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Dish of the Day: How to achieve perfect buttercream

Lily Vanilli

I switched to a new dairy supplier this week and had to entirely rework my buttercream recipes, which reminded me of a long-term baking gripe. What you need from a recipe book is not so much a set of ingredients and a method, but a set of guidelines to achieving perfect buttercream.

The end result depends on so many variables that to an extent you will have to work things out for yourself, and there will often be fluctuations each time. Everything from the strength of your mixer to the water content of your butter and the temperature in the room will have an effect.

With that in mind, here are some tips for perfect buttercream:

1. Be prepared to adapt – keep in mind the consistency you want to achieve and add your sugar and liquids in increments, beating in between to get it just right – make notes of the amounts as you go so you have a workable recipe for the next time.

2. Use good vanilla, good butter and cream if you can – these are the flavours you want to come through, rather than lots of super-sweet sugar.

3. Start with very soft (but not melted) butter and beat it alone to incorporate some air in the very first stage.

4. If it’s hot in the kitchen, refrigerating your buttercream slightly then beating it smooth again will mean you can thicken it up without having to add extra sugar.

5. If your buttercream is too thin once all the ingredients have been added, thicken it with butter rather than more sugar – it will taste much better. Just make sure the butter is very soft (or even melted).

Filling a Piping Bag with Icing (digital glossary):

Also, the world’s first agony-aunt baking column entitled “Recovering from a Bad Bake-up”.

Send in your baking disaster stories of unexpected failures in the kitchen/recurring problems to badbakeup@independent.co.uk

On the third Friday of the month we will feature a Q&A with advice to help you recover.

Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth is available from Cannongate books, 2012

Follow Lily on Twitter @lilyvanillicake

For more information visit lilyvanilli.com

Instagram lily_vanilli_cake

  • Dee Nicol

    This is not the best buttercream – I’m surprised at you Lily. Haven’t you heard of the one where you use hot syrup? None of that chalky texture. Look in The Art of French Cooking.

  • http://twitter.com/lilyvanillicake Lily Vanilli

    Italian meringue buttercream? Super lovely! I mean this as a guide to assist anyone who’s buttercream doesn’t come out right, even when they’ve followed the recipe exactly. You can make some lovely, creamy buttercreams this way – Lily. ps: I love that book!

  • harleymc

    Yet another totally vague set of instructions from Lily… no quantities, no description of the finished product not even what it is used for.

  • Stupidity Exterminator

    I use this thing for my enema before anal sex O_o – just cracking a joke lol


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