I. Hate. Buttercream. Frosting.

Twirling Birthday Candles.

May 25, 2010; Chesterfield, NH: Swirly twirly birthday candles.

“Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.” ~ Julia Child.

Some people are true bakers.  They get up at the crack of dawn, relish being covered in flour, and the smell of cakes in the oven is euphoria.  Other people are consumers.  They love the smell, but not so much the mess.  They are more than willing to aid with the consumption of cakes, pastries, and bread.  I am a consumer.

Every May 25th is Cake Baking Day.  I make one cake a year; for my boyfriend’s birthday (which is May 26th).  I despise baking.  I hate the way the greasy feel of butter sticks to my fingers hours after the cake has been finished, and I hate that my baked goods are often devoured as quickly as they are made.  Therefore, I make it a point only to bake when I must, or when I genuinely have nothing else to do.

Today, you may note, is May the 25th.  That means I rose at eight in the morning (because I cannot handle five am wakeups, and my family

Candy Bar Cake Batter - Yum!

Wow, the cake batter looks good enough to eat right now!

usually controls the kitchen until nine or noon, depending on the day of the week) and began my misadventure.  The first error I made was dressing up in my favorite gypsy skirt and putting on a white tank top.  I realized, as I was dressing, that this was an error, so I put my unfortunate Midsummer Night’s Dream cast shirt over the tank top to protect it from the inevitable mess.  So far, so good.

Usually I make Bryan a yellow cake.  He likes yellow cakes best, for whatever reason.  This year, determined to have a piece of the cake (because I like neither the cake type or frosting he prefers) I decided to create a chocolate-based cake that I still think he would like.  I figured, it’s only fair, this is the fourth birthday I will have baked a cake for him, and I have never had a piece of the cake.  So, my morning started with opening three bags worth of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate and Raspberry candy squares.  It wasn’t too bad- I even found a coupon in one of the bags (which I will almost certainly never use, as I rarely buy Ghirardelli).  It certainly smelled good!  For anyone who’s interested, the recipe came from Cooks.com, and was intended for Milky Way candy bars (yuck) but the Milky Ways can easily be replaced with any kind of candy bar at all.  It wasn’t too hard to translate the recipe to Ghirardelli bars for me, and I only bake cakes once a year.

8 Milky Way Candy Bars
1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups cake flour

Cakes, successful!  Hurrah!

So far so good, the cakes came nice and easy out of the pan.

You want to preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  The recipe I found called for a 9” x 13” pan, but I used two regular sized cake pans and it turned out just fine.  Just make sure to crazy-grease the pans; I used both parchment paper and a lot of butter-flavoured Crisco.  If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 7/8 cup flour and 2 tablespoons cornstarch for every cup.  You want to melt and mix the butter and candy either in a double boiler, or if you’re like me and you don’t have that, a pot on the stove and constant stirring works just as well.  Mix the sugar, eggs, and vanilla together, then add the chocolate mix, and then add everything else in increments until it’s about the thickness of chocolate mousse.  Cook for an hour (or as long as it takes).

I had a surprisingly easy time with the cake.  Really, you have no idea how easy.  The cake is usually the part I mess up.  My yellow cake recipe that I normally use is a moist cake, and usually falls apart.  Though, I guess I shouldn’t speak too soon:  the cake is only as intact as it is after it is frosted, and frosting, that’s the real adventure.

Buttercream frosting.  On the outside, it sounds like a tiny yellow and cream-coloured faerie that skips across lily pads and grants wishes to all the well-behaved amphibians.  She probably lives in a grove of buttercups.  Ah yes.  On

Yikes, the frosting is melting already!

So, I didn't realise it even when I took this picture that in about 3 minutes that dribbling frosting would be a huge yellow puddle.

the outside she sounds so innocent and wonderful.  But that image is not the real buttercream frosting.  The real buttercream frosting comes from a desolate land and runs one step ahead of the tooth faerie, stealing the teeth and leaving loaded mousetraps instead of nickels and dimes.  It is an evil faerie.

Okay, a little overdramatic, but I get my point across.  I really dislike buttercream frosting.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a pain in the butt.  It doesn’t taste good (to me), it’s a pain to mix (for me), and it’s so thick that it’s difficult to spread on a cake without destroying the cake (for me).  Something new that I can recently learned about buttercream frosting is that when it’s over 70 degrees in your house, even if the two halves of the cake have been sitting in the refrigerator for half an hour, it melts when you put it on the cake and if you try to ninja-spread it in the ‘tween layer and plop the second layer of cake on top, it melts.  No.  Not just melts.  It exploded in a greasy messy all over your kitchen table, moistening the cake beneath it so when you try to clean up the mess, the cake begins to crumble.

It’s not my recipe, I swear to God.  I have been using the same buttercream frosting recipe for four years and have never had this much trouble with it.  It’s always been a thorn in my side, granted, but I’ve always gotten very nice compliments about the flavour.  It was worthwhile (but only one a year!).  This year, it has made the decision to be a javelin in my eye.  But, then again, this May 25th is one of the warmest days we’ve had yet this year.  Maybe someone else, at a higher altitude, will have more luck with this combination (and I will get it to work, everything just needs to be significantly colder.  We don’t have an air conditioner in my house:  those with air conditioning would have no worries).

4 sticks butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream

Mix the butter first until softened, then add the sugar, then vanilla and heavy cream.  The recipe is painfully simple.  Dare I say, deceitfully simple.  Because the lack of complicated ingredients paves way for all the trouble previously mentioned.

The second attempt to frost the cake.

So after the frosting started to melt again, the cake was put in the fridge.

So.  The first time I attempted to frost the cake, it was just the middle.  I seemed relatively alright, so I plopped the second layer of cake on top and exited the room for a moment because I can’t focus and felt the need to pace my house.  Naturally, when I came back, there was a huge, goopy, greasy, slimy yellow puddle all around the cake.  Almost as though the cake had peed.  But it hadn’t.  Instead, the buttercream frosting had decided to take a swim.  In a panic, I attempted to clean up the mess, and the moment I thought I had it, it began to ooze more.  Knowing that I couldn’t keep up, I scooped up my quickly failing cake and ushered into the nice, cool basement.  The frosting was relocated into the fridge and I waited an hour, hoping and praying that my cake would not be ruined and all that butter wasted (it was a lotof butter).

An hour later, I fetch the cake.  The mess seemed to have dealt with itself as things were nice and solid.  Still a little messy, but it could be cleaned up later.  I went along my way of frosting the cake one more.  I was able to get a thin layer of frosting on the top and about half of the sides done when I noticed the frosting was spreading too easily and sticking very poorly.  Alas!  Signs of melting had reappeared!  I rushed the half-frosted cake into the basement and hid the frosting once again in the fridge.

It is one o’clock by now.  Keep in mind I started this misadventure at 8 in the morning.  Five hours of torment that, according to the recipe,

Finally frosted cake.

By about 3pm, 7 hours after the beginning of the project, the cake is finally frosted.

should have only been two, tops.  The cake still smells fabulous, but my fingers are greasy and there’s cake flour on my beautiful skirt and I’m running out of frosting with a half frosted cake and may need to make more.  I’m beginning to wonder… is this worthwhile?  It’s near ninety degrees outside.  Even with all the fans running, the cake looks more like discoloured mashed potatoes than it does a birthday cake (I’m overdramatic).

An hour later, the cake was checked in the basement.  Not melting… but not in a state to be furtherly frosted, either.  So another couple hours, it sits.  By 3:30pm, it is retrieved, and having improved not at all, I give up, stick it in the fridge, take the rest of the frosting out of the fridge so it softens, and once the frosting softens, I frost the rest of the cake.  The frosting is thin, and messy.  But it is over ninety degrees out there – what else is there to do?  The cake must be finished.  And so it is.

The final count for the day?  This cake was a seven hour project.  In that time period, I washed my hands about thirty-six times, I used a good quarter of a roll of paper towels cleaning up the melted buttery mess, I successfully watched Toy Story 2 for the first time since I saw it in theatres forever ago (it made me want to dig my Jessie doll out from the basement; stayed tuned in the future for a Disney-related post!), I used a total of 5 sticks of butter (ew), learned that there is an amazing Pixar Zoetrope in Disneyland California (not Orlando, le sadness).  My final feelings about it?  Well first, I am forever grateful that this is strictly a once a year project.  Secondly, I am incredibly frustrated that it was so messy (more the mess than the time-consumption).  Third?  I hope Bryan realises I love him.

Bryan's completed 22nd birthday cake.

Seven hours later, the cake is completed. I sure hope it tastes good, after all that!

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2 Responses to “I. Hate. Buttercream. Frosting.”


  1. 1 Caitlyn May 27, 2010 at 6:27 am

    The cake looks amazing by the way 🙂


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something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

competing for the house cup

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