I recently made chocolate cupcakes (recipe coming soon) that were divine but I was at a loss for frosting options. The cupcakes were so spectacular that a homemade frosting was the only way to go – but what recipe? I didn’t have any in mind so I took to the internet. I found Smitten Kitchen’s Swiss Buttercream Frosting recipe, Pioneer Woman’s Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had recipe, and a basic Whipped Cream Cheese recipe from The Kitchn. Each looked equally promising. No better time than the present to force them into battle! Here are the head to head results.
Contender #1 – Smitten Kitchen’s Swiss Buttercream Frosting (will frost 20 mini cupcakes or a 4 inch cake)
1/4 cup sugar (I used brown because I prefer the flavor but white is good too!)
1 egg white
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Whisk egg white and sugar together over medium heat in a double boiler until the sugar granules have dissolved. Transfer the mixture into a stand mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. This will take a while – 5-10 minutes for me.
After the volume has doubled, add the vanilla and butter and keep whipping. The frosting is ready when all of the ingredients are mixed together, smooth, and shiny.
This frosting is best piped on cupcake or spread delicately on a cake.
Contender #2 – Pioneer Woman’s Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had (will frost 12-16 regular size cupcakes)
5 tbsp. AP flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar (I used brown because I prefer the flavor but white is good too!)
In a small saucepan, whisk flour and milk over low-medium heat.
Whisk constantly until it thickens (about 5-7 minutes), the consistency will be like pancake batter. Set aside to cool completely.
When the flour mixture has cooled, cream together the butter and the sugar in a stand mixer. Add in the vanilla.
Next add the flour mixture to the creamed butter/sugar and whip on high for a good 3-5 minutes. It should be light and fluffy, and look like whipped cream.
This frosting is best spread on cupcakes/cake with a butter knife.
Here is a side by side comparison of Contender 2 and 1. Both are made of the same basic ingredients but obviously their texture is very different. They tasted essentially the same to me: buttery and sugary, with a hint of vanilla. Contender 1 was lighter with a smooth body and didn’t stick to my palate. Contender 2 was dense, yet fluffy, and coated the mouth. The sugar granules were crunchy and apparent in Contender 2 whereas in Contender 1 they are fully dissolved and cannot be distinguished. I preferred Contender 1 and John preferred Contender 2, go figure!
Contender #3 – The Kitchn’s Basic Whipped Cream Cheese (will liberally frost one 8 inch cake)
4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese
1/2-3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
Splash milk (I use almond milk)
Splash of vanilla
In one bowl whip the cream and vanilla on high until soft peaks form. In another bowl whip the cream cheese, sugar, and milk together until smooth. Add the whipped cream to the whipped cream cheese and beat on high until soft and fluffy. I prefer to use a hand mixer for this recipe. Taste and adjust the sugar if you need to.
This frosting is light but very flavorful. The cream cheese adds a richness that balances very nicely with the light whipped cream.
This frosting is best spread on cupcakes/cake with an offset spatula.
The winner of this battle? Contender #3! Don’t get me wrong, all of these option are delicious (and I’ll certainly be making all of them again) but I prefer the flavor and texture of the whipped cream cheese frosting the best.