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Buttercream Frosting/Icing: The Topic


bripastryguy
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I just tried to make Ruth Wells Mousseline Buttercream, for the first time....twice. I am so disappointed that I couldn't make it work. I know it was probably foolish to try it without a candy thermometer, but I was so sure I could eyeball the syrup and know when it was ready, that I thought it would be easy. The first time I cooked the syrup too long and ended up with hard thready bits in the meringue and so I started over and the next time I ended up with italian meringue soup. I have no idea what went wrong the second time. :sad:

Is there a buttercream I can make without a candy thermometer? One that will hold up well to piping? Or should I just drag myself to the store to replace my broken thermometer and try the Mousseline Buttercream again?

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I never use a thermometer. My recipe is 7 c. gran. sugar with enough water to make sand with a dash of cream of tarter. I boil until it looks thick, the bubbles will break slowly...i've even taken it until it just starts to carmelize and still haven't had any problems. Meanwhile I have 4 c. egg white whipping in a 20 qt. mixer with a splash of lemon juice and 4 c. granulated sugar. When the sugar on the stove is ready I slowly pour into white and beat until the bowl of the mixer is at room temp or slightly warm and then spat in 7# of butter. You can break this recipe down to smaller quantities. I hope it helps.

stacey

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The first time I cooked the syrup too long and ended up with hard thready bits in the meringue and so I started over and the next time I ended up with italian meringue soup.  I have no idea what went wrong the second time.  :sad:

I have made a buttercream with caramelized sugar syrup, so I doubt the high temperature is what caused the "hard thready bits." Are you slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) pouring the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl as the paddle spins on medium speed? The syrup should hit the side of the mixing bowl first, not the egg whites, which helps cool it slightly before mixing. It is important that the syrup contact the side of the bowl as you slowly pour it in. With higher temperature syrups, you'll end up with more of it stuck to the side/top of the bowl, but it still works out in the end.

Sean

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Yes, there is one in a past Fine Cooking issue made with a bit of corn syrup. I've made it and it's delicious! I don't have time to look it up right now but I know a few egulleters have tried it so hopefully one of them can post it for you. I couldn't find it on their site.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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If you can buy or borrow The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, there is a recipe for Neoclassic buttercream. You boil corn syrup and sugar until it comes to a hard boil and add it to beaten egg yolks. Some people do not like using a recipe with yolks because the syrup is not hot enough to bring the yolks to a safe temp but you could use pasteurized yolks if you can get them.

Back to the mousseline buttercream, though: When pouring the syrup in, you want to hit the "sweet spot" just between the whip and the side of the bowl. If you hit the bowl too much/too often, you'll get a little sugar syrup dam eventually and have less buttercream at the end. If you hit the whip, it spins the sugar around the bowl and you could get those hard threads you mentioned earlier. When you add the syrup, you want the mixer at speed 6 (on a KA) or 8 depending on what you used to beat the whites with to begin.

Check out your local Home Goods or discount shop for a probe-type thermometer. I see them every so often for about $16 and buy them when I see them (that price is about what I pay from the restaurant supply) because if you let the probe thread come into contact with a flame, it fries it, thus rendering the probe useless.

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I found the recipe and I've got a few minutes. I've edited the directions considerably but all the normal rules for buttercream apply including what JeanneCake has mentioned.

Vanilla Buttercream

5 large egg whites

1 1/4 cups white sugar

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp light corn syrup

20 oz (2-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temp

1 Tbsp vanilla

In stand mixer beat egg whites on med-high till foamy. Gradually add 6 Tbsp sugar and beat on high to medium peaks. The peaks should curl a little.

Heat remaining sugar (3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp) and cornsyrup over med-high, stir just at the beginning to dissolve sugar. Cook until it comes to a rolling boil.

Add to egg whites in a slow steady stream with mixer on med-high. Adjust to medium and continue beating for 5 - 7 minutes. Add butter a bit at a time. Add vanilla and beat till smooth and creamy.

Like other recipes you can flavour however you wish.

Edited by CanadianBakin' (log)

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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The first time I cooked the syrup too long and ended up with hard thready bits in the meringue and so I started over and the next time I ended up with italian meringue soup.  I have no idea what went wrong the second time.  :sad:

I have made a buttercream with caramelized sugar syrup, so I doubt the high temperature is what caused the "hard thready bits." Are you slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) pouring the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl as the paddle spins on medium speed? The syrup should hit the side of the mixing bowl first, not the egg whites, which helps cool it slightly before mixing. It is important that the syrup contact the side of the bowl as you slowly pour it in. With higher temperature syrups, you'll end up with more of it stuck to the side/top of the bowl, but it still works out in the end.

Sean

you know what, that might have been the problem.....the syrup seemed to be thickening up so fast that I panicked a little and kind of just dumped it all in as fast as I could. I'm going to give it another go today and I'll take that into account. Practice makes perfect, right? Thank you so much for your help!

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I found the recipe and I've got a few minutes. I've edited the directions considerably but all the normal rules for buttercream apply including what JeanneCake has mentioned.

Vanilla Buttercream

5 large egg whites

1 1/4 cups white sugar

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp light corn syrup

20 oz (2-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temp

1 Tbsp vanilla

In stand mixer beat egg whites on med-high till foamy. Gradually add 6 Tbsp sugar and beat on high to medium peaks. The peaks should curl a little.

Heat remaining sugar (3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp) and cornsyrup over med-high, stir just at the beginning to dissolve sugar. Cook until it comes to a rolling boil.

Add to egg whites in a slow steady stream with mixer on med-high. Adjust to medium and continue beating for 5 - 7 minutes. Add butter a bit at a time. Add vanilla and beat till smooth and creamy.

Like other recipes you can flavour however you wish.

Thank you so much, I think I will go ahead and give this one a try today!

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I did it!! Or at least, I think I did. I decided to give Ruth Well's IMBC one more try and I think it worked!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28694216@N00/423334398/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28694216@N00/423334401/

Does this look right? It tastes very buttery with just a hint of vanilla. (I used about 1.5 tsp of vanilla)

Now about storage, I can stick this in the fridge for a awhile right? I don't have anything planned, I just wanted to see if I could actually make it, so I think I might need a few hours to come up with a cake or something.

I saw on a foodblog someone stored their IMBC in ziploc bags...how hard do you think it would be to get it all out of one of those again? Too messy?

Thanks again for all you help!

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Now about storage, I can stick this in the fridge for a awhile right?  I don't have anything planned, I just wanted to see if I could actually make it, so I think I might need a few hours to come up with a cake or something.

I saw on a foodblog someone stored their IMBC in ziploc bags...how hard do you think it would be to get it all out of one of those again? Too messy?

Thanks again for all you help!

Good work!

sanresho is right, if it is just going to be a couple hours, don't stick it in the fridge. However, you can keep the buttercream for a week in the fridge, if you're not going to use it that same day.

When you're ready to use it, just take it out and let it warm a bit before sticking it back in the mixer (with the paddle attachment). Put it on medium speed and let it go. It'll break and the butter will run out, but just give it time and it will come back together. If you're in a real hurry and don't have time to let it sit out to warm up first, you can just throw it directly in the mixer and then wrap hot towels around the bowl, re-warming the towels as needed. Presto!

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There is also Swiss meringue buttercream which doesn't require a thermometer and which is very easy to produce.

First, in your mixing bowl, whisk whites with sugar over a simmering water bath until the mixture is hot to the touch (you're heating to pasteurize the whites and to dissolve the sugar).

Place on mixer with whisk and whisk until cool.

Add butter and whisk until silky smooth looking (make sure butter is softened, but not melted). If your room is cook and the butter isn't soft enough, just use a torch on the outside of the bowl to warm up a bit (or a hot towel, or a hairdryer..you get the idea).

Add your flavoring and whisk in until combined and you're ready to go!

Remember that with any kind of buttercream, after it has had a chance to sit (either in or out of the fridge), it is necessary to reconstitute it on the mixer (usually using the paddle attachment) often with the torch as well.

Good luck.

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  • 6 months later...

I've just made the Swiss Meringue Buttercream from the cookbook Confetti Cakes by Elisa Strauss. It's something like 1 /4 c. egg whites, 1 3/4 c. sugar, 5 sticks of butter and vanilla.

My problem is that I want to flavor it chocolate and I have just exhausted my chocolate supply with last week's cake. All I have left is cocoa, pretty good quality. Would it work if I were to heat up a little water pretty hot, mix it it with a good amount of cocoa until it is smooth and the texture and consistency of melted (bar) chocolate, cool it down and then use it to flavor the buttercream? Or should I resign myself to vanilla buttercream?

Thanks for your help.

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If I'm not too late...I got some day old swiss meringue and some cocoa...brb...but water??? Water doesn't sound right. I mean you can add ganache like crazy or so Margaret Braun says in her book. I can't remember ever doing it though.

brb...

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Ok umm, I recommend that you sift your cocoa but I just added it straight up and it was fine. Ganache would be way better and you might wanna make a concoction out of butter and cocoa with a bit of cream. Maybe water is a good idea.

So it's definitely do-able.

You've probably already used it though. But there it is.

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thanks for the suggestions! I did go ahead and do it but I hated the result. It wasn't grainy or anything, I just didn't like the taste. I scooped it all into a ziploc and tossed it in the freezer.

I'm kicking myself for not leaving it vanilla! I'm going to have to make another batch now.

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Y'know it did taste kinda raw come to think of it but it was late and I was mostly checking for the mixability for some reason. Just kinda figuring that it wasn't gonna be a super flavor. Ganache is the way to go says Margaret Braun. And you can make a ganashee substance out of cocoa. But anyway...

But that's an interesting point about swiss meringue. It is such a clear flavor, apparently anything else added has to be very tasty on it's own because it totally shines through the original delicate ambiance of the buttercream. I once added some salt. hahahaha. Just once. :rolleyes:

Wonder how it would be if cocoa was added to melted butter...

edited to say: yeah I just checked for the mixability factor because Alana thought it might be grainy and mine wasn't but that's why I only looked there.

So all that to say I think you need freaking good chocolate to make it work huh. But I rarely diddle with it. Usually just do straight up vanilla. You just can't hide much behind egg whites.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Hi All,

I'm in a bit of a quandary over buttercream storage. According to The Cake Bible, Mousselline Buttercream can be stored at room temp for 2 days but Classic (egg yolk) can only sit out for 6 hours. Is this true in your experience? I ask because I left a recipe of Classic buttercream out for 24 hours and before I chuck it I want to hear about other experiences.

Thanks!

Chris

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it is more of a food safety issue than a performance issue with buttercreams. depending on how the egg product is processed in making the recipe, will affect how long you can keep it at room temp.

i would say that swiss meringue buttercream and italian meringue buttercream are the most stable at room temp for long periods of time because during the process the egg whites are pasteurized.

if you make your buttercream with pasteurized egg products, you would probably be able to keep them at room temperature longer than stated in the recipes. sometimes, however, the pasteurized products give you a different result. you'll have to experiment with that.

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  • 2 months later...

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.

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I think you made an Italian bc and I use mostly Swiss but they are very similar. But it can be left at room temp for several days in a coolish environment. I mean not in a commercial kitchen or anything where it's hot and steamy, but a home environment. So I never refrigerate my buttercream before I've iced my cake.

In fact, I use brand new fresh made buttercream for all my projects. I might use some leftover after it comes to room temp and I refresh it with a tad of vanilla just to make a dam between layers if I was using an oozing kind of filling like a fruit filling. I would use a tad of leftover, fill the cake and then refrigerate the cake for later icing it with brand new fresh made icing.

Butter has such a delicate flavor and can pick up other aromas so easily, I would not recommend making big batches to store. Just made to order. That's how I do it.

Congrats on your first buttercream!

And if it was grainy maybe watch the cooking next time and be on the lookout for any errant sugar crystals which can re-crystalize the batch. I would add a half drop of honey or corn syrup to ensure success. But each sugar crystal has to melt and stay melted.

So all that blather to say, don't refrigerate it before using it.

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Yes, it was Italian. I've heard it's more stable and I'm comfortable with italian meringue so that's what I went with. The graininess didn't come into play until it was refrigerated, so I don't think it was crystallization, but it might be, I suppose. Now that I think of it, there was a little sugar residue in the saucepan. It seemed like it broke like mayo does when you screw it up, but only after I stirred it. My guess is that it was just too cold and I should have let it warm for another half hour or so, and not tried to stir it. It reminded me of cream cheese frosting that was cold, and that responds well to stirring so I didn't think it through.

next time I'll leave it at room temp instead of refrigerating it, but I was concerned with it melting or something, the kitchen wasn't exactly cool.

Swiss is when you whip the egg whites in a bain?

I think you made an Italian bc and I use mostly Swiss but they are very similar. But it can be left at room temp for several days in a coolish environment. I mean not in a commercial kitchen or anything where it's hot and steamy, but a home environment. So I never refrigerate my buttercream before I've iced my cake.

In fact, I use brand new fresh made buttercream for all my projects. I might use some leftover after it comes to room temp and I refresh it with a tad of vanilla just to make a dam between layers if I was using an oozing kind of filling like a fruit filling. I would use a tad of leftover, fill the cake and then refrigerate the cake for later icing it with brand new fresh made icing.

Butter has such a delicate flavor and can pick up other aromas so easily, I would not recommend making big batches to store. Just made to order. That's how I do it.

Congrats on your first buttercream!

And if it was grainy maybe watch the cooking next time and be on the lookout for any errant sugar crystals which can re-crystalize the batch. I would add a half drop of honey or corn syrup to ensure success. But each sugar crystal has to melt and stay melted.

So all that blather to say, don't refrigerate it before using it.

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