Delicious & Easy Vanilla Buttercream (without so much sweetener)

Delicious Vanilla Buttercream - you don't need a lot of sweetener to make great frosting!

Rich buttercream, lightly sweetened and with hints of vanilla is the perfect frosting for many cupcake and cakes. This version is significantly less sweetened than the typical recipe and is still delicious and sweet!

It seems you are either in one of two camps – either you scrape the frosting off of your cake, or you eat cake so that you can enjoy frosting. Me? It depends. The typical store-bought cake with dyed, (gross) frosting was always discarded by me in the past. But, if the cake was homemade and contained real food ingredients? Bring it on!

One of the culinary issues I have with typical buttercreams is that they use so much sweetener. Maybe I just have lost my taste for such overly sweet foods, but even in my childhood I found most frosting cloying sweet. I now wonder if there was so much sweetener used to mask the taste of low-quality ingredients?

Regardless, we have been quite happy with my still sweet, but not-so-cloying sweet frostings. All of which are made with real food ingredients too!

So far I have shared the following frosting recipes:

The 7 minute frosting is an old favorite of mine. It tastes a little bit like marshmallows and is so forgiving when using it to frost a cake. (Unfortunately, it contains eggs that half of us don’t tolerate well.) The Chocolate Buttercream is a lovely example of how sweet and delicious a frosting can be without so much sugar (it’s a favorite frosting!), while the Chocolate Ganache is honey sweetened and even dairy-free! Other options for a simple frosting it using naturally sweetened whipped cream (frost right before you serve).

Whipped Cream Recipes

Chocolate Whipped Cream
Maple Whipped Cream
Strawberry Whipped Cream

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For my daughter’s Gluten-free “Frozen” birthday party (where we also served “snowball cookies,” i.e. Mexican Wedding Cookies), we made snowmen cupcakes that needed a frosting that looked like snow. Vanilla frosting was the obvious choice. In the past, I have used coconut sugar, honey, and even maple syrup to sweeten my frosting. Here’s a breakdown of vanilla frosting with these sweeteners:

Coconut sugar: You can use the same amount as the powdered sugar, but it will have a very caramel-like flavor (delicious, but not typical for vanilla frosting), and will also not be a very white, or creamy colored frosting.

Honey or Maple Syrup: These are also delicious, with the maple syrup changing the color more. However, since you are adding liquid to the frosting, you will need to know that it will not be a pipe-able frosting, OR you will need to add a little coconut flour to the frosting (start with 2 tablespoons, and use up to 4 tablespoons) to firm it up. (This was a trick I learned from the cookbook: Paleo Indulgences )

Today, I am sharing the recipe we used for our snowmen cupcakes that uses organic powdered sugar (This brand I’ve linked to is corn-free, and made this way, “Our powdered sugar is made by simply grinding our Fairtrade Organic Sugar to a fine, fluffy powder (12x) and adding 3% organic tapioca to prevent clumping.”) This is a very crowd friendly frosting since it resembles more typical buttercreams, yet it uses so much less sweetener than the typical frosting recipe. I used a one-to-one ratio of sweetener to butter, instead of the more typical 1 part butter to 3 or 4 parts sweetener. It also is pipe-able, which is so much fun!

Delicious & Easy Vanilla Buttercream (without so much sweetener)
 
Author:
 
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes, or one layer 9 inch cake. See notes above about different variations of sweeteners.
Ingredients
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) butter, room temperature (I prefer organic and/or pastured)
  • 1 cup of powdered organic sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream of full fat coconut milk, as needed (I've also used almond milk with success)
Instructions
  1. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixture, or use a hand mixture to combine the butter and sugar in a bowl, on low speed, until combined. Then increase speed to medium and mix for about three minutes, or until the frosting is smooth and airy.
  2. Add in vanilla, and cream/milk of choice, until you get the right consistency (mixing for about one more minute).
  3. Frost right away. If it is a really hot day, or you have a hot house and find that the frosting is too soft, simply refrigerate until it gets the right consistency.

 

Grain Free Mexican Wedding Cookies

Grain Free Mexican Wedding Cookies

These cookies should come with a warning: Utterly addictive. Be forewarned. They are everything that I love about Mexican Wedding cookies – nutty, buttery, lightly sweet, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. They also happen to be grain and gluten-free.

(These cookies are also commonly called Mexican Wedding Cakes or Russian Tea Cakes.)

If I was just going to make one cookie recipe a year, this one would be it. Mexican wedding cookies and I go way back. They are a deeply impended favorite, so I am thrilled that I finally have an allergy-friendly version to enjoy for a special treat!

We made these for our daughter’s “Frozen” themed birthday party – we went with a snowy theme, and “snowball cookies” fit into that well, and looked lovely on the table with the décor. But truthfully, I would eat these if they looked like reindeer poo’ because they simply have such a wonderful flavor!

I used just two flours in this recipe – almond and tapioca flour. I’ve been noticing many, many paleo-ish recipes using this combination, and so have started experimenting with it myself. It really works well in this recipe! I’m excited to continue to experiment with other recipes with this flour combination.

(Amazon links below are affiliate)

I adapted this recipe from The Joy of Cooking. I continue to be amazed that often I get better results adapting from old gluten-filled recipes, then when starting with a gluten-free recipe.

I use a very finely ground almond flour (like this one). I am not sure how they would turn out using a more coarsely ground flour. I also choose to go ahead and use organic powdered sugar for this recipe. Because I was making these for a crowd of friends, I wanted the flavor to be very similar to traditional Mexican Wedding Cookies. However, I think that they could be very delicious with coconut sugar! Coconut sugar tends to add a caramel undertone to baked goods that I actually like; it’s just not quite as delicate. You can also powder coconut sugar for a more delicate texture (and even add a little arrowroot powder to it to mimic store-bought powdered sugar). Regardless, one of the aspects I love about these cookies is that they aren’t very high in sugar.

I choose to use chopped almonds in place of the more traditional chopped pecans simply because I was making a double batch, and it was so much cheaper. However, they tasted just perfect! So use whatever nut you prefer.

I did use a food processor in this recipe, and made the cookies small (they will hold together the best this way – and they seemed very much like regular cookies!).

Grain Free Mexican Wedding Cookies 2

Grain Free Mexican Wedding Cookies
 
Author:
Serves: 3 dozen
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped almonds (or pecans or walnuts)
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) room temperature butter (I recommend organic and/or pastured butter)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup organic powdered sugar (see notes above)
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup finely ground almond flour
  • Extra powdered sugar for dusting, as desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. On a large sheet pan, place the chopped nuts, and toast, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes, or just until you start to smell their aroma released. Set aside to cool, and turn off oven. Once cool, grind further in the food processor (you want fairly fine bits, not chunks). Don't over-process and make it oily or powdery.
  2. Dump out into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Now place the butter, salt, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla extract into the food processor and process (scrapping down the sides as needed) until smooth and fluffy. Add the nuts back in and process until combined. Now add the two flours. and process once more. If you have a small food processor that can't handle all of the ingredients, simply scrap out the butter/sugar mixture into a bowl, and hand mix the flours into it.
  4. Now place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes at least, or until the dough has firmed up enough to be able to roll into balls (You may find it necessary to leave for up to 2 hours, depending on how cold your refrigerator is).
  5. Once ready, preheat the oven again to 350F, and use a teaspoon to scoop out batter and roll lightly into balls, and place on a parchment covered sheet about 1-inch apart (there will be some spreading). Baking one sheet at a time (placing dough back into the fridge between batches), bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to brown.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool on sheet for about ten minutes to firm before removing to cool rack. Repeat rolling/baking/cooling process until all of the cookies are cooked.
  7. Using a sieve, lightly dust the cookies with powdered sugar, if desired, for that snowy sweet look.

 

Super-Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Chips

Super-Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Chips - The Nourishing Gourmet

Peanut butter, unrefined sugar, coconut oil and vanilla are combined, hardened in the freezer then sliced into bite-sized morsels of bliss. These silky, sweet & salty little chips taste divine on their own, but this is a dangerous path to tread! I try to reserve them for a special treat atop ice cream or in cookies and other baked goods.

You may also want to check out the many other mouth-watering peanut butter recipes on this blog!

It was my 3-year old daughter who first opened the door to peanut butter chips. We were shopping at Trader Joe’s when she made the decision to place a bag into her kid-sized cart. My knee-jerk reaction was to quickly and nicely veto it, then redirect her to the dried mango. But I paused and skimmed the ingredients. Could have been worse. I decided to stroke her confidence and bring them home.

Last time she did this I ended up with 5 cans of sardines! I got a little creative them them.

Super-Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Chips - The Nourishing Gourmet

How these chips act in baking (it’s a little different)

When you take out the additives, and use unprocessed ingredients, peanut butter chips melt at a lower temperature. So you have to store these in the freezer then take them out immediately before you use them.

  • In cookies and scones they work perfectly, leaving little pockets of gooey goodness.
  • In muffins they leave somewhat concentrated pockets of peanut butter but they get absorbed by the muffin so there is no change in texture. Could be a good thing, but I’m just letting you know what to expect. (I’ve only tried them in coconut flour muffins, so they might act differently with less spongy flours.)
  • In waffles & pancakes – I haven’t tried this yet but I’m assuming they will work similar to the cookies since they are cooked quickly.
  • Over ice cream they are absolutely delicious!

Super-Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Chips - The Nourishing Gourmet

Using unrefined powdered sugar

You’ll need to use powdered sugar in these. Thankfully making your own unrefined powdered sugar is easy!

I have also tried a different method, leaving the sugar un-powdered and melting all the ingredients over the stove. For whatever reason, I had a surprisingly difficult time getting the coconut sugar to melt so powdering your sugar first is definitely the way to go.

UPDATE: I think melting the ingredients gently on the stove-top then cooling would work. I thought the coconut sugar wasn’t melting but now I realize that the graininess I was tasting was the texture in the natural peanut butter – it was more prominent when it was melted. I think the  graininess would be unnoticeable when cooled!

I hope you enjoy them!

Super-Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Chips - The Nourishing Gourmet

Super-Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Chips
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Topping, Add-In
Serves: about 4 cup
 
These simple and delicious peanut butter chips come in handy for many purposes.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup powdered coconut palm sugar or powdered sucanat (it's easy to make your own)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sea salt, to taste (if your peanut butter is not salted)
Instructions
  1. Stir together the ingredients until smooth.
  2. Pour into a parchment paper lined baking pan (mine was 9x13)
  3. Freeze for 1 hour
  4. Slice up into chips (for best results, place the pan on cooling packs when doing this)
  5. Store in the freezer until immediately before use
Notes
You can certainly reduce the sugar! I put in a fair amount because we usually make our baked goods not-too-sweet so we like a sweet chip inside them.

Almond and sunflower seed butters would also work well.

Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Sauce (dairy free option and maple syrup sweetened)

Apple cinnamon ice cream with salted caramel sauce (dairy free option and maple syrup sweetened)

By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

Creamy coconut milk flavored with spicy cinnamon, maple syrup, sautéed apples in butter, topped with Kimi’s easy peasy caramel sauce. This is the perfect ice cream to try as summer gives way to fall. Local apples made their first appearance at our natural food store a couple weeks ago and I’ve been eager to start transitioning my light summer cooking to the more hearty flavors of autumn.

Apple orchards are bountiful in New England and, in season, local organic apples are incredibly affordable. The benefits of eating local produce, and supporting the families that grow it, is a priority for us. We don’t buy everything local and organic, but when we are able to it’s so worth it. Not only is local produce more nutritious, it’s highly sustainable, and some of the most delicious food available to us. Every September I’m sad to say goodbye to strawberries and tomatoes, but I’ll be embracing the local apples, squash and potatoes with open arms.

My husband and I recently welcomed an almost three year old little boy into our family from the foster care system. I’ve been having so much fun teaching him about different kinds of fruits and vegetables. He’ll try anything once, which has been such a pleasant surprise for me. I can’t wait to take him apple picking this fall and make one of his favorite foods – applesauce! For days, he had been looking forward to trying this ice cream, and with the speed it left his bowl and entered his little belly, I can confidently say it’s “toddler approved” :)

I love sweetening my ice cream recipes with raw honey or maple syrup. Maple syrup is packed with important antioxidant minerals like manganese and zinc, which helps boost the immune system. It’s a fantastic alternative to refined sugar and corn syrup. Be sure that your maple syrup is 100% pure, as most store bought syrups are mixed with corn syrup and other highly processed sweeteners.

I’m sad to say that I had never tried Kimi’s salted caramel sauce recipe until a few days ago. It’s so simple to make (Really! You don’t need to be an experienced candy maker for this one), and a decadent addition to this autumn flavored ice cream. My spoon has dipped into the jar more times than I can count since making it. Don’t skip this part!

Earlier this summer we invested in a long-awaited ice cream maker, which is necessary for this recipe. We have used it many times so far, and I’m confident it’s never going to collect dust with some of my other unused appliances. Homemade ice cream is just so good! We have this 2-quart ice cream maker, but I know Kimi and many others
love this smaller version as well.

Other ice cream recipes:

Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Sauce (dairy free option and maple syrup sweetened)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
 
This delicious apple cinnamon ice cream is perfect for fall! Local apples, creamy coconut milk, and Kimi's salted caramel sauce makes this a decadent dessert that can be enjoyed all season.
Ingredients
  • APPLES:
  • 2 small to medium sized apples, peeled and cubed (any kind will do, but I used local Jonagold)
  • 4 Tbls butter (or substitute coconut oil to make it dairy free)
  • 2 Tbls coconut sugar (maple syrup or honey works too)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • ICE CREAM:
  • 2 cans of full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbls ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • CARAMEL SAUCE:
  • http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2013/12/easy-peasy-caramel-sauce-dairycane-sugarcorn-syrup-free.html
Instructions
  1. Peel and cube the apples.
  2. Add the butter (or coconut oil for dairy free) to a heavy bottomed pan and allow it to melt, on medium heat, until foamy. Toss in the apple pieces, coconut sugar, cinnamon and salt, making sure to coat everything evenly. Sauté until the apples are tender.
  3. While the apples are cooking, put all the ice cream ingredients into a bowl, or a half gallon mason jar. I love using a hand blender to mix everything together, but a whisk works fine too.
  4. Place the ice cream mixture and the cooked apples, separately, into the refrigerator for about two hours. It's important that the ingredients are cold upon entering the ice cream maker.
  5. While you wait for everything to chill, prepare Kimi's salted caramel sauce (and try not to eat it all before the ice cream is made!).
  6. After everything is chilled, follow your ice cream makers instructions for making the ice cream. I typically blend the ice cream mixture for about 25-30 minutes, and then add the cooked apples for a final 5 minutes.
  7. Top with a generous drizzle of the caramel sauce.
Notes
I have a 2 quart ice cream maker and used two 13.5 oz cans of coconut milk. Use a bit less for smaller machines, maybe only 3 cups worth of the coconut milk.