If at first you don’t succeed

Anyone who knows me would say that I am an avid baker. I have successfully made a number of items that some people find challenging, such as pâte à choux, bûche de noël, and macarons. Yet there is one simple recipe that I have only made well once, and it is one that most people find quite easy: cream cheese frosting. 

carrot cake

I have no difficulty creating a lush carrot cake that is moist without being dense, but try as I may, the cream cheese icing always ends up gloopy (that’s a technical term, right?). I have tried many different recipes, including the one with which I originally had success, but somehow each time I manage to overbeat the cream cheese or do some other task incorrectly and the frosting comes out too soft, with an unpleasant gummy texture.

It’s as though the frosting can sense my fear: even when I precisely follow instructions and the icing starts out promising, by the time all is said and done, I wind up with the same sad frosting that slumps all over the cake. I can almost hear it mocking me from the mixing bowl. 

Despite what has probably amounted to nearly two dozen failed attempts at cream cheese frosting, I remain undaunted. Okay, maybe I am a little daunted. I wonder in despair about how many more times I will get my hopes up that *this* recipe, or *that* technique is going to pull me out of my goopy cream cheese icing nightmare, only to have those hopes dashed as the mixture in the bowl sags into a sad puddle. 

Achieving the ultimate fluffy yet silky cream cheese icing has become a near obsession, and right now my refrigerator houses the ingredients for another attempt. Wish me luck (tips and favorite recipes welcome!), and let me know if you have any dishes that have confounded you time and time again. 

Photo of Carrot cake from Bake from Scratch Magazine

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  • Rinshin  on  April 15, 2019

    Good luck on this endeavor. My elusive dish is perfecting 2nd Iron chef Japanese Michiba’s marinated cream cheese in miso and lightly grilled. I have attempted 4 times and not only my attempts look ugly but taste is not there. Again, we dined at his restaurant in Ginza so I can try the small morsel of his famous cream cheese in hope that will help me get closer. Everyone who tries his cream cheese swoons.

  • cookbookaddict2020  on  June 2, 2019

    what you want to do is mix the cream cheese into an already beaten and aerated buttercream. The initial mix of powdered sugar and butter needs to be mixed to buttercream volume – like 8-10 minutes in the mixer – and be at cool room temp. Then, mix in the cream cheese – which needs to be at room temperature also, to avoid lumps. Mix it in minimally. The more you beat it once the cream cheese is in, the greater the gloop risk.

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