Ask a Chef: Melisser Elliott

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She’s conquered the veg blogosphere, and now The Urban Housewife, aka Melisser Elliott, is expanding her creative domain in another delicious direction. At San Francisco’s vegan bakery Sugar Beat Sweets (, Elliott churns out decadent cheesecake bars, cinnamon rolls, and her signature dairy-free cupcakes to discerning urbanites. We asked Elliott to dish her secrets to foolproof frosting. Here’??s what she divulged.

Fatten It Up The best frostings start with a full-fat base, and for stability and flavor, I use a combination of organic palm shortening—I like Spectrum Organics because it’s sustainably harvested—and nonhydrogenated vegan margarine. Try Earth Balance Buttery Spread. It really does taste amazingly buttery.

Whip It Good Using an electric mixer to cream your ingredients together makes for a more consistent product and will raise your frosting to new heights. Stand mixers are a great investment for any baker, but if your budget doesn’t allow for one, an inexpensive hand mixer will get the job done.

Mix and Match Don’??t limit yourself to chocolate or vanilla; get in there and experiment! High-quality extracts—think peppermint, rose, orange—will take your frosting from drab to fab, while natural coloring made from turmeric, avocado, or beet, carrot, or berry juice adds a subtle, chemical-free tint.