How to Make Buttercream Icing from Scratch

buttercream icingCompared to other icings, buttercream is softer, more spreadable and manageable. Use it to pipe borders and to frost your cakes. Use it to write names and greetings. Use it to top your cupcakes. You should know that there is a LOT of buttercream icing recipes that you can try. However, it always comes in handy to know the most basic buttercream recipe first. Once you have mastered this basic recipe, you can now move on and experiment with various flavors and ingredients.

Classic American Buttercream Recipe

What You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups of confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon of clear vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 – 2 drops of food coloring

What You Need to Do:

  1. Put the butter in a large mixing bowl, and beat it using an electric hand mixer until it becomes light and fluffy.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar one spoonful at a time to the butter, and continue to mix until all of the sugar has been combined.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and milk until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy.
  4. If the frosting is too thick or too stiff, add more milk, a few drops at a time. If it’s too thin, add confectioners’ sugar.
  5. Add a drop or two of food coloring for a splash of color.
  6. The buttercream can be kept in the fridge when not in use, but make sure to adjust it to room temperature before using.

Italian Meringue Buttercream Recipe

This buttercream icing recipe is perfect for frosting a white cake. You only use egg whites, so the result is an icing that has a shiny white color. You can also use it for piping and cake decorating since it holds its shape pretty well.

What You Will Need:

  • 1 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 4 pasteurized egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • a pinch of cream of tartar

What You Need to Do:

  1. In a saucepan, boil the sugar and water over medium fire. Boil until syrup reaches the soft-ball stage.
  2. While the syrup is cooking, put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  3. Beat until the eggs are foamy using a low setting.
  4. Switch to medium and high speeds until you see stiff peaks form.
  5. Add the cream of tartar.
  6. Add the sugar syrup in slowly and surely, while maintaining the beating on a high speed.
  7. Add the butter and vanilla, and then continue to beat until you reach a smooth consistency.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe

Swiss and Italian meringue buttercream are somewhat similar, but the difference lies in the method of preparation. Italian meringue buttercream icing is made by adding sugar syrup into an already whipped meringue base, while the Swiss meringue buttercream icing is made by heating both the sugar and egg whites before whipping the meringue. Unlike its Italian counterpart, this type of buttercream is made by cooking egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed on a pot of boiling water. The process is called bain marie. The resulting mixture is removed from fire and then is whipped until it reaches a meringue form.

What You Will Need:

  • 10 large pasteurized egg whites
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 4 cups of unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

What You Need to Do:

  1. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof electric mixer bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  2. Whisk until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Transfer the bowl to the mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat at a medium speed until mixture has cooled down and you see stiff peaks on the whisk.
  4. Add the butter pieces one at a time and continue beating.
  5. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. Let the buttercream rest at room temperature. If you are not using right away, transfer it to an airtight container and store in your refrigerator. Before using, make sure to adjust the buttercream to room temperature.

French Meringue Buttercream Recipe

The French meringue buttercream icing is versatile and can be used in many ways, and is very delicious. It is fluffier and lighter than the traditional American version. It is easy to make simply by heating sugar syrup until it reaches the soft ball stage, and then whipping it with egg yolks and butter. And because of the egg yolk included in the recipe, it has a bright yellow color.

What You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

What You Need to Do: 

  1. Place sugar and water in a saucepan, and place it in a low heat fire.
  2. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Allow it to boil until it reaches what is called the soft ball stage. You will know this by putting a tiny amount of the sugar syrup into a cup of cold water. If the sugar syrup is hot enough, it will briefly form into a soft ball.
  3. Put the egg yolks into the mixing bowl and beat on a medium-low speed for about 5 minutes.
  4. Put the sugar syrup into the mixing bowl containing the eggs.
  5. Continue to mix until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.
  6. Add the pieces of butter one at a time.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and salt.
  8. You can use the buttercream immediately. If not, place it in an airtight container and keep in the freezer. Once you are ready to use it, allow it to adjust to room temperature first, and then beat it until it is in spreadable form again.

German Buttercream Recipe

German buttercream is richer and probably the most different buttercream when compared to its European counterparts. It’s rich like the American Buttercream, but not as sweet. While a Swiss and a French buttercream are meringue-based, the German buttercream is based on pastry cream and is much denser. It all begins with the pastry cream, and then butter is added, after which the frosting is beaten until smooth.

What You Will Need:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup of cornstarch
  • 1 pound of butter, cubed

What You Need to Do

  1. In a saucepan, put the milk and vanilla to a simmer.
  2. Put sugar, the whole egg, yolks, and cornstarch in a bowl and mix it.
  3. Add about 1/3 of the heated milk into the bowl, then whisk it.
  4. Then add the tempered egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk.
  5. Continue whisking until it thickens and bubbles.
  6. Remove the pan from the fire.
  7. Transfer the pastry cream into a bowl, and then cover it with plastic wrap, allowing it to cool to room temperature.
  8. Once it has cooled down, add the cubed pieces of butter one at a time, making sure to beat it after each addition until it reaches a smooth consistency.

Another quite very popular frosting to use in cake decoration is ganache. You can learn how to make ganache from scratch by clicking here.

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