Types of Buttercream: Pros & Cons of Each, Plus Tasty Tips

They’re all luscious, delectable and perfect for enhancing your favorites treats, but of all the different types of buttercream, is there one that beats out all the rest? We’ll leave that up to you to decide, but keep reading to find out more about each of these delicious varieties.

Learn how to make different types of buttercream!

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Create your most delicious cakes yet. Whip up the melt-in-your-mouth Swiss, Italian and French buttercreams that sweet dreams are made of with 7 HD video lessons. Enroll Now »

Creamed buttercreams

Rainbow Buttercream Cake by Bluprint Instructor Amanda RettkePhoto via Bluprint Instructor Amanda Rettke

American buttercream

AKA: AMBC, crusting buttercream

Method: Cream fats, typically butter or shortening or a combination of both, with confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and a little bit of milk. A small amount of corn syrup or piping gel can be added if you don’t want the buttercream to form a crust.  

Pros: AMBC is the easiest and quickest frosting to make. It’s a hit with kids and those who swear by canned frosting. It’s also great to use as a cake finish and when piping details like buttercream flowers or borders. AMBC holds up well in warmer weather when it’s made with at least 50% shortening. 

Cons: Very, very sweet. And, AMBC can have a grittier mouth-feel when compared to other frosting. If made with shortening it can also leave a greasy feel on the lips.

Cream cheese frosting

Method: Cream butter and cream cheese with confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and a little bit of milk. 

Pros: Terrific as a cupcake frosting or cake filling. Many people also feel it’s the perfect icing for red velvet cake.  

Cons: The addition of cream cheese makes this a much softer frosting than AMBC. It doesn’t hold up well in warm environments, and doesn’t work well as a cake finish as it won’t hold sharp corners or piped details.  

Meringue-based buttercreams

Cake via Bluprint User Roxana Alvarez | Erin Gardner | Bluprint Photo via Bluprint member Roxana Alvarez

Swiss meringue buttercream

AKA: SMBC

Method: Egg whites and sugar are cooked over a double boiler. Once the sugar has dissolved and the mixture reaches at least 140 degrees F, it’s whipped to a stiff meringue before adding softened butter and flavorings. After butter is added, SMBC will first appear curdled before finally coming together.  

Pros: Smooth as silk and melt-on-your-tongue delicious. Works beautifully as a cake finish and when creating details like flowers or borders. SMBC is a very stable frosting and is commonly used to fill and finish fine wedding cakes. Works like a dream under fondant. 

Cons: Requires some time and patience, as well as a double boiler and candy thermometer, which can be intimidating. SMBC will soften quickly in warmer conditions. 

Learn how to make and decorate with Swiss meringue buttercream like a pro in the FREE Bluprint mini-class Modern Buttercream.

Cake by Bluprint Instructor Amanda Rettke | Erin Gardner | BluprintPhoto via Bluprint Instructor Amanda Rettke

Italian meringue buttercream

AKA: IMBC

Method: Sugar and water are first cooked to the “soft ball stage”*, then drizzled into egg whites before being whipped into a fluffy meringue. Softened butter and flavorings are added to the meringue, similar to the method for SMBC.  

*At this stage, a little sugar syrup dropped into cold water will form a soft ball. When the ball is taken from the water, it will flatten in your hand after a few seconds.

Pros: Very smooth and creamy with all of the same attributes as SMBC. IMBC is a little more stable than SMBC in warmer weather since the sugar is cooked to a higher temperature. 

Cons: Pouring hot sugar into whipping egg whites is not for the faint of heart. This can take a lot of trial and error to master. 

French buttercream

Method: Same process as IMBC, except egg yolks are used instead of whites. Some recipes call for the whole egg, but traditionally only yolks are used. 

Pros: This frosting is every butter lover’s dream, silky and smooth with a rich flavor. French buttercream works well as a cake filling or as a soft buttercream finish. 

Cons: French buttercream is a very soft frosting, so it doesn’t work well if you’re looking to achieve sharp corners or pipe details. It does not work well under fondant or hold up well in warmer environments. 

Cake by Bluprint User Cherie L | Erin Gardner | BluprintPhoto via Bluprint member Cherie L

Boiled frosting

AKA: 7-Minute Frosting

Method: Technically, this isn’t a buttercream – there’s no butter! It’s essentially IMBC, except you stop before adding butter. Flavoring is added directly to the egg whites. 

Pros: This icing comes together very quickly, hence one of its names. It’s the brightest white of all the cake frostings and typically retains a glossy finish. It’s relatively stable in warmer weather, but humidity will soften it. 

Cons: Boiled frosting needs to be used immediately and can’t be stored. It’s a softer icing that doesn’t pipe well. Since it’s so light, it would not hold up well as a filling for stacked cakes. It cannot be used under fondant. 

Custard-based

Cake by Bluprint User cwelling | Erin Gardner | BluprintImage via Bluprint user cwelling.

Ermine buttercream

AKA: flour buttercream, cooked milk buttercream

Method: Flour, sugar, and milk are cooked until they reach a thick, pudding-like consistency. Once cooled, this mixture is slowly added to creamed butter along with flavoring. 

Pros: Very smooth and simple to make. It’s a great compromise if AMBC is too sweet and gritty for you, but meringue-based buttercream seems too difficult to make or you want to avoid eggs in your frosting. It holds up well in warm conditions, pipes easily and can be used under fondant. Fun fact: while many people believe cream cheese frosting to be the best pairing for red velvet cake, Ermine frosting is what’s called for in most of the older, traditional recipes.  

Cons: It’s more labor-intensive than AMBC and can have a heavier or thicker mouth-feel than a meringue-based buttercream. 

German buttercream

Method: Same as ermine, except made with a traditional cooked custard (or thick pastry cream) consisting of milk, sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch. 

Pros: Very smooth and flavorful. Works well as a cupcake topping or cake filling

Cons: German buttercream is a softer frosting, with similar drawbacks as the other softer buttercreams. It also has a yellowish tint, which can make it difficult to color. 

Now you have six tempting buttercream options for decorating and filling your cakes and cookies. Which of these types of buttercream is your go-to?

Learn how to make different types of buttercream!

better buttercream craftsy clas

Create your most delicious cakes yet. Whip up the melt-in-your-mouth Swiss, Italian and French buttercreams that sweet dreams are made of with 7 HD video lessons. Enroll Now »

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