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Buttercream is the go-to-frosting and filling for so many baked creations. A simple buttercream recipe can be varied in many ways. Let’s review some buttercream basics.

Buttercream is a relatively modern recipe that became popular after World War II. Which makes sense, butter was very hard to get at that time. Despite the name, buttercream recipes don’t always contain butter, but “margarine cream” sounds silly. Basic buttercream recipes today use butter, stick margarine, or shortening (vegetable-oil spreads or tub margarine aren’t recommended as they make the frosting too soft to work with). Buttercream is also one of the first frosting recipes that didn’t require cooking or binding with a raw egg.

Here are two basic buttercream recipes that are fast to make and can be varied in dozens of ways.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

PREP: 15 min, makes about 2 cups of frosting

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 3-4 tbsp. milk

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter with a spoon or electric mixer on low speed until blended. Stir in vanilla and chocolate.

Gradually beat in just enough milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting is too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.

CREAMY COCOA:

Substitute 1/3 cup baking cocoa for the chocolate.

MOCHA:

Add 2 1/2 tsp instant coffee with the powdered sugar.

WHITE CHOCOLATE:

Substitute 3/4 cup (3 oz.) white chocolate baking chips, melted and cooled, for the chocolate.

VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

PREP: 10 min, makes about 1 3/4 cups frosting

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with a spoon or electric mixer on low speed until blended. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk.

Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting is too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.

Browned Butter Buttercream Frosting: In 1 qt. saucepan, heat 1/3 cup butter over medium heat until light brown. Watch carefully because butter can brown and then burn quickly. Cool butter. Use browned butter instead of softened butter in the recipe above.

LEMON:

Omit vanilla. Substitute lemon juice for the milk. Stir in 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel.

MAPLE-NUT:

Omit vanilla. Substitute 1/2 c maple-flavored syrup for the milk. Stir in 1/4 c finely chopped nuts.

ORANGE:

Omit vanilla. Substitute orange juice for milk. Stir in 2 tsp grated orange peel.

PEANUT BUTTER:

Substitute peanut butter for the butter. Increase milk to 1/4 c, adding more if necessary, a few drops at a time.

QUICK TIP: Don’t beat the frosting too fast. If you do, you’ll get more volume but you’ll also aerate it and have a lot of air bubbles to deal with.

Recipes adaptations: Betty Crocker Cookbook, new edition

For more inspiration, visit our Frosted board on Pinterest.

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