Buttercream is a type of light, fluffy icing made by beating together icing sugar and butter. Buttercream icings differ depending on which base is used: meringue (used in Italian or Swiss buttercream), egg yolks (used in French buttercream), butter (used in simple buttercream) or shortening (used in decorators’ buttercream) are the most common bases. Flavourings from cocoa powder to fruit purée can be easily incorporated into the mixture.
Buttercream will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks in an airtight container.
Always start with all of your ingredients at room temperature. In warmer kitchens it may help to add a pinch of cream of tartar to your buttercream to help firm up or ‘stabilise’ it.
For Italian or Swiss-style buttercream, whisk molten sugar (heated to the soft ball stage, 112-116C/234-240F) into whisked egg whites. Whisk the fat into the meringue mixture as it cools – the result is a light and airy buttercream that holds its shape better than regular buttercream. French-style buttercream is made in the same way, but with the addition of egg yolks, which produce a much richer icing.
If the mixture splits or curdle instead of emulsifying, stick the bowl in the fridge or freezer to cool down, then whisk again. Similarly, ensure the mixture does not get too warm when piping buttercream, or it will start to melt as it comes out of the nozzle. To prevent this, place the icing, in its piping bag, in the fridge for five minutes before using.
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