So you might remember, a while back we posted a blog post titled: “Does It Really Matter What Buttercream I use?”
We talked about the different types of buttercreams in general terms, and some of the high points of each. Today, we’re going to get a little bit more in depth about the two most popular types of buttercreams.
Crusting vs. Non-Crusting
Crusting buttercream consists of powdered sugar, butter, and/or shortening, and a liquid component (like milk, cream etc.) Non crusting buttercream is usually made with butter, granulated sugar, and egg whites. For this type, the eggs are whipped then boiling sugar is slowly added. That mixture is then whipped to room temperature and butter is added and whipped some more until light and creamy. Shortening is not usually used in this type of icing, and this is called a meringue buttercream. Crusting buttercream is often called American buttercream, whereas non crusting buttercreams include Italian Meringue and Swiss Meringue.
But what exactly is crusting? That sounds kinda yucky and not like something you want to eat 🙂 But it’s not really “crusty”. The icing will develop a “sugar skin” over the surface that will allow it to be touched without pulling up the icing. This occurs because of evaporation of the liquid in the icing, creating that fine crust. This is also what allows the use of paper towels to aid in smoothing, as they won’t stick to the surface of the icing.
- American buttercream (ABC) is made with butter and/or shortening, powdered sugar, and liquid. It may or may not crust.
- Meringue buttercreams (SMBC, IMBC) are made with egg whites, granulated sugar and butter. They never crust.
Types of Meringue Buttercreams
Tips and Techniques:
♦ The very first and most important thing to remember when making a meringue based frosting is that grease will break down your eggs. Make sure that you use metal utensils and bowls that are clean and have been wiped with lemon juice.
♦ You can use either pasteurized fresh or carton whites, however, fresh whites will make a fluffier, more voluminous icing.
♦ When making Swiss Meringue Buttercream or French Meringue Buttercream, make sure that your bowl is not submerged in the boiling water, or you will have scrambled eggs. It’s the steam from the bain marie that is going to slowly heat the eggs, and make a fluffy meringue.
♦ Be careful not to add the butter too early in the process. Make sure that the meringue is room temperature and the bowl is cool to the touch before adding your butter.
♦ Each of these meringue based buttercreams can be kept for about a week in the fridge in an airtight container. When you need it, take it out and allow the buttercream to come back to room temperature then rewhip it. These buttercreams can be frozen for up to 8 weeks.
♦ These meringue based buttercreams can be used under fondant, however, you’ll want to place an iced cake in the fridge to firm it up first before applying your fondant.
♦ Raw eggs should be cooked to the proper temperature called for in the recipes to kill any bacteria present.
Sometimes even the most experienced baker will encounter a batch of buttercream that just won’t cooperate. Fortunately, MOST of the time, your buttercream can be saved.
♦ If your buttercream looks “soupy”, the meringue isn’t quite cool enough. Stop whipping, and put the mixer bowl in the fridge for a few minutes to allow it to cool down. Resume whipping in the butter when cool, and it should come together. OR just continue whipping until it the bowl feels cool to the touch. This can take quite a while, even 20-30 minutes.
♦ If it appears “curdled”, don’t panic, the butter has simply not emulsified with the meringue yet and may have been too cool. Continue to mix on low speed or wrap a warm towel around the bowl while mixing, just to bring the temperature back up. Keep whipping and it will come together into a nice, fluffy frosting.
With both of these techniques for troubleshooting, remember, patience is the key to success.
Sharon’s American Buttercream:
NOTE: I have a whole blog post dedicated just to this recipe here.
- 5 generous cups Sweetex shortening or other brand of hi-ratio shortening (may sub up to half butter)
- 5 pounds powdered sugar
- 4 Tbsp. Wedding Bouquet flavoring (or substitute your flavoring of choice in the appropriate amount)
- 12 – 14 Tbsp. hot coffee creamer liquid made from powder mixed with hot water 1:1 (adjust amount used as needed) (more if needed)
Cream the shortening, flavorings, and hot liquid with the paddle attachment until well combined and creamy. Then stream in the first 3 pounds of powdered sugar with mixer running at speed one. When incorporated somewhat, stop and scrape down sides of bowl well. Stream in last 2 pounds of powdered sugar at speed one. When incorporated, turn the mixer up to speed 6 and let it beat for 5 – 7 minutes, until very smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl very frequently while the mixer is going at speed 6.
The goal is t get all of the icing down into the belly of the bowl and fill the bowl from side to side with no air gaps around the walls, as well as covering the paddle up to the springs. If the icing is making a “kissing” noise after all the sugar is in, add just a few drops more of liquid, while scraping down the sides, with the mixer running, until that stops. You should create a bowl full of icing side to side, where the paddle is completely submerged and beating in a vacuum under the icing. Five to seven minutes at speed 6 and you should have a smooth as silk and nearly airless icing. Cover and cool before using.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 3/4 cup shortening at room temperature
- 2 cups of butter at room temperature
- 1 TBSP. vanilla extract
In a large metal bowl over a double boiler, whisk the granulated sugar into the egg whites. Stir constantly until the mixture reaches 115 degrees F on a candy thermometer and is no longer gritty feeling when a small amount is rubbed between 2 fingers.
Transfer this mixture to your stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip on high speed until it is thick, glossy and white in color and forms stiff peaks. While making the meringue, sift your icing sugar, then add the all at once to the firm meringue. Mix until incorporated on low speed.
Add the butter and shortening in small amounts at a time to the meringue, but try to add it all quickly.
No shortening and powdered sugar version:
- 10 large, fresh egg whites
- 2-1/2 cups (500 g) sugar
- 3 cups (680 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Italian Meringue Buttercream:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 egg whites
- 2 cups butter at room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar, and bring to a boil, while stirring. Once it comes to a boil, stop stirring. Bring mixture to 238 degrees or soft ball stage.
In the bowl of the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites till soft peaks form. Add the sugar/water mixture to the egg whites in a slow steady stream down the side of the bowl, with the mixer on medium speed. Be careful not to hit the whisk with the syrup.
Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is cool or to room temperature. It is very important that the mixture is cool, or the when you add the butter, it will turn curdled and soupy.
French Meringue Buttercream:
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup clear corn syrup
- 2 cups unsalted butter softened
- 1 TBSP. vanilla extract or flavoring of your choice
Grease a heatproof glass measuring cup.
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the yolks until light in color and fluffy.
In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. At this point, its entire surface should be covered in tiny bubbles. Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.