6 Secrets for Perfect Buttercream

Although buttercream is super simple, it’s surprisingly easy to mess up. So today I’m sharing my 6 secrets to PERFECT buttercream that’s ultra light, smooth, not too sweet, and holds up even on a hot day.

Buttercream, frosting, or icing… no matter what you call it when it’s not quite perfect it can ruin an entire cake! So today I’m sharing my best tips for making perfect buttercream.

You’ll also see some answers to common questions I’m asked about buttercream in the video below!

If you want my Best Buttercream Recipe, as well as tons of flavor customization directions and other tips, be sure to download my Best Buttercream Cheatsheet!

1. Use the right powdered sugar the right way.

Use 10x finely ground powdered sugar for the silkiest smoothest buttercream. On the package of powdered sugar it often says how finely ground it is. 10x is the finest, and what you want to use in any type of frosting. 5x is more coarse, and is what you’d want to use if you’re sprinkling powdered sugar onto something as a garnish and don’t want it to melt into the food.

The right way to use powdered sugar is to ALWAYS sift it before adding it into your buttercream. Most recipes are written like this, “3 cups powdered sugar, sifted.” Which means you measure the sugar first THEN sift it before adding it in.

2. Beat, beat, beat the butter!

For buttercream that’s so velvety smooth it melts in your mouth, don’t rush beating the butter. First, start with cool room temperature butter. You don’t want it to be so warm that it’s greasy. Use an electric mixer, either hand held or standing, and beat it with the sugar until combined. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until it lightens in color and looks fluffy in texture. Give it a taste, it should melt on your tongue and not feel heavy or dense in the slightest. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes of beating.

3. You can use cream OR milk, just use the right amount.

Although it’s called buttercream, you can usually get away with using milk instead of cream if your recipe calls for it. The milk will be a little less rich and creamy, but should still work.

The best tips, tricks, and secrets for making perfect buttercream!

4. Adjust the sugar to your preference.

Add the sugar in gradually, and taste it as you go. I personally prefer my buttercream a little less sweet. So I might cut half the liquid in the recipe, or omit it altogether, in order to reduce the sugar. This will allow me to keep the same consistency without adding in so much sugar that it’s all you taste.

5. Never add too much liquid to your buttercream.

Adding additional liquid to your buttercream, such as flavorings or purees, can make it far too liquidy to come together nicely. And you don’t want to have to add a bunch of powdered sugar to thicken it up, because then it will be far too sweet. So add flavors with potent extracts, jams, or non-liquid ingredients.

This can go for food coloring as well. Gel food coloring allows for vibrant colors without adding too much extra liquid.

Promote Best Buttercream Guide! By the way, I have TONS of flavor customization ideas and directions on my free Best Buttercream Guide, which I’ll link to below.

6. Prevent your buttercream from melting on a hot or humid day.

If you’re making a cake or cupcakes for a party or picnic that’s outside, or it’s a particularly hot or humid day, the last thing you want is melted messy buttercream. Especially if you went to the trouble of decorating with it. What I like to do is store the cake or cupcake the fridge just until you set up for the party or picnic. By the time everyone is ready for cake later in the afternoon, it should be the perfect temperature without running the risk of melting.

You can also use half shortening in your buttercream to make it more stable and less likely to melt. Check out this post the differences between butter and shortening, and why I usually opt for butter.

BONUS TIP: Make your buttercream ahead of time

Buttercream can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 week, or in the freezer for 3 months. Let it come to room temperature then re-whip with an electric mixer until light and fluffy again.

5 Responses to “6 Secrets for Perfect Buttercream”

  1. #
    Kelly Bennett — January 17, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Thank you for all the helpful hints !

  2. #
    Donna Kadi — March 21, 2018 at 4:42 am

    During a snow day today I was gonna “practice” making cookie monster cupcakes for my great nephews 1st birthday coming up in May. Just realized I don’t have cream so is it possible to use almond milk? I’m only making a 1/2 recipe since I’m just practicing. Hope you say yes since I cant run to the store because of snow and I really want to practice. BTW I love your videos

  3. #
    Gary and Sachie — April 13, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    Aloha,
    We live in Hawaii and that means too hot and too humid sometimes. One of our favorite recipes uses a Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) butter cream filling. Our current recipe sometimes get runny or wets the cake sometimes. We are going to try your tip of using some shortening which might help. We will let you know how it works.
    My question is about Lilikoi. We have our own fresh lilikoi and we prepare it in three ways:
    1) Lilikoi pulp (you add water in equal parts to pulp to make juice),
    2) My secret method of reducing the pulp further to a concentrate (sorry, I won’t give the secret away).
    3) Lilikoi butter – tart and heavenly…
    Which would you recommend for making buttercream your way?

    Gary and Sachie

    5.0 rating

  4. #
    Lian Bernadeth — August 19, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    I tried many times but still grainy. I’m feeling frustrated during my grandmother’s birthday. I didn’t serve the cake because it’s grainy and runny. How can I fix my buttercream?

  5. #
    Thuy — November 12, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    I experience the same thing, Lian. I’m a little discouraged but don’t want to give up yet. I’ll try all the things I can. Like replacing my baking soda and baking powder and then next time trying to take care to cream the butter and sugars properly to the right texture (maybe I haven’t been doing this so far). I also don’t have a stand mixer but I’d like to think you can still make buttercream without a stand mixer. Praying!

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