When we were kids, my brother had a friend named Donny Harmon. I don’t remember a whole lot about him: tall for his age, lanky, lived in a trailer with his mom and younger brother. Oh, and he ate butter straight from the wrapper.
Did that get a visceral reaction? Or is it just me? I still remember the day my brother told me that Donny ate butter, a stick of butter, straight from the fridge. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, and I still can’t. When the oddball parent mentions that his or her toddler does the same, my eyes still widen.
What’s so puzzling is that it should be delicious, in theory. Butter makes everything better: crusty bread, biscuits, mashed potatoes, pasta. I’ll drive a half hour on Saturday mornings to track down the farmer who sells fresh butter with sea salt. It’s incredible.
So I must blame Donny Harmon for my aversion to buttercream frosting. Now, let me be clear. I love frosting. I’m that person who always angles for the slice of cake with the extra rosettes on top, or better yet, the corner piece, because it means more frosting for me. And I actually like those giant sheet cakes from places like Costco. Whether it’s achingly sweet powdered-sugar or tangy cream cheese frosting, I’m there.
Buttercream frosting, with all its slippery, stick-of-butter-consistency, is lost on me. And this was my last best chance to get over it, because if Dorie’s gorgeous buttercream can’t convert me, nothing will. Sadly, it did not.
Setting innocent little buttercream aside, I was pleased with these cupcakes. The snowy white crumb cries out for a light layer of raspberry jam and coconut flakes, which happens to be my favorite birthday cake combination. I didn’t have any coconut, so I needed to improvise a topping. Candied lemon peel seemed like a nice possibility until I realized that it takes 1 1/2 hours to prepare. Instead, I rubbed some lemon zest and sugar together and sprinkled it on top, which worked out fine.
I’ll post my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe, because it would be a lovely accompaniment to this cake.
Cream cheese frosting
Adapted from Ina Garten
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.