Buttercream frosting is tricky. It's universally loved and versatile enough to work for kids' birthday parties and luxurious weddings alike, but it's not always easy to make well. Try your hand at making one of the best recipes out there or follow some tips for making your own recipe the best.
Best Buttercream Recipes
There are a number of buttercream recipes, so it may be difficult to sort out the best from the worst. The following buttercream recipes are extremely well-reviewed.
- Quick Vanilla Buttercream from Food Network's show Sweet Dreams is fast and simple to make, and it gets excellent reviews online. You can prepare it in ten minutes, and it uses four simple ingredients. Reviewers praise it for flavor and ease, with one noting it is "perfect for dyeing".
- The Chocolate Buttercream from Martha Stewart Weddings and the famed cook and entrepreneur Martha Stewart may take a little longer to prepare, but online reviewers love it. The icing is light and fluffy and doesn't use powdered sugar. It has great chocolate flavor.
- Readers at Epicurious.com love this Swiss Meringue Buttercream from award-winning and world-famous chef Toba Garrett's book The Well-Decorated Cake. It is a soft creamy icing, and the recipe allows for versatile variations in flavors based on your recipe. Variations include almond, lemon, vanilla, pear, and Kirsch.
Tips for Making Perfect Buttercream
To get the best frosting possible, you'll need to know how to troubleshoot familiar issues and prevent them from happening in the first place.
Fix Curdled Frosting
Your buttercream shouldn't curdle if you're making it with the usual butter and powdered sugar combination, but when you're tackling Italian meringue or Swiss buttercream, the frosting will almost always go through a curdled stage when it looks terrible. You may be tempted to throw out the whole batch, but don't do it.
In most cases, you can fix the frosting by simply continuing to whip it (a stand mixer helps). You may feel as if you're whipping forever, but it's not uncommon for the frosting to take 10 to 15 minutes to come together and smooth out.
If continuous whipping doesn't seem to be doing any good, try putting the frosting in the freezer for five to 10 minutes and then whipping it again; the cool-down may help it better hold its structure.
Make Buttercream That Holds Up in the Heat
It's the Fourth of July, and your beautiful buttercream frosting appears to be melting off the cake you brought to the Independence Day picnic. Other than moving the cake to the car and blasting it with the air conditioning, there's not much you can do to save it in the moment. There are, however, steps you can take to prevent the melting from happening again.
If you know your frosting is going to have to stand up to some extreme heat, don't use butter when you make it. Despite having butter in its name, you can get a very similar frosting texture and taste by using vegetable shortening in place of the butter. The shortening has a much higher melting point, so it should hold up in hot weather, and if you use butter flavored shortening, it's likely that no one will even be able to tell that you skipped out on the butter.
Ways to Avoid a Grainy Texture
Good buttercream frosting is smooth, not grainy or sandy. However, the way you mix and prepare your frosting can have a great impact upon its texture. The chief culprit in grainy frosting is powdered sugar. If you're opening a brand-new bag, you shouldn't need to sift the sugar before you add it to the frosting bowl, but if you're using sugar from a bag that was previously opened, you must sift it. Even if it's stored well, powdered sugar can get lumpy, and skipping the sifting step won't provide as nice of a final texture.
Another issue may be that you're adding too much powdered sugar at once. Try adding the sugar in 1/2-cup increments; it may result in a smoother frosting. Finally, make sure you whip your frosting for an adequate amount of time. If it seems grainy, beat it for several more minutes and check on the consistency again.
How to Achieve Balanced Flavor
Some people dislike the taste and texture of buttercream, no matter how it's made. It's more common, however, to have gripes about specific flavor issues, like frostings that are too buttery or too sugary. The fixes for those issues are simple and make a dramatic difference in the final taste.
If the frosting tastes too sweet, you can cut the edge off the sweetness by adding a little salt or lemon juice; some recipes use both. Small amounts are all you need, and they really do work. If you've never been a fan of grocery store buttercreams due to the taste, try a recipe that uses salt or lemon and see if you notice a difference.
Got frosting that's too buttery? Most people don't mind the taste of butter, but if you need to tone it down a little bit, try adding more powdered sugar in 1/4-cup increments until the taste is more balanced. You can also try the above trick and put in the salt or lemon juice to take the focus off an overwhelming buttery taste.
The tastiest buttercream frosting is creamy and delicious, and holds up well whether you're just icing a cake or piping decorations. Use the tips above to create a frosting that gives you professional results every time.