Buttercream is the most important frosting, icing, and filling type in dessert making. And understanding the different types of buttercream will allow you to better use this important baking ingredient to make your desserts as delicious as possible.
Buttercream can come in a number of different flavors and textures including caramel, lemon, orange, chocolate, vanilla, rum, banana, coffee, praline and more.
At it’s most basic level, all buttercreams are comprised of softened butter gradually beaten into an egg foam.
Different Types Of Buttercream
Buttercream styles and types allow for so much baking creativity. Buttercreams lend themselves well to receiving other flavors such as pastry creams, chocolate and fruits.
Tip: Keep extra flavors to no more than 25% -50% of the weight of the butter in your frosting
Swiss buttercream is made from a Swiss meringue base in which you beat softened butter. This is a very stable buttercream and is relatively easy and quick to prepare.
It is quite a bit heavier than Italian buttercream and it is susceptible to being overworked. It melts quickly so if piping or spreading it should not be over handled.
Classic French Buttercream
This rich buttercream is prepared using egg yolks instead of the traditional egg whites of other styles. This type of buttercream is significantly richer than Swiss or Italian types.
The preparation of French buttercream starts by beating hot sugar syrup into fluffy egg yolks. This process is called pâte à bombe. And it is the identical process used to prepare frozen mousse.
Classic French buttercream pairs delightfully well with Italian meringue for an extra rich and delicious dessert.
This is the sweetest and lightest of the different types of buttercream. This version starts by taking Italian meringue and beating in softened butter.
This is a favorite in home baking situations as it is the safest way to prepare buttercream when pasteurized egg whites are not available.
It is also an excellent buttercream for decorative jobs. It holds a swirl very well and is ideal for piping and other pretty buttercream desserts.
This style is perfect for creating pastry creams and fillings. It offers a light and less rich buttercream flavor making it perfect for the pastry chef.
Crème mousseline has less butter than other buttercreams but more butter can be used if a base of Crème Anglaise is used.
Important: Crème mousseline does not last as long as other buttercreams
Also know as decorators buttercream, this type is made by beating shortening, confectioners sugar, milk, water, and occasionally egg white powder.
This buttercream is often used by pastry chefs in training. It is a stable style of buttercream that is perfect for practicing piping techniques as it does not melt as quickly.
Many store bought cakes also utilize mock buttercream due to it’s stable edges and longer shelf life.
It does not offer the same rich flavor as other types of buttercream though. They are often very sweet and lack the richness of the others.
Confectioners Sugar Buttercream
This popular American style of buttercream is made by beating together confectioners sugar, butter, and shortening. Occasionally cream, milk, or vanilla is added.
This style of buttercream is often called for in layer cake recipes and it offers a rather sweet flavor. It also offers a more grainy texture than traditional buttercreams.
How long does buttercream last?
Traditional buttercreams such as Swiss, French and Italian last in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Crème mousseline lasts up to four days in the refrigerator.
Can buttercream be frozen?
Yes buttercream can be frozen. Do not use if frostbite shows.
How do you use chilled buttercream?
Whether frozen or refrigerated buttercream should be brought to room temperature before using. Once to room temp it can be beaten or stirred until it is fluffy.
How do I make my buttercream more fluffy?
First warm it over low heat and stir constantly. If still not fluffy, add a little bit of soft butter and stir.
Can I use melted butter to make buttercream?
No. Butter should be softened not melted.
Depending on the pastry or dessert you are making, there is a buttercream style for you. I prefer Swiss, French and Italian buttercreams for my desserts but when I am short on time I will make confectioners style. It is a good idea to learn how to prepare all the varieties as it will allow you to make more flavorful desserts.