I decided to make a batch of spice cake cupcakes today, and give cream cheese icing a try. The cupcakes were fine, but the icing was a bit of a dud at first. I used Alice's buttercream recipe and substituted 4 ounces of Philadelphia cream cheese (is there any other kind?) for one of the sticks of butter. It was ... okay. Not spectacular, by any means. Just okay. So I tossed in the other 4 ounces of cream cheese, added more powdered sugar and another slug of vanilla.
Aside: I've been having problems finding a vanilla extract I like (#FirstWorldProblems). The first bottle I bought was McCormick's, and it was fine. I started looking for other kinds, thinking there might be a difference - boy, was I right! I bought a bottle of organic vanilla extract, and it was almost flavorless. I bought a bottle of Wilton's Madagascar Vanilla thinking it would be more flavorful, and ended up using about twice the recommended amount. I need good vanilla!
Once I added the other half of the Philly, the icing really seemed to come together. It's extra creamy, and has that lovely tart Philly flavor. I think I did a pretty good job making it better than it started out being. I love that Alice has made it so easy to make a good icing: If it needs to be stiffer, just sift a little more powdered sugar into it. If it's too stiff, add a little more milk. No stress, just tweak it until it's how you want it!
I used a 2D tip instead of trying the new one I got at the bakers' supply shop, because the icing was so creamy.
I made one regular batch of 24 cupcakes, and a batch and a half of icing, and I still had 5 cupcakes left when the icing ran out! My husband said I might possibly be putting too much icing on the cupcakes. Philistine! Does he not know that the cupcakes exist only as a delivery vehicle for the icing? :-)
Lesson learned: Next time I'm going to do cream cheese icing, I think I'm going to leave out the butter and just use Philadelphia cream cheese. And I'm going to make a double batch, because that stuff is pure yum.