Please note: this recipe has since been updated. You can find the new and improved recipe here!
Doing! Time for round 3 of this week’s Battle of the Buttercreams! And when I say week, I mean Thursday the 28th of November to Wednesday the 4th of December. Just so you know…
Today’s post is all about French buttercream! First, let’s look at some important information about this particular buttercream:
Color: pale yellow
Fat content: 54%
Sugar content: 23%
Texture: velvety smooth
Level of difficulty: normal to hard.
Truth be told, I didn’t think this buttercream was hard to make at all and I’m by no means an expert. But since there’s hot sugar syrup involved I would advise beginning bakers to be careful when making this buttercream. Apart from the sugar syrup, it’s a breeze! And if you’re used to making caramel, consider this an easy recipe!
An interesting fact about this buttercream is that it has a 54% fat content. This is due to the fact that the base of this buttercream is made with egg yolks, which contain a lot of fat. Because it has such a high fat content, it melts fairly easily and doesn’t hold up very well in high temperatures. So if you’re planning on transporting frosted cupcakes or a big frosted cake in a blistering hot car during summer, I strongly suggest you go with a buttercream with a lower fat content!
Or am I the only one who hasn’t got an air conditioned car?
Anyway, even though French buttercream contains a lot of fat, it doesn’t have a ‘greasy’ feel to it. On the contrary, most of my taste testers were very positive about this buttercream’s texture, describing its velvety smoothness with words such as “fluffy”, “soft” and “creamy”. I know: not the most creative descriptions, but my testers had had a long day of boring meetings, so I’m thrilled they even took the effort to write down a few adjectives…
Overall, this buttercream received mostly positive reviews. While one tester thought it could use an extra splash of vanilla extract and another made note of an “eggy” aftertaste, most people loved the flavor of this buttercream, praising its “delicate but not overwhelming sweetness” and stating that it was simply “the best”!
As far as channeling your inner kitchen goddess (god?) goes, all buttercreams, but especially buttercreams such as this one, are really fun to play around with!
I guess it’s quite obvious that the recipe for American buttercream can easily be adapted to your own taste. You can add more powdered sugar if you like it a little sweeter (remember: mine had very little sugar in it compared to other American buttercreams), you can easily add a little more vanilla or some salt and you can make it creamier by adding another splash of cream.
The recipe for this buttercream may seem a little trickier to adapt to your own personal taste, but it is actually very easy once you understand what you’re doing. To make French buttercream, you start by making a paté au bombe. I know it sounds rather dangerous, but it is basically an Italian meringue made with egg yolks instead of egg whites. When I was developing this recipe, I first compared a number of different recipes for paté au bombe. The recipes I’ve looked at call for 20-33 grams of sugar per yolk. Having thus decided the ‘sugar boundaries’ of my recipe, I decided to use only 20 grams of sugar per yolk, mainly because I like to keep things flavorful but not too sweet.
Know what this means? That you can just add more sugar if you like this buttercream a little sweeter! Just don’t use more than 33 grams per yolk, and your buttercream should turn out fine!
Same with the butter. The recipes I looked at called for 45-75 grams of butter per yolk. Quite a big difference, but knowing that the buttercream would melt more easily if I added a lot of butter, I decided to start by incorporating the minimum amount of butter (45 grams per yolk), taste it and then decide whether I would think it needed any more!
Worked like a charm and I ended up putting only 50 grams of butter per yolk in.
So anyway, feel free to experiment with these buttercream recipes! Most are easily adaptable once you know what you’re dealing with… In this case: paté au bombe and butter. Very simple…
Oh, and stay tuned for the next round of the Battle of the Buttercreams: German Buttercream!
- 5 egg yolks
- pinch of salt
- 100g (or ½ cup) granulated sugar
- 60ml (or ¼ cup) water
- 250g (or 1 cup + 5 teaspoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- First make a paté au bombe. To a small saucepan, add the sugar and water. Heat over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then crank up the heat, stop stirring and clip on a sugar thermometer. In the meantime, combine the egg yolks and salt in a heatproof bowl and mix until frothy. Once the sugar syrup reaches 114°C/238°F, remove it from the heat and slowly drizzle in the egg yolks, mixing continuously. Be sure to pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, away from the whisk attachments, so that the syrup won't splatter. Once all the syrup has been added, raise the mixer's speed to high and beat until the mixture cools to body temperature and the paté au bombe has thickened and lightened in color.
- When the paté au bombe is cool enough, start adding the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each tablespoon of butter is incorporated before adding the next. Once all the butter has been added, add the vanilla and mix 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).