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Decorating with Butter-made Buttercream

  • d

So I'm taking the Wilton cake decorating classes at Michaels in an effort to improve my piping skills (and get better at gumpaste flowers and fondant). The instructor is adamant that only frosting with Crisco can give you the stiffness that you need to make buttercream roses and flowers.

I've humored her for the first class and bought a can of the disgusting Wilton stuff to practice with, but I really don't see why adding real butter would ruin it. They made buttercream roses before Crisco was invented, didn't they? (Ok actually I have no idea)

So I'm making my own buttercream for tomorrow's class, but I'd still like it to be a consistency where she doesn't automatically blame mistakes that I'd (probably) make on the fact that there's butter in it. The most promising has a 1:1 ratio of butter to Crisco.

I'd rather not use any at all. Help, anyone?

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  1. it's a temperature issue -- Butter goes soft at far lower temperatures than Crisco, so the decorations tend to degenerate into unidentifiable blobs at room temp.

    1. It's true, butter flowers slump quickly - the heat from your hands as you're piping warms the frosting to an unstable temperature. Try the half and half recipe and see what you think.

      1 Reply
      1. re: biondanonima

        Yeah I'm going to try the half and half recipe. I've decided to use that for decorating (and ice the cake with whatever the heck I want). We'll see how it works...

      2. Many years ago I encountered a similar problem. I substituted Italian meringue buttercream for the Crisco stuff, as that is what I would be using in real life., preferring something actual edible. I had no problem, but the room was temperature controlled. For best results, you want to avoid overfilling your bag. The temperature of your hands and constant squeezing are your biggest enemy. Even if the teacher doesn't like it, it can be done. The canned stuff is good for practicing on a plastic wrap coated board, where you practice, scrape, practice, scrape, and practice some more. If she insists on your using the Crisco stuff, I would use a dummy, rather than bothering with an actual cake.

        2 Replies
        1. re: maxie

          Yeah, Italian meringue is what I'd use too; at least it's a little stiffer than French style. Problem is we have to bring in cakes to decorate. I'm doing this with my husband and I don't want to end up with 4 cakes and 12 cupcakes that are essentially inedible....

          1. re: DJade

            Exactly! I'd rather take guff from the instructor than end up with inedible cakes.

        2. For the class, I'd frost the cake with butter buttercream (refrigerate the frosted cake so it'll be easier to scrape off the new decorations), but as you're piping the frosting, I'd use Crisco and then scrape it off before eating. As you practice, you're going to be holding the bag in your hand a long time and unless you have ice cold hands all the time, especially as you're squeezing, it's going to get soft, especially as you scrape and practice again and again. Transferring a melted rose is hard. It all scrapes off the cake easily. Going half butter and half shortening still doesn't taste good--you still get that mouthfeel of the Crisco. Keep thinking this is more about practicing the technique than making a delicious final product. As you get used to the bag and pipe more quickly, you can go to what you like.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chowser

            Yeah that's what I'm thinking of doing. The cake I ended up making (Nigella Lawson's Guinness Chocolate cake) is too amazing to put the Crisco stuff on.

          2. My dad (son of a pastry chef) used to make decorated cakes for major holidays (piping, no roses or other flowers). He made a buttercream from butter and cooked pudding (he swore by Dr. Oetker brand). IIRC, the cake was usually kept in one of our cooler rooms or the garage until serving time. But I don't recall the piping melting.

            2 Replies
            1. re: nofunlatte

              I've piped basic decorations with French buttercream too and there was never any issue. Roses are probably another story...

              1. re: DJade

                And the real buttercream bowl is much tastier to "clean" :)