The Many Faces of the Buttercreams
in a buttercream?
it's most simple definition, buttercream is an icing with fat and sugar.
Some recipes for buttercream contain eggs, such as those based with
a meringue or a pâte á bombe (cooked yolks with sugar).
Some contain nothing more than butter and/or shortening and powdered
sugar. Most recipes in these cases will call for powdered sugar rather
than granulated or superfine granulated; not only is it finer and will
dissolve completely, but it can also act as an emulsifier for the
butter or shortening.
Just about any buttercream recipe may be flavored
with other ingredients to change the color/texture/flavor to suit your
needs. Popular additions are melted chocolate, praline paste, strong
coffee or Trablit, extracts and liqueurs, emulsions and purées,
and ganaches and various nut pastes.
the many different variations and recipes one can find, typically they
all can be classified in one of the following different kinds of buttercreams
may organize them differently, but I classify all buttercreams this way:
Buttercream: A buttercream made with an Italian meringue: a cooked meringue made with a hot sugar syrup.
Buttercream: A buttercream made with a Swiss meringue: a meringue made from whites and sugar warmed together
over a bain marie. This dissolves the sugar.
á bombe: Sometimes referred to as a French buttercream.
A buttercream here is made with yolks and hot sugar syrup which cooks the yolks making them safe to eat.
- Here you
will find basic recipes ranging from only butter and powdered
sugar to the incorporation of other ingredients such as cream
cheese, melted chocolate, cream, or non-fat milk powder. Sometimes
shortening or an emulsified shortening is added for stability.
referred to as Decorator's Icing or Decorator's Buttercream. While
this buttercream can be used for icing a cake, it is used mainly
for decoration (typically for things like roses and for piping borders and stiff edging). Shortening
has a much higher melting point making it suitable for those decorations
needing a firmer look or handling. Since shortening does have
a higher melting point, it will not have the same mouth feel as
the above buttercreams, and can be very waxy to eat. If this type of buttercream is used for
the actual frosting for the cake, rather than strictly for decorating it, butter and/or a liquid
will typically be added for a better mouth feel and flavor.
My favorite? I like
to use Italian Buttercream for all wedding cakes and occasion cakes.
It has a wonderfully smooth texture, it's not too sweet, and is neutral
enough to add whatever flavor I need it to be. Other decorators prefer
a French buttercream (pâte
á bombe based) for it's rich flavor and color. And still others enjoy working
with the butter-based ones for ease in preparation. I'm enclosing here
many different recipes based on all of the above types, including my industry large-scale
recipes for those that would like them. Sources are listed at the bottom.
Recipes for Different Buttercream Types
A note for the recipe
ingredients and procedures: If not specified always use unsalted butter. Sift the powdered
sugar first before mixing with the butter or shortening to remove any lumps. For best results, have all the ingredients at
from "Wedding Cakes You Can Make: Designing, Baking, and Decorating
the Perfect Wedding Cake" by Dede Wilson, who in this book gives
a very detailed description on how to make this buttercream. If you've
never made this type of icing before, this is a great reference book
to look to for guidance, and it gives help on how to "fix"
buttercreams, and what to do if too cold or too warm. This recipe makes
a wonderful buttercream with a smooth consistency, not too sweet and
freezes well. This recipe is simplified: read her recipe for exacting
details on cooking it.
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3
1/2 cup water (recipe lists 1/2 cup, I just 'eyeball' the amount)
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 lbs. (6 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pats
Place the 1 1/4
cups sugar and the water in a saucepan. Stir to wet the sugar and bring
to boil over medium heat and wash the sides of the pan. Place the whites
in a grease-free mixing bowl and whip until frothy. Add in the cream
of tartar and continue to whip until soft peaks form. Add in the 1/3
cup of the sugar. Continue whipping until stiff, glossy peaks form. Meanwhile,
keep boiling the sugar syrup until the temperature reaches 248*F. When
the syrup is ready, reduce mixing speed of the whites to medium and
slowly pour in the hot syrup into the egg whites. Try not to get any
of the syrup on the sides of the bowl or hard sugar balls may form in
the meringue. Continue to whip until cooled, which may take up to 15
minutes. Add in the the pats of butter and whip until combined, smooth
and the butter is incorporated.
This version is adapted from
the Roux Brothers cookbook, "The Roux Brothers on Patisserie,"
a good cookbook for basic French pastry. The use of glucose with the
sugar syrup helps to prevent sugar crystals from forming during boiling.
Makes about 5 lbs.
plus 2 tablespoons water
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup glucose
9 egg whites
4 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
water, sugar and glucose in a heavy sugar pan. Stir until mixture boils,
wash down sides with wet, clean pastry brush and insert candy thermometer.
Boil until the temperature of the syrup reaches 110°C, then start
beating the egg whites in a stand up electric mixer, until stiff. When
sugar reaches 120°C remove from heat and put the speed of the egg
whites to the lowest. Pour the syrup into the whipped whites in a slow,
steady stream, trying not to get syrup on the wire whip or the edge
of the bowl. Continue to beat the meringue until it is nearly cold,
about 15 minutes. Begin beating in the butter, a little at a time, and
continue beating until smooth.
This is the recipe I use in the
kitchen. Industry recipe sized. Keeps well and is good for adding any
number of flavors.
# 9 oz. granulated sugar
as needed to cover sugar in pot
1/2 qts. egg whites
# 3 oz. granulated sugar
# unsalted butter, soft
first sugar and water to 121°C. Add this to meringue that has been
beaten to stiff peaks with second sugar. Add in butter, in chunks. Note:
if pastry kitchen is very warm, use slightly cooler butter; if meringue
is very cold before adding butter or if butter has not incorporated
into meringue (large cold chunks still in buttercream) use a hand torch
around stainless steel bowl to help melt product. Of course, only use
torch as directed by manufacturer.
Unknown source. It has been in
my kitchen book forever. While measured in cups, it is an industry recipe.
4 cups whites
8 cups sugar
5 # unsalted butter
Combine sugar and
whites in the same mixing bowl you'll be whipping the eggs in. Place
over a bain marie or steam table and heat until the whites are warmed
through and the sugar is completely dissolved. When stirring, avoid
using whipping tools or action as the incorporation of air at this stage
may prevent sugar from being dissolved. Attach to mixer and wipe the
outside of bowl if it has water on it. Whip stiff, then add in the butter
in parts until incorporated.
This buttercream recipe contains
egg yolks and is adapted from "Professional Baking." While
an industry recipe, scales down well for home use.
2 lb. sugar
8 oz. water
12 oz. egg yolks
2 1/2 lbs. butter
1/2 oz. vanilla
Bring the sugar
and water to a boil, and continue to boil until 115°C. While the
sugar is boiling, whip the yolks in a stand up mixer until they are
thick and very light. When the sugar comes to temperature, remove from
heat and slowly add in a stream to the whipping yolks, on a medium-low
speed. Continue to whip until yolks are completely cooled. Mixture will
be light and thick. While machine is running, add in the butter in chunks,
but add it only as fast as can be absorbed into the mixture. Last, add
in the vanilla.
This butter-based recipe is adapted
from "Ateco Simplified Cake Decorating."
1/4 cup butter
Speck of salt (if needed)
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk or light cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Whip the butter
until fluffy. Gradually add in 1 cup of the powdered sugar and reduce
speed to low, add in the liquid, salt and flavoring. Last the rest of
the powdered sugar. If firmer icing is needed, add in a bit more powdered
sugar, if softer icing is needed, add in a bit more of the milk. Flavor
Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream
This recipe has butter, cream
cheese and white chocolate, and is adapted from the classic book, "The
Cake Bible," by Rose Levy Beranbaum. The original recipe contains no sugar, so add powdered sugar if you like it a little sweeter. Use quality white chocolate for best results. This recipe compliments carrot and spice
9 oz. white chocolate,
melted, cooled to room temperature
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
Beat cream cheese
in mixing bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in the melted and cooled
chocolate until incorporated. Add in the butter and lemon juice last,
beating well until smooth.
This recipe contains only shortening
and is adapted from the Crisco brand shortening kitchens.
1/3 cup butter flavored
4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
7 to 8 tablespoons milk
and add in powdered sugar. Add in the vanilla, and slowly add in enough
milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, to reach desired consistency. Continue
to beat frosting on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until the frosting
is lightening and is very smooth.
Icing for Home Decorating
This recipe is adapted from Wilton
"Figure Piping." This recipe contains a mixture of shortening
and butter. Add more liquid if needing a smoother or softer consistency.
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons cream, milk or water
1 teaspoon clear vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
and butter. Mix in the rest until smooth using medium speed, adding
in more liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency.
used and Recipes cited:
Rose Levy. The Cake Bible. New York: William, 1988.
Cream Frosting." Online recipe. Crisco. February 3, 2005.
Wayne. Professional Baking. New York: John Wiley, 1985.
Prosper. Larousse Gastronomique: The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine and Cookery.
Sixth printing, 1965.
New York: Crown, 1961.
the files of Renee Shelton.
Michel and Albert. The Roux Brothers on Patisserie: Pastries and
Desserts from 3-Star Master Chefs. New York: Prentice, 1986.
Dede. Wedding Cakes You Can Make: Designing, Baking, and Decorating
the Perfect Wedding Cake. New York: Wiley, 2005
Piping: The Wilton Way. Wilton Enterprises, 1979.