Appetite For Instruction: Italian Buttercream Frosting

Demonstrated by Michael Tyler from Beyond the Box

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Pastry chef Michael Tyler is certainly not the sweet, gooey type. But the man makes a mean buttercream. At Beyond the Box Catering, Tyler bakes up everything from eye-catching occasion cakes to rich, flaky croissants for weddings, parties and corporate events. His oven gets more of a workout before 9 a.m. than ours did last year, so when we needed guidance in the dessert department, we knew just who to call.

Baking can be intimidating, but with Tyler's formula for Italian Buttercream at your fingertips, you have a home-cooked advantage. The truth is, we've all cracked open the cake mix at some point, and it can usually slip by under the radar. No amount of kitchen camouflage, however, can cover up frosting from a can.

This recipe is the solution, and it comes together in a snap. You'll need to invest in a candy thermometer, but it's a small price to pay to elevate a run of the mill cupcake to designer-level decadence.

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Step 1: Whip 8 egg whites to stiff peaks using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. A hand held mixer is fine, but we don't recommend doing this the old-fashioned way unless you're puttin' on quite a gun show.

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Step 2: Combine 16 oz. sugar and 8 oz. water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to exactly 240 °. Tyler recommends keeping a very close eye on it.

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Step 3: Add syrup to egg whites in a steady stream with the mixer running. Continue whipping until the mixture has cooled almost to room temperature, about 3 minutes.

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Step 4: Keep the mixer going and add 28 oz. cold butter a few tablespoons at a time. When butter has been incorporated, whip 4 more minutes until light and fluffy.

Step 5: Add the flavoring of your choice: 1 tsp. vanilla or 1-2 squares of melted unsweetened baking chocolate. Tyler's favorite twist is the addition of berries to the saucepan in Step 2. Heat a handful or two of the berries of your choice with the sugar and water and strain them out before proceeding with the recipe.

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Step 6: Frost away. You may never pay four bucks for a cupcake again. And you can even add sprinkles. So there.

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