the holy grail of butter cream frosting

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I am on a quest for the best vanilla cupcake paired with the holy grail of BUTTERCREAM. With the plethora of cupcake shops out there this should be an easy task –but not so. Many bake shops excel at particular flavours but I have only found a couple of shops that has really delivered on the vanilla butter-cream. Too many frostings are overly sweet , cloying and sickly tasting to me.  There was a time when I was anxious to be seduced by a cupcakes beauty only to be bitterly disappointed. Sadly now, I am weary and jaded!

Finding the perfect recipe is equally difficult….but I have done it!!!

First off I was sucked in by the heading of BEST GOLDEN CAKE RECIPE by a famous baking blog. Against better judgement I ignored my own instincts to forego the mixer when incorporating the dry and wet ingredients together and used the mixer instead. Predictably the cakes were tough, and riddled with tunnels. Like a long-lost friend, I sought out my OLD SCHOOL BETTY CROCKER recipe for DINETTE cake and followed the method my mother had taught me years ago. I have used this recipe on many occasions over the years as it is a perfect easy to pull together basic butter /golden cake. You can see by the picture how well used this cook book is. Publicly I espoused my love of JOY OF COOKING, when I was harbouring my dirty little secret of BETTY CROCKER hidden away at arm’s reach. It kills me to look back at some of the “old timey recipes” I saved in the binder.

Here is the recipe for DINETTE CAKE- according to Terri and then the best  BUTTER CREAM that I searched out on All (The user comments were very helpful in order to decipher the best method to use, since you will see the original instructions are kind of vague.)  My sister Lori had shared a custard buttercream and I had loved it but lost the recipe.I had tried to recreate it from memory and was not getting the perfect end result I wanted. I have added my own notes (IN RED CAPS) too so you can try it out.

Then tell me if you don’t love it!!

happy eating, terri

DINETTE CAKEadapted from Betty Crocker 



  • 1/3 c butter
  • 1 c sugar

BEAT TILL SMOOTH and fluffy and add in

  • 1 egg-

CONTINUE TO BEAT UNTIL SOFT then remove bowl from stand mixer

  •  3/4 c  Milk ( can be sour or buttermilk or whole milk) and vanilla flavouring or paste
POUR INTO CUPCAKE TINS OR 1 9×9 sq or 1 large round tin.
Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F
Set timer according to your pan size–small cupcakes take approx 15 min but check your over to get the right timing
COOL ON RACKS and ice with  butter cream when ready . You can get fancy and add a raspberry of blueberry or whatever you like–but you really can enjoy as is. 

BEST BUTTERCREAM– adapted from the recipe on this link. 


  1. FIRST STEP:  In small saucepan cook flour and milk until it forms a ball, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature. ( I USE A GLASS BOWL AND HEAT UP IN THE MICROWAVE. IT JUST SEEMS LIKE LESS MESS TO ME AND NO POTENTIAL BURNING)

    see how think it is??? very goopy.
    see how think it is??? very goopy.
  2. SECOND STEP: With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. ( LET THE CUSTARD COOL –) 

    grinding my white sugar into a powdery fine concoction
    grinding my white sugar into a powdery fine concoction
  3. THIRD STEP : Beat both mixtures together on high speed until fluffy and smooth. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour (IF NEEDED), until it is of spreading consistency. (USE A STAND MIXER to incorporate the butter mix and custard mix—AND BEAT TO REMOVE ANY LUMPS- YOU CAN THIN A TINY BIT WITH MILK OR CREAM IF NEEDED BUT CUSTARD CAN BE VERY GLUEY. REMINDED ME OF MY FLOURAND WATER GLUE COOKIES I USED TO BAKE OUT IN THE SUN WHEN I WAS A KID–I ALSO TRIED TO MAKE MY DAD EAT THEM AFTER SPRINKLING WITH NESTLES QUICK POWDER ON THE TOP…be patient, it will all come together!)

new old school popcorn secrets revealed!

I hate the smell of microwave popcorn. It reeks and it has the stench of a toxic dump when it’s burnt. That fake fat that swims in the bag makes me gag! Have I made it clear yet, how much I hate the stuff? …however, Ms. Madds loves popcorn. She’s a salty savoury kind of gal and so I tried out a new trick. Some of you may already know this but I am putting it out there now that I have tried it myself.

You can make popcorn in a BROWN PAPER LUNCH BAG – no fat, no salt, no additives, NO KIDDING….and best of all CHEAP! 

Here is a short modern history of popcorn as I see it:

In the old days (I have skipped over the jiffy-pop era of my childhood) we used oil in a saucepan, but after burning several good pots many of us moved on to AIR POPPERS.  When this bulky one purpose appliance started to spit out un-popped hot kernels that would crack your back teeth out of your skull, people  moved on to the microwave crap. I am not sure how many gazillions of dollars$$$ are spent on this junk but I would suggest we could clothe and feed the world’s poor on the excessive costs associated with the stuff, not to mention the costly strain it puts on our health care system.

Now that I am through with my badly researched and unsubstantiated history lesson let’s move on.

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Assemble your ingredients:

2 brown paper lunch bags, packing tape, popcorn kernels

  • Place 2 Tablespoons of the kernels in the bag.

I decided to try 2 bags inside each other and taped down the folded edge with the best tape on earth–CLEAR PACKING TAPE. Do not staple ( I am afraid of microwave lightning) but — skinny tape may work in a pinch.

TIP: When I folded the bottom of the bag over… it actually helped with the popping process. Take a page out of Orville Redenbacher method. (Curious as to whether Mr. R was still alive… I google him and found out he died in his jacuzzi. Sounds like not a bad way to go if you are 88.)

  • Set microwave to the POPCORN SENSOR or listen to for the popping to stop – 2 to 5 sec apart . Ere on the side of undercooked–as you do not want the burned stench to take over the house.

TIP: I culled out the old maids( un-popped kernels for a couple of bags) and placed them back in the bag once everything had cooled down somewhat and set the sensor one more time.

EAT PLAIN or melt a little REAL BUTTER or go crazy and make REAL CARAMEL POPCORN. You will never ever crave the commercial kind again. I promise.


  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 c dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c corn syrup  or honey or maple syrup ( to be really decadent)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 c of popped popcorn in a roomy bowl. Make sure old maids ( un-popped kernels ) have been sifted out.
  • extra MIX-INS if you like–chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, gummy bears—the sky’s the limit)
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar,  syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring approx. 4 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Mixture will foam up–I LOVE THIS!
  3. Pour over popcorn and mix gently to cover all the kernels.
  4. Add any mix ins or enjoy as is.

SPECIAL NOTE: DO NOT ADD ROSE WATER to the caramel syrup. For some reason, I did this once about 20 years ago. My kids have never forgiven me and it is one of those memories that will not die. I have no excuse for this grave error, except that I am extremely experimental. I think outside the box. Sometimes people get hurt in the process.


a weekend with Ms. Madds

This weekend, I had a 2 1/2 year old to myself– 4 days and 3 nights. As I write her mother is spending her last evening in NYC celebrating the completion of her undergrad degree. This is a big deal for Maddie to be without her mommy overnight, but we seem to be having a good time in spite of it all.

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Friday night we heard the familiar music of the ice-cream truck. When my kids were little I  used to curse the guy that would drive into our townhouse complex nightly. I felt like a meanie, as I rarely had any spare dollars to spend on frozen rockets and overpriced ice-cream. Well guess what? Somehow I have the $ now to buy ice-cream almost as large as a 2 year old’s head…even if I have to raid he college fund to do it!

On Saturday we wandered around the neighbourhood. We especially love and the little flower shop next door. We hit a French bakery for bread and spent the next hour at the playground. The evening was spent eating a cold hotdog at a baking fundraiser for kids to go to camp.  Sunday we mostly stayed home,  watching endless YouTube loops of Kitties and owls and doggies and monkey with a few Barbie Princess and Mickey Mouse cartoons thrown in for good measure.

We also baked shortbread cookies…rolling out the scraps of dough and pressing the cutters into them 100 x each. I use the easiest recipe on earth and for once she can eat the play-dough. I have posted the recipe along with a fancier version from Rouxbe. The key is to USE REAL BUTTER. This is not the cookie to skimp on the butter.

Madeline’s culinary preferences include Cheerios, macaroni, peanut butter sandwiches, crackers and cheese and scrambled eggs and toast. She also likes grapes, apple, a few bites of banana and mandarin oranges. Now I recall the reason my regular dinner making went off the rails and has yet to recover. Give me a crowd of 10 or even 50 and I am a happy to cook all day long. Make an appetizing, well-balanced meal every night is a challenge I have yet to perfect.

Joy of Baking —   Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

 In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer or food processor beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  

Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated or pulse in processor.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out between parchment or floured surface. Cut shapes and bake until lightly browned 8-10 min.