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What Is German Buttercream?
Buttercream is a category of thick, creamy frostings made with a generous amount of butter; German buttercream, also known as custard buttercream or pudding buttercream, starts with a vanilla custard made with whole milk and eggs. This pastry cream frosting is thick and stable for piping cupcakes, frosting layer cakes, and filling pastries. Its pudding base offers a subtle sweetness, and infusing the milk base with ingredients such as vanilla bean, lavender, and banana can yield other flavors.
5 Types of Buttercream
Different methods of making buttercream yield varying textures and levels of creaminess. Find the best buttercream frosting recipe for your favorite cake recipe or next baking project:
- French buttercream: French buttercream involves making a sugar syrup, then mixing the hot sugar syrup into beaten egg yolks. Using an electric mixer, slowly add softened butter until the frosting reaches the desired consistency. The egg yolks give this buttercream a rich flavor and yellow color. Traditionally, this type of buttercream fills the layers of dacquoise, a French meringue cake.
- German buttercream: This style of buttercream starts with making a vanilla custard with whole milk and eggs. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it’s light and fluffy. To finish, slowly add the custard to the butter. German buttercream is a very creamy, rich, dairy-forward buttercream that also makes an excellent base for cream cheese frosting.
- Italian meringue buttercream: Buttercream frosting is one of the most popular applications of Italian meringue. To make Italian meringue, add hot sugar syrup to beaten egg whites, and turn it into buttercream by simply adding butter. As the most heat-stable of the buttercream frostings, Italian buttercream is ideal for frosting celebration layer cakes, like wedding cakes or birthday cakes that might spend hours at room temperature.
- Swiss meringue buttercream: Like Italian buttercream, Swiss buttercream starts with making a meringue. To make Swiss meringue, you beat egg whites with sugar over hot water and add the butter bit by bit. Swiss meringue buttercream is relatively quick to make and yields impressive results.
- American buttercream: The method for making American buttercream, also known as quick buttercream, involves mixing confectioners' sugar (aka powdered sugar or icing sugar) with butter and sometimes milk or heavy cream—no heat, no eggs. Some pastry chefs don't consider this type of frosting buttercream since it is not very creamy.
3 Tips for Making German Buttercream
Follow these steps to make creamy German buttercream.
- Warm up the buttercream. If the buttercream feels dense instead of light and airy, it may be too cold. Try warming it up in a hot water bath.
- Temper the eggs. Tempering the egg mixture—slowly adding hot milk—prevents the eggs from curdling when combined with the milk.
- Knead the custard. Unlike pastry cream or vanilla pudding, the custard base for German buttercream should be very thick—almost like bread dough. After chilling the custard, try folding it over itself several times with a rubber spatula, which will help loosen the cooled custard so that it incorporates more readily into the whipped butter.
Simple German Buttercream Recipe
MakesAbout 4 cups
Prep Time30 min
Total Time1 hr 45 min
Cook Time15 min
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ½ vanilla bean, split
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1¼ cups unsalted butter
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring milk and vanilla bean to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and cornstarch.
- Add the egg yolks to the sugar mixture and whisk to combine.
- Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the hot milk and discard the pod.
- Add a large spoonful of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Repeat twice more, until the egg mixture is warm.
- Add the warm egg mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly.
- When the custard starts to bubble, continue to cook for 2 more minutes, whisking constantly.
- Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
- Transfer the custard to a heat-safe airtight container, bowl, or baking dish.
- Cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap against the surface of the custard.
- Refrigerate until cool, at least 1 hour.
- Bring the butter to room temperature.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is very fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- While mixing, add the cooled custard one large spoonful at a time.
- Switch to the whisk attachment and whisk the buttercream until very light and fluffy.
- Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container.
- Re-whip before using.
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