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Cake Decorating Basics: Simple American Buttercream Recipe

Updated on September 06, 2016

American Buttercream

Did you know there are many different types of buttercream? There's American, Italian meringue, Swiss meringue, French, German, pudding-style, and some more that I've never tried before. Of all these, American buttercream is the simplest and quickest to create. There are only four main ingredients and you don't have to cook anything. You can also make it with a hand mixer, as long as the hand mixer motor is super strong. Trust me on this one, I went through 6 hand mixers before I figured out that horse power really does matter!

There are some things you need to know about this recipe. Because I use all butter, it does not stand up well to heat and humidity. I've had more than a few disasters and literal meltdowns before I figured out it was my recipe that was the problem. There is a tweak to it, though, and I'll explain that later in the article.

Another thing is you're not going to have a pure white finish with this recipe. It's going to be off-white. If you need a pure white buttercream then you're going to have to substitute the butter with high ratio shortening or add some white food coloring.

This is a crusting buttercream, which means that once it dries it stays put - making it perfect for roses and intricate designs. Even though it crusts over and seems to dry out, it still melts in your mouth with every bite.

Super Simple, Super Easy

These super simple and super easy instructions will get you on your way to a perfect buttercream finish. You're going to love the taste as well! You can keep it simple and use it as-is or add some flavorings to tweak it and have something completely different!

Some of my favorite additives are freeze-dried strawberries and a dash of strawberry extract, Nutella, peanut butter and white chocolate, and espresso and dark chocolate. There's really no limit to the way this recipe can be tweaked to match any number of cravings you may have!

I have meringue powder in the ingredients as an option, because some bakers use it and some don't. I've found that on more humid days the meringue powder helps keep the buttercream from melting so quickly.

Perfectly piped buttercream ruffles can turn a normal cake into a stunner!
Perfectly piped buttercream ruffles can turn a normal cake into a stunner!

American Buttercream Ratings

5 stars from 1 rating of American Buttercream
All the textures on this wedding cake were achieved with only buttercream.
All the textures on this wedding cake were achieved with only buttercream.
This is a peanut butter variation of American Buttercream. Simply add a cup of peanut butter to the base!
This is a peanut butter variation of American Buttercream. Simply add a cup of peanut butter to the base!
Prep time: 15 min
Ready in: 15 min
Yields: 6 cups of buttercream

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs 10x Powdered sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons Heavy cream
  • 2 Cups (4 sticks) Salted butter, softened
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla flavoring
  • 1 Teaspoon Butter flavoring
  • 1 Tablespoon Meringue powder, (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the softened butter in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the meringue powder on top of the butter. (optional)
  3. Cream the butter with the meringue powder (if you're using meringue powder) until the butter is a very light yellow color and has become fluffy.
  4. Alternate adding sugar and cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally to ensure proper mixing.
  5. Add the flavorings last and mix until a stiff consistency is reached. You'll know you've achieved a stiff consistency when your rubber spatula sits straight up in the bowl and doesn't fall over when stuck in the middle of the frosting.
  6. Once you reach stiff consistency, mix the frosting for another 5 minutes on low to remove as much air as possible.
  7. If you need a looser consistency, add more cream to the icing until your preferred consistency is reached.
Piping consistency buttercream was used here to create this effect.
Piping consistency buttercream was used here to create this effect.

Some Tips

Keep in mind that each time you add a dry ingredient to this recipe, you'll need to compensate with more liquid to keep it from becoming crumbly. For instance, if you add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder to make a nice chocolate buttercream, you'll want to add another 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream to keep it nice and moist. You could also use a flavored ingredient, such as espresso, as your liquid element when adding flavors. All that's going to do is make it taste better and better!

A very common addition I use is crushed Oreo cookies to create a cookies and cream buttercream. It is absolutely delicious, and I hate Oreos!

Play with the recipe to your heart's content. The best recipe I came up with just by playing around tastes exactly like a Reese cup. I have to make that variation constantly to keep my boys sated. You'd think they'd be sick of cake and frosting by now, but not when I can come up with different stuff for them to try!

My writing sucks, but you can see how smooth and creamy the buttercream result is in this picture.
My writing sucks, but you can see how smooth and creamy the buttercream result is in this picture.

Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 19 g
Calories 100
Calories from Fat54
% Daily Value *
Fat 6 g9%
Saturated fat 3 g15%
Unsaturated fat 3 g
Carbohydrates 12 g4%
Sugar 11 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 0 g
Cholesterol 5 mg2%
Sodium 14 mg1%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Troubleshooting

Say it's super hot and humid in your area, as it is here in Alabama right now. Replace half the butter with high ratio shortening and it will help the buttercream to not melt off the cake.

If your buttercream is curdling on you, it's going to look like cottage cheese. This is called a broken buttercream. One of two things is happening here - either your butter was too hot or too cold. If it was too hot, you can throw the entire batch in the freezer for five minutes or so and bring it back out and try to whip it back into shape. If the butter was too cold, you can place the bowl over a pan of hot water and whip it until it emulsifies and smooths out.

I've had all this happen before and sometimes I was able to save it, sometimes I just had to scratch it and start all over again. The good thing is with American buttercream, it's really hard to break. You're going to have more problems with breaking with a cooked buttercream recipe, but it absolutely can happen with this one.

I once added some warm cooked strawberries to my buttercream and it instantly broke. I tried everything I could to save it and it was a lost cause. It still tasted amazing, but the texture was disgusting. Into the garbage can it went. That's when I started using freeze-dried strawberries and a dash of strawberry extract for a delicious strawberry buttercream.

If any of this happens to you, don't give up! Keep trying and you will persevere! Happy baking and rock on!

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