Friday, January 28, 2011

Citrus-Cream Cheese Frosting: My Year of Brethren Cooking

Newly invented orange-cream cheese frosting for Brethren-inspired Jam Cake, January 2011.
I recently discovered a recipe for Blackberry Jam Cake in my great-grandmother's copy of the Inglenook Cookbook and I just had to try it.  The recipe was three sentences long, so I really only had the general IDEA for Blackberry Jam Cake.  There were no oven temperature, no baking time, and only the single phrase "put together with white icing" to indicate how the cake should be frosted.  Unfortunately, there was no recipe for "white icing" in the entire cookbook.

I modified the recipe (and filled in some blanks) to create my own version of Blackberry Jam Cake.  The first time I made it, I topped the cake with my all-time favorite icing-- Seven Minute Frosting.  Let's just say it turned out to be a pretty bad idea.  Most of my testers ate the cake and left the frosting on their plates.

But I wasn't ready to give up.  I whipped up another batch of cake batter and made a dozen cupcakes and one small cake in a loaf pan.  I decided to hedge my bets and make two kinds of frosting this time around.  The first was a lemon glaze that was based on a recipe for "Boiled Icing" that I found in my great-grandmother's cookbook.  I ended up with what can only be described as lemon caramel. It was an interesting experiment and we DID eat the cake, but it wasn't what you would call "good" unless you're a dentist looking for new customers.

My second attempt was much more successful.  As regular readers of this blog know, I decided to use my great-grandmother's Brethren cookbook as the starting point for all new recipes this year.  But there's no recipe for cream cheese frosting in the Inglenook Cookbook.  It was time to get creative.  I picked an orange from the tree in our backyard and used it as the inspiration for this frosting.  I'm sure it would be just as good with a store-bought orange or even a lemon.

Citrus Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 8 ounces cream cheese (cold)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • The zest of one small orange or one medium lemon (approximately 1 tablespoon)


  • Place room temperature butter in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until it is smooth and creamy.  
  • Cut cold cream cheese into 1-inch pieces and add to mixing bowl.  Beat on low until it starts to combine, then turn up to medium speed until thoroughly combined.  Do not overbeat.
  • Add confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and orange zest.  Stir until combined.
  • You can spread this frosting onto cake or cupcakes using a knife (or small offset spatula) or put in pastry bag with decorating tip of your choice for a fancier look.
Ziplock bag outfitted with Wilton#18 star tip
  • If frosting is too soft to spread, refrigerate briefly until it reaches the desired consistency.  (This may happen if you're making it on a hot summer day.)
  • When I got ready to ice the cupcakes, I realized I'd run out of disposable pastry bags so I attached my Wilton #18 star tip to a ziplock bag using a standard size coupler.  (If you're not familiar with pasty bag couplers, check it out here.  They're the best.)  
  • If using a pastry bag or ziplock bag with pastry bag tip, you may need to add a splash of milk to make icing slightly thinner.  (I've even added a splash of milk directly to a ziplock bag and squished it around a bit before using.  Be sure to completely close the bag before "squishing" it.  I wouldn't recommend adding milk directly into a pastry bag since you can't close the pastry bag completely for the "squishing" process.)
  • In between icing cupcakes (or when filling bag with additional frosting), I like to rest my bag in a coffee cup so the icing doesn't leak out all over the counter.
Ziplock bag full of icing, waiting for a fresh cupcake to land on, January 2011.