Please note: this recipe has since been updated. You can find the new and improved recipe here!
For a while now I have been hearing bloggers rave about a certain kind of buttercream. The Pioneer Woman and Steph of Obsessed with Baking both claim that it’s the best frosting they have ever had, Sara from Our Best Bites says it’s the perfect cupcake frosting and The Girl Who Ate Everything calls it ‘Frosting That Will Get You Hugs’.
So what am I talking about?
Well, apparently there’s a new buttercream in town. And it’s trying to make us all forget about the other buttercreams… It’s made by cooking a mixture of milk and flour and mixing in some butter and sugar after the milk mixture has cooled. A bit like a sweet béchamel sauce to which butter is added. Doesn’t sound very appealing, right?
That’s what I thought!
However, since I’m always up for trying new things – especially food related things… Especially food related things that don’t gross me out as soon as I hear about them, such as andouillettes or black pudding… – I thought that I needed to give this mysterious superhero of a buttercream a go sometime!
And why not, for once and for all, test whether it really is the best buttercream ever? I mean, if I’m making it anyway, why not make the other buttercreams too and make a culinary test of it? How many buttercreams can there be?
I’ll tell you… There are 6 different buttercreams known to this tough cookie. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
1. American Buttercream
2. Flour Buttercream
3. French Buttercream
4. German Buttercream
5. Italian Buttercream
6. Swiss Buttercream
Noticed the superhero in there? The ‘Flour Buttercream’? I told you this buttercream doesn’t really sound appetizing when you first hear about it, but I can hardly call it ‘The Best Frosting Ever’, can I? I mean, I’d seem biased if I – at this point in the first Tough Cookie Taste Test ever – would call it ‘Frosting That Will Get You Hugs’.
Anyway, enough with the blabbing and on with the testing. To test which of the aforementioned buttercreams is the best buttercream known to men I’ve decided to do a blind taste test. I baked about 75 mini cupcakes (and 6 big ones for the Rocking Rebel and myself… Oh, and to photograph…) and made 6 different batches of gorgeous, smooth, velvety buttercream.
All that was left for me to do was to find a group of enthusiastic volunteers willing to stuff their faces with 6 mini cupcakes and a generous amount of buttercream. Luckily, the Rocking Rebel came up with a great plan! You see, he’s a high school teacher. He teaches – you guessed it – music and art. And not at any old high school. No no no, he teaches at my old high school!
Now don’t get any naughty ideas… He didn’t yet teach there when we got together…
Anyway, the Rocking Rebel thought it would be fun if I popped by during a dull afternoon of report-card meetings (is it called that?). That would mean that a lot of teachers would be present and interested in tasting delicious little cupcakes. Plus, teachers know all about tests and such, so they would – theoretically – make the perfect taste testers!
And they were! That is, if you overlook the fact that teachers’ handwriting is far worse than the average student’s… But apart from that, they were great! I even got a chance to hang out with some of my old teachers, like my old gym teacher – who once burned a Red Hot Chili Peppers album for me back in the days when everyone still carried a discman in their pocket – my old old history teacher – whom one of my sister’s friends once had a crush on (shhh, don’t tell him!) – my old math teacher – who was the first to finish his 6 cupcakes and who still insists that I am actually good at math – and my old English teacher – who used to dismiss me because ‘my mom called that I needed to go home to feed the fish’.
We never had fish…
It was a lot of fun!
Anyway, back to the test. Over the next week, I’ll post the different buttercream recipes that I’ve tested in alphabetical order (remember, I’m not biased!) and, of course, the test results. Will the flour buttercream leave the rest of the buttercreams in the dust? Of will one of the oldies give the flour buttercream a run for its money?
Find out in Part VI of the Battle of the Buttercreams!
Today, I’ll tell you a thing or two about American Buttercream. Noticed the stars and stripes in the cupcake photo? As I was making the buttercream, I was able to collect some valuable data:
Fat Content: 31%
Sugar Content: 58%
Texture: Firm, with undissolved sugar grains
Level of Difficulty: Easy. An 8-year-old could make it.
So what did the teachers have to add?
Well, opinions varied strongly on this one. While some people disliked the grainy feel of the buttercream, many test subjects simply raved about it, claiming that the sugary texture was delicious. One subject even noted that the texture reminded her of marzipan. However, most of the subjects also stated that they thought the buttercream was simply way too sweet!
I’m sorry to say that the amount of sugar in this buttercream cannot easily be reduced any more. I already went with a recipe that’s low on sugar (some recipes out there call for double the amount of sugar I’ve used) and to reduce it even more would basically mean that instead of buttercream you would end up with sweetened butter, and that can’t be right…
Another thing that sets this buttercream apart from the other buttercreams is its texture. It’s grainy. As you eat it you feel the sugar crystals crunching between your teeth. It’s like eating a frosted cupcake on the beach.
People loved it! If you, like certain test subjects, like your buttercream “nice and sugary”, then just stick to this recipe. The resulting buttercream will contain small crystals of undissolved sugar, which forms a thin ‘crust’ on the outside of the frosting if you leave it to sit for a little while to dry out. If you like an easy 5 minute buttercream that is smooth and silky, try using pure cane sugar in powdered form. I haven’t tried it myself, but some people on the web claim it’s the key to a smooth American Buttercream. Other people advise Crisco, but I think that buttercream made with Crisco is hardly a buttercream…
My thoughts on the grainyness? Well, many powdered sugars contain an anticaking agent, which possibly makes it more difficult to dissolve the sugar in a substance like butter. Something to look out for if you’re really keen on making this buttercream smooth.
So, American Buttercream. Perfect if you want a quick and easy recipe that forms a thin crust on top and feels like sweet, soft sand in your mouth.
Me? I’m definitely not a fan… But the taste test proved once again that you really can’t argue about tastes, so here it is anyway. My recipe for American Buttercream…
Oh, and the chocolate cupcake?
Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Will post about it soon!
- 225g (or 1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 375g (or 2½ cups) powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Stir together with a rubber spatula or a spoon (you could use a mixer if you're feeling adventurous) until the butter has absorbed the sugar. Mix on high speed until smooth. Add the cream and vanilla and mix again to incorporate. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until needed. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or for up to 2 months in the freezer in a freeze-proof container or bag.
- To use buttercream that has been refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature (this takes about 3 hours in a warm kitchen) or microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until it's soft. Then mix through until it's spreadable again.Thaw frozen buttercream in the fridge overnight, then allow to come to room temperature before use and, once at room temperature, mix briefly until smooth.
- Serve at room temperature. If you've assembled a cake or decorated cupcakes, allow cake or cupcakes to come to room temperature before serving (about 3 hours in a warm kitchen).