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All About American Buttercream & Four of My Favorite Recipes


A spread of American buttercream in 4 flavors: Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate and Cream Cheese.
4 flavors of American buttercream: Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate and Cream Cheese

Swiss Meringue, Italian Meringue, French, German, Ermine, or ‘Flour’ Buttercream….and last but certainly not least, the great American Buttercream have their rightful places in cakes, pastry, and desserts but it is indeed the American Buttercream that I want to talk about. You see, I love all buttercreams and frostings and in fact, I’m a buttercream fanatic. I’m the person at the birthday party who stands around waiting to covet the corner cake piece so I can dive into the piped rosette or swipe my fork where both edges of a beautiful rope border meet. Each type of buttercream serves its purpose and is delicious in its own way but I feel I’m on a mission to redeem the American Buttercream. It’s been said by bakers and cake eaters alike that it is too sweet, too thick, too gritty and bakers often find difficulty decorating with it or keeping it from melting. I’m here to say that more often than not, American Buttercream gets a bad rep because it simply wasn’t made well.

Swiss Meringue is arguably more buttery in flavor and less sweet than other buttercreams and is often used in wedding cakes. It is smooth and easily spreadable so coating a cake and piping is made easy. Much of the same can be said about Italian Meringue buttercream since it is made with a higher amount of butter and is creamy and smooth, but it is also one of the most difficult buttercreams to make. While a German buttercream may be less sweet than most, it is certainly richer with a more pudding-like texture. If you’re looking for a buttercream that cuts out much of the sweetness, I’d recommend an ermine or ‘flour’ frosting as it’s made with a flour roux, creating a silky, soft texture. Let’s get back to why American buttercream is better than believed and why it should be regarded more highly than it is.

Miniature Confetti Cake cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles
Confetti cake cupcakes

Here’s the thing about American buttercream; when it is properly made, it holds the perfect balance of fat and sugar which can create the optimal texture for piping amazing florals, shapes, and beautiful borders. It is true that in warmer and more humid environments, American buttercream can melt easily but I have a little trick for that too. American buttercream is the easiest buttercream to make because you are essentially whipping butter and sugar together. This saves time and well, money because this buttercream does not use eggs and have you seen the price of eggs lately? Phew! Anyway, I’m hoping I can share with you how to get a better American buttercream that is irresistibly light, fluffy and full of flavor.

Here are some helpful tips to make the best American buttercream:


1. Use unsalted butter but do add a pinch of salt to your buttercream to enhance the flavor. An unsalted butter will control the salt of course but allow the flavor of the butter, vanilla (or any other flavor incorporated) to fully come through. In other words, too much salt can mask the authentic flavor of butter which can lead to the sugar overpowering the buttercream. If you do use a salted butter, simply avoid that pinch of salt.

2. Use a high-quality vanilla extract or bean paste. I prefer to use Rodelle or Nielsen Massey and Taylor and Colledge makes a great vanilla bean paste as well. For other extracts and flavors my go-to is any of the natural artisan flavors made by Amoretti.

3. Use a heavy cream instead of milk or water. The heavy cream offers a richer flavor, provides a smoother texture, and balances out the tooth-aching sweetness of the powdered sugar involved.

4. Try using an organic powdered sugar when you can. Organic powdered sugar holds a higher retention of molasses which gives more natural flavor to your buttercream.

5. Remember that trick about preventing buttercream from melting or going too soft in warmer, humid environments? Use meringue powder. Add a teaspoon of meringue powder to your American buttercream. This will help balance the stability and help the buttercream to settle more. It’s not going to solve the buttercream from melting entirely but it will help.

6. Lastly, do cream the butter first and do so using a paddle attachment rather than the whisk with your stand mixer. Beating the butter with the paddle attachment makes the butter creamier and can avoid air bubbles in the buttercream. Unlike other buttercreams, we are not whisking eggs. The paddle attachment allows for even distribution to whip the butter. Once butter is creamed, add powdered sugar until blended. Using a paddle attachment for this will also blend the butter and sugar well and can avoid the infamous gritty texture that usually develops. Replace the paddle attachment with the whisk for the remaining process to get a fluffier buttercream.

Pink Ombre buttercream sugar cookie rosettes.
Pink buttercream sugar cookie Rosettes

Are you a buttercream or frosting fan?

  • Give me all the buttercream!

  • No, it's all too much sugar. In fact how am I even here?

  • Sometimes, it depends what kind/what dessert

To store your buttercream:


Refrigerate buttercream in an airtight container or zip lock bag for up to two weeks or freeze for up to two months. Cakes or cupcakes will usually last for three or four days when properly stored in the refrigerator but you’ll want to serve your buttercream treats at room temperature.


Let's make some buttercream!


Vanilla American Buttercream spread onto a vanilla bean snacking cake
Vanilla Bean Snacking Cake

THE BEST VANILLA AMERICAN BUTTERCREAM


Ingredients

4 cups of powdered sugar

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla/almond or preferred extract or flavoring

¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

2 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream


To make:

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, cream butter until it is completely smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing on low until fully combined. Add salt and mix on low. Switch from paddle attachment to whisk attachment. On low speed, slowly add in the heavy cream until a smooth consistency begins to form. Add in vanilla extract. Increase to medium speed, whipping slowly until buttercream begins to form and bring it to a high speed, whipping for about 1 to 2 minutes. Bring speed down to low for 1 more minute to remove any air bubbles. Store in airtight container or use immediately on baked goods.


The fluffiest strawberry American buttercream accompanied by sugar cookies and fresh strawberries
The fluffiest Strawberry American Buttercream

FLUFFY STRAWBERRY AMERICAN BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients

4 cups powdered sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter

4 tablespoons strawberry jam

2 tablespoons strawberry extract

pinch of kosher salt

1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream


To make:

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, cream butter until it is completely smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing on low until fully combined. Add salt and mix on low. Switch from paddle attachment to whisk attachment. On low speed, slowly add in the heavy cream until a smooth consistency begins to form. Mix in strawberry jam. Add in strawberry extract. Increase to medium speed, whipping slowly until buttercream begins to form and bring it to a high speed, whipping for about 1 to 2 minutes. Bring speed down to low for 1 more minute to remove any air bubbles. Store in airtight container or use immediately on baked goods.


Chocolate Loaf Cake topped with Chocolate American buttercream
Chocolate Loaf Cake topped with Chocolate American buttercream

THE BEST AMERICAN CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM


Ingredients

6 cups of powdered sugar

1 ½ cups of Dutch-processed cocoa

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

3 to 4 tablespoons of heavy cream


To make:

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, cream butter until it is completely smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing on low until fully combined. Add salt and mix on low. Switch from paddle attachment to whisk attachment. On low speed, slowly add in the heavy cream until a smooth consistency begins to form. Mix in strawberry jam. Add in strawberry extract. Increase to medium speed, whipping slowly until buttercream begins to form and bring it to a high speed, whipping for about 1 to 2 minutes. Bring speed down to low for 1 more minute to remove any air bubbles. Store in airtight container or use immediately on baked goods.


Buttercream sugar cookie rosette with an American Cream Cheese Buttercream
Buttercream Sugar Cookie with American Cream Cheese Buttercream

AMERICAN CREAM CHEESE FROSTING


Ingredients

3 cups powdered sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream


To make:

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese until it is completely smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing on low until fully combined. Add salt and mix on low. Switch from paddle attachment to whisk attachment. On low speed, slowly add in the heavy cream until a smooth consistency begins to form. Add in vanilla extract. Increase to medium speed, whipping slowly until buttercream begins to form and bring it to a high speed, whipping for about 1 to 2 minutes. Bring speed down to low for 1 more minute to remove any air bubbles. Store in airtight container or use immediately on baked goods.




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