Vanilla Cupcakes and a Frosting Smack-down: Frosting 1 – Me 0

Frosting and I aren’t friends. We definitely do not play well together. When you take a look at my most recent attempt, you’ll see what I mean.

But let me back up here.

The Big Sis From Another Miss asked if I would help her bake for her baby boy’s baptism at the end of the month. I’m truly honoured since I love her and her family so much. I’m also worried because the BSFAM is an excellent baker and I don’t want to disappoint her with crapcakes. I need to bring my A game. She asked me to make two dozen vanilla cupcakes and 2 dozen lemon. I don’t have tried and true recipes in either category so it looks like I’m embarking on another quest – this time, for the ultimate cupcake.

The first cupcake I’m trying is Joy the Baker‘s vanilla bean cupcake. Joy is such a phenomenal baker – if she says this is a good cupcake, then it must be a good cupcake. I don’t have to worry about the frosting because the BSFAM is going to make it. However, since I’m not going to eat 2 dozen cupcakes myself, I decided to bring this test batch to our niece’s 5th birthday party (where a whole group of captive party guests can serve as my guinea pigs). Naked cupcakes, while delicious and my own personal preference, look boring, so I decided to use the companion frosting recipe that Joy used for her cupcakes. Click here for both recipes.

Her chocolate buttercream featured flavour heavy hitters like chocolate and Ovaltine, as well as butter and heavy cream as its fatty foundation. I was sold.

The Husband and I were out all day enjoying the start of the long weekend, so I didn’t start baking until about 10 p.m. on Saturday night. Even at that time, our apartment was sweltering hot. We’re finally getting summer weather in Vancouver and the expected temperatures that come along with it. I didn’t mind, although I was sweating like a harpy in hell (or maybe they don’t sweat…choose whatever appropriate analogy you want!).

Fancy time liners!


Lots of egg to give the cupcake that dense, rich flavour and yellow colour.


Whipped butter and sugar, the foundation of all that is good and delicious.


The finished cupcake batter.


I love that you can see all the beautiful specks of vanilla bean in there.



First batch cooling, next batch all lined up and ready for the oven.



I didn’t try any cupcakes that night since it was midnight by the time I was done. I ate it the next day and it was delicious! Dense, moist, with a good prominent vanilla flavour. I’m still going to try some other recipes before I decide which one I’m going to use for the baptism. Maybe something a bit lighter and cakier. I’d love suggestions if anyone has any!

As for my foray into frosting, I’m sorry to say I’d put this attempt into the Epic Fail category. Funnily enough, almost every time I make frosting, it turns out terribly. At least this time, I know where I went wrong.

Yummy malty Ovaltine. When I was a kid, this was such a treat!


Pouring the Ovaltine into the whipping cream. We don’t have heavy cream in Canada and this is the closest substitute.


Mixing butter, salt and cocoa powder.


This smelled absolutely incredible!


I keep my powdered sugar in a ziplock container.


This makes me look like a cocaine dealer. All I need is a digital scale and dime bags.



Hmmm…my frosting looks super grainy. And runny. I made it the next morning, the hour before we had to leave to help set up for our niece’s party, so I didn’t have time to test, to re-make, or to refrigerate the frosting. When I piped it onto the cupcakes, it looked eerily similar to something else that is brown, grainy and runny. I don’t think I need to say the word. It starts with a D and ends with an A, and the middle is filled with a burning sensation. You know what I’m talking about.

This is where I went wrong. I didn’t put in the entire amount of icing sugar that the recipe calls for because I hate super sweet frosting. The Ovaltine gets stirred into the whipping cream and I poured it in at the end as directed. Joy says that you don’t need to use the entire Ovaltine/cream mixture – only use enough to reach your desired consistency. I read that and thought, it’s whipping cream, it’ll whip up beautifully with the butter. Dead wrong. It made my frosting too liquidy. The taste was phenomenal but it failed completely in the looks category. Definitely operator error.

I finally get to use my cupcake carrier!


I still brought the cupcakes to the party and people ate them, despite the unappetizing appearance. This just makes me determined to conquer frosting instead of having it school my ass!

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17 thoughts on “Vanilla Cupcakes and a Frosting Smack-down: Frosting 1 – Me 0

  1. Baking is definitely a learning experience. Rarely do I ever get a new recipe perfect on the first try. By the third or fourth try I’ve usually nailed it. I love your enthusiasm anyway!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Mama! And it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t always nail it the first time around, although I suspect you reach perfection much quicker than I do 🙂

  2. Hey! Does the powdered sugar in a ziplock container help?

    I hear that if your frosting comes out too runny, to add more powdered sugar. This is what someone told me when the same thing happened to me. This is supposed to help the consistency. . but then, it would probably be super sweet frosting. That and refrigerate it. But you didn’t have time to do either. No worries! We learn from our experiences right?

    • Time was not on my side yesterday! I’ve definitely learned from that experience and I can’t wait to try it again until I make it perfectly. It’s delicious frosting!

  3. We all had our baking disasters. Mine was Tiramisu. I brought it to a dessert party and the poor people had to eat the runny mess I called Tiramisu. At least you know what you did wrong and you know how to fix it. Your cupcakes look magnificant. I’ve also modified Joy the Baker’s recipes. All recipes work slightly different with each cook and oven.

    • Lol – although it was runny, I’m sure your tiramisu tasted awesome. That’s a hard dessert to master. I feel pretty pathetic messing up frosting but practice makes perfect, right?

  4. Oh my goodness! Ovaltine?? Yay! I always want to bake with it, but can never figure out what to make. I have baked with Ovaltine all of one time. I’ve got to start up again, thank you for this 🙂

  5. I’ve had that exact problem of grainy frosting more times than I care to count…is that also a product of not using enough powdered sugar?

    Also, the ovaltine frosting reminds me of this mind-blowing cake by Sweetapolita (http://sweetapolita.com/2011/02/campfire-delight-6-layer-rich-chocolate-malted-toasted-marshmallow-cake/)…I made it once and instead of messing up the malted frosting, I was overzealous with the toasted marshmallows that are mixed into the toasted marshmallow frosting and it was a runny, drippy, delicious MESS. 🙂

    • lol as long as it was delicious! I love Sweetapolita – she is a cake miracle worker. Thanks for the link, that frosting sounds amazing. And I went wrong in a few areas – I put way too much cream into the frosting and not enough powdered sugar. Live and learn, right?

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