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Buttercream Troubleshooting

Have you ever followed a recipe so carefully and the final product just doesn't come out right? Trust me I know how frustrating that can be. One sweet I have had particular trouble with in the past is frosting. There are a lot of factors that go into creating the perfect buttercream frosting -- temperature, time, ingredient quality, just to name a few. Sometimes your frosting comes out wrong through no fault of your own. In this blog, I will share some preventative measures you can take along with some last minute quick fixes in order to get the perfect buttercream every time.

Preventative Measures

  • A butter with a high fat content is the best butter for any buttercream

  • You want soft, slightly formed butter NOT melted, oily butter

  • Add the ingredients in half portions in order to get the correct consistency

  • Sift your confectioners sugar ** American buttercream **

  • Before you begin using your stand mixer bowl, make sure that there is no left over oils lingering from your last project. Slight traces of oil and butter can lessen your meringue's volume right off the bat. ** Meringue buttercream**

Types of Buttercream


American Buttercream

American buttercream is the sweetest of these three buttercreams. This is the easiest buttercream out there. In its simplest form, this buttercream is confectioners sugar, butter, and milk. However, flavoring can be added such as my go-to, vanilla extract. This is the best frosting if you are in a rush to finish your dessert or if you need you frosting to harder quickly. (For taste reference: This is the kind you usually find on grocery store cakes!)

Troubleshooting Tips :

  • Be patient! Sometimes your buttercream just needs more time to properly mix. If the buttercream looks separated, lumpy or grainy, chances are your butter was not room temperature when you started out. Give it ample time to mix before finding other ways to solve the problem.

  • If your buttercream has been in the mixer for over 10 minutes and Is still separated, try adding a tablespoon of shortening and beat until combined.

  • If your buttercream is too runny, just add more confectioners sugar! Add it little by little until your buttercream is light and fluffy.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This buttercream is an egg-based frosting with a richer, more mature taste. In my experience, it is a more impressive and preferred frosting than American buttercream. Swiss meringue takes about 20 minutes to make. The differing step in this recipe is warming the egg whites and sugar mixture over a bain-marie, or simmering water bath. Just add a little bit of water to a medium saucepan and put to boil. Be careful not to touch the bowl with the mixture in it to the boiling water. This is a great frosting for frosting cupcakes or decorating cakes.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Lastly, my personal favorite, Italian buttercream. This one will take more time than the other buttercreams but it is the best one for frosting smooth cakes. This frosting requires you to cook a sugar and water mixture until it reaches 240° and incorporate that into your egg mixture in order to cook and stabilize your eggs. The biggest mistake you can make with Italian buttercream is adding the butter when your egg mixture is still too hot. It is imperative to wait until your mixture comes back down to room temperature before throwing in your butter. If you are in a rush, I suggest using a different recipe.

Troubleshooting Tips (for both meringue buttercreams) :

  • When you're heating your mixtures, make sure they get to the correct temperatures and consistencies. For Italian**, the sugar and water paste should reach 240°. For Swiss**, the egg white and sugar mixture should be a marshmallow-like consistency, not grainy, and at least reach 160°.

  • Once again, be patient! Do not rush the beating processes or cut any corners. The key to great egg-based frostings is timing. Letting the egg whites fluff up is super important for a silky outcome.

  • Tilt the bowl to check if you have stiff peaks. They won't deflate if they are complete. When your peaks are perfect, you will be able to turn the whole bowl upside-down over your head and nothing will slide out!

  • If you over beat your egg whites (clumps will form when you attempt to fold) simply add one new egg white to your mixture and beat for a few seconds at a time until your meringue is fixed.

I hope these tips helped! Don't be afraid to use the contact form if you ever have any questions. I'm here to help!

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