I did not leave my cake out in the rain.

Last night I baked a dark chocolate-espresso layer cake for a co-worker’s 80th (!) birthday party today.  She’s a completely amazing – she still rides her bike around New York City, and is constantly flying around the world speaking at fancy-pants conferences – so she gets a completely amazing cake.   We tried to surreptitiously find out what her favorite flavors are, but she immediately saw through our pathetic ruse (did I mention she’s a genius?) and cornered me in the office kitchenette to announce that her favorite flavors are coffee, chocolate and lemon, and that she would be bringing something lemon-flavored herself.  I like her non-nonsense demeanor and the fact that she looks adorable in a bike helmet, so I made her a dark chocolate-espresso cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry preserves.

I’m not posting pictures of the finished product, because I somehow thought it would be a good idea to try and write something on the cake when I was totally done frosting it – which was after midnight.  The result was very happy-hands-at-home (which I am, but I try to keep up public appearances, y’know?) and no one really needs to see that.

I’m here to tell you about the buttercream anyway.  I don’t like the straight-up confectioners sugar blended with butter-type frostings, and I don’t like the drama of making real buttercream – the egg yolks, the sugar syrup, the candy thermometer, the technical precision , the final beige-ish color – and because it always seems too greasy to me.

This buttercream is like the kinda slow cousin of Italian buttercream and seven-minute icing: cute and friendly but not complex.  It’s incredibly easy to make and can take a good amount of whatever flavoring you like.  If you opt to go plain or flavor with extracts, it’s a gorgeous creamy white.  It’s easy to work with and holds its shape beautifully.  It is, I believe, the perfect buttercream.  Try it the next time you’re about to dump a zillion pounds of confectioners’ sugar in the mixer and I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an A++, will do business with again buttercream.

Best Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 c. granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces each
Flavoring of your choice (melted chocolate, liquor, fruit purees or curds, cream of coconut, etc)

Put the egg white and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer and place over a double-boiler.  Heat, whisking often, until sugar is combined and mixture is quite hot to the touch.  Transfer bowl to mixer and mix on a medium-high speed until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and the mixing bowl is barely warm to the touch.  At this point start adding the butter one chunk at a time, waiting until each chunk is incorporated before adding the next.  Near the end, it will probably start to look a bit curdle-y.  Keep beating, and in less than a minute this will disappear.

Flavor the buttercream however you want.  Extracts and oils are fine.  The cream can also take up to 1/3  of a cup of melted chocolate, cream of coconut or fruit purees, and up to 1/4 of liquid flavorings.  A few tablespoons of powdered espresso dissolved in a small amount of water + 2 tablespoons of kaluha make an excellent coffee frosting, which I often use with the cake linked above instead of ganache.  Extra frosting can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months; thaw and re-beat before using.