Saturday, February 14, 2004

Adventures in Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Yes, there was cake under the strawberry cream cheese frosting, but cake is not the issue. I had to look a long while for any strawberry frosting recipes, and only found a few. Now I know why. Strawberries are a wild card ingredient....they do unexpected things to exacting recipes.

I found the most promising recipe in "the Cake Doctor" by Anne Byrn, a 2003 bestseller. That was my first mistake....everyone knows the best frosting recipes come from mid-20th century cooking icons Betty Crocker, Good Housekeeping and the like. Don't get me wrong: Anne Byrn's book is great and deservedly popular. But the frosting world's reliable real deals come from Betty. They're probably the only recipes I actually follow without adding my own intuitive flourishes.

So with a wooden spoon, I blended 8 oz softened cream cheese (please don't use the generic, rubbery stuff) with 8 tbsps softened butter (generic is fine). The recipe then calls for 3.5 cups of powdered sugar, which is a huge amount. Two boxes, almost. I slowly stirred in one 16 oz box of sugar, and things were still looking good. The recipe calls for fresh strawberries, but this is not the season, so I substituted frozen whole berries. Earlier, I set 12 plump strawberries out to defrost for a few hours, and then mashed them to pulp. I stirred part of the berry mash, along with 8 oz more of sugar, mixed thoroughly and cream, sort of. Sherbet may be the better word.

Seems that frozen strawberries are not a great substitute for fresh...all that frozen water. To absorb liquid, one adds dry ingredients, so I blended in 12 oz more of sugar and the rest of the mash, resulting in extremely sweet, pre-frosting. Almost-frosting. Actually, a very good strawberry sauce and topping. And a huge bowl full of it. Huge. So I poured about 40% of the sauce into a separate bowl, which now sits in our refrig, waiting for some Dreyers French vanilla ice cream. To give the remaining now-sauce more frosting texture and to balance the overwhelming powdered sugar taste, I added 4 tbspns more of butter, and mixed (on high setting) to smoothness. Added a touch more sugar to get just the right texture, and decided that this was as good as it gets, for this frosting anyway. My strawberry cream cheese frosting was served on a strawberry cake made from a Duncan Hines mix, enhanced with an extra egg yolk, 2 tspsns of strawberry extract ( fruity cake mixes can taste dull) , and baked for 30 minutes, not the 35 specified by Duncan.

Our Friday Family Fellowship group ate every last crumb, and some raved about the fresh-tasting frosting. Ron told me a few didn't eat all their frosting, though. I didn't eat all mine, either. It was too sweet and slightly gooey, rather like a corny pastel bridesmaid dress. Would have been better with a stronger cream cheese taste and less sugar. And it was just too pink.

Spring will be here soon. It feels like time to move on to lighter, more sophisticated desserts.

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