Buttercream FAIL: Timing is Everything

Last weekend I attempted buttercream frosting (my nemesis!) again.  The result: not so good.

This was brought on by a “Barefoot Contessa” marathon which appears on my TV every Sunday morning courtesy of my DVR.  Oh, Ina.  You made it looks so easy.  With your cheery demeanor and grace in the kitchen.  How could I fail so miserably?  All I had to do was boil some sugar and water, beat up a few egg whites and add butter, right?  (I’m good with butter, remember?)

The recipe I fell in love with was for the Chocolate Buttercream Cake.  When I went online to the Food Network website to look up the recipe I was not deterred by the difficulty rating (Level: Difficult).  I have been baking since I was six.  I could totally do this.  I was going to make brownies instead of cake but what I was really dying to try was the pretty orange frosting.

All was going well at first.  I put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and added the candy thermometer.  The temperature quickly rose to 200 degrees and hovered around 210 for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, Madison had wandered into the kitchen and asked to help.  I had already separated the egg whites and they were ready to beat.  She grabbed her “helper stool” and I handed her the hand mixer.  On the lowest setting she began beating the egg whites.  They began to form soft-foamy peaks.

However, the sugar wasn’t up to temperature yet (240 degrees) so I kicked the burner up a notch.  In about 10 seconds, (I swear!) the thermometer reached 250 degrees.  Oops!  I quickly turned off the heat but the sugar had already started to turn dark.

The egg whites were just about ready so I went ahead and added the sugar syrup.  Immediately the egg whites turned a nasty shade of brown.  Buttercream is supposed to be white, right?  Otherwise why would I need to use my fancy food coloring to make it orange?

Frosting is NOT supposed to be brown

I beat the egg whites until the steam dissipated and then began to add the butter.  (In Ina’s defense, I was too lazy to find the recipe online again and print it/send it to my phone/read it so I used Martha’s recipe which isn’t as easy to follow.  After just re-reading Ina’s recipe I see that Martha left out some key instructions such as just how long to wait for the egg/syrup mixture to cool before adding the butter.)

The result: a melted-butter-egg-white-sugary mess.  I added a little powdered sugar to thicken it a bit but it looked pretty hopeless.  In the end, I found that I had created a burnt-butterscotch flavored glaze.

I still used it and we still ate the brownies, but have yet to conquer the buttercream!

5 comments on “Buttercream FAIL: Timing is Everything

  1. diannabaeten
    November 4, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Not really that you have failed but you amazingly made something different than you were planning ^^ I once made cupcakes who turned into cookies 😀

  2. janemaynard
    November 5, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    hi there! just wanted to let you know that you are today’s “Featured Blogger” on FoodPress.com – loved discovering your blog and your fun voice! 🙂 Thanks!

    • Heather
      November 5, 2010 at 8:47 am #

      thanks for the love!

  3. Harry Weisberger
    November 9, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    They look really yummie to me.


  4. Jennfier
    November 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    More than likely, I would have preferred the “butterscotch” tasting frosting. YUM!

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