Thursday, May 28, 2009

The World's Greatest Buttercream

The truly amazing texture of this icing cannot be captured on film (pixels), but believe me when I say this is the best buttercream I have ever tried. And I've tried many, because often I prefer the icing to the cake. The fact that icing one cake takes a full pound of butter just has to be overlooked in this case, I think. I found this recipe and adapted it when I was making Court's wedding cakes - one in vanilla and one in chocolate. They are both so delicious that I really have a hard time not eating it by the spoonful!

My icing job on these mini-cakes was pretty mediocre, but they were just tasting cakes for a wedding in July. This particular buttercream used 200g milk chocolate and 50g unsweetened dark chocolate as the bride prefers a milk chocolate flavour.

(makes 5 cups - enough to ice a 3 layer 8" cake)
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
165 ml whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 sticks/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
optional: 200-300g dark chocolate, melted & cooled

For extra potency in the vanilla buttercream, adding vanilla seeds is a nice touch. If you decide to make chocolate buttercream, I wouldn't recommend milk chocolate as the sweetness tends to overwhelm the chocolate flavour. However, if you really prefer milk to dark a mixture of the two seems to work best to balance sweetness & chocolatey-ness. You can also experiment with other flavours: I have tried adding raspberry puree, Chambord, chestnut puree, and most kinds of chocolate... it's pretty much a universally good icing.

The first step is to make a custard. Put the eggs yolks and a third of your 1/2 cup of sugar into a bowl and cream together until very it becomes pale and thickened. On the stovetop, bring the milk and vanilla to a boil over medium heat; remove from the heat and whisk a third of the heated milk into the yolk mixture, then pour that back into the pan with the remaining milk and whisk together. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and starts pulling up on your whisk (this will be at about 190F on a candy thermometre) - this was hard to explain, but if you've ever made custard before you'll know what I'm talking about. Remove from the heat and pour through a sieve back into the bowl, then pop it in the fridge until cool.

When it's cool, whip the butter until pale and fluffy and then mix in the chilled custard. Next, heat the egg whites and remaining sugar in a bain marie (glass/metal bowl over simmering water), whisking until the sugar is dissolved - this doesn't take long. Remove from the heat and beat the whites on high until stiff peaks form. Finally, add the egg white mixture to the butter mixture and beat together until smooth. If you are making chocolate buttercream, now is the time to add the melted chocolate and whip together until fully combined.

This buttercream can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen up to 3 months. Before icing, bring it back to room temperature and beat again.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for the photo - but your enthusiasm is enough to convince me to tuck it away in a safe place to make the next time I make a cake. Thanks!