Okay, time for the fourth post of my new ‘Battle of the Buttercreams’ series, featuring the second type of buttercream: flour buttercream! The buttercream that inspired me to do the original ‘Battle of the Buttercreams’ series one-and-a-half years ago.
If you’ve missed the first three post of this fabulous new series, here they are: first, second, and third… The third post, which explains about the ‘beaten butter method’, is particularly important for today’s recipe.
Now, before I begin, there’s something I think you should know: flour buttercream goes by many names! I just so happen to call it flour buttercream here on the blog, because the flour in the buttercream is really what sets this type of buttercream apart, in my opinion. But this stuff is also known as ermine buttercream (or ermine frosting) or cooked milk buttercream (or, again, cooked milk frosting). And if you’re familiar with The Pioneer Woman (who isn’t?), you might know this buttercream as “that’s the best frosting I’ve ever had” (<– her words, not mine. Although it is very delicious!).
First off, there are two ways of making this buttercream. Some people, including The Pioneer Woman, make it by combining flour and milk in a saucepan and cooking it until it becomes a thick paste. Once cool, this paste is beaten into softened butter with a whole lot of granulated sugar.
As I don’t believe in mixing large amounts of granulated sugar into not-so-liquidy-mixtures (I can’t stand grainy buttercream!) I came up with a different method. Instead of adding the granulated sugar to the butter along with the cooked milk paste, I add the sugar to the milk and flour mixture before it’s cooked. In other words, I cook the milk, flour and sugar together! That way, all those little sugar crystals dissolve into the milk, which will thicken as it cooks because of the flour, and you end up with a smooth, sweet, but otherwise flavorless, pudding base. This pudding base is then mixed into beaten butter. Add vanilla and you’re done!
The result? A super smooth, super creamy, incredibly delicious buttercream. Trust me, if you want to make super smooth flour buttercream (or whatever you prefer to call it) without having to worry about undissolved sugar crystals, this is the way to go!
But wait, I already came up with this method in my original flour buttercream post and this is the ‘Battle of the Buttercreams 2.0’, so what’s new about this recipe?
Well, remember how my last recipe for flour buttercream didn’t pipe very well? I mean, I guess it piped all right, but the buttercream was a bit soft, so it had a tendency to ‘slouch’ a little. I am proud to say that I solved that problem!
The key to super smooth flour buttercream is the ‘beaten butter method’. Of course, you know all about that, right? If you don’t… well, didn’t I tell you to read the third post of this series? Anyway, by beating the butter until super fluffy and adding the pudding base one spoonful at a time, you’ll end up with gorgeously smooth, creamy, fluffy buttercream that pipes beautifully every single time!
The days of slouching buttercream edges are over…
So let’s talk a bit more about the ingredients, shall we? For this buttercream, you will need 6 ingredients: granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, table salt, milk, unsalted butter and vanilla extract. And if you’re one of those readers who actually compare the updated version (aka: this version) of the recipe to my 2013 version, you’ll note that neither the ingredients nor the quantities of the different ingredients have changed. That just goes to show how much of a difference the right method can make!
And all right, all right, I did add salt to this recipe. But that doesn’t really count…
Anyway, about the milk, I’ve made this using whole and 2% milk. I guess you could also use cream, half-and-half, or even skimmed milk (almond milk maybe?), just know that I haven’t tried it yet…
When it comes to the butter, you want to soften it at room temperature. Yes, that means you’ll have to remember to take it out of the fridge about half an hour before you want to make this stuff! I use unsalted butter, because I like to control the amount of salt that goes into my buttercream, but you can use salted if that’s all you have on hand.
But do make sure to use real vanilla extract. It’s so much better than the artificial stuff! If you can’t get your hands on real vanilla extract, use a vanilla bean instead. Just slice it open using a small, sharp knife, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds to the buttercream instead of the vanilla extract.
So how do you make this new and improved flour buttercream?
Step 1: combine sugar, flour and salt in a medium-sized saucepan and whisk or stir until combined. For visual cues, though I don’t think you really need any, check out photo 2 of this post.
Step 2: Add the milk and whisk to combine. Because you’ve already stirred the flour, sugar and salt together, there won’t be any weird lumps. Just look at photo 3!
Anyway, once all the ingredients are nicely combined, place the pan on the stove and heat over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Once the first bubbles start to appear, turn the heat down to low, set a kitchen timer and cook the pudding for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking about every 10 seconds. When the kitchen timer goes off, remove the pan from the heat and whisk for about a minute to knock some of the heat out of the pudding.
Using a rubber spatula, pour the pudding onto a plate and immediately cover with plastic wrap (pressing the plastic directly onto the pudding) to prevent a skin from forming (photo above). Allow the pudding – which, as you can see, will look like glue! – to cool to room temperature.
Kick your feet up at this point. Just don’t forget to take the butter out of the fridge!
Step 3: once the butter is soft, beat if for 5 minutes with a mixer, or until pale and fluffy. I made this batch in a stand mixer and accidentally beat the butter for 10 minutes because I completely forgot about it, so if you want to beat the butter for 10 minutes, that’s fine too.
At any rate, the beaten butter should look like this, or even paler:
See? Soft, creamy, fluffy and pale.
At this point, you can start adding the pudding base.
Step 4: add the pudding base one spoonful at a time, mixing well after each addition. As you may remember, my 2013 recipe for flour buttercream said to beat cubes of butter into the pudding base. However, adding the pudding to beaten butter one spoonful at a time not only means that the buttercream will come together more willingly, reducing the risk of it separating, it also means that the resulting buttercream is a lot lighter, fluffier and dreamier.
Trust me, doing it this way makes a HUGE difference!
Once you’ve added all the pudding, mix in the vanilla, then smush the buttercream against the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula for about a minute to get rid of any large air bubbles.
This step is optional, but I always do it, because air bubbles in the buttercream can make your piping look like a five-year-old did it…
This recipe makes about 780ml or 3¼ cup of buttercream, which, in my world, is enough to generously frost about 12-14 cupcakes or a two-layered 20-cm (8-inch) cake. But how much buttercream you actually end up with all depends on the amount of air you can beat into the mixture. So make sure to beat the hell out of that butter!
Anyway, here are some more facts about this buttercream:
Color: pale ivory
Texture: OMG fluffalicious!
Piping: pipes beautifully
Level of difficulty: medium, because you need to cook the pudding on the stove
Fat content*: 26%
Sugar content*: 45%
Does it form a crust: no
* based on nutritional information.
So how does the flour buttercream compare to the American buttercream? Well, if I had to choose between the vanilla version of my American buttercream and the vanilla version of this particular buttercream, I would have to say – despite the fact that I really like both buttercreams – that the flour buttercream wins, because it has a more delicate flavor and it’s not as overpoweringly sweet.
Oh, and it’s fluffalicious-er…
And, I guess – and I’m almost afraid to say it – it’s also a bit healthier than American buttercream. Just look at the facts: it has a lower calorie count, less fat, less sugar and a lot more protein…
Of course, I wouldn’t tell you this if this buttercream tasted awful. I mean, c’mon, it’s buttercream! It’s not supposed to be healthy, it’s supposed to be delicious. And still… I feel I need to tell you this because not only does this mean that this buttercream beats the American version when it comes to taste and texture, it’s also better for you than the American buttercream.
But stay tuned for an incredible peanut butter ‘n cookie buttercream!
- 35g (or 4½ tablespoons) all-purpose flour
- 200g (or 1 cup) granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 240ml (or 1 cup) milk
- 226g (or 1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature*
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine flour, sugar and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Whisk together. Add the milk and whisk until combined.
- Place saucepan over low heat and allow the mixture to come to a boil, whisking continuously. Once the mixture starts bubbling, cook for 1-2 minutes, then take the pan off the heat and whisk for a minute to beat some of the heat out of the pudding.
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape the pudding onto a clean plate and immediately cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the pudding. This keeps a skin from forming. Allow the pudding to cool to room temperature.
- Once the pudding has cooled, beat the butter in a medium-sized bowl until smooth and fluffy and lightened in color, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the cooled pudding (which will look like glue at this point) one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all the pudding has been added, mix for another few minutes, until the buttercream looks thick, smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and mix briefly to combine.
- Finally, use a rubber spatula to smush the buttercream against the sides of the bowl (aka: stir vigorously for about a minute) to get rid of any large air bubbles. This makes piping the buttercream a lot easier.
- Use immediately or store, covered in the fridge, for up to seven days. Before you want to use it, allow buttercream to come to room temperature and mix briefly until smooth and creamy again.
- Buttercream can also be frozen in a zip-lock bag for up to two months. Allow to thaw in the fridge overnight, then allow to come to room temperature and mix until smooth and fluffy before use.
- Frosted cakes or cupcakes stay fresh, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to three days. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.