Recipes in Article
The simplest form of buttercream is made from a mixture of powdered sugar, butter, a few drops of vanilla essence, and a splash of milk. The ingredients are whisked together, and it’s ready to use.
However, some buttercreams take more time to make, but the results are worth spending time over them.
American, Swiss, French, German, Russian, Ermine – all delicious buttercreams, some with different ingredients, and made by different methods.
Start with a simple American buttercream and progress to ones that take a little more time, and you will be delighted with them all.
How do you make buttercream icing from scratch?
Good quality powdered cane sugar will give the best results because it’s usually ground much finer and melts easily. In contrast, sugarbeet powdered sugar tends to leave an uncooked buttercream with a slightly gritty texture.
If you can’t buy cane powdered sugar and find the one you can buy isn’t ground fine enough, then run it through a coffee grinder, which may improve the texture.
Before you use it, always pass your powdered sugar through a fine sieve.
Ideally, it would help if you had a tabletop stand mixer to make buttercream because there is a lot of whisking involved.
However, you can make it with an electric hand mixer. A balloon whisk is also useful for combining ingredients before using an electric mixer.
Alternatively, you could make the buttercream by hand if you don’t own an electric mixer but be prepared to beat it for some time to achieve the required consistency.
Use a sugar thermometer – If the buttercream you are making requires heating, use a sugar thermometer, so you get the best results.
Recipes – Follow the buttercream recipe carefully, and you should get good results. If it says, whisk for X number of minutes, then do so because under whisking may result in the ingredients not combining properly.
Room temperature is 68F/20C – This means removing your ingredients from the fridge several hours before using them.
To test if your butter is at room temperature, it should yield when pressed with your finger. If it is too soft, then return to the fridge and test every 5 – 10 minutes until it’s the right temperature.
If the recipe calls for softened butter, make sure it’s just that and not melted because if you use melted butter in some recipes, you will end up with a sloppy mess.
Coloring buttercream – Always use a gel paste color to color your buttercream but remember it’s very strong, so add a little, then let it stand for half an hour for the color to develop. You can always add more color if it isn’t strong enough, but you can’t take it out.
Don’t use liquid color because it will alter the buttercream’s consistency.
Storing buttercream – Buttercream will last in the fridge for a week and about 3 months in the freezer.
To store in the fridge, place some plastic wrap on the buttercream’s surface, so no air gets to it and forms a crust.
To store a freezer, put the buttercream in a freezer-proof box, put some plastic wrap on the buttercream surface to eliminate any air, and place it in the freezer.
Before you use chilled or frozen buttercream, let it come up to room temperature, then whisk until the original texture and consistency are restored.
Do you know which buttercream to choose for decorating your cakes?
What kind of buttercream is best for decorating cakes?
All the buttercream recipes in this article are excellent for decorating cakes.
However, what you will use it for (covering and/or filling a cake, piping, or making buttercream flowers), if you want the buttercream to crust or not, and your personal taste will dictate which buttercream you use.
Also, depending on how much time you have to make the buttercream will decide which one to use.
If you are new to making buttercream or want one that is quick to make, then make this simple American Buttercream.
This buttercream is one of the easiest and quickest to make. It’s a favorite of people who like their cakes supersweet and children love it.
It can be used for covering and filling a cake and for piping. It crusts when set, so it’s easy to decorate with piped and painted designs and piped flowers without spoiling the finished coating. Also, it’s made with only four ingredients.
- Beat the butter on medium speed until it’s smooth, creamy, and lighter in color.
- Add the Vanilla Extract.
- At low speed, add the powdered sugar a spoon at a time, adding the cream/milk a tablespoon at a time if the ingredients get too dry to mix.
- Continue adding the powdered sugar and cream/milk until all the ingredients are incorporated, and the buttercream is the desired consistency.
- If the buttercream is too dry or stiff, add a little more cream/milk a teaspoon full at a time, or if it is too soft, add a little more powdered sugar.
Add 1 ½ oz/50g unsweetened cocoa powder with the powdered sugar.
Do you know what type of buttercream professional pastry chefs use most?
What kind of buttercream do professionals use?
Swiss Buttercream is most likely the one that pastry chefs choose for icing cakes as it is very smooth, pipes well, and a good finish can be achieved.
It’s less sweet than American buttercream, and it doesn’t form a crust.
This is an egg-based recipe, but because the egg whites and the sugar are cooked, it’s safe to eat.
Because this buttercream’s success relies on beating the egg whites into stiff peaks, you must ensure that your mixer bowl, beaters, and utensils are grease-free.
The best way to do this is to wash everything thoroughly, dry, and then wipe them down with lemon juice, neutralizing any grease residue.
Also, make sure that no egg yolk gets into the whites. I usually break the egg and then let each white drop separately into a small bowl before adding it to the main batch. If a yolk breaks and gets into the white, I can discard just that one rather than lose all the eggs.
Swiss Buttercream Recipe
All ingredients need to be at room temperature
- 7 oz Granulated Sugar
- 5 large Egg Whites
- 16 oz Butter (soft but not melted)
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
- Whisk the butter until smooth and creamy
Place 150g/4½oz sugar and ¼ cup water in a saucepan that is wider than the burner
Heat mixture, while stirring, until the sugar has melted (brushing the crystals of sugar down the inside of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water).
- Once melted, stop stirring & remove from heat, and set aside.
Put some cold water in a bowl that is bigger than the bottom of the saucepan and set aside.
Place the egg whites and the cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a whisk attachment, whisk until soft peak stage.
- Stir in the remaining sugar, then whisk until it reaches the stiff peak stage.
Return the pan with the syrup to the heat and boil until it reaches 115C/240F on the sugar thermometer, the softball toffee stage.
Plunge the bottom of the pan into the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
Make sure you don’t get any water into the toffee.
- Leave in the water for 30 seconds.
With the mixer running on high speed, slowly pour the toffee, in a thin stream, onto the egg whites. Be careful not to let the stream of toffee touch the mixer blade, or you will have lumps of toffee in your buttercream.
Once all the toffee has been incorporated into the egg whites, lower the mixer’s speed to medium and beat until the bowl feels cool.
Beat in the butter, one spoonful at a time – it may seem thinner at first but will thicken by the time it is all added.
If the buttercream has separated or is too thick, warm the bowl slightly over a pan of hot water, then remove and then beat until smooth.
If the buttercream has become too thin after adding the butter, then place the bowl in the fridge for 15 mins then re whisk. If it hasn’t thickened, then return to the fridge and try again and repeat until it whisks to the consistency you require.
This buttercream will keep for up to 5 days, covered, in the fridge, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Before using, bring to room temperature and re-whisk.
Do you know how Italian Buttercream is different from French or Swiss Buttercream?
Italian buttercream is sweeter than French or Swiss buttercream but not as sweet as American buttercream.
It is made the same way as Swiss buttercream in the previous recipe but uses 12oz of granulated sugar instead of 7 oz.
French Buttercream is made with the yolks of the eggs instead of the whites and that makes it totally different to any other buttercream.
This buttercream is made similar to the Swiss buttercream by heating sugar and water until it reaches the softball toffee stage.
However, using egg yolks instead of egg whites make it a smooth, creamy, rich, yellow frosting (the color will depend on how yellow your egg yolks are).
It’s not easy to change to a different color because of its natural yellow color.
Instead of vanilla, the buttercream can be flavored with various flavors such as rum, brandy, spices, or melted chocolate.
French buttercream is perfect for spreading on top of cakes and cupcakes. It can be used as a filling between layers of cake, and it pipes well.
- Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat and continue to stir until the sugar crystals have dissolved (brushing the crystals of sugar down the inside of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water). Remove from the heat.
- Put some cold water in a bigger bowl than the base of the saucepan and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, put the egg yolks into the bowl and whisk until thick and foamy.
- Return the saucepan to medium heat, and without stirring, bring the sugar to a boil and cook until it reaches 240F/115C (softball toffee).
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat and plunge the base into the cold water for 20 seconds.
- Make sure you don’t get any of the water into the toffee.
- With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour the toffee, in a thin stream, onto the egg yolks.
Be careful not to let the stream of toffee touch the mixer blade, or you will have lumps of toffee in your buttercream.
- Once all the toffee has been incorporated into the egg yolks, increase the mixer’s speed to medium and beat until the mixture has cooled to room temperature 68F/20C.
- Add the butter a spoonful at a time making sure each one is incorporated properly before adding the next.
When all the butter has been added, add the vanilla extract or any other flavoring and mix until smooth and creamy.
German Buttercream is made using pastry cream base and that makes it soft and creamy.
This is a cooked buttercream with a pastry cream base that makes it a delicious, soft, and creamy filling and covering for cakes.
The pastry cream needs to be made in advance to allow it to cool to room temperature before you use it to finish making the buttercream.
German buttercream is less sweet, although you can increase the sugar to make it sweeter.
It’s a little softer than other buttercreams, and it spreads nicely and pipes well on cakes and cupcakes.
However, a small downside is that it’s not so good for intricate piping and doesn’t hold up in the heat very well.
- Making the pastry cream. Place ¾ of the milk and the vanilla essence into a saucepan, and over medium heat, bring it to boil. Remove from the heat.
- Place remaining milk, together with the egg yolks, sugar, and cornflour/cornstarch, into a bowl and whisk together.
- Strain the hot milk.
While whisking, slowly pour the hot milk onto the egg, sugar, and cornflour/cornstarch mixture.
Pour the mixture back in the saucepan and over a medium-high heat whisk until it thickens and comes to a boil.
Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and place plastic wrap onto the top of the pastry cream to prevent skin from forming. Leave to cool until it is room temperature and has set.
- Making the buttercream. Whisk the room temperature pastry cream until smooth.
- Whisk the room temperature butter until pale and fluffy.
Continue whisking the butter and add the pastry cream a spoonful at a time, making sure it is mixed well after each addition.
Instead of vanilla, you can flavor this buttercream with a variety of flavors such as coffee (2 tbsp instant coffee in a tbsp hot water then cooled), chocolate (6 oz melted and cooled), lemon (2 tbsp), etc. Whisk the flavor of your choice into the finished buttercream.
Russian Buttercream is so simple because it has only two main ingredients and it’s delicious.
This is a super simple, sweet, and fantastic tasting buttercream.
It’s important to ensure the ingredients are at room temperature and make sure you whisk the butter for the time given, or you will not be able to incorporate the condensed milk fully.
The chocolate version is more stable and is good for piping onto cakes and cupcakes.
This Buttercream is used in many Russian and Eastern European cakes.
- With a whisk attachment fitted to a tabletop stand mixer, whisk the butter for at least 5 minutes until it is light and fluffy.
Whisk in the condensed milk a quarter of the tin at a time, making sure it is fully incorporated after each addition.
For a chocolate, version leave out the vanilla essence and instead add 1½ oz of sifted cocoa powder and whisk it into the creamed butter before adding the condensed milk.
If the buttercream is a bit too soft when finished, place it in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then, whisk again to make it easier to spread. Repeat until it’s the correct consistency.
Ermine Buttercream is my favorite and it’s easy to make.
The buttercream recipes I have put in this article originate from different countries, but I had to include this one in as it is one of my favorites and one I use most because it’s easy to make and it’s one of the less sweet ones.
I have not the slightest idea where it was developed or why it was called Ermine buttercream, and it is often overlooked in many recipe books.
There are no eggs in it, and you don’t need a sugar thermometer.
Because it contains butter, it will need to be refrigerated at some point, but it can be left out for several hours, which is a good thing if it has to be displayed at a venue as it stands up to heat and humidity well.
It spreads or pipes easily over cakes and cupcakes and works well to fill between cake layers. Ermine buttercream makes a good coating for a cake on its own or as a crumb coat under rolled fondant.
It’s often referred to as “flour buttercream” or “boiled frosting,” which doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, and I must admit I was reluctant to try it when I first came across the recipe.
However, I can assure you that it is smooth and tastes delicious, and is the most requested cake filling and coating I make. It spreads well and pipes beautifully.
I can’t always buy good quality cane powdered sugar or powdered sugar that is ground fine enough. However, because the sugar in Ermine Buttercream is cooked, I can use any granulated sugar because it melts while cooking, so the texture is smooth, not gritty.
- You will need a medium-sized saucepan and a bigger bowl than the pan.
- Put some cold water in the bowl and set it to one side. This is used to begin the cooling process once the mixture is cooked.
- In a bowl, combine the flour & milk. Stir until they are all mixed smoothly.
- Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into the pan, then add the sugar.
- Cook the mixture over medium heat, continually stirring until it thickens and comes to a boil, then turn the heat right down, and still stirring, simmer for 2 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and place it in the bowl of cold water, making sure not to get any of the cold water into the mixture in the pan. Keep gently stirring for two minutes.
- Remove the pan from the bowl of water and wipe the bottom dry.
- Empty the pan’s contents into a stand mixer bowl or the bowl you will use with a hand mixer.
- Place a piece of cling film/plastic wrap directly onto the mixture in the bowl, making sure there is no space for air to get to it.
- Leave until the mixture has dropped to room temperature.
- Once the mixture has reached room temperature, add the vanilla or lemon extract and slowly whisk until combined.
- Add the soft butter a spoonful at a time, slowly whisking between additions until it has all been added.
- Turn the mixer up to medium speed and whisk for 5 mins until the buttercream is light and fluffy.
- Cover and leave to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour to thicken.
For chocolate-flavored Ermine Buttercream, add three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder to the milk mixture at the start of the process and leave out the vanilla or lemon extract.
You can use other flavorings and color it with gel paste colors.
Well worth making …
I hope this article has shown you that it is easy to make the buttercream.
I said at the beginning that some take a little more time than others, but I hope you will try them and see that they really are worth spending time over.
I am sure that you will be able to find a buttercream that you would like to make amongst these.
If you have any questions about the buttercreams, please leave a message in the comments box below.