There is nothing worse than trying to finish a cake in a hurry, and the buttercream curdles. It will look like clumps of butter floating in a white soup or resemble cream cheese.
However, don’t let panic set in, as there is an easy way to put it right.
You can fix curdled buttercream by heating the ingredients if they were to cold to start with or if the ingredients were too warm then they will need to be cooled down. However, the buttercream could be spoiled so find out how it should be done.
When we make the buttercream, we start with two main ingredients that are not compatible – fat and liquid.
The fat we use is usually butter, but it could be vegetable shortening/vegetable fat, and the liquid could be water, milk, cream, or fruit juice.
To make butter and liquid into a “cream,” the butter has to be beaten into particles small enough to disperse into the liquid.
This can only be done if the ingredients are at the correct temperature. If the butter is too cold, it will just float in the liquid in lumps or will have been beaten into a mixture that resembles cream cheese.
If your buttercream has curdled, it needs to be fixed.
How to fix curdled buttercream
If the buttercream has curdled, it will look as if nothing can be done with it except throw it away and start again. However, don’t despair, as there is an easy way to put it right.
Place your buttercream in a heatproof basin and place it over a pan of hot water, without the basin touching the water.
When the buttercream has slightly melted around the edges, then return it to the mixer and, using the paddle attachment, start to mix the buttercream slowly.
At first, it will look quite sloppy, but as you gradually increase the speed and continue mixing for about 5 mins, it will come together nicely and become perfect buttercream.
If it still doesn’t combine, repeat the process but don’t overheat, or the butter will melt.
Now you know how to fix your buttercream, but do you know why it happened and how to stop it from happening again?
Why is my buttercream separating?
You’ve followed the recipe carefully, but no matter how much you whip it, the ingredients have separated, and it looks nothing like the fluffy buttercream you were expecting.
This has happened because the butter you used was too cold, and most likely, the rest of your ingredients were too cold as well.
If you plan to make buttercream take the butter from the refrigerator well ahead of the time, it will be used.
The butter and your other ingredients’ temperature should be about 72-75F/22-24C, which is usually referred to as standard room temperature.
If I’m making buttercream and I’m not sure if the butter temperature is correct, I usually stick my sugar thermometer into the butter center before I use it to make sure it’s the right temperature.
If you use the sugar thermometer to check the butter’s temperature, make sure you clean all grease from it before you use it for checking the temperature of any heated sugar.
Also, your butter may have been the right temperature when you started making it, but your kitchen is too cold, and the butter has cooled down so warm your kitchen.
You’ve made the perfect buttercream, but when you added color, why did it split?
Why does my buttercream split when adding color?
This usually happens if you use liquid food coloring to color buttercream. The more liquid color you add to get a deeper shade, the more the buttercream will split.
For this reason, you should never use liquid food colors in a buttercream but always use Gel Paste food colors.
Gel paste food colors will not alter the buttercream’s consistency, and the colors are more intense, so you need to add much less gel paste to get intense shades.
You should add a little at a time and leave it for half an hour for the color to develop, and if it’s not deep enough, then add a little more, leave it and repeat until the color is right.
You can always add more, but you cannot take it out.
The ingredients for cake-making and decorating are quite expensive. To make buttercream takes quite a lot of butter and good quality powdered sugar, and perhaps other ingredients.
When your cake is baked and ready to decorate, the last thing you need is for the buttercream to curdle, so you should take precautions, so it doesn’t happen.
The key element in preventing your buttercream from curdling is to make sure your ingredients’ temperature is at room temperature 72-75F/22-24C before you start making the buttercream to prevent any catastrophes happening.
You can find recipes for different buttercream types in my blog post article called.
“Buttercream – How to Make 6 Different Types”
Powdered Sugar, Confectioners Sugar, and Icing Sugar are all the same. They are names for sugar crystals that have been ground to a fine powder.
Buttercream that curdles, splits, or separates all mean the same thing.
If you have any other questions about fixing curdled buttercream, ask me about them in the comments box below, and I will try to answer them for you.