All right, let’s get back to buttercream. I’ve missed this stuff!
Just to recap: so far, I’ve posted about American buttercream, and flour (or ermine) buttercream. I’ve also posted recipes for an amazing chocolate American buttercream, and a peanut butter ‘n cookie American buttercream. If you haven’t tried those yet, do yourself a favor and whip up a batch of both this week. They’re amazing!
Anyway, that means that there are still four different types of buttercream left for me to post about: French buttercream, German buttercream, Italian buttercream, and Swiss buttercream. And different flavor variations, of course!
Before I give you the recipe for delicious velvety French buttercream, I thought we’d talk about the two different buttercream preparation methods some more, since French buttercream is traditionally made using the ‘cubed butter method’. So here it is: how to make buttercream using the cubed butter method!
Two Different Preparation Methods
As I explained in my post on the ‘Beaten Butter Method‘, buttercreams that are made using the ‘cubed butter method’ are made by mixing cubes of softened butter into a sweet base, usually an egg foam, like meringue. In other words, instead of first beating soft butter until it’s fluffy and pale and gradually mixing tablespoons of a sweet base into it, like you’d do when using the beaten butter method, for the cubed butter method you need to do things the other way around.
If you ask me, the cubed butter method is a bit trickier than the beaten butter method. Buttercreams that are made using the cubed butter method actually separate more easily. For example, Swiss buttercream (also known as Swiss meringue buttercream) is notoriously easy to screw up, and it’s made using the cubed butter method. This is why some home bakers avoid making these types of buttercream and stick to the simpler American buttercream.
But don’t despair! I’ve got plenty of tips and tricks. And, um, better methods (if I may say so myself…).
The Cubed Butter Method
First thing you’ll need for the cubed butter method is… cubes of butter. Softened cubes of butter, that is. As with the beaten butter method, I prefer to use unsalted butter because it gives me more control over how much salt ends up in the buttercream and, consequently, the resulting flavor of the buttercream. But if salted butter is all you happen to have, feel free to use that instead.
Take the butter out of the fridge, cut it into cubes, arrange on a plate (or in a bowl, it doesn’t really matter) and allow the butter soldiers to soften at room temperature. For me, this means taking the butter out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before I want to start making the buttercream, but this of course depends on your preferred room temperature: if it’s 32°C/90°F in your kitchen, it may only take 5 minutes…
At any rate, make sure the butter is soft, but not greasy. You don’t really want to bring it to temperature in the microwave or the oven for that reason. Make sure the butter is about 18-20°C/65-68°F when you’re going to use it.
The next thing you’ll need, is a sweet buttercream base, like an Italian meringue, a Swiss meringue, custard, pudding, or, as I’m using today, a pâte à bombe: a meringue made with egg yolks. See the photo above? That’s a pâte à bombe.
Make sure the sweet base you’re using is also around room temperature (18-20°C/65-68°F). If it’s too hot, the butter might melt and you’ll end up with a soupy mess, but if it’s too cold, the buttercream won’t come together as well.
After you’ve made sure that both the butter and the sweet base have the right temperature, plop one or two cubes of softened butter into the base and start mixing away. As I explained in my post on the beaten butter method, buttercream is basically a water-in-fat-emulsion. As you know, water and fat don’t mix very well. Just try mixing water with oil… It doesn’t work. By adding the butter (the fat) to the sweet base (which is watery) a few cubes at a time, you give the watery base a chance to absorb the butter.
So just take your time!
Once you’ve added your first cubes of butter, you’ll notice that a sweet base like a meringue or pâte à bombe might deflate a bit (as you can see in the photo below). That’s normal, so don’t worry about it. You know how all those how-to’s about making meringue and whipping egg whites always remind you to use a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk, as even the tiniest trace of fat can prevent the egg whites from reaching full volume? Well, I guess when you add fat to a meringue or a pâte à bombe, they deflate a bit for that same reason.
But none of that really matters, so just keep mixing in cubes of softened butter one or two at a time…
If the buttercream looks like it’s separating – which may very well happen when you’re using this method – don’t worry: just keep mixing like you mean it and eventually it will come together again. It will start to look worse at first, but trust me, it will become smooth and beautiful if you just keep mixing!
Anyway, whether it separates or not, the buttercream will eventually become smooth, creamy, fluffy and perfect!
Just remember to take your time when adding the butter and mixing the buttercream!
Next post in this series: French Buttercream!
If you’d like to read more, check out these posts:
- How to Make American Buttercream
- Dark Chocolate Buttercream – American Style
- The Beaten Butter Method
- How to Make Flour Buttercream, aka: Ermine Buttercream
- Peanut Butter ‘n Cookie Buttercream – American Style
And don’t forget to pin 🙂