Why American Buttercream?
When I opened my first bakery, twenty years ago, most of my cake and cupcakes were custom orders. I offered all different types of frostings and fillings including three different buttercream(s) – Swiss, Italian and American. I thought for sure that the European buttercream(s) would be the most popular due to their silky smooth texture and not being overly sweet – I was wrong.
Not All Buttercream Is The Same
European style buttercream (Swiss, French, Italian & German) is a meringue base with lots of soft butter slowly added. This style of buttercream is silky soft and must be kept refrigerated or it will fall apart faster than a two celebrity marriage (I stole that line from an episode of Two Broke Girls lol). While the texture of European Buttercream is amazing, many people find it to rich and buttery. I quickly learned that my customers overwhelmingly preferred my American buttercream over all of the others.
American buttercream is made without any meringue and is just butter and/or shortening with powdered sugar and flavoring. When made with all butter I find that, just like the European buttercream, the frosting is too buttery – like eating buttered cake. When made with all shortening, buttercream doesn’t have enough depth of flavor and can taste like cheap supermarket frosting.
The Best of Both Worlds
This American Buttercream recipe uses a combination of butter and shortening along with an extended mixing time to give it a balanced taste and mouthfeel. Depending on what flavorings you use the sweetness of the frosting will vary. You can use extra dark or unsweetened chocolate if you like a less sweet chocolate frosting or use milk if you are all about the sugar…
You Are In Control
This recipe offers tons of flexibility and endless variations for flavoring. Once you have made the vanilla base you can flavor the whole batch however you like or break it up and make multiple flavors. You are also in control of the consistency. Depending on your personal preference you can easily make this frosting thinner by adding a little water or juice. If you happen to add too much fruit puree or liquid you can fix it by adding a bit of sifted powdered sugar, just be careful because the frosting can get a bit sweet if this happens.
This buttercream is the perfect frosting for chocolate cake and cupcakes!
I love this recipe because it is simple, very versatile and everyone always loves it. This recipe is a blank canvas with endless possibilities. I have listed some of my favorite variations in the notes at the end of the recipe.
Depending on what you add in for flavorings it can range from very sweet to moderately sweet.
This recipe makes enough to frost one 2 layer cake, 24 cupcakes or one ¼ sheet cake (9x13)
Mixing the frosting for a full 10 minutes is key to its texture and mouth feel.
- 4 oz unsalted butter, room temp ½ cup
- 4 oz shortening ½ cup
- 1 pound powdered sugar (3 ¾ cups)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3-4 tbsp water
- Flavorings or your choice - see note below
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, shortening and vanilla. Mix on low speed until smooth and creamy.
Scrape down the bowl and add the powdered sugar. Mix until well combined - approximately 2 minutes.
Turn to medium speed and mix for 10 minutes, scraping down the bowl at least once.
Add additional flavorings if using.
Add water one tablespoon at a time until frosting is your desired consistency. If you are using liquid flavorings such as pureed fruit, juice or liquor add them before adding the water - you may not need any.
Add flavorings in after the full 10 minutes of mixing. Continue to mix, scraping down the bowl as needed, until well combined.
6 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled until barely warm to the touch
Peanut Butter Buttercream:
Add 6 ounces of peanut butter
Fruit Flavored Buttercream(s):
Omit the water and add 4 oz of pureed fruit - frozen fruit works fine as long as you thaw it a bit before pureeing. My favorites are raspberry, Blackberry and Peach.
Omit the water and add 2 ounces fresh lemon juice.
Omit the water and add 1 ounce gold tequila, one ounce lime juice, zest of a small lime, food coloring if desired.
Other fun ideas....
Bailey's Irish Cream, coconut cream, mint extract, maple syrup &/or maple extract, champagne, red wine.... have fun and be creative.