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Mar 9, 2011 11:24 AM

The Perfect (Foolproof) Buttercream Recipe?

I looked at some of the previous posts on making buttercream, but frankly can't handle all the variations (American, decorator, more sugar, less, etc.). Does anyone have a foolproof buttercream recipe that is easy to make? Here's what I'm looking for: Not too sweet, not gritty, no raw eggs involved, and easy to use to decorate a cake. I'm open to shortening if needed, although I have tried to avoid that in the recipes I've tried so far, but maybe that's the problem...

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Pandora, without having read the threads you are referring to, I'm highly recommending Dorie Greenspan's buttercream recipe from Baking: from my home to yours. It works and is very clearly written. I found it really reassuring that she mentions something like: it will look like you failed the recipe but keep beating! it will come together. That's exactly what happened to me when I made it and without that reassuring note, I would have thought I had ruined the batch and started all over again. Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: pâté chinois

      Thanks! I searched around and it looks like that recipe might be meringue based? I fear it may be beyond my skill level....

    2. This is a basic American buttercream, easy to whip together, easy to use to decorate. Like most American buttercreams,it is a little on the sweet side. But, it's easier than heating up egg whites/sugar/water on the stove which most of the other types of buttercream call for.

      If you're decorating a cake for hot weather, it's helpful to use a little shortening, although I hate the mouthfeel of that. If not, just use all butter.

      6 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        I think that one's a knock-off of the one I use from Magnolia Bakery (they use 1/2 cup whole milk and more vanilla). Definitely on the sweet side, I didn't read the instructions but it's probably the same.

        Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream Icing

        1 Cup (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
        6-8 Cups Confectioners’ Sugar
        ½ Cup Milk
        2 tsp Vanilla Extract

        Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.

        Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

        1. re: lilgi

          Funny, when I made the Magnolia cupcakes, I thought, hey, that's Restaurant Eve's recipe! I have the feeling they came about it independently. There are only so many variations you can come up with for american buttercream. Restaurant Eve has been around for years and I have no idea which came first. For the record, I prefer the cake w/ Restaurant Eve to Magnolia's cupcakes as the recipe goes. In real life, I prefer Magnolia cupcakes but think I had a poor cake from RE.

          1. re: chowser

            I'd go by whichever recipe went public first. Honestly some of the Magnolia recipes, although very basic have put the hoo-doo on me for sure, so I've stuck with their recipe for cakes as well (at least vanilla and chocolate, haven't made their red-velvet yet). Yes a spell, just like the JT cookies....oooh.

            1. re: lilgi

              People have been making this kind of buttercream almost as long as they've been making people. It's what my mother used to make, and her mother before her, and so forth.

              There's a bakery in my town that makes this kind of buttercream.

              Neither Restaurant Eve nor Magnolia owns the rights to this one.

              1. re: Jay F

                Jay F,

                Chowser said it, It is a Basic American Buttercream. And it is. I mentioned another published identical recipe, not a similar recipe, nor did I argue who invented Buttercream. I don't know who your mom used as a source, mine is Magnolia. My mother didn't have a buttercream recipe.

                1. re: Jay F

                  Right, and I imagine that Dorie Greenspan's recipe might have been an inspiration for Magnolia, not the other way around.

        2. Thanks for the American buttercream recipe. I think I've been doing something similar, but one problem I've had is that it sets up pretty solid in the fridge. Will it soften after some time at room temperature? Or is it better to not refrigerate the cake at all. The cake is a standard genoise (citizen cake recipe). I plan to use either buttercream or whipped cream in between the layers along with strawberries and mangoes. I'd make the cake the day before and am debating whether it can go in the fridge or if it should stay out.

          Also, if anyone has advice on whether to use buttercream or whipped cream in the layers, that would be helpful too. I did a practice with buttercream, and it was way too sweet with buttercream between the layers AND covering the cake. So I was thinking regular whipped cream would make the cake less sweet overall, but I'm a little worried the cake would get soggy or something if the whipped cream didn't stay whipped.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Pandora

            I think if you use whipped cream between the layers you are going to have to refrigerate it overnight. But, keep in mind that you can probably take the cake out well in advance of serving so that the buttercream softens up. One characteristic of American Buttercreams, though, is that they often develop a crust (they harden), so even if the cake is no longer cold it is likely to get this and will seem pretty solid from the outside.

            One other thing--I thought I disliked American Buttercreams but realized that most of what I disliked (the sweetness and sometimes chalky texture) can be alleviated if you make sure to whip it for quite a long time. The American Buttercream that I like involves adding a little bit of lemon juice to offset the sweetness, and is whipped for ten minutes once all the ingredients come together, so that you get something fluffier than one might expect. Good luck with your cake!

            1. re: Pandora

              If you do only buttercream, then you don't need to refrigerate. Since you're doing fruit in between, I think a stabilized whipped cream would be perfect. If you want a really good frosting for your cake, I love this lemon curd mascarpone frosting and that would be perfect for strawberries, too. It's not too sweet and decorates well. I love the whole cake, actually.