Shortcut Buttercream Icing and the Tale of Two Cakes

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Growing up there weren’t a whole lot of kids in my neighborhood and as an only child it was sometimes difficult to find playmates.  But I did find one rather unlikely friend way down at the end of our street next to the train tacks.  Ms. Betty was a widow and was just about the sweetest person I’ve ever known.  I can’t remember how old she was, children don’t often have the ability to make those kinds of judgements.  I can’t remember how we met or what started our friendship.  I just know that many days after school and during the summer were spent down in Ms. Betty’s yard in her swing listening to her stories about life.  She had a beautiful yard that she was meticulous about.  It was always filled with color.  She taught me a LOT about her plants as I’d help her water them.  She’d send me home with seeds and cuttings from her yard.  I’d help her with odd things around her house and she’d pay me in change.  We had a great friendship.  Every year on her birthday, Mom would take me to the grocery store and I’d get the stuff to make Ms. Betty a birthday cake.  Of course, this was back in the day when Betty Crocker (or whoever it was) had an all-in-one birthday cake kit that you cooked in the microwave.  Do y’all remember those?  Well, I’d make her a birthday cake like that and take it to her each year.

As I got older, I found myself visiting with Ms. Betty less often.  Other things became more important than spending time listening to an old lady’s stories. Her health declined and she eventually passed away.

Fast forward to my wedding day.  The baker was delivering the cakes and we were chatting about how excited we were and how beautiful the cakes were.  Michelle (the baker) had become a family friend of sorts as she had made my birthday cake for years.  It just wasn’t my birthday without a cake from Marchelle’s (that was the name of her bakery).  So when it came time to pick a wedding and groom’s cake, she was the obvious choice.   Her icing was DIVINE!  In all my travels and all my icing tasting (and there’s been a lot), no one has ever compared to her icing.  Anyway, so we’re chatting and she says to me, “Don’t your parents live over by the elementary school?”  “Yes,” I reply.  “What street do they live on,” she asks.  “Carol Street,” I answer.  “Oh, did you know that lady that lived down at the end of the street on the right?” she asked.  “Oh, are you talking about Ms Betty?” I asked.  “Yep,” she said.  “That was my grandmother.”  My eyes welled up with tears.  How could we have been interacting for all those years and I not know Michelle was her granddaughter?  I was overwhelmed.  I guess Ms. Betty just wanted to wait until that very special day to let me know she was still thinking about me.

I think of Ms. Betty often with such fond memories.  I feel like she sends me little reminders now and then that she’s thinking about me.  When we’re at my parent’s house, I’ll take Jack down to see the train go by and I can just about see Ms. Betty sitting in that swing.  My grandparents still have some pink four o’clock plants that I started from seeds Ms. Betty gave me.  She was such a special, sweet little old lady.  I sure do miss her.

MY OTHER RECIPES

I don’t bake cakes in the microwave anymore.  But I still bake cakes.  And this is the icing recipe I’ve been using for years.  I get requests for cakes all the time, though I don’t have much time for it anymore.  One note though:  I like a lot of icing on my cakes, so I normally double this recipe and have a little left over.  The extra will last in the fridge in an airtight container for a week or two.  If you want to be really bad, smear some of the extra on an Oreo cookie… it will change your life!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

 

Directions

  1. Combine butter, shortening, and a pinch of salt together using stand or hand mixer. (If your butter is not at room temp, you can always pop that puppy into the microwave and nuke it for about 5 seconds at a time until it reaches the right softness.)
  2. Once combined, slowly add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until combined.
  3. Add flavorings and mix well.  This is also the time to add coloring if you’d like.  I prefer gel colors like the ones shown below. 
  4. If the mixture is too thick, or if you’re using this icing for piping or writing, you might want to add a few drops of water or milk until you get the right consistency.  (Make sure to add coloring to icing before thinning it out as the icing colors will sometimes change the consistency.)

Shortcut Buttercream Icing
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
Instructions
  1. Combine butter, shortening, and a pinch of salt together using stand or hand mixer.
  2. Once combined, slowly add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until combined.
  3. Add flavorings and mix well. This is also the time to add coloring if you’d like. I prefer gel colors like the ones shown below.
  4. If the mixture is too thick, or if you’re using this icing for piping or writing, you might want to add a few drops of water or milk until you get the right consistency.
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Comments

  1. I love that story, brings back so many memories. Miss Betty did love you.

    I love you ….Mom 🙂

  2. That icing is also good spread on graham crackers. That way you can tell yourself it’s a whole grain snack and good for you! I always give my grandchildren these as a treat when I have any leftover icing.

  3. Thank you for sharing your sweet story about Ms. Betty!

    I thought for sure you were going to say..”if you want to be really bad, you just grab a spoon and eat icing right out of the bowl”….not that anything like that has happened in this house..~big grin~!!

    • LOL! The thought crossed my mind, but I figured I might as well tell you to put it on something to be less gluttonous, so I suggested an OREO COOKIE! How much more gluttonous does it get!?!? LOL! I’m not saying I eat it straight out of the bowl, but I will say by the time I’m done decorating a cake, I’ don’t want any of it because I’m sick of the icing! 🙂

  4. Another great (read “shame on you!”) place to spread icing is on raisin bread (or bagels)

    I love your cakes!

  5. I had a next door neighbour named Mrs. Haley that was my Ms. Betty. Such wonderful memories of visiting her. And by the way, Marchelle’s made my daughter’s first birthday cake and it was divine!

    • Oh, how wonderful! Thanks for sharing and I’m so glad I was able to trigger some fond memories for you. I sure wish Marchelle’s was still around!

  6. What a wonderful story about Ms. Betty. So thoughtful of you as a young man to always remember her birthday with your baked cake something she could look forward to. The cupcakes in the picture look so good. Wonder if you would be sharing that recipe as well? I love cupcakes and they look so good with all that delicious looking icing.

  7. I like the philosophy, “so I normally double this recipe and have a little left over. “

  8. Carolyn Cook says:

    Stacey,
    I’ve made several of your recipes. Thank you.

    I am curious, are you related to Mr. Essau Little? He and his family lived over in there somewhere (I think). I’m getting too old to remember a whole bunch, though! I haven’t lived in Prattville since 1974, so it’s hard to get directions right in my mind.

    Thank you for sharing your recipes and stories. Carolyn Holley Cook

    • Hi Carolyn! I’m so glad you’ve found some recipes you like. I’m pretty sure I’m not related to to him. Most of my family on the Little side is out of town. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  10. marian in mississippi says:

    This reminded me about a sweet lady friend that I had as a child. She was married but didnt have any children. She would tell me things about her flowerbeds and gardens. I loved spending time with her. But like with you.. I got older and stopped visiting as much.. She was a wonderful friend.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Marian

    • It unfortunate that we grow old and grow away, but I’m so blessed to have had her in my life when I did. I know you’ve got to feel that way too.

  11. I love your story about Miss Betty. Many of us are lucky enough to have a Miss Betty who lingers in our memories. Such a special part of growing up, and how nice that you found a connection later in life without even knowing it. My girlfriends and I would call that “a God thing.” Thanks for sharing!

  12. What a great story. I quess I don’t remember her. I should as much as I stayed at Rhonda’s house. I decorated cakes for 30 years, probably only about 10 when I knew you as a young man. Thanks for the recipes Stacy. I was looking for something to go with salmon croquetts. Have a great week.

  13. Such a sweet story Stacey, thanks for sharing! I was fortunate to have a couple of my own “Ms Betty’s” growing up and so grateful for them.

    I love to make buttercream, and I’ll be sure to try your recipe next time I need some. It’s pretty close, I have just never tried adding the almond or salt. Thanks for sharing it, have a great weekend!

  14. The circle of life! I love stories like these. Thanks for sharing this great story and the great recipe!

  15. OMG! This is my recipe – I have used it on all my decorated cakes for years! My girls still call me to this day and ask me for it . . . every time we make it someone asks us for the recipe! We call it our wedding cake icing!

  16. I so enjoy seeing a man share recipes and sweet stories….. Enjoy your web site. Thank you….

  17. Lord, Stacey, you got me a little choked up with this one. What a sweet soul you must have for reacting that way once you made the connection. Reminds me so much of my Nanny. I was fortunate enough to grow up 1/4 mile away from my grandmother and traveled that two-rut road to her house almost every day. We spent a lot of time sitting on her porch and in her kitchen – just the two of us. I swear I can smell her plum trees and scuppernong vines as I type. Thanks for reminding me.

  18. Anna Sargent says:

    Do you thing this icing would hold up well outdoors in 90 degree temperatures? We are having my son’s birthday party outside. Thanks!

  19. Have you ever made a chocolate buttercream frosting? Could I add in about 1/3 to /2 cup of cocoa?

    • Absolutely! I do that frequently and then thin it with chocolate syrup rather than milk. 🙂

      • Thank you for your prompt response. I’m will be making this soon – it will be perfect for the yellow cake I intend on baking. I have a container of Hershey’s extra dark coco powder and will start out with a heaping 1/4 cup.

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