What to CookAmanda & Merrill

The Best Buttercream You'll Ever Make

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- Merrill

Over the past several weeks -- thanks to a hyper-organized and highly efficient mother who believes in getting as much planning done as early as possible -- I've been immersed in all things wedding-related. With the caterer, dress and band taken care of, the most recent decision had to do with the cake. I didn't expect it to be a tough one, as it simply required finding someone who would agree to make the wedding cake I have always wanted: a plain butter cake, studded with wild Maine blueberries, and topped with swirls of cream cheese icing.

Thanks again to my mother, who always seems to know whom to call for these sorts of things, I got in touch with Diane at Maine Cakes and Cookies, whose specialty just happens to be -- you guessed it -- Wild Maine Blueberry Butter Cake. (Her custom-decorated butter cookies are pretty great too.) When I told Diane about my cream cheese icing idea, she explained that there are certain health issues that arise when cream cheese sits out for an extended period of time -- say, during a wedding. I adore cream cheese icing, but not enough to send my friends and family home with food poisoning as a wedding favor. So instead we're going with a Swiss meringue buttercream lightly flavored with almond, which I think sounds very promising.

All this talk of buttercream and weddings reminded me of the first (and only) wedding I ever catered -- for the brother of a good friend. The bride and groom-to-be wanted cupcakes instead of a majestic four-tiered affair, which took some of the heat off. But although I had a couple of excellent cake recipes under my belt, at the time I didn't have a go-to buttercream. So I paged through several of my cookbooks and finally stumbled across one of Julia Child's recipes that looked promising. I have never looked back.

This buttercream is as easy as pie to make, not too sweet, and it can be flavored in all sorts of ways. The egg yolks add a silkiness that's unbeatable, but if you're at all concerned about salmonella, you can opt to leave them out.

Butter Cream Icing

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Makes about 1 1/2 cups (enough to ice a single-layered 8" cake)

  • 6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks (from good quality eggs that have been refrigerated)
  • 2/3 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kirsch, rum, orange liqueur, strong coffee or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract OR 2 ounces melted semisweet chocolate


Beat all of the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer or with a hand beater for about 5 minutes at medium speed, until creamy and light. Chill until cold, but still spreadable, before using. Make sure to keep the cake refrigerated after you've iced it, and serve soon after removing from the fridge.


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