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Luscious American Buttercream

Updated: May 16

We all love the classic American Buttercream, easy, simple to put together, no heating of sugar and egg whites...but that overpowering sweetness is not for everyone. After some research on contrasting ingredients, I found simple ways to make a smooth, creamy, and not-too-sweet American Buttercream.


buttercream in a bowl with strawberries

What Makes American Buttercream Different?


American Buttercream, possibly the most commonly used type of Buttercream is known for its easy mixing process and crusting capabilities when exposed to air, which is great for just about everything! While American Buttercream (We will call it AB) is made only from powdered sugar, butter, and a few tbsp of heavy cream, milk, or water, this usually 2:1 ratio buttercream is the sweetest of the options.


However what if I told you this recipe is not only delicious but not as sweet?


Tools You'll Need

Here are some kitchen tools I like to suggest for making my sugar cookies. These are the exact products I use every time:


  • Electric Mixer or a Bowl and Silicone Spatula

  • Clear Vanilla for a whiter buttercream

  • Purple Food Coloring to remove any yellow tones


Recipe Questions


How do I fix buttercream that split or curdled?

This normally happens when your butter was too cold (not room temperature) before whipping, or your mixer warmed up the butter too much while you were adding the remaining ingredients. Simply add half to a double broiler or microwave, melt and add back in while your mixer is on low and then whip it on high for 5 minutes. If the buttercream is too thin afterwards, place in the fridge and once completely solid, take it out, let it come to room temperature and re-mix on medium- medium high.


My buttercream is too thick?

You may simply add a teaspoon at a time of your liquid of choice - water, milk or cream until you reach your desired consistency.


How do I fix my butter that warmed up while whisking?

If your mixer warmed up your butter too much and it is starting to get thin or is no longer room temperature, let your butter sit in the mixing bowl for 30 - 60 minutes to let it come back to room temperature a bit before adding the remaining ingredients.


Prep Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6-7 cups


Ingredients

  • 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature - very important!)

  • 5 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 - 1 1/4 tsp salt (to taste - see notes)

  • 1 tbsp clear vanilla

  • 2 tbsp warm or hot water (see notes)

  • 1/2 -1 tsp lemon juice (to taste -see notes)

  • 3 tbsp high-ratio shortening (optional - see notes) (I only add this if a cake will be sitting outside for a long period of time!)


Directions

1. Using a Whisk attachment, whip your room-temperature butter for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes white and smooth. Make sure your butter turns white before proceeding to the next steps or else you will taste butter more than anything.


2. If you have high-ratio shortening, add in and mix until just combined. Start to slowly add about a cup of powdered sugar at a time while your mixer is on low. Stop mixing as soon as the powdered sugar has combined with the butter.


3. Add in your vanilla, lemon juice and salt. (see notes)


4. Turn your mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes and then turn it up to 6 speed until smooth and fluffy for another 5 minutes or so. The time it takes may be shorter or longer depending on the humidity, butter temperature, and the strength of your mixer.


5. While it whips, slowly drizzle in your warm or hot water until you reach your desired consistency. The more you add, the thinner and less stable it will be for detailed piping. Adding in a hot liquid of your choice helps melt some of the powdered sugar, in which removes some of the grainy texture AB gives.


6. If your buttercream splits at all, or you are going to coat a cake, melt 1/3 to 1/2 of your buttercream in the microwave or double broiler and add it back into your solid buttercream while your mixer is on low.


7. To remove any air bubbles and to create a smooth, silky buttercream, switch to a paddle attachment and let the mixer run on the stir or low setting for 10-15 minutes.


buttercream in a bowl with a fork

Recipe Notes


Salt and Lemon Juice

Salt is one of the key factors in taming the sweetness down in your buttercream, but I will say, to add it to your specific taste. I like to add up to 1 1/2 tsp of salt for 3 cups of butter.

Lemon juice is another to-taste ingredient, however, I would not recommend adding any more than 2 tsp per recipe, or else you may end up making lemon buttercream instead. I normally do 1 tsp. If you are unsure, start with 1/4 tsp and work your way up. The acidity of lemon juice counters the sweetness of the powdered sugar, which in turn leaves a less sweet buttercream.


Why High-Ratio?

High-ratio shortening is optional but is great to have to add a creamy texture and less sweetness overall. Even though with added shortening this would not be considered a "true" buttercream, it is a lovely ingredient to add in. Not only adding a creamy texture, but it also adds stability to your buttercream, in turn allowing you to make cupcakes or cakes to withstand hotter temperatures. However, it may be hard to find, I purchase bulk online or at my restaurant store. Do not use Crisco or liquid shortening. Crisco makes it greasy and liquid, will change the consistency.


Room Temperature Butter

Always, always, always start with room-temperature butter! I take mine out the night before making it to ensure the butter is completely at room temperature. Melting your butter in the microwave using it while it is still slightly cold will cause a fluctuation and overall can produce a very thin, curdled, or split buttercream.


Adding Hot Water

Adding warm or hot water will help dissolve some of th powdered sugar to remove some of the grainy texture AB gives, this won't remove it entirely, but it does help.


Have you tried this recipe? Tag me on Social Media!

Use #sweeteatsbyrachel and mention @sweeteatsbyrachel on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

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10 comentarios

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Invitado
07 jun

I'm going to make your lemon box mix cupcakes with this icing. Would I just sub lemon extract or emulsion in place of the vanilla or still use the vanilla? Thank you so much for sharing your recipes!

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Rachel Mann
Rachel Mann
13 hours ago
Contestando a

Hi, for some reason I never got a notification of your comment! Im so sorry, but to answer your question, yes! You may substitute the vanilla with lemon all together

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Invitado
13 may

I always have the same issue with a slight grainy texture to the buttercream. Does yours have this issue?

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Rachel Mann
Rachel Mann
16 may
Contestando a

American Buttercream will always have a slight graininess to it. I counter this as much as possible by using hot or warmed up water or your choice of liquid i.e - cream or milk. If you do not care for the grainy texture, I recommend trying a Swiss Meringue buttercream!

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Invitado
07 abr

Can you recommend brands of high ratio shortening please

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Rachel Mann
Rachel Mann
07 abr
Contestando a

Absolutely, I use Sweetex, but smaller portions can be purchased online, the brand is Bake Supply Plus!

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Invitado
07 abr
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

Love the tips and am keen to try them. I’m in Australia, and the biggest issue I have with my buttercream is removing the graininess, so I like the idea of adding warm or hot water. We usually add milk or cream (instead of water) and I’m wondering if gently warming the milk (instead of using warm water) would have the same effect of helping to dissolve the sugar. Perhaps I’ll try that and let you know!

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Rachel Mann
Rachel Mann
07 abr
Contestando a

Yes definitely let me know! I originally used cream but realized that water helped dim down the sweetness, although I never tried warming it, so I am interested in hearing how that works!

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Invitado
05 abr

Is this recipe good for piping buttercream flowers?

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Rachel Mann
Rachel Mann
06 abr
Contestando a

I haven’t had an issue with floral piping! I start out with the tiniest amount of water and lemon juice to keep it thick for florals and I will thin it out for cupcakes a cakes. Always start very little on the water and/or lemon juice and add slowly to reach your desired consistency.

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