Friday, 15 July 2011

10 top tips for perfect buttercream

I make (and think about) buttercream a LOT for adorning my baked treats. So fresh from the Rhubarb & Rose kitchen, here are my top 10 tips for whipping up and piping the perfect batch...

1. Use great ingredients
Your buttercream will only taste as good as the ingredients you use to make it. My favourites are unsalted Lurpack, Tate & Lyle fair trade icing sugar and Nielsen Massey vanilla extract.

2. Find your favourite recipe
I always come back to this simple recipe. The beauty of having a favourite recipe in your repertoire is that you can be confident in tweaking it to suit your project.

3. Get your butter to the right temperature
This can really make a difference when you come to decorate. You want your butter to be soft but still cool - too stiff and it will be hard to beat, too soft and your buttercream won't keep it's shape. So get your butter out of the fridge half an hour or so before you start and make sure it's soft but still cool to the touch.

4. Invest in some paste colours
Paste colours will give you really vibrant results and a wide variety of shades to choose from without introducing too much liquid into your buttercream. True, they're a bit more pricey but they last for absolutely ages. Incorporate a tiny amount at a time using a toothpick until you have the shade you're after. My favourite is the Sugarflair range.

5. Experiment with other ingredients
Try beating in a couple of tablespoons of good quality strawberry jam or dulce de leche for a delicious change from the usual vanilla and as a way of adding some subtle colour. 

6. Invest in an electric mixer
Great buttercream has a light and creamy texture and this takes a lot of beating. So make the job easier and invest in an electric handheld or freestanding mixer (I love my Kitchenaid one - pricy but worth it if you bake a lot).

7. Know your decorating tips
I tried out a few different tips before I found the ones that are worth sticking with - my favourite are the 2D (used for the rose swirls above), 1M and 8B (all from Wilton).

8. Make life easier with disposable decorating bags

My favourite are these ones from John Lewis - easy to grip and no need for decorating tip couplers or messy washing up. 

9. Only decorate cooled cakes

 An obvious one but as an impatient baker I'm always tempted to start decorating before my cakes are completely cooled. However - just a hint of warmth and your buttercream won't want to keep it's shape for long! 

10. Freeze what you don't use
Sometimes it's hard to judge how much buttercream you need for a baking project. Luckily it freezes brilliantly for a month or two - just pop it in a labeled freezer bag, defrost overnight in the fridge, let it get closer to room temperature and beat well before using.

I'd love to hear your tips for buttercream too - feel free to add below...


Ellie, I Like Ginger Biscuits said...

I followed all your tips and finally mastered piping. So happy with the results. Thanks for all the tips and hints! :)

April Carter said...

Thanks Ellie I'm really pleased and your blog is lovely! x

Ellie, I Like Ginger Biscuits said...

Thank you very much!! x

Laura said...

Hi April,

Just been reading your tips which are great, one thing my friend and I are wondering, where on earth do you buy dulce de luce in London??

Please Help!


April Carter said...

Hi Laura, glad you like the tips! You can sometimes find dulce de leche in supermarkets in the desserts section (in jars with the meringues and ready made choc sauces). I recently used Waitrose's 'caramel dipping sauce' instead of dulce de leche to blend into buttercream and it worked really well.


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