We’ve had lots of requests for a tutorial / recipe on how to whip up basic buttercream over the past few months. It would seem that the frosting referred to as simple, basic and even as American buttercream can be somewhat elusive, annoying and tricky. Don’t worry; we’ve found this to be the case too!
Over the years we’ve tried lots of different recipes and we’ve learnt two important things…
1 – Find ingredients you trust
Your basic buttercream recipe is relatively simple. You mix together butter, icing / confectioner’s sugar and a tiny bit of water (or milk, but this means your frosting doesn’t last as long) before adding some flavouring or colour. Sounds simple… but then there are annoying little things that can mess this recipe up like what brand or type of butter you use, how fine or course your icing sugar is and even how much flavouring you add or if you use a liquid food colourant!
The best thing to do is to find or create your own set recipe. Make a few batches using different brands of butter until you’ve found one you enjoy working with (some butters can be hard to mix and will leave you with lots of small clumps in your otherwise smooth buttercream). Use gel paste colours to change the colour of your buttercream as liquid colourings can make your buttercream sloppy. Use a very high quality extracts or essences when adding flavour to your buttercream. Store bought tends to be very watery whereas a good extract/essence is highly concentrated allowing you to only add a small amount for maximum flavour. We’ve tried and tested all sorts of flavourings and once we found these all natural extracts and essences we haven’t used any other; we highly recommend them!
2 – Develop your buttercream intuition
Use the below recipe as a guide but don’t be afraid to play around with ratio! This will help you develop your intuition when it comes to baking and decorating. Don’t just follow a recipe… utilise it! Everything in a recipe is there for a specific reason beyond taste… e.g, the butter in buttercream is a binder and the icing sugar is essentially the stabilising ingredient; without each other or if you have too much of either one you have a mess on your hands.
Consistency-wise you want frosting that feels and looks between a mousse and peanut butter. It needs to be at the same time soft and creamy and stable at room temperature. You should be able to pipe without the buttercream running out or refusing to be piped out.
When it comes to taste you want to be able to taste both main ingredients equally before you add flavouring. Always test your buttercream before you flavour. The sugar should never over power the butter and vice versa.
The recipe below makes enough buttercream to pipe six cupcakes. Use this recipe as a jumping off point to help whip up frosting perfect for you and how you work.
What you need…
250g room temperature butter (try to only use butter or spreads with a fat content similar to butter… low fat spreads have a higher ratio of water which messes with consistency & stability)
250g icing / confectioner’s sugar (you can sift if you like, but a good mixer should whip out the lumps)
1 teaspoon room temperature water or flavouring / extract / essence to ‘loosen’ the frosting
Optional: Gel paste food colour (gels work best as they won’t change the consistency of your frosting)
Step one: Cut up your butter into small cubes. We use a serrated knife to do this as the serrated edge causes less suction than a straight edge one. This means you shouldn’t be fighting desperately with getting the butter off your knife; a hazardous thing to do at best!
Step two: In a stand up mixer (we recommend a KitchenAid Artisan 4.8 Litre / 5 Quart Mixer) cream your butter using the flat beater on medium speed.
Step three: As the butter is creaming add in the icing sugar a bit at a time. Also, add the teaspoon of water or flavouring.
Step four: Mix your frosting at full speed at 30 second intervals; checking each time. Once lovely and creamy add in your food colouring and mix until fully incorporated!
You should now be on your way to buttercream nirvana. After a while of making batches of buttercream and really interacting with it (always tasting and analysing the consistency) you will earn your buttercream intuition badge!