Buttercream Frosting: There are many recipes for buttercream frosting and this is Kelly Delaney’s favorite because it is easy to make and tastes great. She highly recommends it for decorating your cakes. Frosting is also available in grocery stores, but if you have the time you may wish to try making your own.

l pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1⁄2 cups sugar
6 large egg whites


1. Whip butter in a 5-quart bowl of an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
2. Combine the sugar and egg whites in another 5-quart bowl.
3. Set the sugar and egg whites bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (ban marie) and whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and egg whites are warm (testing like a baby’s bottle, warm to touch on your wrist).
4. Remove from stove and whip on electric mixer on high speed until mixture forms stiff peaks.
5. Switch the whip attachment to a paddle attachment. Add whipped butter, a little at a time, mixing until well incorporated. (The longer you mix it, the lighter and better the buttercream is to work with.)

Note: The frosting can be made 72 hours in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of Kelly Delaney, Cakes for Occasions, 2009.
This is a special cake for a special graduate and includes a few lessons on working with extra dark frosting. Learn how to color when using extra dark.

I want to teach you a little trick when you're actually making these dark colors coming up for all the graduation parties you're going to. A lot of times, people take a big amount of frosting and they try to add their food coloring to that. What I'm going to want you to do is take a little bit of frosting and then add your food coloring to that. So I've got some frosting here. I'm just going to remove a little bit. I want to make almost like a roux, if you will, when you're cooking. And I don't know if you know that term, but it's more like a paste that you use in order to make something, like I make a sauce. So I want to make a roux of color.

So I'm taking my black food coloring and I'm adding it to a little bit of white. And what this is going to do, it's going to make a more concentrated color that we need for our black for our hat. Now, add a little bit more food coloring. I'm making a real thick, dark, black frosting here. This is great. Now, what we're going to do is we're going to add a little bit of white to this. And by adding a little bit of white at a time, your color is going to stay. It's going to stay as black as possible.

It would have taken about a whole bottle of food coloring, and you're probably going to need only about 3 to 4 tablespoons. So it's going to save you on your food coloring. It's also going to save you on the time that it takes and the frustration. And, more importantly too, because this is food coloring and food coloring does stain or it does dye your teeth and your fingers and everything because it's natural, you're less likely to have the staining for longer periods of time. It's good all around this little trick.

So we've got this all here and we're ready to go. Now, I'm going to take my offset and I'm going to frost the side of the cake, and only the top plane. I did a skim coat of regular white frosting. I'm just going to apply this black to it. And when you're using this dark color, try the best you can not to get any excess on your board It's going to be a bear to clean up after because it's going to stain because there's paper on this board. So I've got the frosting all over the cake.

I'm just actually going to go through and just smooth it out. When you're working with the dark colors, even I sometimes get frustrated a little bit because they tend to show more. The contrast is there, so it just takes a little bit more patience. Now, this part I'm just going to use a regular pieces of cardboard. Now the trick is I have an 8" cake here and this is a 10" cardboard, but it's sitting on a 12" circle. And we want to do that because we want to be able to put this into a box and put it into the right size box. So this cardboard down here goes in the box so it doesn't hit the cake. So I just apply my cardboard down like that, and I'm just going to smooth out the frosting onto the cardboard.

And what we're making, obviously, is the graduation cap. Instead of using cardboard if you wanted to, you can actually make a big cookie and put it right on top. You could use fondants. And if you use fondant, you'd want to make sure that you let it dry. But you'd want to make sure that you let it dry for a good couple of days. But then you can't refrigerate your cake if you did the fondant, so you've got to decide which way you want to go. We like using just the cardboard. It's sturdier. It just pops right off before it's served. And it's just about the appearance of it.

So I have some fondant. I colored it black. And I'm going to be using this because I realize that when I put the tassel over, it's going to be suspended in air and the frosting isn't going to suspend in air, so you need to have something there that you can pipe onto. So fondant works out really well. So I'm just going to use this as a prop. And we're going to end up frosting right over it. So that goes right in the middle.

And I'm going to do something a little bit opposite of what I usually do. One would think that you're going to want to start here and end at the tassel part, but because I want to kind of give that look of this tassel, I'm gong to start with the actual hanging part. And I'm going to be using this tip. This is a number 233. It's what we call a grass tip. It could be used for hair. This is going to be used for our tassel because you know when you wear those graduation caps, the strings come down the side, and we're going to use this to give that look.

And I'm going to just pipe along this. You've got high school graduation, college graduations, preschool graduations even. This cake lends itself for any celebration for graduations this coming season. And the fondant is really there for structural purposes, not so much for taste but for structure. I'm not going to use any tip at all. I'm just going to use the white coupling part. And I'm going to pipe right over the fondant so it almost makes it look like it's just one long line. And I'm going to start down here where the tassel is. Again, I'm going the opposite like I usually do. I usually start in the middle and then go this way. In this case for the look, I need to go into this way. So I just pipe down and right in. And then make my top. So you have your tassel.

Graduation caps don't have borders around, but this is a cake after all, so you'd still need to remember that you still need to finish it off. So I'm going to use this. And I'm actually just going to do small little beads. I'm already thinking about what I'm going to do in the bottom of the cake. It's easy to do. It's one of those cakes that it seems more difficult than it is. I'm going to use this in a different way than I usually do. I'm going to spin my wheel and I'm going to keep applying pressure. I'm going to make a band. Don't start at the front. You're going to start at the side because you're going to want that front to look seamless. So you're going to want to start at the side. This is the front. And I'm going to start over here. And what I'm going to do is I'm just going to apply pressure, keep spinning the wheel, and there's the base of your cake.

We've got class of 2010 right on the top, say congratulations. We do congratulations, and we do class on one side and then 2010 on the other. So this is a great graduation cap cake for anyone that's graduating this season, whether it's high school, college, or even preschool. Everyone's going to love it. And it's real simple to do. Have fun making it. It's a piece of cake.

Graduation Cake
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