Buttercream Icing

Your Guide to Buttercream Frostings

Explore the world of buttercreams and learn what each type brings to your baking.
Buttercream Style Alternative Names Technique Characteristics Best For

American

Simple Buttercream Frosting
Quick Buttercream

Begin by whipping room temperature butter, then mix in icing sugar.

● Colour: Ivory
● Taste: Very sweet
● Texture: Thick and creamy, melts easily in warm conditions

Sponge cakes, sheet cakes, and cupcakes

Swiss

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB)

Start with a meringue base by whisking egg whites with granulated sugar in a double boiler. Cubes of softened butter are added gradually to the meringue mixture while whisking until smooth and silky.

● Colour: Pale white
● Taste: Mildly sweet, strong butter taste
● Texture: Smooth, silky, airy, and creamy

Layered cakes and cupcakes

Italian

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Make a simple syrup with water and sugar until fully dissolved. The simple syrup is streamed into the egg whites as they are whisked. The frosting will reach stiff peak once the mixture is completely cooled down. Cubed softened butter is gradually added to create a smooth and silky frosting.

● Colour: Pale White
● Taste: Mildly sweet
● Texture: Creamy, thick and silky, less stable under warm conditions

Smooth finish for decorating cakes

French

Pâte-à-bombe-based Buttercream

Employs a similar method as Italian meringue buttercream; room temperature egg yolks are used instead of egg whites.

● Colour: Yellow
● Taste: Mildly sweet, rich, buttery and custardy
● Texture: Creamy, thick and silky, less stable under warm conditions

Pastry fillings, cupcakes, and fruit tart base

German

Custard Buttercream
Crème Mousseline

Uses pastry cream in addition to eggs. Pastry cream is gradually added to the room temperature butter while it's whipped.

● Colour: Pale yellow
● Taste: Lightly sweet, slightly rich and custardy
● Texture: Creamy, thick and silky, less stable under warm conditions

Pastry fillings, cupcakes, and fruit tart base

Russian

Condensed Milk Buttercream

Similar to American Buttercream in simplicity; condensed milk is gradually added to the whipped butter.

● Colour: Pale white
● Taste: Mildly sweet
● Texture: Smooth and silky, stable under warm conditions

Layered cakes and cupcakes

Ermine

Flour Buttercream
Cooked Buttercream
Roux Frosting
Boiled Milk Frosting

Starts with a roux of flour, sugar, and milk cooked to make a sweet paste. The room temperature roux is gradually added to the whipped butter.

● Colour: Pale white
● Taste: Lightly sweet
● Texture: Light, fluffy, smooth and creamy, stable under warm conditions

Layered cakes and cupcakes

 

Buttercream Styles Redpath Recipes

American

Frostings 101: Quick Buttercream
Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
Mini Lemon Chamomile Cakes

Swiss

Frostings 101: Swiss Buttercream
Chocolate Dipped Red Velvet Cake Bars with Swiss Buttercream Frosting
Hibiscus Swiss Meringue Buttercream

French

Frostings 101: French Buttercream

Ermine

Mojito Cupcakes with Golden Ermine Frosting

 

Question Answer & Solution

Best temperature for butter when making buttercream?

Slightly cooler than room temperature; between 65°F (18°C) and 68°F (20°C). Butter should be malleable but not so soft or warm that the butter indents readily with light pressure. Butter should not look greasy or melted.

Best butter to use when making buttercream?

Unsalted butter is the best choice when making buttercream, as you can control the amount of salt in the final product. Different brands of salted butter have different amounts of salt added. Furthermore, salted butter tends to have a higher water content than unsalted butter, which may result in a softer buttercream.

Why does my buttercream have air bubbles/air pockets?

Possible reasons for air in your buttercream icing include:

○ Using the whisk attachment instead of the paddle attachment when adding or incorporating the butter.
○ Whipping the buttercream for too long or at high speed adds unnecessary air.
○ Butter was cold, resulting in the buttercream needing to be mixed longer to get it to the correct consistency.

Solution:

To eliminate air bubbles in buttercream icing, use a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon to cream and knock out the air pockets.

Why does my buttercream have a granular texture?

Possible reasons for granular buttercream icing include:

○ Granulated sugar was used instead of icing sugar.
○ Icing sugar was not sifted before it was added to the buttercream.
○ Sugar was not completely dissolved when heated (for Swiss, Italian, and French buttercreams).

Solution:

Read the recipe and use only the ingredients specified.

If icing sugar is one of the ingredients, sift before adding it to the mixture. If heating sugar over a bain marie, for example, when making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, rub a small amount of the egg white-sugar mixture between your fingers to determine if the sugar has fully dissolved.

If it feels gritty, gently heat the mixture 1 or 2 minutes longer, or until the grittiness is no longer detectable.

Why is my buttercream is stiff?

Possible reasons for stiff buttercream include:

○ Buttercream was refrigerated and not brought back to room temperature and/or not re-whipped before using.
○ Butter was cold when making the buttercream.
○ Too much icing sugar was added (for American/Simple Buttercreams).
○ Not enough heavy cream was added (for American/Simple Buttercreams).

Solution:

Remove buttercream from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you need to use it. Re-whip the room temperature buttercream to get it back to its smooth and fluffy consistency.

Ensure butter is between 65°F (18°C) and 68°F (20°C) before making buttercream.

Add and whip a small amount of heavy cream into the buttercream until the desired consistency is reached.

Why is my buttercream lumpy?

Possible reasons for lumpy buttercream include:

○ Butter was cold when added, leaving butter chunks throughout the buttercream.
○ Icing sugar (for American/Simple Buttercreams) was not sifted.

Solution:

Ensure butter is between 65°F (18°C) and 68°F (20°C) before making buttercream.

Gently warm the bowl of buttercream by placing it over a just-simmering pot of water (off the heat) for a few seconds until you see the edges of the buttercream begin to melt, and then re-whip the buttercream. This will help incorporate the butter chunks into the buttercream.

Take the extra time to sift the icing sugar if it is part of the ingredient list, as beating icing sugar lumps out can take a while and may result in an over-beaten buttercream. Alternatively, If you have the time, cover and allow the buttercream to rest for a few hours or overnight, which may allow the icing sugar to hydrate and dissolve more readily when beaten later.

Why is my buttercream too soft?

Possible reasons for overly soft buttercream icing include:

○ Butter was too soft or too warm when combined or added.
○ Meringue was still warm when butter was added (for Swiss or Italian Meringue Buttercream).
○ Too much liquid (water, milk, heavy cream, juice, fruit puree, simple syrup, etc.) was added to the buttercream.
○ Not enough icing sugar (for American/Simple Buttercream) was added to the buttercream.

Solution:

Place the bowl into the fridge to allow the buttercream to chill slightly (about 10 to 15 minutes) before whipping to the correct consistency. If the buttercream is quite runny, leave it in the fridge for a few minutes longer until the edges begin to harden. Scrape the hardened bits into the centre of the bowl and whip it back to the correct consistency. The temperature of the buttercream should balance itself out.

Add and beat in a tablespoon or two of cool butter to the buttercream to offset the extra liquid and/or too warm buttercream added to the buttercream and allow it to come back into an emulsion. Add small amounts of sifted icing sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

Why is my buttercream curdled?

Possible reasons for curdled buttercream include:

○ Butter was cold or added too quickly when added to the mixture.
○ Flavourings or liquid were added to the buttercream, and the buttercream wasn’t whipped long enough to emulsify the liquids into the fat.

Solution:

Cream the buttercream for at least 10 minutes after the ingredients are combined. Most often, the buttercream will fix itself.

Place the bowl over a just-simmering pot of water (off the heat) for a few seconds, and then re-whip the buttercream on medium-low using the whisk attachment to get it back into an emulsion. Switch back to the paddle attachment after it comes back into emulsion to eliminate the possibility of air bubbles.

Does buttercream need to be refrigerated?

American or simple buttercream can be stored in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface of the buttercream to prevent the buttercream from crusting and drying out. Another optimal storage option is to transfer the buttercream into a resealable bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in a cool, dry place for 2 to 3 days. Any longer, and/or if the kitchen is unusually warm, then buttercream should be stored in the fridge.

Any buttercreams that contain egg products should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

TIP: Bring buttercream to room temperature before whipping it back to consistency and using.

Can you freeze buttercream?

Buttercream can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag (removing as much air as possible) for up to 3 months. Remove from freezer and place into the fridge one or two days before needed.

TIP: Bring buttercream to room temperature before whipping it back to consistency and using.

What is the best buttercream for hot weather?

Ermine buttercream frosting is a great solution for hot weather. American buttercream using mostly or all shortening is also an alternative, but the flavour will be compromised as the buttercream is composed of fat, icing sugar, and whatever flavouring is used.

TIP: Adding a small amount of shortening to any buttercream will help stabilize it.