Hey guys, have you all had time to make that awesome dark chocolate cake with pumpkin buttercream and a salted caramel filling for Halloween? If you have, great! If you haven’t, pumpkins are still in season 😉
Because I loooved the spicy buttercream component of the cake so much, and because tips on how to flavor Italian buttercream could come in handy, I thought I’d post a quick but detailed post on how to make it. You know, so all of you can end up with the same dreamy result!
As you know, Italian buttercream is made by making a sugar syrup and drizzling it into beaten egg whites while mixing continuously. Cubes of softened unsalted butter are then mixed into this Italian meringue to make buttercream. Consequently, like all buttercreams, Italian buttercream is a water-in-fat emulsion; the watery Italian meringue is combined with fatty butter. When you want to flavor the buttercream, it’s important to be aware of this. If you add too much liquid (such as fruit juices or purees) to the buttercream, the water-in-fat emulsion may break, which means the buttercream will separate. Knowing how to avoid this is key to making a smooth and delicious buttercream!
Trust me, I’ve lived through my share of buttercream disasters!
To turn my basic Italian buttercream into a spicy pumpkin buttercream, I decided to flavor it with a concentrated puree. Not only do concentrated purees contain less moisture than regular fruit or vegetable purees, the flavor also deepens during the concentration process. As such, concentrated purees are perfect for flavoring all kinds of buttercreams (so feel free to add the puree to your buttercream base of choice!), including Italian buttercream, because not only are they less likely to break the water-in-fat emulsion, they also impart more flavor!
You only need five ingredients to make the concentrated spicy pumpkin puree for this recipe: plain pumpkin puree (I used homemade), light brown sugar, unsalted butter, some cinnamon, and a little nutmeg.
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Using a wooden spoon or a heatproof rubber spatula, stir until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has come to a boil. The mixture will be quite thick, so look for slow bubbles!
Cook the spicy pumpkin puree for about five minutes, stirring slowly but continuously. This allows some of the moisture to evaporate, thickening the puree and concentrating the flavors of the pumpkin, sugar and spices.
Once done, the spicy puree should look something like this.
Making the concentrated pumpkin puree will only take you about 10 minutes, but the puree does need time to cool completely before you can add it to the buttercream base, otherwise the butter in the buttercream will melt and you end up with a soupy mess.
I actually made the pumpkin puree the night before I wanted to make the buttercream to allow the puree to chill in the fridge overnight. Oh, and I blitzed it in a blender to make it a bit smoother, too.
The next day, I simply mixed spoonfuls of the cold concentrated pumpkin puree into a batch of freshly made Italian buttercream, mixing well after each addition. Because I used a concentrated puree, the buttercream didn’t separate and I was able to really give it a nice pumpkin kick!
Perfect for fall!
But of course, if you’re not that into pumpkin, feel free to experiment with other fruit purees or juices! I personally can’t wait to make a similar concentrated puree using apples, pears or peaches. Just maybe with different spices.
Oh, and in case you are wondering about my baby… He or she is still in my belly 😉
- 240g (or 1 cup) homemade or store bought pumpkin puree
- 28g (or 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 110g (or ½ cup, packed) light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 240g (or 1 cup + 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 4 large egg whites (about 130g, or ½ cup)
- 225g (or 1 cup) unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature
- Combine all the ingredients for the spicy pumpkin puree in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Crank up the heat to medium and continue to heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. As the mixture is quite thick, you need to look for slow bubbles.
- Once the puree is bubbling, set the heat to medium-low and cook the mixture for 5 minutes, stirring slowly but continuously, to allow some of the moisture to evaporate. Then remove the puree from the heat and blitz to a finer puree in a blender or with a stick blender.
- Allow the spicy pumpkin puree to cool to room temperature, then chill for about 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge.
- Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring with a metal spoon until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is clear. Crank up the heat to medium-high and allow syrup to come to a boil.
- In the meantime, place the egg whites in a medium-sized, heatproof bowl and mix (with a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment) until the whites are almost able to hold soft peaks.
- Once the sugar syrup has come to a boil, clip on a candy (or sugar) thermometer or insert the probe of a multimeter. Cook until the syrup reaches a temperature of 113°C/235°F, then immediately remove from the heat and slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the bowl with the egg whites, mixing continuously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Don't pour the syrup onto the whisk, or the syrup may splatter against the sides of the bowl (or into your face!). Instead, aim for a spot close to the whisk.
- Once all the syrup has been added, keep mixing until the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch and the meringue has cooled down to at least body temperature.
- Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, start adding the butter to the meringue one cube at a time, mixing well after each addition. As you're adding the butter, the mixture will lose most of its volume and at some point may even start to look as if it's separating. Don't panic! Just keep mixing and the buttercream will magically come together and become smooth and creamy.
- Add the chilled pumpkin puree to the buttercream one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once you’ve added all the puree, mix for another 2 minutes, or until the buttercream looks creamy and smooth.
- Use immediately or store in an airtight container or a zipper bag in the fridge for up to a week. To use buttercream that has been refrigerated, first allow to come to room temperature then beat with the mixer until smooth and spreadable again.
- Cakes or cupcakes decorated with buttercream generally keep 3-5 days, stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Allow cakes and cupcakes decorated with buttercream to come to room temperature before serving, because this improves the texture of the buttercream. For a big cake, this may take up to 4 hours