or about 18 cupcakes. You can easily double it for a two-layer cake, sheet cake, or two dozen cupcakes.


  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream


In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute, then add salt and beat another minute.

Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine.

Add heavy cream and beat for about 2 minutes until fluffy.