ASB Basics: American Buttercream (Easy) Updated!
This is my go-to frosting recipe. It takes just over 5 minutes to make and is great for any cake or cupcakes.
Why This Method is Best
Using all good quality butter instead of margarine or shortening is more natural, tastes better, and is much better for you (no hydrogenated oils and trans fats)
Whipping the room temperature butter for 5 minutes gives the buttercream the most light and smooth texture
You can easily buy a 1lb box of powdered sugar and add it straight in (I find sifting it totally unnecessary), which makes less of a mess
If you follow the steps properly, your buttercream should never break
However, if you find yourself with broken buttercream, try beating it on high for 1-3 minutes
This recipe is very easily adaptable to make many other flavors like chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, lemon...
Some Flavor Ideas
Vanilla Buttercream: add vanilla extract to taste at step 3. I use between 1 and 2 teaspoons.
Chocolate Buttercream: add 2 oz of melted and (mostly) cooled unsweetened 100% baking chocolate at step 3. This makes the most velvety and perfect chocolate buttercream. I melt it in the microwave before step one. It's usually cool enough by step 3.
Strawberry Buttercream: puree fresh strawberries and add at step 3. (I don't even bother straining the seeds out).
Raspberry Buttercream: puree fresh raspberries, sieve to remove the seeds, and add at step 3.
Lemon Buttercream: at step 1 beat in the zest of two lemons with the butter. Add the juice of 1-2 lemons halfway through step 1.
A Note on Temperature Most, if not all, errors that bakers encounter with buttercream are the result of the butter not being at the right temperature at the time of preparation. It is critical to the success of your buttercream that your butter be properly softened. Ideally, butter stored in the refrigerator is taken out to sit at room temperature for several hours. If you forget to do this, carefully soften the butter in the microwave using low power. Whole sticks of butter stored in the freezer must defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Frozen butter sitting at room temperature tends to soften unevenly. Worse, if you try to soften frozen butter in the microwave, you will be left frozen chunks swimming in a pool of melted butter. Not what you want.
1 cup, 2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter at room temperature (If you are in a position to buy good quality butter, I highly recommend it. I use Kerrygold Irish Butter in almost all my recipes)
One 1lb package, 4 cups (454g) confectioner's/powdered/icing sugar
Flavorings (My favorites include vanilla extract, melted and cooled unsweetened chocolate, and berry purees)
Heavy Cream or Milk (a 1-6ish tbsp to taste)
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using hand beaters (your arm will get a workout), place your room temperature butter. Beat the butter on high speed for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally. This is the most important step for silky buttercream, because you're whipping all the air into the butter. After five minutes, your butter should about double in volume and become lighter in color.
Add in all the powdered sugar. Mix it in starting on low (you don't want a face full of powdered sugar) and work your way back up to high. Your icing might look crumbly after you add the sugar, but beat for a minute or two until it is completely combined.
Add in your flavorings in small increments, beating well after each addition. Especially with berry puree, I find I need to beat for a while extra to avoid my buttercream from breaking, when it looks curdled.
Add in cream (or don't), slowly, to thin your buttercream to your desired consistency. Beat well (at this step, I like to beat it for another minute or two). The cream thins out the icing but it also helps emulsify it and keep it from breaking. I usually put close to a quarter cup (4 tbsps).
Use immediately or cover and place in refrigerator for later use. If refrigerating, let it come back to room temperature and whip it well before using.