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This is the most basic form of buttercream there is, just butter, icing sugar and flavouring, no eggs involved. I must confess I much prefer this to the French style icing that involves egg whites or egg yolks which, while yummy, is a little heavy for my taste.
My recipe will give you about 750g, enough to fill (sandwich) and double coat an 8″ (20cm) cake, with enough left over for piping. You’ll find that the proportion of butter to sugar is greater, which produces a slightly lighter buttercream. I also prefer salted butter to unsalted as it gives a more rounded finish. Alternative flavours are given at the end of the recipe.
Needless to say, add food colouring of your choice for different coloured buttercream. A colour paste is always preferable to liquid form as you’ll be amazed at how just a little liquid can affect the consistency of buttercream.
This buttercream is very versatile. I’ve even made pistachio buttercream by just adding very finely ground pistachios, use your imagination and experiment. Look below the recipe for some of my favourite variations.
A softer icing is easier to spread, but will take longer to crust (when you touch it, it won’t come off with your finger).
Milk in Buttercream
I’ve given you an option of using evaporated milk or water in your buttercream. If the cake is meant to be eaten within 24 hours of the icing being made and the cake being decorated, then by all means, go ahead and use milk. Yes, you can use fresh milk too. The milk lends a wonderful creamy flavour to the icing.
If I’m making a cake at home and I know that it will last a good 2-3 days, then I always go the water option as the milky icing will show signs of going off and change in texture after 36 hours or so.
Flavoured Buttercream Icing Recipes
Used in Rose Macarons
2 tsp rosewater or 1 – 2 drops of essential oil of rose geranium (geranium oil can leave a slight bitter aftertaste)
Lemon Curd Buttercream
Used in Lemon and Raspberry Rose Cake
60g lemon curd, instead of the vanilla, added right at the end – this will give you the right amount of tang
You can always add more if you fancy a stronger lemony taste but I would stop at 100g, to ensure that the icing will crust
I quite frequently “spice up” a regular Madeira with this.
Replace the vanilla with panettone aroma (found in specialist shops, sold in bottles, just like vanilla).
This is perfect for a Coffee Cake.
2 Tbsp of very strong espresso in place of the water/milk.
If using instant coffee, dissolve about 2 Tbsp in the water/milk and add to the icing. I prefer to retain the vanilla for a deeper flavour.
White Chocolate Buttercream
Can be used in Raspberry, Rose and White Chocolate Cake
- 150g butter
- 150g white chocolate (good quality, with no vanilla specks)
- 400g icing (powdered) sugar
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave in 30 second spurts, stirring each time. Leave to cool for a few minutes.
- While waiting for the chocolate to cool, beat the butter and sugar as above.
- Add the melted chocolate.
Brown Chocolate Buttercream (not ganache)
Simple chocolate icing. Add 3 Tbsp cocoa powder to the milk/water in the basic recipe above.
Again, I retain the vanilla.
- 150g butter
- 600g (1 lb 1/3oz) icing (powdered) sugar
- 100ml – 125ml (2/5 – 1/2 cup) Bailey’s
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Follow basic instructions, adding half the Baileys and increasing as you go, stop before the icing is too soft/loose.
Buttercream with other alcohol
Use the “recipe” for the Baileys Buttercream above, just substitute it with whatever alcohol you choose. Baileys is creamy, if you are using something not creamy, like Cointreau, be prepared to use less of it.
A simple buttercream icing for filling cakes. As this doesn't contain any eggs, you don't need to place the cake in the fridge. Enough to fill and ice an 8in/20cm cake. I've kept buttercream icing in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (no milk) and it was perfectly fine. Personally, I think refrigerating it changes the texture, so I never do it.
Eggless Buttercream Icing (for Cakes, Cupcakes and Macarons)
A simple buttercream icing for filling cakes. As this doesn't contain any eggs, you don't need to place the cake in the fridge. Enough to fill and ice an 8in/20cm cake.
I've kept buttercream icing in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (no milk) and it was perfectly fine. Personally, I think refrigerating it changes the texture, so I never do it.