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Buttercream Tutorial
Posted: 06 January 2009 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Let’s work on a buttercream tutorial since so many people come here looking for advice and we usually tell them the same thing everytime. Perhaps the mod can pin this to the top of the forum.

I’ll start with general tips and then we should move on to specific recipes…

General Tips :

1. Use a Candy/Frying thermometer to bring your sugar to the appropriate temperature. If your sugar is not hot enough your buttercream (BC) won’t be firm enough.

2. Butter should be UNSALTED and at room temperature.

3. Bowl should be very clean and free of any fat. Even one drop of fat left in the bowl can keep your egg whites from whipping.

4. Deviating from the recipe sequence can result in a mess instead of a nice BC.

5. The hotter the day, the softer the BC.

6. If you’re in the middle of mixing and your BC looks curdled turn up the speed on your mixer and keep mixing. It will eventually come together. If your kitchen is very warm you may need to cool the BC in the fridge for a few minutes and then continue beating.

Who wants to do Classic Buttercream?

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Posted: 06 January 2009 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Good Idea!  I suggest adding the following to number 2 - room temperature butter should not appear “greasy” or look like it’s starting to separate.  It should look just like a cold stick of butter, but be easily squished when pressed.

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Posted: 06 January 2009 09:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Here are a few more tips that I think are important to note:

You can pour the hot syrup directly from the pan into the mixer; pour in a slow, steady stream (about the width of a pencil is good) and look for the “sweet spot” in between the beaters and the bowl.  If you are a little nervous about this step, practice first by pouring plain water into an empty bowl with the mixer running.

If the butter is cool (not cold), you can add it when the whites are a little bit warm.  Hold the inside of your wrist against the bottom of the mixer bowl.  If you can leave your wrist there,  or just feel slight warmth, you can start adding the butter.  If your butter is very soft, the buttercream will be very soft.  You can use the defrost setting on a microwave to soften the butter; just give it a minute or two on low power.  You can’t use it if you melt it, so be careful. smile

It is just as easy to make a double batch as a single batch; you can freeze what you don’t use.

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Posted: 07 January 2009 08:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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OK more help, maybe I am stupid…
In reading the cake bible, on page 231 the recipe for Classic Chocolate buttercream, it says “Classic Buttercreams can incorporate about 6 oz of melted chocolate without becoming too stiff”. Then, on page 518 under classic chocolate, it says “Classic Buttercreams can incorporate 12 oz of melted chocolate without becoming too stiff.

am I reading two different recipes but yet I dont know what they are??

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Posted: 07 January 2009 10:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi Ski - the recipe on 231 makes 4 cups of buttercream, while the recipe on page 217 makes 8 cups.

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Posted: 08 January 2009 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Great ! because that was my next question, and you answered it already! THanks!!

Oh, what about if you needed MORE than 8 cups. Can you TRIPLE the recipe, or should you make 2 batches seperate?

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Posted: 08 January 2009 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Depending on the size of you mixing bowl, maybe.  I can do a double batch in my 5qt KitchenAid, and I can barely fit a triple batch in my 6qt KA.  It should be noted that doubling or tripling the recipe also double or triples the amount of hot sugar syrup which greatly increases the amount of time it takes for the sugar syrup to cool down before you can start adding the butter to the meringue.  A water jacket attachment can help speed the cooling process along, but I actually think it’s faster to just make several single batches…. less mess for your mixer too (the last time I made a triple batch, the underside of my mixer head was caked with meringue - using the splash guard can help to lessen the mess).  It helps if you have an extra work bowl and whip attachment.

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Posted: 08 January 2009 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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No one’s going to jump on Classic Buttercream?

OK, I’ll start:

Classic Buttercream Tips

In the Classic Buttercream recipe (CBC) you start by beating egg yolks. To achieve max volume you should beat the yolks for several minutes before starting your sugar. Ultimately you are hoping to have yolks which look like vanilla cake batter; thick and smooth.

Though the sugar temp is lower than with other buttercreams, it takes longer to reach temp because there is more sugar and water in the saucepan.

You must use a candy thermometer and bring the sugar mixture to at least 238 degrees F.

This CBC has a bright yellow color due to the yolks.

You can freeze leftover yolks by adding 1/8tsp of sugar per yolk before freezing.. Be sure to reduce your recipe by equal amounts when using.

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Posted: 09 January 2009 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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OK, I’ll do SMBC, since that is my favorite.

Silk Meringue Buttercream Tips

Flavors- My favorite flavors to blend with the custard base of SMBC are all of the caramel variations (praline, caramel, burnt orange and coffee-caramel), plus apricot. This is a time-consuming buttercream to make, so I usually double or triple a batch of the caramel flavor and freeze whatever I don’t use. Then it’s easy to make any of the caramel variations later by adding in the appropriate flavoring (for praline, I add in hazelnut paste rather than praline paste, since the caramel is already there).

Because this buttercream is denser/richer than mousseline, yet lighter than classic, I like to pair it with cakes of medium density. The Cake bible pairs it with golden genoise (“Golden Cage”), chocolate butter cake (with burnt orange), or brioche-rum cake (“La Brioche Cake”). I also like it with genoise riche or downy yellow butter cake.

Caramel- For the caramel variations, use regular, ultra-pasteurized milk and don’t do anything to make the sugar/milk mixture too acidic, or the milk will curdle as you heat it. This includes using brown sugar or making the caramel too dark (caramelized sugar gets more acidic as it darkens). Also, don’t add cream of tartar to the caramel (an acid). If you haven’t poured liquids into hot caramel before, they bubble up furiously. Use a pan large enough to accommodate this, stand back, and use a heat protective mitt to avoid steam burns. If you want to gently boost the caramel flavor, increase the sugar that you are caramelizing by 25g (per batch) and pour this amount out onto a silpat or foil before adding the milk (I put the silpat on my scale and pour). Break this up and grind it into superfine sugar just before you begin making the meringue. Use it to add to the soft peak whites when making the Italian Meringue.

Creme Anglais- For the custard, the milk must be heated higher than 160 but not above 180 or the eggs will curdle (as per Cake Bible instructions). If only slight curdling has occurred, you can pour the custard into the blender to smooth it out, then strain into a bowl for cooling. Be sure to bring it to room temperature before adding it to the butter.

Italian Meringue- Eggs are easier to separate when cold, but the whites should be whipped when room temp or a little warm. Use an accurate thermometer for the sugar syrup (check it in boiling water). Lower the heat as the sugar syrup approaches 248F, then pour directly from pan to bowl in a thin stream with mixer on high. If you overshoot and end up with too-hot syrup, add a little water, swirl, and bring back to 248F. Scrape the pan with a spatula, you need all the syrup. If blobs of hardened syrup form, work more quickly so the syrup doesn’t cool too much. If you need to cool the meringue quickly (mine always takes forever to cool), use a water bath attachment or place the mixer bowl in a bowl of shallow cool water and whisk by hand or with a hand-held mixer.

Beating and re-beating- For maximum fluffiness, don’t beat the buttercream very much after adding the meringue. For the same reason, add flavorings (especially heavier ones like hazelnut paste or apricot puree) after the custard and before the meringue. Nothing bad will happen if you add the flavorings at the end, the texture will just be a little denser.

This buttercream re-emulsifies when rebeaten after storing, it can be stressful if you haven’t seen it do this before. It thins a bit if you don’t rebeat it, and when you do, it curdles but then comes together into a smooth, beautiful buttercream. Half a minute of hand whisking is usually enough to re-emulsify.  I actually love this re-beaten texture for its incredible smoothness, but it isn’t quite as fluffy as when it is first made.

Lastly, as the Cake Bible states, this buttercream holds up at room temperature better than classic, but not quite as well as mousseline.  Because of the yolks, it is more yellow than mousseline, though paler than the classic.

I’m probably not the best person to do Mousseline tips, mine always curdles dramatically, and though it seems perfectly fine in the end, it stresses me out and makes me wonder where I might have gone wrong…

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Posted: 09 January 2009 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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A few other thoughts on frostings in general:

For chocolate I prefer ganache over buttercream.  The light whipped, glaze or dark chocolate are all wonderful- and don’t forget the congac, it isn’t detectable but adds complexity and sophistication to the chocolate flavor.

For strawberry and raspberry I prefer cloud creams over buttercream.  These taste like the freshest, ripest fruit combined with cream.  Pair with lighter cakes, like genoise, chiffon or biscuit.

Of all the white chocolate buttercreams, Creme Ivoire has the most intense flavor.  It sets up with a slightly firm exterior, so stack the cake ahead of time to give it some time to settle (avoids cracks).  Cocoa butter can be purchased through Albert Uster (5lbs) or King Arthur (4 oz).  Walnut oil or hazelnut paste are incredibly delicious with Creme Ivoire and help balance the sweetness. 

My all-time favorite Cake Bible frostings (so far) are lemon curd mousseline, light whipped ganache with cognac, praline silk meringue BC, and strawberry cloud cream.

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Posted: 21 January 2009 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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For the MBC, what speed do you have your KA on at the different stages on making it - when you are incorporating the sugar syrup, after all syrup in added, etc?

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Posted: 22 January 2009 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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GolfAddict - 21 January 2009 03:06 PM

For the MBC, what speed do you have your KA on at the different stages on making it - when you are incorporating the sugar syrup, after all syrup in added, etc?

I have a KA 6 qt 525 watt machine; I use speed 6 to start the whites, speed 8 when adding the syrup and then go back to 6 to add the butter.  Don’t keep it on 8 for too long after you add all the syrup.

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Posted: 23 January 2009 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Great topic jen68.

  I think I may have messed up my buttercream last night, but I don’t know what I did wrong. Hopefully you folks can help me with this. I followed the recipe in TCB exactly as the instructions are written. The frosting tasted fine, it was smooth and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness, but the consistency didn’t seem right to me. It seemed like it was too soft. I let the butter soften first. I beat the egg yolks until they were light in color (maybe I didn’t beat them enough). I stirred the syrup constantly until it boiled and then stopped stirring once it did reach a boil, then I let it reach 238 ?F and then removed it from the heat and transferred to a greased heat-proof glass. Then I incorporated the syrup in the egg yolks. I thought maybe I added the syrup too soon. Are you supposed to let the syrup cool before adding it to the egg yolks? If so, how long do I need to let it cool before adding it to the egg yolks? In the end, what consistency am I looking for? It was so soft that doing any sort of piping was impossible. I wanted to decorate the side of my cake with a basket weave pattern, but it just wasn’t going to happen for me last night so I ended up not doing what I wanted. I know it’s really difficult, if not impossible, to determine where things went wrong for me based on a paragraph here in the forum, but if any of you could tell me what I did wrong and how to improve it next time, I would really appreciate it.

  If a buttercream frosting is not the right type of frosting for doing a lot of piping on a cake, could any of you recommend what type of frosting I should be using?

Thank you,
Matthew

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Posted: 23 January 2009 03:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Hi Monsieur - which buttercream did you make?  Don’t allow the sugar syrup to cool before adding it - do so immediately or you will have little bits of crystallized sugar in your buttercream.  Your sugar syrup might not have reached the proper temp (how accurate is your thermometer?), your room might have been too warm (a quick chill in the fridge will fix buttercream that is too warm).  How soft was your butter?  (shouldn’t start to look greasy at all… should look just like a cold stick of butter that is easily squished).  Last thing that comes to mind is when did you add your butter?  (adding it before the sugar syrup mixture has beaten until it has cooled completely will result in a soft buttercream).

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Posted: 23 January 2009 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Patrincia - 23 January 2009 07:08 PM

Hi Monsieur - which buttercream did you make?  Don’t allow the sugar syrup to cool before adding it - do so immediately or you will have little bits of crystalized sugar in your buttercream.  Your sugar syrup might not have reached the proper temp (how accurate is your thermometer?), your room might have been too warm (a quick chill in the fridge will fix buttercream that has gotten too warm).  How soft was your butter?  (shouldn’t start to look greasy at all… should look just like a cold stick of butter that is easily squished).  Last thing that comes to mind is when did you add your butter?  (adding it before the sugar syrup mixture has beaten until it has cooled completely will result in a soft buttercream).

Hello again Patrincia,

  You seem to be helping me a lot here in the past two days. Thank you so much for your help. To answer your question, I made the classic buttercream from TCB. I think you bring up some excellent points I was not thinking about when I made the frosting last night. Perhaps I let the butter soften too much. It hadn’t begun to separate yet, but is was kind of shiny by the time I incorporated it into the egg yolk/syrup mixture. Another thing that may be the problem is my thermometer. I just have a simple candy thermometer made of glass with a metal frame. It has some of the temps marked on it like “soft ball”, “hard ball”, and a few other important temps. So when I say I removed the syrup from the heat immediately upon reaching 238 ?F, that’s subject to the accuracy of my thermometer. I did add the syrup immediately after removing from the heat. Perhaps the mixture was still too warm when I added the butter. I’ll be sure to wait a little longer next time I try to make this frosting. Thanks again for all of your help.

~Matthew

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Posted: 23 January 2009 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Happy to help smile

You should be able to check the accuracy of your thermometer by see what temp it registers when water begins to boil.  If you live at sea level, that temp should be 212F.  Happy baking!

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