Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

There have been a lot of changes in my life lately.  Sadly, that includes a few of my great work friends moving to far off places.  This week, my fellow dietitians and I bid farewell to one of them.  (Hey Katherine! We will miss you bunches.)

And just like we always do, we said goodbye with a lunch potluck at work.  Why? Because dietitians love food.  And when we have potlucks, there is great food to share.  Katherine is vegan, so we had lots of yummy vegan-friendly dishes.  Including…ta-da!!….vegan cupcakes!! (That are also Gluten Free!)

And what are cupcakes without frosting, really?  But regular vegan “butter”cream has been done in my kitchen before.  I needed something new.  As I searched the aisles of Central Market for some inspiration, I stumbled upon Tofutti.

I’d never tried this before.  I know of some vegan cheesecake recipes that call for Tofutti, but never really knew what it would taste like or how else it could be used.  The package said “better than cream cheese”, to which I thought “good, because cream cheese is yucky.”  (Unless in cheesecake form.) And I’ll admit I was a bit turned off by the taste of Tofutti, too.

But I gave it a whirl in my mixer. The creation was a hit!

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or frost an 8″ cake

  • 8oz Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening, coconut oil, or softened vegan buttery sticks
  • 5 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

  1. With an electric mixer, cream together Tofutti and shortening (or other fat of choice). I use my stand mixer for this process.
  2. Slowly add sugar, one cup at a time. Scrape sides of the bowl often.
  3. Beat in almond extract.
  4. Frost your favorite vegan cupcakes! I used my vegan chocolate cupcakes for this batch.

 

And because Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, here’s a V-day dressed version. 🙂

Insider Training: Part 3

Time for another round of tips and tricks for bakers and foodies alike!

First off:  My prayers and thoughts go out to those affected by the tornadoes and severe storms that have ripped through the last couple of weeks.  Texas and Oklahoma tragedies two weeks in a row…wow.  Tornadoes are my biggest fear, and seeing the destruction from these storms has only strengthened that.  May God bless and be with all of those that have been affected.

 

Now, on to today’s post:  the next installment of “Insider Training”

More tips and tricks that I’ve learned throughout the years. Also be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Ready? Set….GO!

 

1.   Booze it up to smooth buttercream out.

My favorite tip to get smoothed out buttercream is to make the buttercream thick…like this recipe… and smooth it with an unquilted paper towel (shout-out to Viva brand!). BUT if your buttercream is a little thinner or you are using a canned frosting, which are too thin to smooth with a paper towel (they’ll stick to the towel) use vodka to smooth out your frosting!  Yes, you read correctly.  Place undiluted vodka into a spray bottle and lightly spray part of the cake.  Smooth out frosting in that area.  Repeat all the way around the cake.  But be careful not to spray too much.  You don’t want the frosting wet, just damp.  Otherwise, it will be a sloppy mess. And no worries, the alcohol evaporates, doesn’t change the flavor, and the frosting is left smooth and pretty.

Buttercream Frosting

2.   Get a grip.

When you’re using a piping bag (aka pastry bag, icing bag…whatever), it’s tempting to fill the thing to the top.  But if you fill it completely, twist at the top to close, and then squeeze from the end, you will not have very good control over the bag.  That and you will not have good leverage, so squeezing out the frosting will be more difficult.

Don’t do this!

Instead, fill the bag about 1/2-3/4 full, and twist about 1/3 of the way up.  Just enough to where you have frosting to work with, but still have a good control.  Like this:

This gives you better control. You’ll need to use your dominate hand to control the bag, and the other hand to hold the top of the bag so it won’t flop around.

When you use that little bit of frosting, squish more frosting toward the end of the bag, “burp” the bag (squeeze until the air bubble poofs out) and twist in the middle again like you’ve done before.  Sounds confusing until you actually do it…sorry.

 

3.   Make substitutions.

If you’re like me, you’re always missing a couple of ingredients.  Click here for a list of substitutions.
Also, make substitutions to make your recipe healthier!!!  Usually, you can decrease the sugar by at least a few Tbsp without any difference, use applesauce or other fruit puree in place of some fat in the recipe, etc.  Use nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, 2 egg whites for every full egg (this will NOT work in custards)…both of which work to decrease fat in recipes. What other substitutions have you made before?  Feel free to share!!

 

4.   Do I refrigerate??

A cake without filling and with just plain buttercream can typically last on the counter for a couple of days.  Do not refrigerate any fondant decorations that defy gravity (like bows).  BUT you DO need to refrigerate cream cheese frosting, cakes that need to last longer than about a day or so, and anything with a lot of perishable ingredients…like cream fillings for example.  Use your best judgement and be safe!

 

5.   Don’t let heat kill your extracts.

Extracts are mostly alcohols, so they will evaporate if subjected to high heat.  With them, goes their flavor.  So if you’re adding extracts to heated mixtures (like things that you make on the stove), add extract after you remove the mixture from the heat source.  This is why many recipes say “remove from heat and add extract.”  If in cakes and things like that, the extract won’t evaporate the same way..no worries.

 

6.   Be patient before frosting.

This one’s easy.  Hot cake will cause frosting to melt.  Which makes a mess.  A big, big mess.  Best rule of thumb is to wait at least 3-4 hours for a cake to cool at room temp prior to frosting.  Cupcakes can cool for about an hour or 1 1/2 hours and they’re good to go.  You may also stick a halfway cooled cake in the fridge to cool a little more quickly…though it’s not the best option.

 

Do you have any tips/tricks to share?  Comment and spread the knowledge!!

Insider Training: Part 2

Ready for more tips and tricks to make your baked goods a success?  (See Part 1 here)

Alrighty then, let’s go!

1. Cookies spread too much?

Most often, this is due to your butter being too soft when you cream the butter and sugar together. It can also be caused by using too little leavening (baking powder or baking soda) or leavening that is old/expired. One last cause that’s common is baking cookies on a hot cookie sheet. This usually happens when you bake one round of cookies, remove the cookies to a cooling rack, and put another round of cookies on the same pan to bake. If you are like me and don’t have the patience to wait for the cookie sheet to cool before you put another round of cookies on it, this will happen. The butter starts to melt and the cookie begins to spread before they begin to cook in the oven. Basically, your cookies melt a bit before they bake so they spread more.

2. When is the cake done?

Yes, you can use the “toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean” test, but I’ve also found other ways to check. First, lightly touch the middle of the cake. If it springs back to the touch, it’s probably done. Another way is to look for the edges beginning to pull away from the pan. Nine times out of ten, this is the method I use to see if my cakes are done. Be careful not to over bake if you’re using this method, though. You want to pull the cake out to cool when the cake is just pulling away from the edges, not when it’s shriveled and charred.

3. Using chocolate chips or other heavy ingredients in cakes/cupcakes/muffins:

If you just plop the chocolate chips into the batter and pour into your baking pan, the chocolate chips will sink to the bottom. You won’t get your pretty little chocolate chips throughout the final cake. The chocolate will look more like a crust at the bottom of the pan….not as pretty. To keep the chocolate chips suspended in the final cake, toss them in a little bit of flour before adding them to the batter. Not sure why this works, but it does.

4. Crumb-free frosting

Prep work time! To make sure that you get a crumb-free outer layer of frosting, especially when you’re sculpting cakes, you’ll need to do what’s called a crumb coat. What is this? A crumb coat is a very thin layer of somewhat watered down frosting that seals in crumbs. To do this: Set aside a little bit of buttercream in a small mixing bowl. Add a little water to the bowl until the buttercream is a consistency similar to ranch dressing. (How’s that for a visual? Spreading ranch on a cake. Yuck!) Spread a thin layer on the cake. Yes, it will look bad and it will be transparent. Allow the crumb coat to dry a bit before putting on your final layer of (usual consistency) buttercream. And voila! You won’t have to worry about crumbs in your pretty cake.

5. Fondant that doesn’t suck.

Are you one of the many, many people who says “I don’t like fondant. It tastes awful”? Well, you may have just tried a really awful tasting brand of fondant. Now let me preface what I’m about to say by stating that I like Wilton products for the most part because they’re great for the home baker. However, Wilton’s fondant tastes AWFUL!! So if you’ve only tried their brand, I beg you to try the good stuff before swearing off of fondant forever. I like to use Satin Ice and lately have also been using Duff Goldman’s “Duff” brand of fondant. Why? Because these are the two types I can buy in my area. Marshmallow fondant is also very yummy…I just don’t have the patience to make the stuff every time I make a fondant cake.

6. Getting fondant to stick:

You don’t need any special glue or extreme amounts of frosting every time you attach fondant to a cake. To put the fondant on the cake, you’ll need to put a thin layer of frosting on the cake prior to covering with fondant. To get fondant to stick to fondant, use water. For instance, say you want to make a zebra cake like this one. (or this one) You cut your zebra stripes out of black fondant, dip your finger in a little water, dab a tiny bit of water onto the back of the stripe, then stick the stripe to the cake. When water meets fondant, the fondant gets sticky. Think of it like pre-pasted wallpaper that has to have water as an activator.

C’mon. You know you have a baking question!! Comment and ask. I’ll answer them and write another “Insider Training” post. 🙂

Frost it: Buttercream

Time to come clean…I’m more of a frosting person than a cake person. Whew! Glad to get that off of my chest.

In a lot of posts on here, I’ve mentioned buttercream frosting (or icing, depending on what you want to say). Buttercream is the basic frosting that’s most popular for cakes and cupcakes alike.  I figure I better give you a recipe so you can properly frost your cakes.  I don’t want to leave you with naked desserts.

This buttercream is a variation of what I make (sans a special ingredient I can’t divulge) and is quite stiff so you can smooth it using unquilted paper towels (I use Viva brand or blue shop towels). This is an all-white buttercream so you can frost white cakes or color the frosting as needed.

Basic All-White Buttercream

Makes ~6 cups frosting, more than enough to frost and decorate an 8-10 inch cake.

Ingredients

2 lb confectioner’s sugar (aka powdered sugar)

2 cups all-vegetable shortening

2-3 tsp clear vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice or almond extract (depending on your preference)

Water

Directions

  1. Cream shortening on medium speed with hand mixer or stand mixer. (Ihighly recommend a stand mixer if you have one)
  2. Slowly add 1 lb powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until incorporated.  Scrape sides of bowl often to ensure all sugar is incorporated.
  3. Mix in 2 Tbsp water, the vanilla extract and the lemon juice OR almond extract. Beat until combined.
  4. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping sides of bowl often. Beat until combined.
  5. If the frosting is too thick to spread (or the mixer cannot cut through the buttercream), slowly add more water 1 Tbsp at a time, until desired consistency.

Here are a few Tips/Tricks for you:

  • If you want more of a traditional buttercream, use 1 cup softened butter and 1 cup all-vegetable shortening instead of the 2 cups shortening in this recipe.
  • It is very important to scrape the sides of the bowl often.  This yields a fluffy and smooth buttercream.
  • If at any point the buttercream seems way too thick and your mixer won’t mix it (yes, this happens), just add a little water to thin it out.
  • The lemon juice and/or almond extract are included to cut the sweetness of the recipe.
  • For tips on smoothing buttercream, click here.