Please note: this recipe has since been updated. You can find the new and improved recipe here!
It’s official: with 3 posts written, posted and commented on, we’ve passed the halfway mark of The Battle of the Buttercreams. Only 3 more buttercreams to go before the test results are revealed!
Featured today: German Buttercream. Also known as Custard Buttercream…
I have to admit, I love German buttercream. I first tried it a couple of years ago and it was actually the second type of buttercream I ever made. I immediately fell in love with it! It’s creamy and fluffy and it has a gorgeous flavor. Perfect if you ask me!
But let’s not get ahead of things. Let’s first take a look at this buttercream’s main characteristics:
Color: pale yellow
Fat content: 36%
Sugar content: 39%
Texture: velvety smooth
Level of difficulty: normal
This buttercream is not difficult to make. If you can whisk a milk mixture that is heating on the stove, you can do it! I know that some people worry about making custard, because custard can split if its temperature exceeds 85°C/185°F. However, this particular custard contains cornstarch, which allows you to basically cook it without running the risk of ruining it. I still wouldn’t advise you to cook it for long, though. Only until the first few bubbles appear.
The thing that can be a bit tricky about this buttercream, is that it can split if either the base (the custard) or the butter are too cold when the two are mixed together. I usually leave the custard to cool to body temperature and make sure the butter has had time to soften and come to room temperature before I start adding the butter to the custard. However, sometimes it can be hard to control the temperature of your ingredients (for example, when you don’t have a lot of time to allow the butter to come to room temperature or if you’ve accidentally allowed the custard to become too cold). If this happens, the buttercream will look curdled when you mix in the butter and when you dip your finger in it, you can see tiny flecks of un-emulsified butter in the custard.
But no worries there! It’s easy to fix…
As soon as you notice the two elements aren’t emulsifying, just briefly suspend your mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. As the buttercream heats, mix continuously to prevent the buttercream at the edges of the bowl to melt completely. Take the bowl off the heat after a minute or so and mix through before adding the rest of the butter. The buttercream should look smooth and shiny again. If it doesn’t, just warm through for another 30 seconds or until smooth and cohesive.
A simple fix, but it works every time!
Just be careful not too overheat it, because the butter may melt and then you’ll end up with a liquid mixture. If that happens, just place it in the fridge for about 5 minutes before adding the remaining butter.
Anyway, another great thing about this type of buttercream is that it’s very easy to add different flavors to it. Truth be told, this can be said of most buttercreams, but because this buttercream has a custard base, it’s especially versatile. I’ve dissolved instant coffee powder into the milk before cooking the custard to make a coffee version, but if you use cocoa powder you end up with a chocolate version. And what about kardemom or cinnamon buttercream? Or rose buttercream? Why not flavor the milk with some tea or elderflowers before turning it into a custard?
Basically any flavor of custard can be turned into a German buttercream! The possibilities are endless…
So what did the testers think about it?
Most of my testers really loved this buttercream. Basically all of them raved about it’s delicate, mild flavor and soft, creamy texture. On the down side, some of them thought it was a bit buttery and one of my testers was really put off by this buttercream’s yellow color, while another said the color makes it look especially appetizing.
However, while the color of the buttercream didn’t seem to bother most of my testers at all, I can imagine that esthetically the color doesn’t really go with certain flavors, such as peppermint or coconut. People just expect those flavors to be white. So for those flavors an ivory buttercream may be a better choice. The color of this buttercream worked really well with the vanilla though!
On a piping-related note: because this buttercream is a little softer than other buttercreams, it’s a little more difficult to pipe intricate designs with it. Like the Flour Buttercream, the edges of this buttercream look really soft once piped…
But for a simple swirl, this buttercream is perfect!
Oh, by the way, as I was making this buttercream, the trusty €10 mixer that I’ve had for years broke, just when I was halfway through mixing in the butter. It actually looked quite spectacular with blue sparks shooting out of it!
Luckily, it broke in a good way: instead of shutting down, it wouldn’t stop mixing anymore! Only after I pulled the plug out of the socket did it stop… So instead of worrying about my broken mixer I finished mixing in the butter before running to the store to get myself a new one.
I mean, I was fairly comfortable using a broken mixer for 10 minutes, but I don’t want it to explode or anything in the future…
- 150ml milk
- 50g (or ¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 3 egg yolks
- 50g (or ¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 200g (or ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- First, make a simple custard. In a small combine, combine the milk, 50g of sugar and the vanilla. Gently heat over low heat, stirring occasionally. In a heatproof bowl, combine the cornstarch with a little splash of the milk mixture. Stir to a smooth paste. Add another splash of milk an stir to incorporate. Whisk in the egg yolks and sugar until frothy and well combined. Once the milk mixture has reached boiling point and bubbles start to appear around the edges of the pan, slowly drizzle the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Once all the milk has been added, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over low heat. Whisking continuously, wait until the first bubbles appear and the mixture has thickened. Pour into a clean heatproof bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool to body temperature.
- Once the custard has cooled sufficiently, mix in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each tablespoon of butter is incorporated before adding the next. 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).