Buttercream, a Study

If you think all buttercream frostings are the same, you're out of your mind. When I first started working at the cupcake shop, I quickly learned (amateur that I was) that there is no one way to make a delicious buttercream (or one right way). Specifically, there are at least five major ones; Swiss, French, German, American, and Italian. They all use very similar ingredients, your basic butter, sugar, eggs, and cream, but with their own style and proportion to make them each different in texture, color, and taste.

Some stuff you need:
- Time/patience, these things take a while
- A hand or stand mixer
- Sauce pot

American Buttercream
A lot of snooties out there don't quite consider this "real" buttercream, as it has no eggs I guess and is so simple to make. It's a combination of soften butter, confectioner's sugar, a little milk, and an extra flavoring (usually vanilla). It can have a thicker, less light consistency that the others, although it is quite delicious on some cupcakes. It's also really easy to add heavier flavors, like chocolate.

Swiss Buttercream
More formally known as the Swiss Meringue buttercream, as that is the basic ingredient, this is a lot lighter and finer than American buttercream. Egg whites and sugar are heated over boiling water, till the sugar dissolves. The eggs and sugar are then beaten together to make a thick meringue, and then butter is slowly added to the mix.
French Buttercream
This one is by far the richest buttercream as it uses all the butter as the others, plus egg yolks. The method is very similar to Swiss; you heat eggs, sugar, and half the butter over boiling water, before whipping the heck out of it all and adding more butter later. My Orange Buttercream is actually French, yum!

Italian Buttercream
Another beautiful meringue buttercream, this one is (in my opinion) the most light and delicate, but it can be a little tricky to make. Instead of heating the egg whites, you whip them on their own till stiff peaks form, while making a simple syrup out of sugar and water. Then you carefully pour the hot syrup over the eggs while they are being beaten. If you stop there, you have a beautiful Italian meringue. But then the butter is added, and the cloud deflates and looks like it's curdled, but you keep at it, until it's a smooth, light consistency.

German Buttercream
This bad boy I had to look up. It begins with a custard base, heating milk, eggs, sugar, and even more egg yolks, that thickens and cools before its whipped into oblivion. Then butter is added slowly while still beaten.


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