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Oct 28, 2009 07:29 PM

Almost sold on trying an American Buttercream with shortening...

I'm still on my ever-present quest to find the perfect buttercream, and while I don't personally believe that this "perfect" buttercream will come in the form of an American buttercream (butter/shortening mixed with powdered sugar and flavorings) and instead lies in some sort of meringue-based buttercream that I've yet to find a perfect recipe for, I'm always up for trying new things.

This particular blogger almost has me sold on trying what she deems to be the Buttercream Dream Icing:

One issue I have with this recipe is the use of clear imitation vanilla extract since I'd much rather have a quality vanilla flavor than a perfectly white icing. But, that issue aside, the use of half butter and half shortening concerns me, as any icing I've personally made with shortening has made me nauseous. That's not to say that icings on cakes I have purchased or consumed haven't had shortening, as I know that they have, but I think that I have developed less of a taste for the shortening (and the slick mouthfeel it leaves behind) over the years. However, in order to get the not-too-buttery though not sickeningly sweet, fluffy icing I have been trying to master for years, I'm open to trying new things with ingredients I'm not 100% sold on. Has anyone made this recipe or a similar one? I know that recipes using half butter and half shortening are by no means rare, but other than one I made from the Whimsical Bakehouse Cookbook, which I thought was okay but not worth making again, I haven't tried any myself. Thanks!

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  1. not that this helps you, but i have never made a frosting with shortening. i find the texture very off-putting and i don't think that my clients would appreciate my deviation either.
    that being said, i really would like to know what you think if you do decide to try it! (c:
    my fave is the italian meringue buttercream. it is so easy and always comes out perfect if the ingredients are the right temp.

    5 Replies
    1. re: raygunclan

      Thanks for your post! My only problem thus far with the meringue buttercreams (I've tried both Italian and Swiss) I've made are that they seem too buttery for my tastes and also perhaps not sweet enough (basically they sometimes taste like I'm eating lightly sweetened butter). I'm interested in playing around with the butter to egg white ratio in these recipes to see if I can get a fluffier icing that isn't so buttery (and perhaps is a bit sweeter) but I realize that will probably take a lot of experimenting in order to ensure that the buttercream is stable once butter has been removed. That being said, I "think" I find frostings made with shortening to be off-putting too, with the most recent one I made getting thrown in the trash, but the pictures and rave reviews from other bloggers on the particular recipe I posted make making it mighty tempting!

      1. re: Laura D.

        i simply cannot stand the mouthfeel of shortening. just yuk. unless you need to display your cake in the hot sun, i don't see the point.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          I'd also add that it's a pain to clean shortening frosting, especially if you're decorating a cake. It takes patience, great dish soap and very hot water even to clean the pastry bags, let alone the little tips.

          1. re: chowser

            When I took a cake decorating class the teacher told us that we'd have no desire to eat a shortening based frosting again after we saw how gross the bowl was to clean, but she still recommended it for decorating as you did when mentioning the flowers, etc. you make with a shortening based frosting. Sounds like I'll skip this recipe.

          2. re: hotoynoodle

            Totally agree. Taste-wise, go with butter. The very thought of shortening in frosting is just gross.

      2. My aunt who has made many, many cakes swears by Wilton's Buttercream recipe.

        I recently found Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake recipe on a Daring Bakers challenge. I've only tried the icing but found it perfect -- silky, not too sweet, not heavy. I think the lemon juice really cuts any over the top buttery flavor

        Good luck.

        2 Replies
        1. re: aekbooth

          Have you tried your aunt's recipe and, if so, what does it taste like? I know I made a wilton buttercream recipe for a cake decorating class I took years ago, but I can't remember if it was this particular one, or whether it was one made with all shortening. I believe Greenspan's recipe is a Swiss Buttercream (heating the sugar and egg whites together and then whipping them until stiff and cool before adding butter) and I haven't tried that exact one, though appreciate your endorsement. Did you find the lemon juice to produce a noticeable lemon flavor, or did it simply cut the butter flavor without imparting a too obvious flavor of its own?

          1. re: Laura D.

            Laura, I licked the bowl many times when my aunt made the wilton recipe, but I was much younger with less discriminating tastebuds. I thought it was better than storemade. But I don't think it had much flavor or substance, just sweetness and greasiness.

            I think you are right that Greenspan's is a Swiss buttercream. As I am trying to remember, I'm thinking that I actually omitted the lemon juice because I was serving it on chocolate cake and didn't do a practice run. But many of the other posts said the lemon juice wasn't obvious. I wish I could remember if I put it in or not.

            Good luck in your search.

        2. The recipe I used to use one place I worked was a ratio (by weight) of 2 parts unsalted butter, 3 parts powdered sugar, 2 parts high-ratio shortening (this is the key to the super fluffy texture, regular crisco won't cut it here, you can find it in some cake-making supply shops and online)
          When I've made it at home (someone requested it) I used:
          8 oz butter, cold
          12 oz powdered sugar, sifted
          8 oz shortening, room temp
          Beat the butter until it's smooth and fluffy and all lumps have beaten out. On a low speed add the powdered sugar in at least 2 parts. Beat it until it's fluffy. Add shortening and beat again. Add vanilla and beat for about 30 seconds to make sure it's really fluffy. Don't chill it before using.
          You can beat in melted unsweetened chocolate to taste for chocolate (for this much icing, I'd say 2-4 oz)
          This recipe fills my stand mixer about halfway, so doubling it is possible, but probably not necessary.

          1. It seems to me the only reason to use shortening in a buttercream is for increased stability if you're decorating a cake using a pastry bag and various tips, or making buttercream roses. And using clear vanilla (imitation) extract would only be necessary if you want pure white icing. Shortening adds a greasy mouthfeel that I find objectionable, and for that matter the idea of consuming shortening is objectionable. Use butter, or try butter and cream cheese, but please, no shortening!

            2 Replies
            1. re: janniecooks

              Yes to butter and cream cheese, which makes for a delicious frosting with a good texture, and is dead simple and quick to make. I much prefer it to any other frosting. I have also used some marshmallow fluff, which both sweetens it and makes it more fluffy.

              1. re: greygarious

                I definitely love cream cheese buttercreams, and have two recipes I go to time and time again when making it. But, sometimes I want a more classic (read: non-cream cheese) buttercream, and that's where I am stuck with finding my perfect recipe. I've made the recipe you mention using marshmallow fluff several times, finding that I like it a little less each time I make it, but perhaps I'll try it again.

            2. I took the Wilton class years (decades) ago and used the shortening frosting. I think it's a great way for beginners to learn to decorate because it holds up to the heat of your hands over time as you practice. But, the mouthfeel is terrible. I don't like the half butter/half shortening, either. You still get that slimey mouthfeel. That said, if I'm making a cake that has to stand in heat/humidity, I'll use regular buttercream (whichever goes with the cake) made w/ butter and then use the shortening buttercream, all shortening, for the decorations. I find most people will scrape off the excess roses, etc. no matter what the frosting is. And, people who eat it seem to like the shortening buttercream because they like the sweetness.

              I agree w/ you on the vanilla. Butter itself isn't white, unless you're using European butter which is closer, so the addition of real vanilla isn't a problem to me. The clear imitation vanilla isn't the same. Wilton also suggests using butter flavor, for all shortening but I've never done that.