Stabilizing American Buttercream

Posted by Wendy McGowan

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stabilizing buttercream

American Buttercream, simple buttercream or icing, can be made many different ways using a variety of ingredients. Today I am going to share with you how to make American Buttercream.

First, there is a huge discussion about which buttercream is best and in many circles American style buttercream is not really considered a buttercream. In my bakery we offer both American Buttercream and Swiss Meringue Buttercream and I have found that my clients are split about 50/50 when it comes to which of these buttercreams they choose for their cake. So for those that prefer American Buttercream, here is Wendy Woo Cake's award winning recipe along with a few tips to help stabilize your buttercream. If you'd rather Swiss Meringue Buttercream, enjoy in-depth instruction, including a recipe, in Joshua John Russell's free Craftsy mini-class Modern Buttercream.

buttercream ingredients

American Buttercream

  • 1 lbs. butter (the real stuff) at room temperature
  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. Meringue Powder

Before getting to the instructions, let's talk a little bit about butter versus shortening. I prefer to always use real butter because I live and decorate cakes in Central Florida where it is hot and humid most of the year. If you feel more comfortable using shortening, it is definitely an option. If you need perfectly white buttercream, I find it is best to use hi ratio shortening. Crisco has taken all of the trans fats out of their shortening, which is better for your health, but can make the buttercream slightly gritty. Hi ratio shortening holds up better than Crisco and won't make your frosting gritty, but does contain trans fats. Now we're ready to begin!

cream buttercream

Step 1: Cream the butter and vanilla for 1-2 minutes.

Note: While we are creaming the butter, I am going to go out on a limb and confess a small secret: I use salted butter. My grandmother always added salt to her buttercream as it helped take the greasiness away and enhanced the flavor of the butter. Though, I noticed that her buttercream was slightly grainy. So I tried making buttercream with salted butter and discovered that I loved it! The salt is already dissolved in the butter, so you don't get the graininess and it really does enhance the flavor.

add powdered sugar

Step 2: Add of the powdered sugar and all of the meringue powder. Then mix until incorporated.

add remaining sugar

Step 3: Add the remaining powdered sugar.

Powdered sugar can make a huge mess, so I have found that wrapping a large piece of plastic wrap or a paper towel around the bowl and mixer will help reduce the mess when it is mixing.

beat on high

Step 4: Beat on high for 6-7 minutes.

Once the first half is added, add the remaining powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. The buttercream will go through a stage where it looks dry and almost curdled, just keep mixing!

finished buttercream

Do not add milk or whipping cream. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer on high and let it whip for 6-7 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but believe me, you will be glad you did!

Now, while we are waiting for the buttercream to be finished, let's talk about meringue powder. I have found that adding the meringue powder to my buttercream helps stabilize it and makes for a melt-in-your-mouth texture. I have also discovered that not adding liquid to the buttercream helps it hold its shape.

In the heat and humidity of Florida this recipe has held up well. The other thing I love about butter-based buttercreams is that when they are chilled, the icing becomes cold and hard which makes the cakes much easier to work with, and when at room temperature they are soft and silky.

stabilizing american buttercream

Now we have a creamy, smooth buttercream that will hold up well and tastes delicious! I know there are many options out there for stabilizing buttercream, so please share your favorite way. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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