I have developed a fascination for buttercreams. Their history, their recipes, finding what the best use is for each type of buttercream, trying out the weird flavours out there and experimenting with my own even crazier flavours.
First let me define buttercream.
This is a smooth, creamy mixture made using butter and sugar and in some cases, eggs and cheese.
Please do not confuse butter with margarine. They have different consistencies and tastes and give different end results. This is a discussion for another time.
There are many types of buttercreams, but my aim today is to introduce you to the 3 most popular types.
In time I will make each recipe individually so you can see the making process in action.
All buttercreams must be kept refrigerated if not being used. When ready to use, if you have time, bring it back to room temperature. I tend to never have time, so I microwave just the quantity I need for a few seconds and give it a good whip.
The 3 most popular buttercreams are American buttercream, Swiss buttercream, and Italian buttercream. I have listed them in their levels of making difficulty.
American buttercream is the easiest to make and requires 3 basic ingredients. Butter, sugar and liquid. The butter is first beaten then sugar and liquid is added to the butter and mixed until all combined and smooth. The mixture can then be flavoured with a variety of flavourings like extracts, zests, jams, fresh fruit, alcohol etc.
This buttercream is good to use as a filling and topping for cakes and cupcakes. It holds its shape well because it forms an outer crust when exposed to air but cannot with stand hot environments.
Swiss meringue buttercream is a bit harder to make but there are still harder buttercreams to make than this one. The name stems from the fact that it is made using swiss meringue. It is a bit harder to make because it involves heating egg whites and sugar in a double boiler. This mixture is beaten, and butter is added to it. This buttercream is smoother than American buttercream and less sweet. It is wonderful for toppings on cupcakes and cakes and is great for pipped buttercream flowers. Unlike the American buttercream this will remain soft and silky when exposed to air.
Italian meringue buttercream this is the hardest of the 3 buttercreams to make but is the tastiest in my opinion. It literally feels like body lotion. Super smooth and silky and with a very light texture. The name stems from the fact that it is made using Italian meringue. It is made by adding a cooked sugar syrup into egg whites as they are whipping. The sugar syrup must reach a certain temperature for this to work. This is good to use on cakes and cupcakes also and can withstand warmer temperatures.
There are more types of buttercreams which we will cover at a different time such as the French buttercream, Korean buttercream, Russian buttercream and so on.
Before I leave today, I just want to give some basic suggestions/advice if you are going to make buttercream for the 1st or 100th time:
1. If possible, always use butter and not margarine or shortening.
2. Butter should be at room temperature or your buttercream might come out lumpy.
3. Always use unsalted butter.
4. If your recipe has salt incorporate that later when making your buttercream.
5. When flavouring your buttercream try to use extracts rather than flavourings.
6. Always keep buttercream in an airtight container so it does not form a crust or dry outer layer.
7. Buttercream can be frozen but must be bought back to room temperature before using.