Hey guys! Did you like the Dark Chocolate Buttercream I told you about in my last post? Wait, have you even tried it already? Because if you haven’t, put it on your to-bake list right now! It’s too good to miss out on…
Anyway, as promised, just to keep things organized – because my very chaotic self likes it when things are sort of organized – a quick post on the perfect way to make fluffy, delicious buttercream: the ‘Beaten Butter Method’. I already posted about the beaten butter method last January, when I had originally planned to start ‘Battle of the Buttercreams 2.0’, buuuuuut…. life happens, you know.
So here it is again.
TWO DIFFERENT PREPARATION METHODS
The six kinds of buttercream known to home bakers everywhere can be roughly divided into two categories, according to their preparation method:
- Buttercreams that are made by adding a sweet base (mostly some sort of pudding, but it can also be just sugar) to beaten butter. I like to call this method the ‘beaten-butter method’. And yes, coming up with super creative terms is definitely one of my many talents…
- Buttercreams that are made by adding cubes of softened butter to a sweet base (an egg foam). I call this one the ‘cubed-butter method’. I’m a genius…
American buttercream, flour buttercream, and German buttercream all fall into the first category while French, Italian and Swiss buttercream all fall into the second category.
The beaten-butter method is the easiest of the two, and since we’ve already, kind of, used it when we made the American buttercream it’s the method I’ll be discussing today.
BEATEN BUTTER METHOD
Let me first tell you a little secret: almost all the buttercreams made using the beaten butter method can also be made with the cubed-butter method (except for the American butterceam). However, if you use the beaten butter method, the buttercream not only comes together more willingly, it’s also less likely to separate!
The method itself is super duper easy: just three simple steps!
Oh, by the way, to explain to you how this method works, I’ve included photos in which I’m making flour buttercream. It’s a gorgeously smooth, egg-free buttercream made with a simple pudding base. To make American buttercream, you’d simply replace the pudding with a ton of powdered sugar and a splash of cream, and for the German buttercream you’d replace the pudding with a basic custard made with egg yolks and milk.
But while the ingredients may change according to the type of buttercream you’re making, the method is always the same.
First thing you’ll need: butter. Just to point out the obvious… I always use unsalted butter because I like to control how much salt goes into my buttercream, but you can also use salted butter. Whatever you use, make sure the butter is softened at room temperature. You want it to be soft, but not greasy! I usually take the butter out about 30-45 minutes before I want to use it, cut it into little cubes, arrange them on a plate like soldiers standing guard (they warm up faster that way!) and let my buttery soldiers come to temperature…
Once the butter is nice and soft, you beat it until it’s smooth and fluffy. As you beat air into it, it will lighten in color. Obviously, it’s best to use a mixer for this. Fit it with a whisk or paddle attachment, it doesn’t really matter…
And again, make sure the butter is not greasy! When I say ‘room temperature,’ I mean somewhere between 18-20°C or 65-68°F. Don’t even think about trying to warm the butter in the microwave or oven. You don’t want greasy or melted butter! Otherwise you’ll run into all sorts of issues; it’s pretty hard to whip up melted butter…
I don’t care if you have the patience of a three-year-old. So do I…
Once the butter is nice and fluffy, you can start adding the base. For a flour buttercream, this means a pudding made with milk, sugar, and a little flour. The base kind of looks like glue, but the resulting buttercream will be delicious, I promise…
By adding the base one spoonful at a time and mixing well after each addition, you give the butter a chance to absorb the added moisture from the pudding. As you may know, fat and water don’t mix very well – just try to mix a few drops of oil into a cup of water. When you’re making buttercream, you’re essentially doing the same thing: you’re trying to make a water-in-fat emulsion. Add all the pudding at once, and the buttercream may separate. Add the pudding slowly, and the buttercream comes together beautifully!
By the way, for a German buttercream you would add spoonfuls of custard to the beaten butter at this point. For an American buttercream you would simply mix in powdered sugar and cream…
Once you’ve added the pudding base (or custard, or powdered sugar and cream), continue to mix on high speed for another few minutes, or until the buttercream is smooth, creamy and fluffy.
Mix in a little vanilla extract or other flavoring and you’re done. You’ve made deliciously smooth buttercream using the beaten-butter method!
Just look at that stuff…
And just remember: when using the beaten butter method, it’s important to, um, actually beat the butter before adding anything else! That’s why I called it the beaten butter method…
Anyway, next post in this series: flour buttercream, for which you can put everything you’ve just learned to practice! So stay tuned!
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I have to tell you that I have been going crazy finding exactly what I want in a cake to perfect it in my eyes and taste. When I found your site, I scored big time. I have been forwarding this site to many of my facebook cake groups, because I cannot believe the number of professionals that have never heard of some of these techniques. I made a cake last night filled with the Ermine Buttercream (flour buttercream) and covered with the German Buttercream. I was told I killed it. People who hate cake ate the entire piece. They left nothing on their plate. I hate making cake and people pick out the fondant or the buttercream because it’s too sweet. This combination along with my new cake recipe was truly amazing. The only think I wasn’t too happy with was the appearance of the german buttercream. I did colour it with gel colours. It appeared to be grainy looking….and yes the butter was beaten for a while and looked like cream it was so smooth. Is there a reason you think it didn’t look smooth? I’m thinking next I may need to try the Swiss buttercream for the outside of the cake but not sure how this would alter the taste. The german buttercream and the flour buttercream have found a place in my heart but just need to fix the appearance look of the german buttercream. Thanks
The Tough Cookie says
I’m so glad you’re cake was a hit Marcella! I can’t think of a reason why the German buttercream looked a bit weird, though… The only thing I can think of is that the buttercream may have curdled just a bit, but it sounds like you did everything right, so I can’t be sure. Maybe it was the food coloring?
Marcella – one possibility to the graininess in the German Buttercream might be from the custard base. No matter how careful you might be there’s always a chance you will overcook the egg mixture due to not mixing constantly and everywhere in the pan thus creating little bits of curdled egg. One thing you can do, as I do with all custards, strain it through a fine sieve and it removes all those extra bits and you wind up with a silky custard. Try it to see if this resolves the graininess.
I have been using the ‘beaten-butter’ method for years but I usually whisk just milk and flour over heat. I then beat butter and sugar together. The first time I did it, it was gorgeous. But every time after that somehow has become a disaster. The texture and taste is great but I usually end up with tiny lumps of the pudding. Every time! What am I doing wrong? Please help!
The Tough Cookie says
Hi Mili, are you sure the lumps are pudding, and not undissolved sugar? Maybe you should try my method, to ensure that all the sugar has dissolved. If you still end up with a grainy buttercream, let me know, so we can figure out how to fix it!