The following information about Buttercream is added to help students decide the best type buttercream to use for their own designs. This information below is compiled by several different resources and will be updated often; be sure to check back for updated or additional information. More information maybe found under my Ingredient Information section on the website.
Buttercream (also known as butter cream, butter icing, and mock cream) is a type of icing or filling used inside cakes, as a coating, and as decoration. In its simplest form, it is made by creaming butter with powdered sugar, although other fats can be used, such as margarine or lard. Colorings and flavorings are often added, such as chocolate, fruit purees, and various extracts. Buttercream is a common and popular topping for cupcakes, sponge cakes, butter cakes, and other desserts.
Whether buttercream with no butter or a butter equivalent can be called buttercream is debated among bakers, pastry chefs, and cake decorators.
Simple buttercream (also known as American buttercream, decorator’s buttercream, and decorator’s frosting) is made by creaming together fats (butter, margarine, or vegetable shortening) and powdered sugar to the desired consistency and lightness. Typically twice as much sugar (by weight) as butter is used. Flavorings, in the form of extracts and oils, may also be added. Some recipes call for non-fat milk solids; these add a creamy texture without the addition of the water from regular milk.
The icing can form a thin crust after prolonged time at a cool temperature, which prevents sticking. This is due to the high sugar content and may be prevented with the addition of invert sugars such as glucose or fructose. Compared to other types of buttercreams, simple buttercream has a high proportion of sugar content, making it the sweetest of all the buttercreams.
Meringue Based Buttercream
There are three types of meringue-based buttercreams. Each is called after the type of meringue used. There are two cooked versions, Italian meringue and Swiss meringue, and one uncooked, or French version. The cooked meringues must be cooled to room temperature in order not to melt the butter as added to the cooked meringues.
Italian Meringue is prepared by the addition of sugar syrup made by heating sugar and water (and sometimes the addition of glucose or corn syrup to stabilize the crystal structure) heated to the soft-ball stage (118°C, 240 °F) to egg whites whipped to soft peaks. The sugar syrup cooks the egg whites, heating them well past the 60°C (140°F) recommended in the USA to kill salmonella and any other potentially harmful bacteria. The syrup and egg white mixture is then whipped and cooled until it reaches room temperature. Buttercream prepared in this method is also often referred to as Mousseline buttercream.
Cream Cheese Italian Meringue – Continue to mix until all butter has been added and turn the mixer speed to med-high until smooth and fluffy. Remove buttercream from bowl and whip cream cheese on med until completely smooth using the same whisk attachment. Finally, add buttercream back to the mixer bowl 1/3 at a time until smooth and fluffy again.
Swiss Meringue buttercream can be used to frost cakes/cupcakes in advance and the cakes/cupcakes can be left in an air-conditioned room. The buttercream will hold.
Swiss Meringue buttercreams are better if eaten at room temperature.
You can add any food coloring to the buttercream then whisk to incorporate.
If the buttercream looks like it had curdled, just keep mixing and it will come together and become smooth.
If the buttercream is too runny, place it in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes; then continue mixing.
French Meringue is prepared by whipping egg whites, cream of tartar, and caster sugar until stiff, glossy peaks are formed. French Meringue is usually used in recipes in which the prepared meringue is piped or spread onto a sheet pan and then cooked in a slow (low temp.) oven. When used as a base for buttercream, it remains uncooked. Because of the health concerns in the USA surrounding the consumption of raw eggs, the use of French meringue as the base for buttercream is rare there. In other countries, uncooked meringue is more common.
No matter which of the three types of meringue are used as the base, once it is prepared, butter and flavorings (extracts or oils) are then beaten into the meringue to transform the meringue into buttercream. Meringue-based buttercreams are light and creamy in texture and balanced between sweetness and richness. They are also the easiest to work with when icing and decorating cakes.
French buttercream is prepared in the same way as Italian meringue-based buttercream, except egg yolks (some versions use whole eggs or a combination of the two) are used in place of the egg whites—a hot sugar syrup which has reached the soft-ball stage is beaten into the egg yolks which have been beaten until they are thick and pale yellow. The syrup and egg yolk mixture is further whipped until it has formed light foam and has cooled. Butter and flavorings (extracts, oils, or juices) are then whipped in. This icing is very rich, smooth, and light. French buttercream tends to melt faster than other buttercreams due to the high content of fat from the egg yolks and butter. This type of buttercream is best suited for use as a filling or an icing, but not for decorations.
Custard-based buttercream (also known as German buttercream, light buttercream, crème mousseline, and Bavarian buttercream) is prepared by beating together a thick type of custard called pastry cream and softened butter, and may be additionally sweetened with extra confectioners’ sugar. Like French buttercream, this icing is very rich and smooth and is best suited for use as a filling or an icing, but not for decorations.