Monday, June 27, 2016

Apologies and what I've been up to...also some recipes 

Since it has been so very long since I wrote on this blog... I know MY BAD...I will try to make it up to you all in pictures and recipes that I have been working on. Along with stories of my adventures in the last year or so. I know that doesn't bring back those I lost due to lack of posts but at least it might start up interest in my blog again. I hope!
I made this beautiful cake this weekend for a sweet couple who had a home grown wedding with all the love and support of friends and family. I gave them a great deal and didn't even charge for delivery since it was at a local spot I've been to many times before. The mother provided the amazing roses for me to decorate the cake. Most of the vintage style piping the bride wanted was covered by the flowers (she really wanted them wrapping around the cake) but you still get the vintage feel. You can see the inside of the cake because I had extra batter so I made a small cake for my students to try. They loved it! I call it my "signature cake" because it seems to be the most popular flavor. Two layers of dark chocolate devils food cake (see the s'more cake blog) and my adapted Hazelnut butter cake that I will post here for your enjoyment. The filling is coffee flavored swiss meringue buttercream with tahitian vanilla buttercream on the outside. (See for the best vanilla!)

Just some inspiration...a 20th birthday
I made last year.  

Hazelnut butter cake

one 9” round cake

I adapted this recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's golden almond cake in her Cake Bible... I can't seem to just let recipes be!I have tripled this recipe to make one 12” round cake and it came out great!

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream (divided)

1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract

1 2/3 cups sifted cake flour

2/3 cup toasted ground hazelnuts

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. Baking powder

½ tsp. Baking soda

½ tsp. Salt

12 Tbl. (1 ½ cubes ) unsalted butter room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Prepare your pan with either pan spray or butter and flour with a parchment on the bottom.In a bowl combine ¼ of the sour cream, the eggs and the vanilla.In your mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Add the butter and remaining sour cream. Mix on low until they come together and then increase to medium speed and beat for 1 ½ minutes. If you are using a hand mixer, mix on high speed.Scrape down the sides, and add 1/3 of the egg mixture, mix on medium for 20 seconds, scrap and repeat two more times scraping well between each addition.Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top with your spatula.Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and it springs back when lightly pressed in the center.Leave in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out to a wire rack to coolYou can make this cake a day ahead and wrap tightly when cooled. It is very moist and tender and quite yummy!

And then there is PIE!! This being a fresh organic peach pie. I find I just don't make pies often enough! I adore pie...especially with ice cream! So why don't I make pie more often I ask myself? Not sure really. The crust is easy peasy because I use a 1-2-3 formula with only butter and it comes out flakey and rich and everyone always asks me if I use butter. OF COURSE I use butter! 
The 1-2-3 thing is a formula using 1 times water, 2 times butter and 3 times flour. AND it works with either cups or weight. For example: It shows easier in metric, 75 g water, 150 g butter, and 255g flour and of course salt 1/2 tsp.
Or in cups it would look like: 1/3 c water, 10 1/2 T butter, and 1 1/2 + 1 Tbl. flour, 1/2 tsp salt. 
Remember if you are using this formula to keep everything icy cold! Ice water and even frozen butter works best. 
Here I used about 6 large ripe peaches and 4Tbl. flour mixed with my 3/4 cup sugar. I didn't add spice because I love the natural taste of peaches. 

and some more pies to inspire you to get BAKING!! These are from last fall. 
pumpkin, lemon meringue apple and dutch apple. 

Looking back to last fall I see my pictures of our trip to Costa Rica. I took 7 women down there to tour cacao plantations, coffee plantations, heart of palm farm, organic farm that grew so many strange and wonderful fruits and veggies and of course the natural habitat and animals of this wonderful country. We shopped at a local farmers market and cooked meals but mostly we were treated to fabulous food cooked for us by the local people who hosted the tours we took. We ate everywhere! The heart of palm was my favorite meal though. The woman owned farm was owned and run by this woman who among those talents was a chef too!!

She made heart of palm lasagne, heart of palm salad, heart of palm dip and for dessert we had heart of palm cupcakes. It was all delicious.

    At one of the places we had a private chef who was self trained and cooked us traditional Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans, eggs, fresh fruit, juice, and fried plantains.

Each night we had lovely dishes she came up with that had a local flair.

Over all Costa Rica is an amazing country with social responsibilities that they take seriously. Like recycling, and making sure all of their working population has health care and paid vacations. Just to mention a few...
But I digress... it is food we are talking about right? Food being my life and all.
We also visited a small chocolate manufacturer who uses only Costa Rican grown cacao.
It is not far out of San Jose the capital on the way over to the east side. 
They are called Sibu. Very nice folks! OK so enough for today I just needed to get the juices flowing! I have way more to write just needed to sit down and do it!
So please don't give up on me, I will be back... famous last words eh??
If you have something in particular you want me to write about in the baking area please feel free to comment or email me and I will listen I promise!
Until next time...

Friday, May 2, 2014

Help with gum paste roses

Gum paste is one of those things that you are either going to love to work with or get frustrated and give up on. Personally I like to do it in small amounts. If i had to do this on a daily basis I would probably get very bored and throw up my hands. I, fortunately, live in a area where most folks appreciate fresh flowers rather than sugar ones so my requests are few and far between. I do teach this technique so I get regular practice and I can give you some easy tips to making the process more fun and successful! 
First of all you need the proper tools. 22 gauge wire, 24 gauge wire, needle nose pliers, rose petal cutters, calyx cutter, ball tool, pad, something to hang the flowers on to dry, plastic wrap, shortening, paint brush, skewer or other fine point tool. 
You will want to make the centers of the rose and thread them onto the wire with the hook on the end and then let them dry overnight before making the rose. If you rush this process the roses will drop off the wire while drying. 
Make sure your gum paste is always covered with plastic as you work on it. Rub your table or work surface with a very very thin film of shortening. Put a small piece of gum paste into a small container of water to make the glue you will use in making the flowers. It melts, gets thick and is the perfect glue. 
Roll your gum paste out very thin. Think of the petals of roses and how thin they are, this is how thin you want them to be.
 When using the ball tool to thin the edges of the petal, be sure and keep it half on and half off the paste. The intention is to thin only the edge of the petal. Sometimes it takes quite of bit of pressure to thin it out. This all depends on the texture of the gum paste you are using. What you don't want is distinct lines where the ball tool has been.

 To get the nature curves that rose petals have use the skewer and roll the edge away so the petals have movement.
 The first petal is tightly wrapped on the very tip of the center. If you begin to low on the center you will run out of room and not have as many petal as you would like.

There are many ways to dry the flowers and I use the little white wire racks you can buy at house ware stores. They are used as an extra shelf for space saving. Just hook the wire and hang! You can also use soft styrofoam and dry them up right but I find this doesn't work well for the thinner wires.

I have dried flowers in egg cartons too but they are usually wireless flowers. 
The best way to get the petals to stand away from one another is to begin the rose get it to the first three petals and then give it time to dry. After a day or so you can begin adding more petals for the complete rose. This is why I always make them in bulk. First all the centers, then the middles, then two petals, then three, now I can go back to the first rose and begin the next layer since sometime has passed letting it dry. I usually make about 12 to 15 roses at one time. This is much more productive than making one at time. 

Keep your gum paste wrapped well with a thin layer of shortening rubbed over it and it should last a very long time! Have fun and take pictures :)

My secret for S'more cake

So it has been awhile since I wrote anything and I am determined to write TWO blogs today!! Let's see what happens here!
Recently I was asked to make a cake for some friends engagement party. I told them to go online look at my menu and pick a flavor that suits their taste. Well, of course they pick the one cake that I had made up and had not created but one other time! It has many steps to making it and although many have asked about it not many have ordered it. I suppose by revealing this idea I may have lots of other requests for it now! I really don't mind though it wasn't nearly the trouble I thought it was going to be and WHAT A HIT it was at the party!!
I don't normally print recipes since this is mostly an instructional blog. There are tons of recipes out there my goal has been to offer techniques and tools so you can be successful with whatever recipe you use. HOWEVER, this is worth posting!

The cake is called a S'more cake, yes, after the childhood campout favorite!
This is for an 8" cake three layers.
Spray all three pans with oil and line the bottoms with parchment paper. 
I begin with a simple 
Graham cracker crust:
one packet of honey grahams crushed (one square of crackers in the box is plenty!)
4 Tbl. melted butter. 

Rub the melted butter into the crumbs just as you would do for a cheesecake crust. 
Then press it into the bottom only of ONE of the 8" pans that has been prepared with parchment.
Pour the batter right onto the crust of only one pan! 

Cocoa devil’s food cake

2 cups boiling water
1 cup cocoa powder
2 ¾ cup ap flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 ¼ cup sugar
8 oz. unsalted butter (room temp)
4 eggs
1 Tbl. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350˚
Prepare three 8 x 2” pans with parchment and butter

Whisk the boiling water and cocoa in a heatproof bowl.
Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about one minute.
Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Add flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with cocoa mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Divide batter among prepared cake pans.

Bake cakes for about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.

You can see in the photo the crust that was on the bottom, when turned out of the pan is on the top now. This cake was a two layer cake with one filling however when I make the smaller version that I have given you here, I make it three layers. Your choice! Make some cupcakes to go with if the three layer is too tall for you!
Then I fill the cake with a milk chocolate ganache. I put the crust layer on the bottom of the cake and then put two layer of ganache in between the layers.
6oz. milk chocolate chips
4 oz. heavy cream
Boil the cream and pour it over the chips, wait one minute before stirring until smooth. Leave at room temperature until the ganache has set enough to spread between the layers. 
Lastly I covered this cake with a swiss meringue (which I call the marshmallow meringue) and then used a torch to get the lovely brown accent. 
Swiss meringue:
1 egg white 
1/4 cup sugar
Place the sugar and egg white in a heat proof bowl. Place over a pan of boiling water and whisk until the mixture is hot to the touch. Put into a bowl of a stand up mixer and whip until stiff peaks form. 
Ice the cake with this and using the tip of your decorating spatula make swirls that will show nicely when you torch the meringue. 
YUMMMM love it!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pumpkin, Pecan and Apple time!

Well, again I have taken way too long to post on my blog but fortunately I waited so long it is now in one of my favorite seasons for desserts! PIES! Pumpkin, Apple and Pecan being my favorite... at least at this time of the year. 
I have lots of ideas for pumpkin sweets and conveniently pumpkin does savory very well also. 
So now I have to decide which of these recipes you would most likely use and appreciate...hmmmm... I can give you my favorites. I always tell my students to cook or bake what they love to eat and this will ensure your guests will love it too... so heeding my own advice...
Personally I enjoy the flavors of the season but want to have lighter dessers since the meals we usually eat tend to be on the heavy and rich side. I decided that I will share with you my Pumpkin Souffle Roulade with Rum scented cream, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with graham cracker crust, Apple cranberry gallette, and Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie. 
Some are light and airy while others rich and delicious but all are flavors of the season! 
That ought to get your mouth watering :)

First I present my beautiful, light and easy:

Pumpkin Soufflé Roulade

Prepare a ½ sheet pan measuring 12”x 18” with parchment paper on the bottom… no need to grease the pan.
Preheat your oven to 375°

In a large mixing bowl, measure out :

1 cup pumpkin puree
8 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon dark rum
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger

Mix together until smooth.

Then have ready:
8 egg whites
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Whip the egg whites with the salt until a foam begins.
Add the sugar very slowly so it absorbs into the whites.
Whip the whites until a stiff but still soft peak forms.
Fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture and carefully lay out the batter
into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. It will rise a bit and then fall when it cools. Don’t be alarmed. This is a soufflé and it will fall. The goal here is to create enough structure in the egg whites that it doesn’t fall completely but leaves a nice ½” thick cake to roll up with whipped cream.

The cream filling:
1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 T. dark rum

Whip the cream with the sugar and rum until stiff peaks form.
Lay the soufflé out on plastic wrap with powdered sugar sifted on it so it doesn’t stick.
Spread the cream over in an even layer.
On the long side of the cake nearest to you, begin to roll the cake up using the plastic wrap. Start by folding the end up in a tiny roll so it makes it easier to roll the cake up. Wrap it in the plastic, refrigerate for several hours and serve with powdered sugar sifted over top.

This can be made a day ahead and left in the refrigerator until service. It has all the flavors of the holiday without the heaviness. 

NEXT: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
This was my Mom's favorite pie in the 50's and I now see it re-emerging from the past. If you have not tried it I suggest you do... what a surprise. So light and airy but still very traditional. No one will be disappointed with this slight change in tradition! 
This pie is not baked but cooked on top of the stove. Gelatin is added so it is NOT a vegetarian pie but if you make it one day ahead and leave it in the fridge it will have a perfect consistency. 
The cream can be flavored with cinnamon or nutmeg or just lovely vanilla. Your choice!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
1, 9” deep dish pie plate

Graham Cracker Nut Crust

Combine 1-3/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and
1/2 cup melted butter

1.    Melt the butter and pour it over the crumb/ nut mixture and with your hands rub it in until the crumbs and moist and hold together when you squeeze them in your hands.
2.    Place all the crust in the pie pan and begin pressing up the sides of the pan. When the sides are covered in a tightly pressed layer then press the bottom down. If you have too many crumbs don’t try to use them or your crust will be too thick and make this light pie much heavier. Instead wrap them well and freeze them for another pie.
3.    Bake your crust for 5 minutes in a 350°F to set the crust.
4.    Let cool before adding your filling.
Pumpkin filling

1 T gelatin bloomed in ¼ cup cold water
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
1 ¼ cup canned pumpkin
2 egg yolks
1 ¼ cup evaporated milk
  1. Place all of the above ingredients into the top of a bain marie or double boiler and cook about 10 minutes until it mounds on a spoon or holds a ribbon.
  2. Take off heat and add softened gelatin stirring until dissolved.
  3. Cool pumpkin mixture.
2 egg whites
¼ cup sugar

  1. On an electric mixer whip the egg whites until foam begins to form and then slowly pour in the sugar.
  2. Whip until stiff peaks form being careful not to over whip to dry peaks.
  3. Fold whites into the cooled pumpkin mixture and pour into prepared and pre-baked pie crust.
  4. Let set up in refrigerator for at least an hour and then ice with sweetened whipped cream.
 Ok well everyone loves apple desserts (I think, anyway) so I wanted to do a twist to the regular old but wonderful all American apple pie. The french do not use cinnamon in their apple desserts which to us Americans sounds down right unpatriotic so I will give you a French style pie with all the American flavors!

Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart

Cream Cheese Pie dough: (two 10” tarts)
   12 oz. room temperature unsalted butter
   12 oz. room temperature cream cheese
   1 tsp.salt 
   1 tsp. lemon juice
   14 oz. AP flour

Make the dough:
   In a bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter and cream cheese until they are well blended. Add the salt and lemon juice and then the flour. Mix only until blended. Do not over mix. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Apple cranberry filling for two tarts:
  4#  golden delicious or granny smith apples (before peeling and coring)
  6 oz dried natural cranberries
  3 Tbl. Cornstarch
  6 oz. sugar
  2 tsp. Cinnamon! 
  ½ tsp. allspice
  2 oz. butter melted

Make the filling:
  Peel, core and slice the apples rather thin. Place them in a large bowl with the cranberries and add the flour, all but one TBL of the sugar, allspice, vanilla and melted butter. Toss until all the fruit is covered.

 Assemble the tart:
 Roll the dough out into a 14” circle and about 1/8 of an inch thick.
 Mound fruit mixture in center of dough, leaving 3-inch border. Fold dough border over fruit, pleating loosely and pinching to seal any cracks. Bush dough with beaten egg. Sprinkle dough with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake tart until crust is brown and filling bubbles, about 45 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack and cool tart slightly, about 20 minutes. Slide metal spatula under all sides of crust to free from parchment. Using large tart pan bottom as aid, transfer tart to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream. 

AND last but certainly not least my very very wonderful Maple Bourbon Pecan pie which, by the way, does not have any CORN SYRUP in it! YAY! 
It is by far the very best pecan pie I have ever had the pleasure to eat! 
I love this pie but have always hated the corn syrup part which is what make it too sweet and very sticky in your mouth. 
This pie will be neither! Perfectly sweet, nutty and with a touch of Bourbon which makes is very Southern. I think you will never make another recipe when you make this one!

Maple Pecan Pie with Bourbon

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup maple syrup 

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 large eggs (lightly beaten)

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 pie crust (chilling in the fridge until used)

1. Bake the pecans in a preheated 350F until nicely toasted, about 8-12 minutes.
2. Heat the sugar, syrup, bourbon and butter in a large saucepan until it boils, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from heat and let cool.

4. Beat in the eggs, cream, vanilla and salt.
5. Spread the pecans over the bottom of the pie crust.

6. Pour the liquid mixture into the pie crust.
7. Bake in a preheated 350F until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What is an Entremet anyway?

Whenever I try to describe this divine dessert the question I often encounter is, "what the heck is an entremet?" It is not surprising to me that most Americans haven't experienced the luscious layers of goodness in this very French dessert but all you have to do is frequent a high end bake shop in a large city and most are now making them. They usually have a high shine glaze on top with either chocolate or fresh fruit garnishes and sometimes both... Inside are multiple layers of flavors and sometimes textures too.
I had the pleasure of working with a French Chef who was proficient in making these wondrous sweet fantasies. I will share the information but can not provide a recipe since they are very very long and very complicated. BUT at least you will know how they are made and the next time you come across one you will be more than tempted to try it!    
They are typically made using a 4.5 cm tall by 8" wide ring mold and acetate liner. The one you see above has two crisp layers of walnut meringue and is filled with alternating mounds of chocolate and vanilla mousse. This is the more simple style of entremet with no glazing and a very simple garnish.                                                                                                          

These desserts can be as simple or complex as you would like them to be. The important aspect of them is they have layered flavors. How many layers? How many flavors? Well, that is up to the creator. The ones I am sharing with you are somewhat simple in flavor combinations but never simple in makeup and assembly!

This is one of my favorite flavor combos but the mousse that surrounds the center has 4 different recipes just in the one mousse! It is a caramel mousse surrounding a vanilla sponge cake and the center is a pear mousse that has chunks of poached pear. It is garnished with a cold mirror glaze and dark chocolate rings.
The real secret to these desserts is a very very cold freezer. I mean a below 0°F freezer. Each step is done  individually and everything needs to be complete before you assemble. In other words, with this beauty you need to have the cake baked, the pear center made and frozen before you make the complicated caramel mousse. Then you pipe the mousse into the ring, press the thin layer of cake in it so the mousse goes up the sides of the ring, then pull out your frozen pear center place it on top, then more mousse then the last layer of cake. Put the entire cake into the freezer until frozen solid. You have built it upside down! When you take it out of the ring it will have a perfectly flat top and the cake will be on the bottom! Clever, huh? Well, they are all not done like this but it is a great technique for creating a perfectly square cake.

The next entremet I want to share with you is the chocolate mint entremet. It has layers of chocolate sponge, chocolate mousse and a center of mint mousse. My favorite technique used for this one is the top striped layer!
You begin by making some simple ganache and using an icing knife spread the ganache on a silpat and then using a cake comb pull the comb straight through the ganache to create the stripes and freeze.
Meanwhile, make your mint mousse for the frozen center piece, spread some of the mint mousse over the stripes and freeze the entire thing as well as the rest of the mousse which goes into a smaller molds (4" fleximolds) to be placed in the center of the cake when assembled.
When all is frozen you bring out the silpat with the stripes and put your ring down on top of it. Then you begin to build the cake upside down just as the pear one was built.
The cake was baked in a 6" pan. This way all the center pieces are surrounded with the chocolate mousse. The garnishes are white chocolate splattered with green cocoa butter for color and again the glaze is a cold mirror glaze.
Don't you just want to bite it? Well, although beautiful with the shinny glaze and colorful garnishes it is important to remember the flavors! They should be packed with layers of flavor and not just sweet and pretty to look at! I have seen entremet with as many as 8 layers and four complimentary flavors.
To all my pastry chef colleagues out there, make these, create new flavors and most of all have fun! This is what our customers are wanting, fun new flavors and textures to delight the mouth!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

James Durbin's wedding cake and other cake matters...

Since it has been almost one year since I have written a word... I thought I might begin by sharing some of my lastest greatest creations! I will also add some tips and tricks I used to make the cakes beautiful in case any of you are interested in cake decorating and like the designs that I fashioned.
First of all my big thrill of the year! James and Heidi Durbin's wedding cake!
If you are not familiar with them, James was on Season 10 of American Idol and really should have won if you ask me but all is fair since he came in forth, got a record deal, sold 40,000 records the first two weeks it came out and was recently married to the love of his life and the mother of his beautiful little boy!
I had the extraordinary opportunity to make their wedding cake!
First of all, I would like to share with you the inspiration for the design:
Heidi, his wife has Faithfully on hers and James has Forever Yours on his. Both are lyrics from the Journey song "Faithfully. Kinda romantic... even if you don't like tattoos, right?
So here is the cake:
She wanted something more romantic and feminine and he a bit more rock and roll, so I came up with this idea! it embodies both and is very personal as well. I was thrilled to be part of their special day!

So here is how I did it:
First you should know that this is a buttercream cake NOT fondant icing!
Second the ribbon around the bottom is real satin ribbon this way if you client doesn't really like fondant, the ribbon can be easily removed.
Lastly the lettering I made with black fondant that I bought already colored, way easier than trying to make black!
I made each letter by hand by rolling out each little piece and forming the letters on a marked "cutting mat" that has graphic measurements on it so I can make sure the letters are all the same size.
I followed the picture of the tattoos for the main words and found a website with fancy lettering for tattoos to design the initials on the bottom layer.
I then used a white luster dust to highlight each letter making them pop even more.
After letting them dry for a couple of days, I assembled them piece by piece. By that I mean that each line was separate from the others in the letter. For instance, the F has a top line, a middle line and smaller curly lines for accent. Each one was placed on the cake separately. I did not glue them together until they went on the cake. This way I could prevent cracking as I tried to place flat letters around a round surface. It worked beautifully!
They were so happy with the cake that the bride emailed me at 2:30 AM on her wedding night to tell me so! And if that were not enough, on Monday January 9th 2012 People magazine did an article on the wedding with a video showing them cutting the cake and then they mentioned The Cake Shoppe by Chefany as the creator of the cake!! Wooooo HOOOO!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Swiss meringue buttercream...It's about time I wrote something!!!

I know, I know it's been a couple of months since I have written a word... I have multitudes of excuses... Wanna hear them? Now? No? oh... ok then I will just apologize and get on with it!
How about if I answer the tons of questions that I get about how I get such smooth and shiny icing on my cupcakes and how I make my wedding cakes so straight and smooth?
Ah, you like that idea... great! I will also share some of the beautiful cakes I have been making lately!
This one has fondant icing but the next one is Swiss Meringue buttercream. 
This is the Buttercream cake with real ribbon on it and fresh flowers.

I prefer to use European style buttercreams such as the Swiss meringue and the Italian meringue but I also like a french style butterceam which uses a pastry cream and butter combo. This one is highly perishable however so I hesitate to use it on any cake that has to sit out at room temp for more than 4 hours.
I will give you some tips I have learned about how to be successful with these types of real buttercreams.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes about 4 cups

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened, cut into tablespoons
2 tsp. vanilla

Put egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).

Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add flavoring and continue beating 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles.
This recipe can be doubled or tripled with no problem! 

Sounds easy enough, eh? Well, it is when you understand the method and what it takes to not get either "cottage cheese" or "butter soup"... my pet names for the common problems.
Both problems are fixable but you need to know what happened in order to fix it right? 
The first problem, "cottage cheese", is when your meringue and butter are to cold to emulsify or incorporate properly. The important thing to remember when putting the butter into the meringue is they need to be about the same temperature. If the butter is too cold and the meringue cooled to room temperature then you will get very stiff or even broken buttercream. This can be remedied by adding a bit of heat to your bowl and whisking. You can either put the bowl over low heat while whisking by hand or leaving it on the mixer get out your little brulee torch and torch the bottom of the bowl moving the flame around not leaving it one place to actually melt the butter but to warm it so they smooth out and mix together properly. 
This comes to the "soup" problem... too much heat and the butter melts into the meringue giving you a buttercream that never seems to thicken up. This can be remedied by putting the bowl of buttercream in the refrigerator and letting it stiffen up in there, usually overnight so give yourself plenty of time the first time you make this ...just in case... Pull the bowl out and put it back on the mixer with a whisk. Put it on low speed and let it go until it smooths out and comes together. This may take 5-10 minutes so be patient! If it looks like it is not coming together after that amount of time then you can add a bit of heat to the bowl, being careful not to over heat it again! 
NEVER throw your buttercream away if it isn't right!! That's a lot of butter!! Try to fix it and if you are feeling desperate that nothing is working then you can add a bit more butter to it! Use it as a filling by adding some melted unsweetened chocolate to it... it will taste great but it will be hidden in the center rather on the outside. To reassure you though, you CAN fix most any problems with buttercream by being patient and understanding how this all works!