It may surprise you to hear that I am not much of a frosting person. Whenever I eat cake, I typically eat around the frosting, leaving a huge heap of it on my plate.
But of course, there are always exceptions. The exception is this buttercream. Every time I make it I get so many compliments on how light, airy, and not-too-sweet it is. People are used to that dense, buttery, sickeningly sweet buttercream so this one is basically like a breath of fresh air.
There are actually three main types of buttercream frosting (that I am aware of): American, Italian, and Swiss. The American version is what we are used to. It is basically just butter and sugar mix together. American buttercream is totally fine in moderation and is really good if you need to make some intricate designs on your cake or cupcake. But when it piled on top of said cake or cupcake, it’s just too much.
Italian meringue buttercream incorporates meringue (fluffy egg whites), which makes it super light and airy. To make Italian meringue, you heat up sugar and water until it boils, then pour it into to a stand mixer bowl that is whipping up the egg whites. The only reason I don’t like this version is that making Italian meringue dirties up one extra pan and you have to make sure the sugar get’s to the perfect temperature or you risk ruining your meringue.
I prefer the Swiss meringue buttercream because it has all the benefits of the Italian version but with a lot less hassle. Instead of heating up water and sugar, you actually heat up the egg whites with the sugar and whisk them over a double boiler until the sugar has dissolved. Then you whip up the egg whites until you have stiff peaks. I do this all in the bowl of my stand mixer so that I only have one bowl to clean up in the end.
Once the meringue has cooled, you add in your butter. Now this is where I have gotten a little thrown off in the past, and I know other people struggle with this too. So many times I think I have ruined my buttercream because it looks super lumpy and gross, like the picture on the left. But, that’s just a step in the process to getting it nice and smooth.
When you slowly add the butter to the egg whites, it’s almost like trying to mix together oil and water. They just don’t want to go together without a little coaxing. So after just a little mixing it will appear that the frosting has separated. Just keep mixing and you will get a creamy, smooth buttercream frosting!
The best part about this frosting is that it goes with anything! You can add other flavors to it, but the plain vanilla can top off any cake flavor.
It’s also sturdy enough to pipe any details, like flowers, leaves, ruffles, etc. If you have seen any of my cakes or cupcakes that have some design on them, this is the frosting I use.
Its also the only buttercream frosting that I don’t scrape off my cake because it’s just too good to let go to waste!