What is the best part of a cupcake: the cake or frosting? People have their personal opinions on which one is most important. ME: I LOVE the frosting! Why: there are so many different types of frostings and buttercreams, the choices are endless for your perfect cupcake. Buttercream is the most popular type of frosting for cakes and cupcakes.
What is buttercream? Simple: a combination of fat (like butter) and sugar (white sugar or powder sugar). It can be used as a filling and/or decorating cakes and cupcakes. Here is the low down on the four main types:
1) AMERICAN: Powder sugar + softened butter + milk + vanilla.
A very simple buttercream since it is easy to produce and make. All the ingredients are mixed together in a kitchen mixer. Yet, it can taste very sweet and rich. Most grocery stores and high-chain bakeries will use American buttercream due to the ease of producing it.
2) SWISS: Egg whites + light corn syrup + white sugar + softened butter.
My favorite buttercream, by far! Why? It is light and not super sweet tasting like American buttercream. The egg whites, corn syurp, and sugar are lightly whipped together over a "bain marie" (AKA: water bath), then whipped in a kitchen mixer until cooled. Softened butter is added to make a glossy and fluffy buttercream.
3) FRENCH: Egg yolks + homemade sugar syrup + butter.
Very similar to swiss buttercream, except with egg yolks. The egg yolks are whipped in a kitchen mixer and then hot sugar syrup is slowly poured into the yolks. Softened butter and flavorings are added at the end. By far, French buttercream is the most delicate and melts easy. It is naturally a soft, pale butter color due to the egg yolks.
4) ITALIAN: Homemade sugar syrup + egg whites + white sugar + softened butter.
Also similar to swiss buttercream, except a homemade sugar syrup is added to whipped egg whites and sugar. Since you pour the sugar syrup into the beaten egg whites, it is very easy to "mess up" and pour the syrup too fast, OR too slow. This tastes and looks like swiss buttercream.
The two most popular buttercreams? Swiss and American. Both are simple and easy to produce. With the French and Italian buttercream, the homemade sugar syrup is difficult to perfect. Even I mess it up!
Don't like buttercreams...at all? Don't worry, other choices for your frostings: whipped cream, cream cheese, or flavored mousses.
Every different type of buttercream is slightly different with a unique taste and appeal. Ask your local cupcake shop what type they use! Many will use a variety of buttercreams and frostings to decorate their lovely cupcakes.
Happy Baking! -SC