classic vanilla buttercream

makes enough to frost and decorate two 6-inch layer cakes or one 9-inch layer cake

Over the years I’ve tried many different buttercream recipes, and none worth writing about. Last year, I hit the jackpot. While most recipes simply call for butter and an obscene amount of powdered sugar, the key is adding a bit of cream to create a velvety textured frosting. The other secret—beat the crap out of it. Seriously. This adds air and volume to the frosting.

And in case you’re wondering, there’s no need to sift the sugar, provided you’re using a sturdy stand mixer with lots of power. If you’re setting out to do this with a hand mixer, I’d halve the recipe and do it in two batches, and expect it to take a bit longer too.

p.s. with all the baking necessary to pull off two birthdays on the same day, I enlisted the help of my friend Gail. If you don’t know about her business One Tough Cookie, then you’re missing out on the best decorated cookies. EVER. Not only do they look gorgeous, but they taste amazing. The smile on the girls faces when they saw these princess cookies was worth every penny.

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

16 ounces confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup (62 ml) heavy cream

Add the butter, sugar and extract to the bowl of stand mixer. Turn the mixer onto the lowest speed and mix until just combined. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until it begins to look fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the cream. Starting on low speed, so it doesn’t splash, mix until the cream is incorporated into the frosting. Gradually increase the speed to medium high and beat for about 3 minutes, until the frosting becomes very light and fluffy. Use immediately.

Make Ahead Note:

Frosting can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Let frosting come to room temperature before using, and if it appears to have separated, beat it on medium-high speed for a few minutes to restore the texture (you may also need to drizzle in a few drops of cream).