As any Super Baker knows, the icing you use can make or break the loveliness of your cake, and as far as icing goes, nothing beats buttercream. For those not in the loop, buttercream is a delicious combination of flavourful butter mixed with plenty of sugar to produce a light, airy, and delightfully smooth finishing touch for cakes and cupcakes. Buttercreams generally take well to flavourings and colourants without adjusting the recipe, and can be used for both spreading and piping on a cake.
Take a minute to watch this video and see what buttercream can do for your decorating repertoire:
However not all buttercreams are the same. Variations of buttercream require different ingredients and methods, and can therefore yield some pretty different results. The most famous versions are Swiss, French and American style buttercream.
So-called because it uses Swiss meringue as a base, Swiss buttercream is made from egg whites and sugar heated over a pot of barely simmering water until the mixture reaches 72° C. This heats the egg whites just enough so they are no longer raw. The egg white mixture is then cooled down while it is whipped to stiff peaks. Room-temperature butter is incorporated until the frosting is light and smooth.
This light and fluffy frosting is notoriously white, which makes it an ideal choice for wedding cakes, but also great for achieving vibrant shades when coloured.
French buttercream is made following a similar method to Swiss buttercream, but it uses a base mixture of whole eggs and egg yolks, also known as a pâte à bombe. A mixture of sugar and water is heated to 115° C and poured into the egg mixture with the mixer running, cooking the eggs in the process. Once the mixture is fully aerated and cooled, room-temperature butter is added, and the frosting is mixed until light and smooth.
Because it starts with a base of whole eggs and yolks, French buttercream is noticeably richer in colour, texture, and flavour compared to other variations of buttercream.
With no cooking or no eggs necessary, American buttercream is the simplest, most affordable and therefore the most popular version of buttercream. This sweet, rich frosting is also denser than Swiss or French buttercream, which lends itself to piping three-dimensional shapes like flowers and rosettes very well.
American buttercream is also the frosting preferred by award-winning celeb baker and long-time CAB Foods customer, Grace Stevens.
Meet Grace Stevens
Grace has authored two fantastic books, namely Celebration Cakes, Step by Step with Fondant and Cake Decorating with Grace Stevens. She is also well known for her regular appearances on SABC3’s Expresso Morning Live Show, showcasing her recipes for amazing desserts, sweet dishes and decorating ideas.
Grace started decorating cakes in her late twenties. “When I started my cake business, I bought my ingredients from my local supermarket until I discovered CAB Foods. I was thrilled that I could buy big quantities of my ingredients and explore all the decorating equipment and ideas on display. I really love that there is everything I need under one roof and I am thrilled to be part of the CAB Foods family.”
Lucky for us, Grace was kind enough to share her own recipe for American buttercream. “The buttercream I use in my classes and for my own buttercream flowers is this American buttercream. It’s very stable and easy to make. It freezes well and crusts over quickly, making decorating with my piped flowers quick and easy.
Grace’s go-to American Buttercream
500g icing sugar
10 to 30ml milk
Cream the butter until smooth.
Add your icing sugar and beat until it is well combined.
Add your preferred flavouring and mix well.
Add milk until the correct consistency is reached.
At CAB Foods we not only specialise in all the equipment and ingredients used by superstar bakers like Grace, but also the basic goodies to get you started with your very first bake. Visit any of our five stores or shop online to see why every Super Baker loves shopping at CAB Foods.