Making a Bakery Style Buttercream Frosting
I received the following email from home cook Rhonda requesting a recipe for a buttercream frosting that would taste more like she has experienced at a bakery. Here is what she said,
“I am a stay at home mom that has looked everywhere for the real sweet buttercream frosting that the bakery uses. I have looked on-line, cook books and none of the recipe’s are right. The kids love helping me make cakes but they only like to decorate them. They do not like the frosting. If you have a recipe I would love it. I will keep trying until I get the right one. I hope you can help. Thank you, Hi Rhonda!”
I immediately sent her request to my friend Chef Jenni Field, a professional pastry chef who graduated from Orlando Culinary Academy with her own blog called Pastry Methods and Techniques. Jenni asked for her original recipe that you can see below and offer her the following comments and recipe.
I’m sure it must be frustrating to have fun decorating a cake with your kids only to have them refuse to eat it because they don’t like the frosting! I personally like almost all kinds of frosting, but I will do my best to give you some recipes that your kids will enjoy.
You said that you are looking for a recipe that tastes like bakery frosting. Unfortunately, there are many bakeries, and most of them use their own “special recipes.” It might be difficult to pinpoint the style of frosting you’re looking for, but I’ll give it a shot. Thank you for sending in the recipe you used. This gives us a place to start.
- 1/2 cup margarine
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/8 salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/8 almond extract
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 4-6 teaspoons half and half
This recipe is your basic Wilton-style American buttercream. The texture can be kind of fluffy but a little bit gritty since it is based on powdered sugar. Powdered sugar contains some corn starch to keep it from clumping, and sensitive palates can pick the raw starch flavor up. Even if you don’t taste the raw starch, the texture is unmistakable””barely gritty if you rub a little between (clean) fingers.
Many icings are based on this basic American fat + powdered sugar + flavoring formula, including one of my favorites, cream cheese frosting. So, I won’t even linger at the standard American counter. Let’s wander over to another counter.
I found a modification of the standard American buttercream in The Whimsical Bakehouse by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen. I’ve made this before, and it is pretty tasty. The use of boiling water cooks out some of that raw starch flavor, and the resulting texture is much smoother.
I hope that one of these two frosting recipes will get you close to your goal of having your children eat what they decorate!
Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- For the House Buttercream
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup boiling water
- 1 and 1/3 cup shortening
- 3½ ounces 7 tablespoons cool butter, cut into pieces
- For the Italian Buttercream
- 5.25 oz. sugar 3/4 cup, divided
- 2 oz. water
- 4 large egg whites at cool room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 sticks unsalted butter at cool room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla or other extract
- To Make the House Buttercream
- Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Put sugar and salt in the bowl. Add the vanilla and boiling water and whisk on medium-low speed until smooth and cool. Then add the shortening and the butter. Whisk until smooth. Then, increase the speed and whip on medium-high speed until the frosting is very light and fluffy and has doubled in volume. This could take up to 15 minutes, so be patient. You can flavor this with other extracts, as well"”almond, butter, even peppermint.
- If you are looking for a completely smooth and silky buttercream, look toward the European bakery counter. Europe is the home of egg-based buttercreams. The texture is light and ethereal, and the flavor of pure butter comes through. These frostings are a bit rich and not always considered "kid frostings", but since I don't know your kids' taste, I'm offering these as possibilities, as well.
- All of these frostings are based on whipping either egg whites, whole eggs or egg whites together with a 240-250 degree, F, sugar syrup until cool. Then, butter, salt and flavorings are whipped in. As you can imagine, the yolk-based buttercreams are the richest, and the lightest are the egg-white based buttercreams, also called meringue-based buttercreams. I think that this last type is the most kid-friendly version. Here is a basic recipe.
- To Make the Italian Buttercream
- Over medium heat, bring water and ¾ of the sugar to a boil. Cover the pot and let boil for 2-3 minutes to wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot. Remove cover and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees, F.
- Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. On medium speed, whip egg whites, salt and lemon juice until foamy. Add the reserved sugar and beat to medium-stiff peaks. Try to time this so the sugar and the whites are ready at the same time.
- When the sugar has reached 248 degrees, F and the whites are at medium-stiff peaks, with the mixer on medium-high, carefully pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl. This will prevent the syrup from hitting the whisk and getting spun around the sides of the bowl instead of into your frosting. It will also cool the syrup just a bit so you don't risk curdling your whites. Whip until cool, about 5-10 minutes.
- Once the meringue is cool, add the butter, one piece at a time. Whip until each piece is completely incorporated before adding another piece. The icing might start to look a little curdled, but it should come together nicely by the time you have added all the butter. Feel the mixing bowl. It should feel somewhat cool.
- If it doesn't, cool the mixture down by either putting the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes before continuing to whip or by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a bag of frozen peas while mixing. Guess which one I do?! Whisk in the vanilla, and you're good to go.
- This icing will get spongy on standing, so re-whip before icing. Italian buttercream keeps nicely in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you do refrigerate it, make sure to bring it up to room temperature before whipping, or it will curdle. I have successfully saved buttercreams (when I've been too impatient to wait) by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a hot, wet towel. Don't be like me, though. Let it come to room temperature.
- You can also make a lovely chocolate variation by whipping in 2-4 oz. (this depends on how chocolaty you like your chocolate frosting) good quality chocolate, melted and cooled.