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    Entries in fancy schmancy (12)


    Mace will make you scream... for ice cream!

    It may come as news to you that mace is more than just pepper spray.  Or you might also know it as a weapon like this. 

    The mace I’m talking about today has no relation to either of those, whatsoever.  This mace is actually a spice that comes from the nutmeg tree.  In this picture, the brown nut on the left is an example of nutmeg.  At the bottom, in the middle you can see an example of mace.  It is that red coating surrounding the nutmeg within.  When it is peeled off and dried, it turns more of an orange color.  It is then ground into a fine powder.    

    I know, it doesn’t look like anything special, but trust me, it can turn store bought vanilla ice cream into a gourmet dessert. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • Vanilla ice cream
    • Mace

    Yep, just two ingredients.  The hardest part of this will be getting your hands on some mace.  If you don’t have a Penzeys near you, you can order it from their website.  Yes, it is a little on the expensive side, but even for just this one application, it’s worth every penny.  All you have to do is scoop some of your favorite vanilla ice cream into a bowl. 

    And now for the really complicated part… sprinkle on some mace. 

    You have now turned ordinary vanilla ice cream into spice cream!  I know it doesn’t look like much, but it truly is fabulous.  You could even serve it to guests, and they are guaranteed to rave. 

    What’s your favorite brand of vanilla ice cream?


    Beautifully Basic Buttercream

    The other night, Hubby told me that a colleague of his was looking for a buttercream recipe.  Rather than referring him to one of our posts that includes a recipe for buttercream, I decided it deserves a post of its own.  The truth is, there are lots of different kinds of buttercream.  The one I’m making today is foolproof (even in May), reliable, delicious, and perfect for either piping or spreading. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • ½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
    • 2 cups powdered sugar (that’s icing sugar for you non-Americans)
    • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
    • 2-3 Tablespoons cream
    • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

    An important note to make is that your buttercream can only be as good as the individual ingredients you use.  Good quality butter, organic powdered sugar, and pure vanilla extract are a must.  I can’t stress enough just how important it is.  If you’re going to use crap ingredients, you might as well save yourself the trouble and just buy the stuff that comes in a tub.  If you’ve never used organic powdered sugar, give it a try one time.  You won’t believe the difference.  Trader Joe’s is a really good source for stuff like that. 

    Ok, rant over. Let’s get started.  Drop the room temperature butter into your mixing bowl and give it a quick stir, just to make sure it’s nice and soft. 

    Sift the powdered sugar over the top. 

    This is another thing that makes a difference.  All powdered sugar is going to have at least a few lumps in it.  Sifting it will make your icing nice and smooth.  Break up any lumps with your fingertips or the back of a spoon and put them through the sieve. 

    Mix on low speed until you have what is basically a crumbly mess.  This is when you want to scrape down the bowl really well.  If you have a dough scraper, they work great for this because they’re stiffer than a silicone spatula. 

    Once everything is scraped down thoroughly, mix on medium- low speed until you have something about the consistency of play dough. 

    Add the vanilla.  If you want your buttercream to be a different flavor, (mint, almond, whatever) feel free to substitute it for some or all of the vanilla.  (this is also when you would add coloring if you’re doing that)     

    Mix that in until it is completely incorporated.  Be sure to continue to scrape everything down. 

    Add 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream,  

    and give it a mix until it looks well… beautiful!

    Now’s the time to check for consistency and flavor.  If you want it to be thinner, add a little more cream.  I wanted salt in mine, so I added ¼ teaspoon. 

    Give it one more stir and you have reached buttercream perfection! 

    Spread it on a cake or pipe it onto your favorite cupcake. 

    If you drop your cupcakes back into the pan, they can’t run away from you while you’re piping.  There are two easy designs for topping cupcakes.  The first is a spiral that has a point in the middle. To accomplish this, use a large open star tip, hold your bag straight up and down, and starting from the outside edge, work your way around, slowly moving toward the center. 

    The second is a rosette.  It’s exactly the same technique, except you start in the middle, and work your way toward the edge.  Either way is beautiful!

    Repeat with the rest of the cupcakes.  There should be plenty of frosting for a dozen. 

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