I know that a lot of people struggle with buttercream - I remember that I used to always have problems with mine being too soft when it came to decorating a cake and that lead to the final result not being smooth which was so frustrating. But just like with my royal icing, I've finally mastered my own way of making sure my buttercream is always smooth and ready to decorate with. Though that doesn't mean I enjoy making it because I can't lie, I always find it tiring and the mess...especially when you're making large amounts. If anyone has found a way not to make a mess when making buttercream, I'm all ears!
Anyway, a lot of bakers use Swiss meringue buttercream, which I have yet to try so I can't really give my opinion/advice on that, but I use the regular method which couldn't be more simple and works perfectly for me! It's a 1:2 ratio of butter to icing sugar with 1tbsp of milk per block of butter used. (measurements are given below in the recipe) I use this buttercream to fill and decorate cakes, cupcakes and cake pops and although I do have different recipes for different flavours, this is a simple vanilla buttercream recipe that I'm sharing with you guys - I'll be making a separate post for my chocolate recipe and a few other flavours soon.
I usually end my blog posts with the recipe, but I'm going to add it in here this time and then give my advice on how to get foolproof buttercream and answer all the questions you guys sent over to me on Instagram!
Also a quick thank you to everyone who messaged me with their questions and queries, I'm so glad to know you're all loving the blog so far and I really appreciate the support! Much love xxx
Vanilla Buttercream Recipe
Enough to fill and decorate a 6inch cake.
500g unsalted butter - room temp
1kg sieved icing/powdered/confectionery sugar
2tbsp whole milk
2tsp vanilla *
*The vanilla is optional, I don't add it to mine but that's a personal preference! You can also add any other flavoured essence in place of the vanilla.
1. Place the icing sugar, butter, milk and vanilla if using it into a mixing bowl, and attach the beater attachment to the machine. (If you're using a hand whisk, it will still work but your buttercream is likely to get more air bubbles.)
2. Mix on a medium speed until combined - the buttercream will still look very yellow like the picture below but that's okay! Scrape down the bowl to get all the remaining icing sugar that sometimes gathers at the bottom.
3. Continue to mix on a medium speed for 5-10 minutes depending how light you want your buttercream to be - the longer you mix, the paler the buttercream. Also note that mixing on a higher speed increases the air bubbles in the mixture.
(After mixing for 5 minutes I was happy with the colour and consistency.)
4. And that's it! Simple light and fluffy buttercream which can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge - this usually lasts for up to a month or can be frozen for a couple of months.
For filling a cake, I usually use freshly whipped buttercream as it's soft and easier to handle to fill layers. But a few months into baking I found that if I had stored the buttercream in the fridge overnight, and then mixed it with a spatula the next day before using it to cover the cake, I was a lot less likely to get air bubbles and my cakes were turning out super smooth!
However, if you do store it overnight and want to use it to decorate cupcakes the next day but find it too hard, let it come to room temperature completely and give it a little mix. If it's still too thick, try adding a small amount of milk.
All in all, I always prefer using semi-cold buttercream now rather that it being warm, especially with cakes, plus this makes it easier to prep for your cake as you can make the buttercream in advance.
"How do you make buttercream perfectly white?"
Ahh, now this is a difficult one even for me. I can never make pristine white buttercream because butter in England tends to be very yellow, but you can come close with a few little hacks!
The first is whipping it quite a lot as I said above, the longer you whip it for, the paler it goes. A second trick I read somewhere is if you add a small drop of purple food colouring to your buttercream, it balances out the yellow colour to make more of a white. The last way I've seen (which is more expensive) is purchasing something called an 'icing whitener' which I've seen at my local cake shop, it's by Wilton and comes in a small white bottle. Adding this to your buttercream does make it significantly whiter, but personally I feel like you can get the same effect by whipping it for ten minutes rather than two and it also saves you money.
"How do you use buttercream in hot weather?"
'Summer' here in England is nothing compared to places like South Africa, which is where a couple of bakers I've talked to are from and I really have to applaud you guys for baking in that heat...
For when I have had to bake on very hot/humid days (bear in mind I don't have AC, but that is the first option) I try to keep my buttercream out for as little time as possible. This means having to ice my cakes quickly to get them and the remaining buttercream back in the fridge. If you find that your buttercream is too soft to work with, throw it back into the fridge again before using it when it's colder so your cakes stay smooth. And of course, try to avoid having a lot of direct sunlight coming into your kitchen. If you ever find that your cake has become condensed in the fridge after being out in the heat for so long, the only thing you can do is let it cool completely and then gently press a kitchen towel around it to 'blot' away the water.
(If anyone knows any tricks for condensed cakes, feel free to message me and I'll add it in here!)
"How are cakes left on tables for hours at events without melting?"
This is definitely always a worry for bakers! But with the recipe I have given you guys, it can act as a 'crusting' buttercream. This means that since it's thick and doesn't have a lot of milk, it holds its shape and forms a 'crust' once chilled meaning it won't melt. If you know you're going to have to leave your cake at a very humid venue, try making the buttercream without any milk at all, this way it will be even thicker. As long as your cake has chilled for a good few hours (preferably overnight) and you've stabilised it well with dowels etc, it should be fine!
"How to make the consistency right for piping or as a base layer for fondant?"
For covering a cake, the consistency after the buttercream has chilled is perfect in my opinion. But for piping, some people may prefer a softer consistency and for this all you have to do is add a small amount of milk after the buttercream has come to room temperature (room temperature buttercream is always softer than chilled, so make sure to check the consistency when it's 'warm' before adding more milk)
As for fondant, one fact about me is I never actually use it! I know how to and I have in the past, but I honestly dislike working with it so I don't. However, for a buttercream base layer, the same consistency that this recipe brings would be ideal to use.
"What's the best way to store buttercream cakes?"
Always in the fridge if you want them to last longer! Never leave them out, especially if the weather is warm.
"Is there any way to prevent cakes from drying out after you put them in the fridge?"
If the cake is covered in buttercream or fondant, that acts as seal around the cake which means the cake itself won't dry out. If there is a piece of open cake, then you'd need to make sure it's wrapped in cling film or in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.
"Is the beater attachment best for buttercream or the creamer/whisk?"
A whisk causes buttercream to have lots of air bubbles which is why the beater attachment is recommended to use, and is easier than the creamer as it has more movement in the bowl. I've always used the beater to make smooth buttercream and love it!
"How do you make different flavoured buttercream and keep the consistency?"
This really depends on what you're adding to the buttercream, and I'll be making a whole blog post on flavours etc but just an example would be if you wanted to add cookie crumbs for a 'cookies and cream' flavour, you can add more milk as the cookie crumbs would thicken the buttercream. Or if you wanted to add melted chocolate, you would take away the milk as the chocolate will loosen the buttercream up in place of the milk.
If anyone has more questions they'd like to ask in regards to buttercream, you can send me a message or email and I'll get back to you, plus I'll add it to the blog! And I'll be following this post up with another about flavoured buttercream, with recipes (of course) so you guys can try them out.
As always, if you try out my recipes feel free to tag me on Instagram/message me and thank you so much for the continuous love.