Here at Kitchen Mischief, we’re all about getting creative in the kitchen. As we all know, straying from a recipe can lead to disaster. But sometimes … it leads to perfection. Such was the case with my Mom’s recent adventures making homemade caramel icing.
Whereas I tend to cook by the seat of my pants, Mom cooks with her reading glasses on, her recipe at the ready. But that doesn’t mean she avoids all mischief. Her pantry and fridge are kinda like the Bermuda Triangle … things seem to “disappear.” She’ll find herself four steps into a recipe and realize she’s missing something crucial. Usually this means a trip to the store for Dad; sometimes it’s solved by a substitution. In the case of her homemade caramel icing, she didn’t have the required half and half, so she channeled Paula Deen and used full-on heavy cream. Oh yeah, you bet she did.
I tell you what — I am constantly droning on about lightening recipes and eating healthy and blah blah blah. But that icing — Mother Francis! Absolutely delicious. It was like eating gold, if gold were edible and tasted like heaven.
Sometimes you need to indulge. This icing is worth indulging for. Take a minute to watch these very homemade video clips shot during our prep for my Dad’s 60th birthday. They’re about a minute each, and show you step-by-decadent-step how to make this amazing icing. Sorry for the shaky camera work. I’m new to this.
I was really nervous about her burning that sugar, but a few swirls of the pan helped it melt down quickly. Whew! Here comes the crazy part …
I’ll admit to being a bit terrified during this process … molten liquid and I don’t mix too well. I am one kitchen accident away from having hooks for hands.
Was it just me, or did it look like we were pouring a big pan of gravy into that bowl? Trust me, it was most certainly NOT gravy.
Taunting the chef is always a good idea.
Mom is kinda like me … her attention span gets shorter the longer a task takes. By the end, we thought she was just slapping that icing on … turns out it just cooled too much. TIP: Enlist someone to help so you get the icing on before it seizes up.
Honestly, I can’t believe there were that many cupcakes left. Not because the guests were pigging out — because I was!
The best part of all of this is that Mom started out with a recipe, encountered a little mischief, and ended up creating something absolutely delicious. She made the recipe her own, and so it will go down here in our little slice of culinary history: Judy’s Caramel Icing. I don’t even need to hope you will enjoy — I know you will.
PS: I can’t mention caramel icing without a shout-out to our late great Mary Rowland, my mom’s mother and our family matriarch, who we remember affectionately as May. Her adventures making caramel icing inspired Mom to try her hand at it. What an awesome gift to pass from one generation to the next.
Until next time, celebrate your own culinary memories, and as always, have fun playing in the kitchen.
PPS: The Recipe!
David pointed out that I neglected to share the recipe for this icing, so doing it yourself might be difficult. Mom’s in Honduras, so here’s the gist…
2/3 cup white sugar (for caramelizing)
2 1/2 cups sugar + 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
dash of salt
1 stick unsalted butter
3 tsp vanilla
First, get your cream/sugar mixture going. Combine in a saucepan over med-high heat. While that’s coming to a boil, caramelize 2/3 cup of sugar in a separate pan. I wish I could recommend a heat setting. Mom started around low, then went to high. I really don’t think she understands the medium setting. I would start at medium and work my way up to medium-high, just because I am nervous like that. Or you can just follow her method…it obviously worked out just fine! Just remember DO NOT STIR the caramelizing sugar. We swirled the pan a bit, but that’s all.
When your sugar has caramelized and your cream/sugar pot is boiling, add a dash of salt first, then add the caramelized sugar slowly, stirring gently. Pop in the candy thermometer, and cook to the “soft-ball” phase. I think I said “soft boil” in the video, but that’s because I’m kinda dumb. We weren’t making eggs, genius!
Once you hit the soft-ball phase, pour into a bowl, stir in the butter and vanilla, and then beat the icing with an electric mixture until it cools to a spreading consistency.
Mischief Note: I cannot guarantee that this recipe is Mischief-proof. Any time you’re working with molten hot sugar and simultaneously boiling insanity, trouble is likely to ensue. We actually planned for this to not work…we did it early in the day so we’d have time to send Dad out to the store for more ingredients if disaster struck.