There is nothing worse than grainy buttercream. It has the mouthfeel of grit, and if you’ve made a special cake that you have taken a lot of time to make and decorate, it can spoil all your hard work. Fortunately, you can take precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen.
To fix grainy buttercream, you can remix it, add more liquid or leave it overnight, so the sugar grains melt. If your buttercream still not smooth and is also lumpy, you may be using the wrong powdered sugar.
How to fix grainy buttercream
You’ve made your buttercream, but it hasn’t turned out as expected and is still grainy.
What should you do?
- You can mix the buttercream some more and hope the ‘grit’ disappears.
- Put a little more liquid into the buttercream but not enough, so it splits, and you may find it will melt the grains that are causing the grittiness.
- Leave the buttercream overnight, giving the sugar crystals time to melt, and then whip on a slow speed with a paddle beater rather than the whisk until it’s smooth and grit-free.
- If it’s thick and gritty, try adding some more liquid, a tiny drop at a time, and whisking it again.
If you really can’t solve your grainy buttercream problems, then try a cooked version such as Ermine buttercream, which is totally grit-free and the one I always use.
Now you know how to fix grainy buttercream, you need to know why it happened.
Why is my buttercream grainy?
There are a few reasons why your buttercream may be grainy…
- Sugar beet powdered sugar has been used instead of cane powdered sugar.
Cane sugar melts far better than beet sugar.
The powdered sugar isn’t ground finely enough.
Use the best quality cane powdered sugar you can buy. It will be more finely ground, and that will avoid uneven sugar crystals that can give the buttercream a grainy texture.
If you live where powdered sugar is labeled in grades, the highest is best, e.g., 12X or 14X, which indicates how many times it has been passed through the grinders.
Other places sell powdered cane sugar that is ground finely for making buttercreams and frostings.
If you have no choice but to buy powdered sugar that is not fine enough, then put it through a coffee grinder a couple of spoonsful at a time.
The icing sugar hasn’t been sifted before use.
Always sift the icing sugar before using it through the finest sieve you can buy.
Another trick is to pass the powdered sugar through a NEW pair of ladies tights stretched over a bowl. It takes time, but it gets rid of any large grains. I always do this if I can’t get good quality powdered sugar.
- The buttercream hasn’t been left to stand.
Buttercream needs to be left to stand for a few hours or even overnight if the powdered sugar crystals are not so fine, and that allows them to melt. Remix the buttercream slowly with a paddle attachment before it’s used.
You have found out how to cope with grainy buttercream, but it still isn’t smooth.
Why isn’t my buttercream smooth?
You may be using the wrong powdered sugar.
As I have already mentioned, use the best cane powdered sugar. It is more expensive, but it is well worth using it to get a smooth finish to your buttercream.
Your ingredients were not at room temperature.
When you make the buttercream, it’s most important that your butter, powdered sugar, any liquid such as milk, water, cream, and flavoring are at room temperature 72-75F/22-24C
You are using the wrong attachment for your mixer.
For some buttercreams, you need to use the whisk attachment to whisk eggs, but the paddle attachment should be used for creaming the butter.
Using the paddle attachment and the mixer set to a medium speed and room temperature, butter should be creamed for about two minutes.
There are air bubbles in your icing.
Some buttercreams are made with a whisk attachment, but the result is that there are a lot of air bubbles in the mixture.
This is fine if you are going to fill a cake with it or even use it for a crumb coating, but if you need the buttercream to make a smooth coating to cover a cake or for piping designs or flowers, then you need to get rid of them once the buttercream is made.
Change to a paddle attachment and beat the buttercream at a slow speed for two to three minutes, and that should eliminate most of the air bubbles.
Your buttercream is still lumpy so let’s smooth it out.
Why is my buttercream lumpy?
There are two main reasons why buttercream is lumpy…
Your butter wasn’t soft enough.
Before you use it, check the temperature of the butter. You can check it by plunging your sugar thermometer into the butter center. It should be about 72-75 F/22-24C, a standard room temperature.
Also, make sure all your ingredients are at room 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. If you are not sure it’s grease-free, then after you’ve washed and dried it, wipe it down with lemon juice, and the acid will get rid of the grease and won’t leave any taste behind.
You didn’t sift your powdered sugar.
Make a habit of sifting any powdered sugar you use because although it looks as if it is lump-free in the packet, it may not be.
Some manufacturers add an anti-caking agent to powdered sugar, and some don’t, but even if they do, if it’s been packed in a bag for some time, lumps will begin to form. Some packages are not as air-tight as they should be, even the plastic ones.
I hope this has solved some of the problems you may experience with buttercream. If you have others that I have not covered and can’t solve, let me know in the comments section below, and I will do my best to solve them for you.