This is a 10 year old learning to pipe buttercream roses with Italian meringue buttercream

Italian meringue buttercream is my preferred buttercream for icing cake with.  To color it, I add a small amount of Confectioner’s Sugar to it which allows the buttercream to accept food color gels.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

½ cup pasteurized egg whites

1 ¼ cups sugar divided ½ cup for the meringue and ¾ cups sugar for the hot syrup

¼ cups cold water

1 pound unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Italian meringue buttercream is made by whipping egg whites to a soft peak and then stabilizing them with granulated sugar.  Pouring a hot syrup into the stabilized egg whites and whipping the whole mass to cool before adding the softened unsalted butter.


Put the egg whites into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a whip and whip to the soft peak stage.   The mechanics of whipping egg whites is the development of air bubbles that are sitting one on top of the other.  As the whites whip the bubbles of air become tinier.  Soft peaks will show you small bubbles of air and when you pick up the whip, the peak will fall to one side.  Stiff peaks are when the whites raised on the whip will not fall at all.

When your egg whites are at the soft peak stage, gradually pour in ½ of a cup of granulated sugar reserving the remaining ¾ cups of granulated sugar for the hot syrup.

In a saucepan, bring the remaining ¾ cups sugar to a boil and allow it to reach a temperature of 240 degrees F.  Carefully pour the hot sugar into the whipped egg whites which will have tripled in volume. The whites will be very hot and must be allowed to continue to whip which will cool them and turn this mixture into a meringue.

When the whites are cooled, add the pound of unsalted butter and finally the teaspoon of vanilla.

To color the buttercream, you must add confectioners’ sugar which will allow gel colors to become vivid.  Never use liquid bottled color.  Always use gel colors with Italian meringue buttercream.

An 8 year old piping flowers with Italian meringue buttercream.

Mastering the techniques does not take long. It can be accomplished rather quickly.

When you first start to pipe buttercream flowers, it will feel awkward because you are using muscles in your hands and arms that you do not ordinarily use.  Part of the process in learning to pipe buttercream flowers is to build those muscles with repeated use and to create muscle memory.  Eye hand coordination is also developed in this process.  Remember to do a bit of piping over  a period of days for the quickest results.  You will actually be processing the piping techniques in your sleep and over time, your piping will improve.

It is always best to crumb coat the outside of the cake that is to be decorated.

Smooth layers of buttercream are best added a layer at a time. The first application of buttercream on a raw cake is called the crumb coat. Masking the cakes requires a couple of smooth coats of buttercream.

When I teach buttercream piping, I always start with the rose as that is a challenging flower for people to learn and master.  After accomplishing the rose, the remaining flowers are rather easy to learn to pipe.

It is helpful to know what kind of tips to use to pipe the various flowers.  It is always nice to have your tools and equipment perform a couple of functions.

Ateco has so kindly placed this beautiful photo of tips on the web and if you don’t know which tips to purchase, go to the Ateco website and study the kinds of tips you can use.

The flowers above are made with a curved tip #61 which will also make a beautiful cupped blossom.  Dots are made with round tips of various sizes from #1, #2, #3 on up to #12 which will make a beautiful pearl dot border.  Become familiar with the tips, their shapes and what they can do for you.  Experiment and practice each day until you feel comfortable holding a piping bag and applying the amount of pressure on the bag necessary to pipe beautiful flowers and leaves.

Vanilla Butter Cake

July 22, 2012

This is a larger amount of batter for those of you who have the good fortune to be able to work with a 20 quart mixer.

1 lb unsalted butter at room temperature

8 ounces vegetable oil

12 whole eggs

6 cups sugar

1 Tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 lbs plus 6 2/3 ounces cake flour

2 Tablespoons baking powder

2 1/4 teaspoons salt

4 1/2 cups milk

You will need a 20 quart mixer for this recipe.  If you have smaller mixers, reduce the batch by a half and bake a few cake pans at a time.  You can also bake the cake on sheet pans and cut the rounds with cake rings that look something like this:

Stainless Steel Rings Round 18 ga 12in dia x 3i

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 3 – 12″ cake pans, 3 – 9″ cake pans and 3 – 6″ cake pans with plenty of pan release and rounds of parchment paper.

Cream the butter, vegetable oil and sugar together until light and fluffy and I should tell you that this butter/oil/sugar mixture will be

very light and fluffy.  The oil will create a very nice soft crumb.

Add the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and the salt.

Alternate the dry ingredients with the whole milk in three rounds, scraping the bowl well and blending until just smooth.  Do not over mix this batter or you will create tunnels.  Divide the batter between the cake pans so that there is about an inch of batter in each cake pan.  Try to find the perfect amount of batter for each cake pan that you like for the height of your cakes.  If you like tall cakes, you will need more batter in each cake pan if you like shorter cake tiers, use less batter per cake pan.  Jot down the weights of batter that you prefer for the kinds of cakes that you like to make.

Bake at 350 degrees f for approximately 25 minutes.  If the center springs back when touched then the cakes are well baked.  You can also test with a toothpick if you wish.  Whenever your fingers leave marks in the top of a baked cake, leave that cake in the oven for about 5 more minutes to finish baking.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for at least 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.  Invert the cake pans and place the cakes on their parchment rounds on the inverted pans to finish cooling before chilling thoroughly.  Cakes must be well chilled before filling.

Spice Cake

July 20, 2012

Before we know it, Autumn will be here and Autumn in the Pacific Northwest means Spice Cake.  If you have the opportunity to use Vietnamese cinnamon, do so.  You will be delighted with the flavor.

Prepare 3 – 8″ cake pans with plenty of pan release and rounds of parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f.

Cream together:

8 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups sugar

Make sure you cream the butter and the sugar very well.  People have a tendency not to cream the butter and sugar enough.  When butter and sugar are well creamed together, they will lighten in color and be very fluffy.  This is because you are “dissolving” the sugar into the fat and the action of mixing these ingredients means the sugar will be acting as an abrasive.


4 whole eggs one at a time

Beat well after each addition of an egg.  Scrape down the bowl.

Sift 3 cups of cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground  cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Alternate the dry ingredients with:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Start with a third of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl followed by 3/4 cups of the buttermilk and alternate until all the buttermilk and dry ingredients are used.  Scrape down the bowl and the paddle well and blend until just incorporate.  Do not overmix.

Divide evenly between the three 8″ cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees f.  When the cakes are just becoming light brown and the center springs back when touched, remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the cake pans and invert them on top of the bottom of the cake pans to cool completely.   Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before filling.

Filling suggestions:

Blackberry Mousse is a hands down winner of a filling for this spice cake and is just so Pacific Northwest.  A good cream cheese filling would be nice or a mascarpone cream filling with fresh blackberries even nicer…!!

Lemon Cake

July 20, 2012

Preheat oven to 350 degrees f.  Prepare 3 – 9 inch round cake pans with pan release and parchment rounds.

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces unsalted butter softened to room temperature

4 eggs

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a paddle attachment.   Add the eggs and the yolks a few at a time and scrape down the sides of the bowl along with the paddle.  Add the lemon zest.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt together and alternate the dry ingredients with the buttermilk.

Divide into baking pans that are prepared with plenty of pan release and rounds of parchment.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched in the center.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before brushing with cooled lemon syrup..recipe follows.

Lemon Syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Because this syrup is thinned with a fair amount of lemon juice the ratio of sugar to water is 1:1.  Boil the water and sugar for 5 minutes and remove from the heat.  Cool and add the lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Brush the warm cakes with this lemon syrup and you will see that the cake will absorb the syrup evenly.

Now what do you envision would be the best possible filling for this lovely cake?  I imagine Lemon Cream with fresh blueberries or Blueberry Preserves under a Lemon Cream.  I can imagine a mascarpone cream filling with fresh strawberries or raspberries..hmm..

Classic White Cake

July 18, 2012

Nothing says wedding more than White Cake.  However, white cakes can be tricky if you are a person challenged by folding whipped egg whites into a cake batter which is the case with many a white cake recipe.  The best way to make white cake is to use the egg whites as if they were ordinary eggs and add them as you would a whole egg..just add the egg whites a little at a time.

Classic wedding cake with lovely blue ribbon border

Prepare 3 – 10″ cake pans with parchment rounds and plenty of pan release.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees f.


6 ounces unsalted butter softened to room temperature

2 ounces vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 ounces egg whites

1 1/2 cups whole milk

3 1/3 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

Cream the unsalted butter, vegetable oil and sugar together until they are very light and fluffy.  Add the egg whites a little at a time.  Add the vanilla extract.

Alternate the dry ingredients with the milk in thirds.  Do not over mix or tunneling may occur.  Divide evenly into your cake pans and bake for about 25 and test with a toothpick to make sure the cakes are baked through the center.  Remove from the oven and cool at least 15 to 20 minutes in the cake pans before removing from the cake pans.  Invert the pans and finish cooling the cake layers on top of the bottom of the pans before chilling them thoroughly in the refrigerator.

This cake is excellent filled with fresh Strawberry Mousse (see Fillings in categories), or Chocolate Mousse, or Bavarian Cream with fresh fruit.  I love it with Lemon Cream and fresh blueberries.  Use your imagination and begin to visualize good combinations of flavors and textures.

To make an orange cake, simply add a Tablespoon of grated orange rind and a teaspoon or two of Hero Orange Compound.

Tea sandwiches..oh so good..!!

Pullman Loaf pans are bread pans with lids on them so that the loaves of bread bake perfectly square.  This is the kind of bread that  lovely tea sandwiches are made with.

For White Bread

4 1/2 cups  bread flour

2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

4 ounces unsalted butter

1 teaspoon dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 whole egg

Blend the flour with salt.  Dissolve the yeast in the 1/4 cup water with a little pinch of sugar to help the yeast activate.

Simmer milk and butter together until the butter is melted.  Cool to room temperature and add the whole egg, whisk well and set aside.

Whisk sugar and salt into the flour and then add the milk/butter mixture.  Add the activated yeast.  Stir well with a wooden spoon or use a heavy duty mixer with a hook attachment to blend the mixture together.  Turn out onto a clean surface that is well dusted with flour and knead for 10 minutes.  Let rise for 4 hours.  Knock down and shape into a loaf.  Place bread into a buttered Pullman bread pan that and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours.  Bake covered with the Pullman lid for 1 hour at 375 degrees F.

For Honey Wheat Bread:

substitute honey for the granulated sugar.

Replace one cup of all purpose flour with 1 cup wheat flour.

For Rye Bread:

Substitute 1 cup of all purpose flour with 1 cup of rye flour.

For Dill Bread:

Add a Tablespoon of dill to the milk/butter mixture.


A very nice person had a difficult time with this bread formula.  I have modified the bread formula by changing all purpose flour to bread flour and I have added 1/2 cup extra flour.  I also am suggesting that you dust your clean surface with flour when you knead the dough.

The bread flour has a higher protein content and a higher absorption level.  The bread is still sticky.  I prefer wet dough which can be finessed with the addition of flour worked in on your clean surface.  For those of you who do not have a heavy duty stand mixer, a bowl and a wooden spoon work well, however, you will have to knead the dough for at least 10  minutes on the table..  Make sure your work surface is well dusted with flour.

Here are photos of the process.

This is 4 ounces of melted butter which I will put into 1 1/2 cups whole milk along with one egg

Whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter.

white bread flour, whole wheat bread flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. This is blended together either with a whisk or by turning the mixer on low with the hook attachment.

Working the dough in a heavy duty mixer with a hook for about 6 minutes will start to develop the protein in the flour. You can mix this bread dough in a bowl with a wooden spoon and then turn out the dough on a clean surface to knead the dough for about 10 minutes. There is a considerable amount of friction created in the heavy duty mixer which warms the dough slightly. The ideal temperature of the dough should be about 75 degrees F.

This is the activated yeast. If you wish, you do not have to activate yeast in warm water at all. You can simply add yeast directly to the dough, but if you do, it is better to add the dry yeast to the flour with the sugar only. Leave the salt out until the whole is blended well together. You can even allow your dough to rest for 20 minutes before putting the salt in and that will prevent the salt from adversely affecting the yeast in the dough.

Here is a nice ball of dough with a few minutes of kneading on a surface covered lightly with flour. Learning how to finesse bread dough is essential to good bread making. If the bread is too dry, add a bit of moisture to it and if the bread dough is too wet, work some flour into it. I tend to prefer wetter doughs as they rise well and make lighter loaves.

Pain d’Epice reminds me of Rosemary Manell who was my neighbor in Belvedere, California where I grew up.  Rosemary was my culinary mentor.  She had been the camera ready gal for Julia Child.  Whenever you saw those wonderful dishes coming out of the oven, they were prepared by Rosemary.  When Julia sat down at the end of the show to dig into the luscious offerings on the table, those offerings were made by Rosemary.  We enjoyed Rosemary very much and she collaborated with us on various toppings for Boboli in the pre-Boboli days.

Rosemary and me at Ratto’s in Oakland, California in 1979.

Rosemary loved making pizza and she loved making pasta.  She was an excellent cook in her own right.  Most of all, Rosemary was a generous culinarian who shared her knowledge with others and loved doing so.

Rosemary stretching pizza dough

When I began making Pain d’Epice, Rosemary told me that in France, Pain d’Epice was sold in tins and the older the Pain d’Epice the higher the price because this “quick” bread improves with age.  It is very important not to over mix the Pain d’Epice batter because honey works on rye if over beaten by toughening it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree and prepare two small loaf pans that would measure 7 1/2″ by 3 1/2 ” by using plenty of pan release.

Whisk to dissolve in a large bowl with 1 cup of hot water:

1 cup honey, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder

Whisk in:

1/4 cup good quality rum, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground anise seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

With a wooden spoon, stir in:

1 cup rye flour, 1 cup of white flour and stir until just combined.  Add one more cup of rye flour and a half of a cup of white flour and stir until just combined.


1 teaspoon grated orange rind, 2/3 cup chopped almonds and 1/2 cup chopped raisins or currants.  Stir until all in combined but do not overbeat.

Pour into prepared loaf pans and bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 50 minutes.  Test with at toothpick to make sure the loaves are baked through.  Cool and wrap in foil or a plastic bag and store for a few days before cutting into the loaves and serving.

Perfect Pie Dough

July 12, 2012

Keep flour for pie crust stored in the freezer.  Measure out butter and the water and chill very well in the freezer before you begin to process the dough.

10 ounces all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons sugar

8 ounces unsalted butter diced and very cold

1/2 cup ice water

It is best to use a food processor for this dough as the blade action will make short work of the effort.  Place very cold flour, salt, sugar and butter in the bowl of the processor.  Pulse for about 30 seconds until the fat is the size of peas.  Add some of the cold water and pulse.  You might not need all the water and this is where your baking skills will be needed to determine if sufficient water has been incorporated..

you can also simply cut the butter into the flour on a clean surface much like you would if you are making quick puff pastry.. Leaving small chunks of butter helps make a flakier pie crust.. Add the water in the middle of a well if you choose this method.

Either method, chill the dough in refrigeration at least 1 hour before rolling it out..

The Recipe Multiplied Ten Times by Weight

6.25  pounds all purpose flour

2.5 teaspoons salt

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 pounds very chilled butter

5 cups chilled ice water

June 30, 2012

This is my new website..I am in the process of building it so be patient and enjoy the recipes here on my blog..

Thank you..

Vanilla Butter Cake

June 27, 2012

Pretty little wedding cake in pale pink with cornelli lace and sugar flowers. This is one of my earliest wedding cakes for my student, Carmen who has recently had a baby! Congratulations dear Carmen!!

Vanilla butter cake is more delicate if you substitute a portion of the unsalted butter with vegetable oil.   The crumb will be tighter and the cake will be softer.  Tweaking recipes for artisan cakes comes with practice, time and understanding the fundamentals of baking.  Buttercream decorating also takes time to learn and master.

Prepare 2 8″ cake pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4 ounces unsalted butter softened to room temperature

2 ounces vegetable oil

12 ounces granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 whole eggs

2 2/3 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups whole milk

Cream the butter, oil and sugar together until light and fluffy…approximately 10  minutes.  Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and alternate the incorporation of the dry ingredients with the milk in thirds.

Divide equally among the two cake pans and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden.  The cake should spring back when you touch it.

Cool in the pans before removing the cakes and chill well before filling.

Because butter cakes are a bit more dense than a Vanilla Chiffon cake, fillings that are on the sturdy side are good but mousses are good as well.  Just cut your layers of cake two layers of cake would become four layers of cake with three layers of filling.