Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Amaretto Cream Cheese Frosting

This cream cheese frosting was originally flavored with vanilla, but it works pretty well with amaretto liqueur.  When I used to make this I'd just pour the amaretto in and flavor it to taste.  Today I thought it was time to nail down a quantity of liqueur for an actual recipe.

There is nothing worse than the frosting on a supermarket cake.  It's way too sweet with a crunchy texture, usually gross.  I much prefer cream cheese frosting.  The texture is much smoother and I just like the taste better.

I first made this frosting for some cupcakes I made for a friend's birthday, and I'm not sure where the inspiration came from to use amaretto liqueur as flavor.  It could just be that I find amaretto delicious, but I'm sure I've had some dessert somewhere that used it for flavor.  So a year or two ago I found a recipe for cream cheese frosting, and instead of using vanilla I used amaretto.  I've never measured the amount of amaretto; I always just poured a little at a time and tasted as I went.  Amaretto is made from almonds or apricot pits, and is a good after dinner drink.  The name comes from "amaro," meaning "bitter" in Italian.  The liqueur isn't bitter, however, it is sweet and delicious.

My ingredients

Amaretto Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter
8oz cream cheese
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur (approximately)

After all that talk about measuring I still say approximately 1/4 cup of amaretto.  I did 1/4 cup and a little splash.  Just a quick little extra pour for good luck.

Leave the butter and the cream cheese out for an hour or so to get to room temperature.  I used the trusty ol' KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer KSM150PS - Contour Silver - KitchenAid (Google Affiliate Ad) with the whisk attachment to beat them together at medium speed.  I had to stop the mixer a few times to scrape the butter and cream cheese out of the whisk to ensure they mixed together completely.

Mixing the butter and cream cheese
When the butter and cream cheese are mixed and creamy, I add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.  I do this in part so that I don't have to wash the 1 cup measure as well as the 1/2 cup (to achieve 2 1/2 cups), and also because last time I used the cup measure I accidentally dropped it into the mixing bowl while the mixer was running.  The mixer smashed it.  I was able to suppress the urge to try to grab it out  before it was destroyed and turned the machine off instead.  The mixer is a powerful tool; even if you're going to destroy the food don't put your hands or any utensils in while it's running!  When my cousin was young he was scraping down the sides while the machine was running and it pulled his fingers in.  Fortunately my aunt turned the machine off as soon as she saw what was happening so he wasn't seriously injured.

The frosting stays creamy after the sugar is added, and at this point I took a few spoonfuls of icing and set them aside.  I will color this frosting and use it to write a message on the cake for our baby, although of course he can't read yet.  I have a Betty Crocker Decorating Kit that has several squeeze tubes for decorating cakes, cookies, or whatever else you'd want to decorate with frosting.

Lucas wanted to know what I was making
I added about 1/4 cup of amaretto liqueur to the mixing bowl and mixed at low speed until the alcohol was blended in.  The frosting never gets cooked, so the alcohol never cooks off as it does in some recipes.  You might be asking, why would I give a 6 month old child frosting that contains alcohol?  Well, I'm not planning on giving any cake to the baby.  6 month old babies shouldn't eat cake.

The problem with decorating a cake is that you want to add a design or message using bright colors, but food coloring is nasty, nasty stuff.  There are lots of types of candy out there that contain Red 40, and I can taste it when I eat those candies.  Red 40 is delicious.  The problem is, it and many other artificial food colorings can lead to all sorts of health problems.  The additive is approved by the FDA, so it probably hasn't been proven to directly cause any of these ailments, but proving something like that is a complicated and expensive proposition.  There is, however, a correlation between artificial colors and cancer and chromosomal damage and asthma and an endless list of health problems.  This website, Food Dyes: Some Health Effects, lists some of them.  It's worth reading, but to cut all artificial colors out of your diet requires some serious commitment on your part.  While it may take large quantities of these chemicals or prolonged exposure to cause the sicknesses listed on the website, things can add up quickly.  A little in your food, a little in your drinking water, a little absorbed through the skin, a little in the air we breathe, and pretty soon we have a whole cocktail of chemicals swimming in our bodies.  Ingesting these chemicals can have serious repercussions for children which may not manifest themselves later in life, but I've done enough preaching for one recipe, you get the idea.

The best way to get the colors you want is, imagine this, from food!  You may not get the unnaturally bright reds and greens and blues you're looking for, but with a little experimentation you can come close.  I've read about a few different options like beet juice, carrot juice, kale juice, spinach juice, and a few others that I'll explore more later.  Here's a fun website called Our Homemade Happiness that's all about doing things naturally (and at home).  It's worth checking out, lots of great ideas.  For now I'm using some blackberry syrup my mother-in-law made.  It was supposed to be jam but it didn't solidify really, so we use it as syrup.  It works well for purple, and gives a little blackberry flavor to the frosting.

Adding blackberry syrup

The frosting mixed with blackberry syrup
I added a little bit of the blackberry syrup at a time until the extra frosting had a dark enough purple, then poured the purple frosting into the decorating tool.  I put it into the refrigerator because if you try to decorate with frosting that's close to room temperature it won't stay where you want it; it'll run all over the place.  By the time the cake is frosted the colored frosting will probably be cold enough that you can write a message or add flowers or trim or whatever you like.  And don't worry if you make mistakes, they add character to the cake and of course a homemade cake always scores a few points over a store-bought cake because of the love and care that goes into making it.

All it needs are candles that spell "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" and it's ready to eat!

1 comment:

  1. Nice icing idea. I have tried using different ingredients in mine for colors too, find jello powder works pretty good. Or even kool-aid powders.