Lately, I’ve been working on my buttercream frosting. If you follow my blog you might be thinking, “Hey, I thought you can’t eat lactose!” You’re right. My dietary restrictions makes this difficult, but I’m determined. I’ve invested in a lot of lactaid. A taste of buttercream, a lactaid, a taste of buttercream, a lactaid. It works … sometimes.
I used to use store bought buttercream frosting. It seemed easier and more efficient, until I made it from scratch.
That. Changed. Everything.
Homemade buttercream frosting wins — hands down. You can taste the difference. You can feel the difference. It’s just better all around. AND, it’s easy to make. I’m onto something good here and had to share it. So, this is Nichole’s take on buttercream frosting.
I based my buttercream frosting on a recipe from Savory Sweet Life (recipe here). It tasted great the first time, but I tweaked it and tweaked it until I got it to a recipe I love. I’ll warn you in advance that like my buttercream more buttery than sweet. But, if it’s too buttery for you there’s an easy fix — add more sugar. Here’s what you’ll need for my version of a vanilla buttercream recipe:
- Two sticks of soft, not melted, salted butter (most recipes call for unsalted, but no)
- 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream, or even half and half
- 4 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
- Corn starch (to stiffen the frosting for piping)
It’s such a simple recipe, but tastes unbelievable. Now, here are the steps I take when making my buttercream:
Step 1: Beat the butter
Make sure the butter is at room temperature. It shouldn’t be a melted hot mess, but should just be soft. If it’s a melted hot mess the buttercream won’t turn out as white and won’t be as fluffy. Beat the butter in a bowl with an electric cake mixer for a couple minutes. You’ll notice the butter become lighter in color–this is good!
Step 2: Blend a buttery-sugary mixture
Add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, then beat the sugar and butter with a cake mixer for about 30 seconds on high, then taste it to see what you think. Add another 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat the mixture for about 30 seconds on high, then taste it to see what you think. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until you’ve added the 4 cups of sugar. If it tastes great to you before the 4 cups then just stop there. If it still doesn’t taste great after the 4 cups, keep going until you like what you’ve got. Just remember, you’ve got some more ingredients to add so it’s not going to taste exactly like buttercream just yet, and you can always add more powdered sugar later.
Adding the sugar slowly like this does two things. First thing: It prevents the fine powdered sugar from poofing up in the air and creating a sugary cloud. Second thing: It makes the buttercream whiter in color, which is exactly what you want if you want to add colored dyes later. You can also try adding some of Wilton’s frosting whitener (here). I’ve used it a couple times and I really do think it helps!
Step 3: Add vanilla extract and cream
Once all of the sugar is in the mixture, add the heavy cream and the vanilla extract. Blend blend blend for a couple more minutes. Taste it to make sure you’re happy with the flavor. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar. If you want it vanilla-ier, add more vanilla. Just keep the heavy cream to a minimum, otherwise the frosting will become too soft and runny to sit nicely on top of your cupcakes.
Step 4: Stiffen it up a bit
If you’re using the frosting to pipe onto cake or cupcakes, you’ll want it to be a little stiff. Runny frosting blows. Corn starch helps with this. Add a corn starch teaspoon by teaspoon, blending between teaspoons until you get to a consistency you like.
Step 5: Prepare the frosting for piping
Stick the frosting in the fridge for 10-ish minutes for it to harden a little before piping. That’s it!
Step 6 (Optional): Channel your inner overachiever with flavors and colors
You can of course use this frosting as-is, but I see it more as more of a canvas. At this point, I’m just getting started! I’ve added flavoring like bourbon cherry bitters and Irish cream to my frosting. Most recently, I squeezed a lemon into my buttercream frosting. It. Tasted. Ah-mazing! It may have been the best tasting buttercream frosting I’ve ever made — ever! The water in the lemon, or other flavoring, will thin the frosting a little, so I add corn starch to stiffen it back up. Works like a charm.
I will say, natural flavoring works best. I’ve used artificial flavoring before with little luck. You know, that little bottle of mocha artificial flavoring you can find at Safeway. Don’t bother. It tastes fake. Instead, use more natural ingredients. Squeeze in a lemon, orange, or lime. Blend in some peanut butter. Add a shot of espresso and melted chocolate. Nutella!!! So good. Trust me, you’ll taste the difference.
If you decide to color your frosting, be careful. Some dye colors, when overused, will add a bitter taste to the frosting. Red dye and black dye are notorious for this. For example, when making the pink and orange cupcakes shown above, I had to use red dye. As I tried to achieve a deeper pink color, I found myself adding more red dye. The more red I added, the more I could taste the bitterness. Be cautious and mix in one drop at a time, tasting the frosting after you mix in each drop. Don’t forget, the color will darken in the fridge. That’s when you see the real shade. You can also find red and black food coloring, like Wilton’s Red No-Taste (here).I hope this was helpful for you! As I work on this recipe some more I’ll keep you posted on new revelations.