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Buttercream Frosting/Icing: The Topic


bripastryguy
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I have a similar question and I'll post it here first to see if I get any answers. I am making a frosting with butter, peanut butter, cream cheese and 1 T milk. Can I make this tonight, leave it out in a cool kitchen and then use it tomorrow afternoon without poisoning my guests? Or should I just play it safe and make it tomorrow morning?

Ta, Kim

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I have a similar question and I'll post it here first to see if I get any answers.  I am making a frosting with butter, peanut butter, cream cheese and 1 T milk.  Can I make this tonight, leave it out in a cool kitchen and then use it tomorrow afternoon without poisoning my guests?  Or should I just play it safe and make it tomorrow morning?

Ta, Kim

No additional sugar? It has always been my understanding that it is the sugar in the buttercream that allows it to be room-temperature-stable for days on end, though I guess the egg whites get pasteurized in the process, so maybe this isn't the case.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I have a similar question and I'll post it here first to see if I get any answers.  I am making a frosting with butter, peanut butter, cream cheese and 1 T milk.  Can I make this tonight, leave it out in a cool kitchen and then use it tomorrow afternoon without poisoning my guests?  Or should I just play it safe and make it tomorrow morning?

Ta, Kim

I make a peanut butter mousse kinda filling that is just cream and peanut butter and powdered sugar, probably some vanilla too and you just beat it all up. I kept it well chilled. I was very surprised that it had sucha short shelf life even though refrigerated. The leftover went bad so fast.

So with that in mind, if I were making your delicious sounding spread, I would make it day of. You can't really go wrong erring on the side of safety.

No sweetener in there? Definitely do it last minute.

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Did you try to re-whip your first batch in the mixer?

I did not. It looked broken and lost about half its volume. I figured it was ruined like broken mayo. Maybe I should have tried that, but didn't want to have to clean the beaters again if I needed to whip more whites anyway :)

I found the demo that someone did of italian buttercream on here. 2 things with mine that were different, 1 I had 2x the sugar that they did but the same amount of butter and eggs (my eggs were huge so 4 is probably the new 5), and 2 they whipped to firm peaks and I did soft. Next time I'm doing that and cutting back on the sugar. Plus, I think I needed to beat more toward the end and maybe warm it a bit, the butter started to kind of sieze up a bit, so I just stopped, and whipped a bit more and called it a day but a little warmth and I probably could have emulsified more buttah.

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Yup, stiff peaks is better, then beat the meringue on low for about 8 minutes until it's room temperature. :) That's the only advice I can give regarding the aeration.

As for the seizing, try beating the butter smooth before getting started on the egg whites. When it looks like it's separating, crank up the speed and beat it some more.

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

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So I made a chocolate cake last night and wanted to have real buttercream frosting for it.  Having never made it before, and having read articles about it that make it sound like a cross between a souffle and hollandaise as far as difficulty and peril, I made it early and refrigerated it, since it supposedly stores well for weeks.

Not  that hard.  I think my recipe was 2c sugar 1/2c water cooked to soft ball, and slowly added to 4 egg whites whipped to soft peaks, then whipped on low until about body temp, then 1 # of butter, cut into about 1/2 tbs pats was incorporated a piece at a time and then about 2 tsp of vanilla extract was added.  OMG this was good.  Light, smooth, rich, buttery, etc.

But here's the problem.  When I took it out of the fridge a few hours later to frost the cake, or actually, the cupcakes it was like a rock so I let is sit for about an hour at room temp to soften, and it was still really hard to work with and seemed kind of grainy.  I tried to stir it and it broke and collapsed to about 1/2 its volume.  What happened?  Fortunately I had gotten enough butter and eggs to make 2 or 3 batches, anticipating problems and I whipped up another batch, again having no problems with the recipe.  Hopefully at least one of my cow-orkers will appreciate my efforts today at the potluck.

But I'm curious what you would need to do to use refrigerated/stored buttercream, since that seems to be at least part of the appeal, making a big batch and storing it.

I think your main problem is you tried to work the buttercream while it was still cold. It really needs to come back to room temp before rebeating. You did indeed break the emulsion, as you suspected. Next time take the buttercream out of the fridge the night before you need to use it, or cut the mass into smaller chunks into your mixing bowl to speed the warming process. When it is back to room temp, rebeat in your mixer.

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I think your main problem is you tried to work the buttercream while it was still cold.  It really needs to come back to room temp before rebeating.  You did indeed break the emulsion, as you suspected.  Next time take the buttercream out of the fridge the night before you need to use it, or cut the mass into smaller chunks into your mixing bowl to speed the warming process.  When it is back to room temp, rebeat in your mixer.

This.

The cupcakes were fabulous. The texture of the buttercream was amazing, and very soft and workable after they sat on my desk for 4 hours (fridge overnight plus 0 degree trunk for 25 minutes), so I think that it was just too cold and I broke it. Next time, since I now know it's room-temp safe for a while, I won't even think about refrigerating it unless I have leftovers or am making it a day+ in advance.

thanks for all the advice!

I don't know why people act like this is a major PITA to make, it really isn't (aside from stupidly refrigerating it). I don't even have a stand mixer, just used an el cheapo hand mixer and a SS mixing bowl, and poured the sugar directly out of the saucepan while mixing with the other hand. Easier than adding hot syrup to a stand mixer (I used to have one, and made marshmallows a couple of times and it was a pain to hit the right spot with the sugar)

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Buttercream can really take a licking and keep on ticking...

you can 'reconstitute' it cold or at room temp. the point is not to give up on it when it looks like a lost cause. if you start paddling it from cold, it will break, but keep on going and it will come back together. you can hit it with some heat during the paddling (warm towel wrapped around the bowl, hair dryer, torch, whatever) and that will help it come back together. you will lose some volume, but you'll still end up with a silky smooth buttercream in the end.

especially because it is winter, room temp might not be warm enough to reconstitute by hand. if you leave it out, you'll need to stir it a bit to bring it back to the right consistency. if the room is too cold, you can again hit it with a little heat to very slightly melt the edges and stir that into the rest of the mass until it becomes working consistency again.

obviously, the more you reconstitute, the less volume you have, but it should be fine at least twice or three times.

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I have a similar question and I'll post it here first to see if I get any answers.  I am making a frosting with butter, peanut butter, cream cheese and 1 T milk.  Can I make this tonight, leave it out in a cool kitchen and then use it tomorrow afternoon without poisoning my guests?  Or should I just play it safe and make it tomorrow morning?

Ta, Kim

No additional sugar? It has always been my understanding that it is the sugar in the buttercream that allows it to be room-temperature-stable for days on end, though I guess the egg whites get pasteurized in the process, so maybe this isn't the case.

Sorry, I was unclear. What I should have said was that the ingredients included those things. The frosting also has 10X in it.

So I need to make it tomorrow morning, huh? :sad: Crap. Oh, not you guys! Thank you a lot - I really didn't want to make anyone sick, I was just trying to cut a corner. I am the ultimate make ahead girl. I don't ever want to do anything last minute.

Kim

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I have a similar question and I'll post it here first to see if I get any answers.  I am making a frosting with butter, peanut butter, cream cheese and 1 T milk.  Can I make this tonight, leave it out in a cool kitchen and then use it tomorrow afternoon without poisoning my guests?  Or should I just play it safe and make it tomorrow morning?

Ta, Kim

No additional sugar? It has always been my understanding that it is the sugar in the buttercream that allows it to be room-temperature-stable for days on end, though I guess the egg whites get pasteurized in the process, so maybe this isn't the case.

Sorry, I was unclear. What I should have said was that the ingredients included those things. The frosting also has 10X in it.

So I need to make it tomorrow morning, huh? :sad: Crap. Oh, not you guys! Thank you a lot - I really didn't want to make anyone sick, I was just trying to cut a corner. I am the ultimate make ahead girl. I don't ever want to do anything last minute.

Kim

Kim, if you're making it the night before, I don't see why it would be a problem. Some people might be squeamish with the cream cheese, but if you've ever looked at the package, it lasts refrigerated forever, so I don't see how one night out is going to kill someone. Of course, someone will argue with me on this.

edited to add: how many times have you seen carrot cake left out at room temp in a cafe/diner/costco? that's cream cheese icing, right?

Edited by alanamoana (log)
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edited to add: how many times have you seen carrot cake left out at room temp in a cafe/diner/costco?  that's cream cheese icing, right?

Yeah, but that stuff has so much sugar in it it's probably sterile :)

My mom's directions for making it were "add powdered sugar until your mixer bogs down".

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Well, this has 1 stick of butter, 1 c. PB, 8 oz. cream cheese and 1 T. milk to 4 c. 10X - that seems like plenty of sugar to me. Will the sugar really help 'preserve' it? Or am I grasping at straws here, because I really want to make this stuff and frost the cupcakes tonight :huh::rolleyes: ??

Kim

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Kim, I would agree with Alana... make it tonight. If you don't frost the cupcakes, cover it with a barely damp paper towel (what I hate about cream cheese icing is the way it crusts over. I don't know that your filling will do that but just in case, the paper towel can't hurt until you use it.)

And, one of my chef instructors had a trick to make cold buttercream workable quickly. It was broken up into smallish chunks and put in a mixer and then we'd put no more than one third the total volume in the microwave until soft (NOT melted) and added it to the mixer. If you go too far with it and it melts, the buttercream will have a "too buttery" consistency and lose a lot of the volume.

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I'm the odd man out and I'm very comfortable here. Make it tonight if you have to but please don't heat the cream cheese unless it's heated properly like in the oven baking it.

No I mean I have friends who leave cream cheese out for days before using it. :rolleyes:

The point is not how close we can get to avoiding spoilage it's how safe can I make this for the people I am serving.

If you are going to frost the cupcakes tonight why can't you keep them in the frige?

Surely no one will die, but for example when I make something to share with others, I want to make sure that if a tender baby got a bite (picture someone giving a baby a lick of frosting on their finger--happens all the time) or a fragile elderly person had some, or a friend with an illness you don't even know they had that they would all be as fine as possible because I made my product that carefully.

Cream cheese is listed in Tennessee as a potentially hazardous ingredient. Peanuts are not the cleanest of ingredients...

"Potentially hazardous food" are those foods which consist of meat, poultry, liquid eggs and partially cooked egg products, fish, milk and milk products, shellfish, partially cooked bakery products and/or other ingredients capable of supporting rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic micro-organisms when stored at temperatures in excess of 45 degrees F, if a cold food or below 140 degrees F, if a hot food. Also included as potentially hazardous food, are low acid canned foods (vegetables, fish, meat, etc.) and acidified foods (pickled vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, etc.).

I feel if you're feeding others you have a responsibility. Eliminating the possibility of any tummy aches for the weakest of us is a definite plus. But again erring on the side of safety can't hurt.

I tell yah what really ruined me for taking short cuts. What if someday somebody gets sick at a wedding reception and they start questioning me and my methods. I wanna say without equivocation or embarassment that I kept my stuff as pure as possible.

That peanut butter mousse I make goes bad fast and I keep it refrigerated. But I'm using cream and not cream cheese.

Overthink much, Kate? Yeah but I sleep good.

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I'm the odd man out and I'm very comfortable here. Make it tonight if you have to but please don't heat the cream cheese unless it's heated properly like in the oven baking it.

No I mean I have friends who leave cream cheese out for days before using it.  :rolleyes:

Making a frosting ahead is very different from leaving cream cheese out on the counter: the amount of sugar in the frosting can, depending on the amount, prevent any significant bacterial growth for several days. Think about a chocolate ganache: it has a lot of cream in it, but also a lot of sugar. It is frequently left out overnight to set, with no ill effects. You can't judge whether it is safe based on the individual ingredients alone. This is more obvious with things like salt-cured meats, but it also applies to confections.

Edited to remove the implication that *any* amount of sugar would do: the higher the sugar-to-other-stuff ratio is, the more preservative power the sugar has.

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Actually, not only can you refrigerate buttercream, it freezes very well if stored properly.

I have worked at a county club and a cafe and the thought of making buttercream every time we needed to ice cupcakes (every morning) or a cake makes my head spin. We made large batches of all of our frostings (Swiss, Brownie and Cream Cheese) and kept them in buckets in the walk-in. When we needed buttercream we put the amount we wanted in the small mixer bowl and set it in hot water to melt. Once about 1/5 was melted, we put on the whip and mixed until it was back to fluffy (the Swiss does look crazy before it gets to fluffy, so don't throw in the towel too soon). This allowed us to color or flavor plain buttercream depending on need.

At home I keep Swiss in the freezer if I have some left over. If I need to whip up a quick cake for a party or get together, I don't have to worry about putting together the BC. I've never had any taste, texture or quality problems as a result, and I am very particular about my products.

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Help, I just made my standard recipe for buttercream and as I added the last bits of butter it separated. Should I warm it a bit and whisk or use my paddle ? Other suggestions?

Clearly I should not have answered the phone!

ETA: egg white/sugar warmed then whipped, with butter added a bit at a time.

Edited by SushiCat (log)
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Help, I just made my standard recipe for buttercream and as I added the last bits of butter it separated.  Should I warm it a bit and whisk or use my paddle ?  Other suggestions?

Clearly I should not have answered the phone!

ETA: egg white/sugar warmed then whipped, with butter added a bit at a time.

Finally found a reference on RLB's website. My buttercream was too cold - a little hairdryer heat worked miracles. bliss.

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  • 3 months later...

the appearance and consistency for piping will not be the same once it has been stored (to its detriment). usually buttercream needs to be 'reconstituted' before being piped...even if it is stored at room temp.

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It will get spongy, having a lot of air bubbles, and it will not look as smooth (it does this in a storage box, or bowl or whatever you use to store it, including the piping bag); you always see a note to rebeat before using after the buttercream has been standing for a while. So, while you can technically store it in the piping bag, it won't look good if you use it to pipe something.

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  • 2 months later...

what kind of buttercream? A meringue buttercream?

Adding (quality) white chocolate increases the fat content by the addition of the cocoa butter in the white chocolate, but it also adds milk solids. It makes a meringue buttercream a little sweeter to my taste. As for helping it to hold up in warm situations, I don't think it gives you as much as a liquid shortening would.

This past weekend, two of the wedding cakes I did were buttercream and I didn't have access to the refrigerated truck. Temps hit above 95 in the afternoon and I was concerned about transporting the cakes.

For one, I didn't add anything to my usual merinue buttercream and it was ok. The other one, I added some hi ratio shortening (about a cup maybe? Scant cup) to about 5# meringue buttercream for the final outside frosting layer. I noticed it was easier to smooth to perfection without the usual tricks because of the added fat. But since both of the cakes were fine, I can't say one is any better than the other for regular use.

For shipping a cake, can you do something like a white chocolae ganache as the outside frosting? Just pour it over the crumb coat, you might need a second coat of glaze. Maybe this would be an alternative?

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what kind of buttercream?  A meringue buttercream?

Adding (quality) white chocolate increases the fat content by the addition of the cocoa butter in the white chocolate, but it also adds milk solids.  It makes a meringue buttercream a little sweeter to my taste.  As for helping it to hold up in warm situations, I don't think it gives you as much as a liquid shortening would.

This past weekend, two of the wedding cakes I did were buttercream and I didn't have access to the refrigerated truck.  Temps hit above 95 in the afternoon and I was concerned about transporting the cakes.

For one, I didn't add anything to my usual merinue buttercream and it was ok.  The other one, I added some hi ratio shortening (about a cup maybe?  Scant cup) to about 5# meringue buttercream for the final outside frosting layer.  I noticed it was easier to smooth to perfection without the usual tricks because of the added fat.  But since both of the cakes were fine, I can't say one is any better than the other for regular use.

For shipping a cake, can you do something like a white chocolae ganache as the outside frosting?  Just pour it over the crumb coat, you might need a second coat of glaze.  Maybe this would be an alternative?

Well, I guess I was also hoping someone might suggest what sort of buttercream would work best with the white chocolate, if that was a viable option. So, anyway, I think you've answered my question.

And you've also read my mind because I was going ask about the white chocolate ganache.

Thanks, Jeanne!

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