There are two kinds of people in this world: cake people and frosting people. I am cake people. I am a firm believer in frosting as a cake enhancer, rather than the other way around. That’s been my problem with this cupcake craze. The cupcake landscape is dotted as far as the eye can see with cupcakes topped with ginormous wads of frosting. Something I like to call…The Marge Simpson:
I give you, Exhibit A.
For the love of cake, man! That frosting’s double the size of the cupcake!! Which would be sort of OK, if The Marge adorned a half-way decent cake, but most of the time, the cake is just a dry afterthought. Why even serve it on a cupcake at all? Oh, wait. Been there. Done that. Some bakeries sell you just the frosting. In a cup. With a spoon. They call it a frosting shot. But I respect that. If you’re a frosting person, why waste calories on cake?
But just not my thing. I’m a cake person. In my book, frosting should be just the accessory. A gorgeous diamond accessory, but an accessory none the less.
My favorite frosting is silky light meringue buttercream, which is a huge pain in the hiney to make and is made of a frightening amount of butter. So much so that I’m afraid to make it at home. But a few years ago, I discovered an amazing “new” way to make frosting with half the fat. That’s right. Low-fat buttercream.
I call it “new” because the idea is new to me. But in fact, the method is quite old, probably developed during leaner times when butter and sugar were expensive and scarce. It’s called Boiled Flour Frosting, which sounds absolutely revolting and not at all something you want to put in your mouth. Half of the butter is replaced with a flour and milk mixture that is boiled and whisked to form a very thick panade. I know. How in heck does this come to make something anywhere near edible, much less delicious?
But something magical does happen. Once the milk/flour panade is whisked into the creamed butter and sugar, it creates the most magical, creamy, light, and silky frosting you ever have tasted! And it’s not overly sweet! I’m always on the hunt for not-too-sweet sweets. This frosting might very well convert me to being a frosting person.
Rather than boiled flour frosting, I like to call it heritage frosting. Isn’t that just divine, dahling? Heritage Frosting. We shall forever forget the words boiled. flour. frosting.
Vanilla Bean Heritage Frosting
(makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes. Although if you’re a frosting person, you might want to double the recipe. You might want to double the recipe regardless…)
(adapted very slightly from The Pioneer Woman)
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup almond milk (or regular milk, I only had almond)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar!)
In a small saucepan, whisk flour into cold milk. Whisk well, until the flour is completely dissolved into the milk. Turn on stove to medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens. Make sure you’re not whisking flour into hot/warm milk or else you will have lumps. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla bean paste. Let it cool to room temperature. It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step.
(If I’m in a hurry, I place the mixture into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap so that the plastic touches the surface of the mixture, and press down to create a crater. The plastic-covered mixture will come up the sides of the bowl, increasing the surface area. Place into freezer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture cools.)
While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer until light and fluffy. About 5 minutes. It should be a pale yellow/cream color. Don’t worry if it’s still grainy. It will all smooth out in the next few steps.
After butter and sugar are well creamed, add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.
You’re now ready to frost your favorite cupcakes!
For the above pictured Strawberry Lemon Heritage Frosting:
When you’re ready to add the cooked flour mixture to the butter/sugar, add…
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup strawberry pulp
For the strawberry pulp: thaw frozen strawberries until very soft. Press strawberries through a fine mesh sieve until you’ve extracted as much juice as you can. There’s still plenty of strawberry flavor in the pulp! Scrape the strawberry pulp from the sieve. Add 1/4 cup of the pulp to the frosting. Add the remaining pulp to the juice and reserve for another use (like a topping for Greek yogurt!)