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Lizzy Wolf

Sugar+Butter

Interview: Julie Benoit | Photos: Mat Bobby

Lizzy Wolff who is the gal behind Sugar + Butter ( a blog specifically dedicated to her baking hobby/passion ) was kind enough to invite us into her home last weekend so we could check out what she is up to in her kitchen. She and her husband live in a newly renovated Longmont house on the east side of town. The afternoon light seeping though the windows was the perfect addition to her thoughtfully planned and minimally decorated kitchen. She had a dozen un-iced chocolate cupcakes resting on a cooling rack, waiting for us and ready to go. She packed icing into a big tube and we watched her carefully dress each cupcake, one by one, in cool shades of blue and purple that reminded me of the night sky on a summer night. After all 12 cupcakes were iced we watched her accessorize each one with sparkly gold and silver balls of crunchy sugar. It was fun to be the fly-on-the-wall and watch Lizzy playfully interact with the decadent cupcakes she baked for us. She was kind enough to send us on our way with some tasty cupcakes and also the recipe to share with you all!

JB: Do you want to share a recipe with us???

LW: I’d love to share a favorite of mine – it is my go-to chocolate cupcake and vanilla buttercream. It’s a basic that every baker should have in their arsenal.

For the cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (42g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour* (measured correctly)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time. You may also melt the butter and chocolate over low heat on the stovetop. Stir until smooth and set aside to slightly cool.

3. In a medium sized bowl, toss the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick like pudding.

4. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time. You may also melt the butter and chocolate over low heat on the stovetop. Stir until smooth and set aside to slightly cool.

3. In a medium sized bowl, toss the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick like pudding.

4. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the buttercream icing:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
  • 3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.

To create the galaxy effect:

Color your frosting desired colors. (I used black, royal blue, white, and purple.) Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Scrape your frosting into rows right next to each other and roll them up in the plastic wrap like a candy wrapper. Cut off one end and stick that side down into a pastry bag prepped with the tip you want to use. Voila!

JB: How did you get started baking?

LW: I started baking in grad school to relieve stress. I had never baked before. In fact, I insisted to many people throughout my life that I was incapable of baking! I quickly fell in love with it, obviously. Then I started documenting my adventures!

JB: Can you tell me a bit about sugar plus butter?

LW: Sugar + Butter used to be called Lizzy Pancakes, actually. I rebranded and redesigned my website a few years ago and I decided that a new name would be best. I thought of the name Sugar + Butter in the middle of the night after several days of brainstorming. I was so excited that I couldn’t go back to sleep!

JB: Can you talk a bit about what it all means to you?

LW: I don’t have a culinary degree and I don’t believe you should have to have one to make something delicious and beautiful. That is what Sugar + Butter is all about. I put things as simply as I can. There is no ego here – just cake!

JB: What do you do for work?

LW: I am in marketing. It pairs well with my Sugar + Butter efforts.

JB: Why dont you work in a bakery? Would you ever open one? Have you ever considered it?

LW: I worked in bakeries for a few years. Frankly, life got too expensive and I needed a career that paid more. It also started to take away from the effort I put in to my blog. The last thing I wanted to do when I got off a long baking shift was to bake more! I am always dreaming of opening a business and baking is definitely part of that dream. Some day. 🙂

JB: I know you love baking!!! But there is no way you eat all of the stuff you make…and if you are not selling your baked goods anywhere… tell me… who do you bake for? Who are your tasters? Who is your audience?

LW: I actually almost never eat what I bake! I am not much a sweet tooth, ironically enough. Sometimes, photographing the baked goods takes longer than expected and no one ends up eating it (sad face). Everything else ends up at work with me! My coworkers actually tire of it quickly. Isn’t that crazy?!

My audience for the blog is primarily women with a creative spark. I try to provide recipes for desserts that are delicious and beautiful – the artistry is part of it! I am convinced though that a lot of women come to my blog simply to stare at pictures of cake and I’m 100% ok with that.

JB: Do you ever/would you ever make a cake for someone you did not know if they paid you?

LW: Probably not. With a full time job and an active blog that requires a lot of my energy, I’m not able to commit to things like that.

Now if it were Zooey Deschanel or, like, Malia Obama I’d definitely make room in my schedule for that.

JB: What is you favorite thing to bake? What’s your favorite baked good to eat?

LW: I’m a cake girl, all the way. This is for a couple reasons. The first is that cakes lend themselves to a lot more customization. There are a thousand different ways to make a cake beautiful. The second reason is that flavor pairings are also endless! You can make something brand new every time using the same process.

JB: You were saying that you are gluten free and your husband cant eat is it dairy? Is there anything you make that can cater to both of your diets? Do you ever get super wrapped up in the challenge of finding something you can both eat?

LW: Sometimes I’ll make my favorite gluten free dairy free peanut butter cookies recipe, but we don’t eat a lot of dessert in our house. I like to use all my energy to create recipes for people whose diets aren’t so difficult to accommodate. I like the increased freedom and creativity.

JB: I love that photographing what you make is an important part of your process…can you talk a bit about that?

LW: It took me many years to get to where I am with my photography. When I started it was truly terrible. I still have a lot of gaps in my photography knowledge, but I make due! I like to use contrasting color backgrounds and use as much natural light as possible.

I love this slow process I have gone through, but I’m using online resources more and more to trouble shoot when something just isn’t working. Sometimes recipes are amazing but they just don’t photograph well. This is often what I use Instagram for. I’ll post a quick how-to on that channel if the photographs aren’t blog-worthy.

JB: Do you consider yourself a baker? An artist?

LW: I like to think of myself as a baker first, and a creative second. I worked very hard to be good at baking – it certainly wasn’t a knack I was born with. The creativity in writing and photography is what helps me share the recipes I love, but really it’s all about the recipe.

JB: Who is your favorite baker? Is there somebody who is an influence?

LW: I have this fantasy where I become friends with Rose Levy Beranbaum (author of The Cake Bible, among other great books) and we spend Sundays together eating delicate pastry and reading the New York Times. This all happens in a posh little apartment in Paris, by the way.

JB: I just realized how many followers you have on instagram, you have like 2500. For someone who is baking not for money its a ton!!! Tell me a bit about your online presence and what it all means.

LW: My followers on Instagram are my life blood. They are encouraging, they are engaging, they are kind. I spent the last 5 years convincing the best people on IG to follow along with what I do. I have made some lifelong friends through Instagram. Really, 5 years ago I made a friend who lives in Minnesota and we periodically send each other presents. We haven’t met yet, but one day we’ll do a slow motion run and hug in a field somewhere.

JB: Tell us a bit about your website? Are you attempting to build a bakers community?

LW: I had some dreams of S+B becoming more of a website rather than a blog, including articles from other bakers, non-recipe based posts, etc. This may still happen, but lately I’ve been focusing on the baking first and foremost.

JB: Would you ever consider making a cookbook!!!

LW: I tried one time. It was not what I expected (way harder). This is definitely something I will do in my life. I feel, though, that you don’t find the idea for a brilliant book that fills a need in an interesting way – it finds you.

JB: Whats next for you?

LW: I love Longmont. My town is my inspiration for a lot of what I do. What is next for me, and anyone brave enough to join me, is to leave my mark on Longmont by way of a gathering space. This is still just a fledgling of an idea, but I definitely have a vision in my head and a fire in my belly.

JB: Where are you from? What brought you to Longmont?

LW: I’m from Miami, Florida and moved to Longmont by way of New York and Washington, DC. I actually followed a boy here and though I quickly found my husband, I’ll always be grateful that I was brought to Colorado. I can’t even imagine what my life would be without this town.

JB: Do you have a vision for Longmont?

LW: I think Longmont is going to evolve the way it wants. I’ll tell you that I hope creatives in our town come out of their hidey holes and band together. We know you’re out there and we want to see your craft. My hope is that Longmont becomes a creatives’ haven. It has been bolstering artists for years and a more organized creative community is the next step.

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