Making a quick buttercream frosting from scratch is worth the effort. Rich buttercream frosting adds a pretty finish and a buttery, sweet layer to your favorite cake desserts.
Buttercream frosting is made with butter?hence the name?which adds a more mild flavor than cream cheese-based frostings. Cream cheese frosting is tangier than buttercream frosting, which makes it perfect for vegetable- or fruit-flavor cakes. Buttercream frostings hold up a bit better than cream cheese frostings, so they're a better choice for decorated cakes.
Here's how to make fabulous buttercream frosting:
For a two-layer 8- or 9-inch round cake,* you'll need:
- 3/4 cup butter
- 2 pounds sifted powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Food coloring (optional)
*Halve the recipe to frost the top of a 13x9x2-inch cake.
Soften the butter by bringing it to room temperature. Soft butter will ensure that it easily blends with the other ingredients, giving you a smooth frosting. Meanwhile, sift the powdered sugar.
Note: Never used melted butter when a recipe calls for softened butter. The frosting will not mix properly and the texture will thin out and act as more of a glaze than a thick, luscious frosting.
In a large mixing bowl beat the softened butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in 1/3 cup milk and the vanilla. Gradually beat in the remaining powdered sugar.
You want a frosting that will spread effortlessly. If the frosting is too thick, beat in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach a thick but spreadable consistency.
Make sure the milk is fully incorporated before adding the next teaspoon: Just a teaspoon or two is sometimes all you need to go from too stiff to the perfect texture. If your frosting gets a bit too soft, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes or stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup more powdered sugar to firm it up.
If desired, add a few drops of food coloring or flavorings (see "How to Add Flavor to Frosting," below) to tint or flavor the frosting.
Cake Decorating 101
-I'm Sue with the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen. Using a pastry bag to decorate cakes or cookies is a technique that's a ton of fun. And with our secrets to success, you'll see how easy it is to hone your pastry bag prowess. Let me show you a few basics. First, the bag, the key is to choose one that's large enough for the job. In the test kitchen, we generally use a 12-inch bag for most decorating tasks. Some of us do like to use larger ones though, say about 10-inches which gives us plenty of room to grip and twist the top easily. While reusable canvass bags are traditional, we love the disposable plastics ones, they're inexpensive and available at any kitchenware store. And if you're in a pinch for piping, a gallon size re-sealable plastic bag will work just fine. Now, for one of our secrets, there are 2 ways to fit the bag with the tip. The first is using a coupler. Cut the tip of the bag so that it just goes over the first line of the coupler. Insert the Coupler into the bag, select the tip you want to use. Place it on the coupler and then secure it with the ring. Using a coupler is especially good if you need to change the tip shape several times. If you don't have a coupler, simply cut the end of the pastry bag so the hole is large enough to expose half the tip yet tight enough to hold it in place. Now you're ready to fill. Turn the top of the bag over to make a large cuff. Form your hand into the letter "c" and slip the cuff over your hand, kind of like a pastry puppet. There's a good reason for doing this. It not only protects your hands from the sticky frosting but it also gives you an edge to scrape the frosting off your spatula. Beginning filling the bag that only about half way, this prevents the frosting from squeezing out the top and it also gives you much better control in piping. Unfold the cuff and then twist the top to force the frosting down into the tip. Now, this is important. Before piping, give the bag a good squeeze over your frosting bowl to remove any air bubbles. To pipe, twist the top of the bag again with your dominant hand and squeeze to force the frosting through the tip while your other hand guides the tip. Before tackling the cake, you might wanna practice on a piece of wax paper to work on your squeezing technique and to see how different tips work. Round tips are good for lines and writing while star tips makes more of a decorative statement with shapes like shell and simple zig-zag borders. Once you have it down, jus scrape the frosting back into the bag and use your new skills on a smoothly frosted cake. With a little practice and a few secrets from Better Homes and Gardens, it won't be long before your piping like a test kitchen pro.
Incorporate these flavorings for a spin on traditional vanilla buttercream frosting:
Almond: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for the vanilla. Garnish frosted cake or cupcakes with toasted sliced almonds.
Milk Chocolate: Melt 1 cup milk chocolate pieces; cool. Beat chocolate into the butter before adding the powdered sugar.
Strawberry: Beat 1/3 cup strawberry jam into the butter before adding the powdered sugar.
Peanut Butter: Beat 1/2 cup peanut butter into the butter before adding the powdered sugar. Garnish frosted cake or cupcakes with chopped peanuts.
Irish Cream: Substitute Irish cream liqueur for the milk.
Peppermint: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract for the vanilla; if desired, tint with red food coloring. Top garnished cake or cupcakes with peppermint candies.
Dark Chocolate: Substitute 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar.
Coffee: Add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or coffee crystals, or substitute brewed coffee for the milk.
Citrus: Substitute lemon or orange juice for the milk; stir 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange peel into the finished frosting. Garnish frosted cake or cupcakes with thin strips of lemon or orange peel.
Looking for decorating ideas?