I always get asked how I make my frosting because it literally tastes like a dessert on its own. I can't give my secrets away, but I can let everyone know it takes more than just butter and sugar.
I think that frosting is a personal thing, just like shoes. Some prefer simple while others prefer something more extravagant. I would venture out to say that my buttercream is like a Louboutin or maybe a Manolo stiletto. It takes me a long time to make my buttercream so I make it in tubs and freeze it. Yup, I admit, I freeze my buttercream. And honestly, it tastes so much better after it's been frozen and thawed. I don't know why, but it just does. But I doubt that most women have the time to dedicate to make a frosting and then freeze it, thaw it and pipe it. So here is a fabulous and quick buttercream:
Cream, Butter and Sugar: For every 2 sticks of butter add 3 cups of confectioner's sugar. The secret is to leave the butter out so it comes to room temperature. You can't cheat and put it in the microwave, it will usually get too soft and the balance will be off. Beat the butter until it has doubled in size. Add the sugar slowly. If you pour the 3 cups in all at once and start your handheld mixer, you'll cover yourself and your kitchen in confectioner's sugar. And don't get me started if there is any moisture on the floor or counter. You'll have a very sticky mess to clean. Once you've added a cup of the sugar add a tablespoon of heavy cream. Then add another cup of sugar and another tablespoon of cream. Keep going until your done. Now for the flavoring. If you are going for a simple vanilla buttercream, add your vanilla (a teaspoon will do for a small batch). If you are aiming to impress, buy vanilla beans. It really does make a difference. To extract the pods from the bean, simply cut down the length of the bean with a small knife. Split it open and either run a spoon down the inside of the bean collecting the little pods or run the back of your knife down the inside of the bean. Add them to your buttercream and mix well. Place the used bean in your buttercream and either put it in an air tight container to use later or leave it on the counter until you are ready to use it. The bean will continue to infuse your buttercream with vanilla. When you are ready, take the vanilla bean out and mix your buttercream. This is a yummy buttercream. For other flavors, like chocolate, melt milk chocolate over a double boiler or if you're lazy pour 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1 cup chocolate chips in a microwave proof bowl. Heat it under medium heat for 30 seconds. Check it and stir and put it back in for 15-20 seconds. Keep stirring and heating until it gets smooth like chocolate sauce. Let it cool a bit until it's slightly warm. Add it to your buttercream and whisk until incorporated.
For other flavors like lemon or strawberry: Please DO NOT USE extracts. Use real ingredients. It will taste a million times better.
For lemon flavor: zest a lemon and add the zest into your buttercream. Take a small bowl and pour in 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar and the juice of 2 lemons. Mix well and add mixture into buttercream. Whisk the buttercream. It will tasting amazing.
As for strawberry or any berry flavor: Get a jar of your favorite jam and add 1/2 -1 cup of it to your buttercream. It will taste much better than using oils or extracts. Trust me.
Hope this helps and inspires all of you!
Happy cupcake baking!