The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Buttercream Icing

ronhol's picture

Buttercream Icing

I'm looking for a killer butter cream icing recipe.

When I was a kid, we had a German lady living across the street who made the worlds best butter cream frosting.

Mildly sweet, rich and creamy, to die for.

I saw one somewhere recently, I thought it was on this board, but search did not render it.

I thought it was on the homemade chocolate cake thread, which I cannot find either.

Any help would be appreciated!

SourdoLady's picture

Try using whipping cream as your liquid, and then the usual butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and/or almond flavoring, a pinch of salt. The cream makes all the difference in the world.

dstroy's picture

I was just going to say whipped cream. This weekend was my husband's birthday and I made the Guiness chocolate cake again, and the cream cheese frosting was as always a tremendous hit - the thing that made the frosting so incredible was just using heavy whipping cream in the place of milk!

The cream cheese version, btw, is just:

Take 8 oz cream cheese and 1 cup confectioners' powdered sugar in a mixing bowl, and whip with an electric beater until smooth.
Then add about 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and beat again until you have a spreadable consistency.


You can pretty much do this with the other icings as well - just remember with the whipped cream in there, you'll want to refridgerate it.

berryblondeboys's picture

I think the cream cheese would give it a great flavor more than anything.

berryblondeboys's picture

For my chocolate buttercream I use butter and for the liquid, sour cream - probably similar effect as the whipped cream,


Now, if you are thinking of something super fluffy, this is not it. This makes it like a fluffier chocolate buttercream, but not much fluffier than traditional buttercream

clazar123's picture


This is a very fluffy and not overly sweet buttercream frosting. Can be piped or made into chocolate  or other flavors without too much difficulty.

Butter Cream Frosting- Bakery Style 

1 ½ cup vegetable shortening

¾ cup butter

¼ tsp salt

4 cups powder sugar

½ cup less 1 tbsp evaporated canned milk

½ tsp vanilla


Cream shortening, salt, some powdered sugar, milk and butter very well

Add rest of powdered sugar slowly til well incorporated and fluffy.

Makes a large amount of frosting. Tint as needed.

Stores for weeks in refrigerator

AnnaInMD's picture

even thou the German Buttercreme is usually made with "real" vanilla pudding which, after having cooled down, is carefully added to the foamy-beaten butter and sugar mixture along with a bit of vanilla extract. Play around.  :)


ronhol's picture

Thanks everyone!

The frosting I remember loving so much, we called butter frosting. I don't know whether it was a butter cream, or regular butter frosting.

It was rich, creamy, light and not very sweet, unlike canned frosting which is sickening sweet.

I don't think she refrigerated her cakes, so now I'm thinking she did not use whipping cream.

I have never made frosting, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express, so please bear that in mind when making suggestions. lol

I'm new to this baking from scratch, but loving it.

Several years ago,I remember taking butter, and beating it into canned frosting, but it was not what I hoped for.

The pudding sounds interesting, just make a batch of instant pudding, or find a recipe for pudding?

Would that then need refrigerated after being spread on the cake?

SourdoLady's picture

Sugar acts as a natural preservative and therefore you wouldn't need to refrigerate the cake if it gets eaten up in 3 or 4 days and your room temperature is not excessively warm.

clazar123's picture

It tastes very much like a high quality buttercreamfrosing you'd find on a quality bakery cake or wedding cake. The vegetable shortening helps make it really fluffy and light. The butter adds a great butter flavor.Cut the recipe in half, if you think the original recipe is too much.

Here is an alternative:

 Whip Cream/Cool Whip Frosting

2 packages instant vanilla pudding

(Make with ½ the liquid called for in the recipe)

 2-    ½ pints whipping cream whipped (or 1 pint)


1 tub CoolWhip whipped topping 

Mix the whip cream/cool whip into the pudding.Tint whatever color you want.

It will need to be refrigerated.

Cool Whip tends to be soupier, whip cream RICH!

hanseata's picture

We had that just in the "Bienenstich" discussion - this recipe is from the pastry book of an award winning German Konditor (master pastry baker), it is easy and tastes very good. Very different from stiff, heavy duty American buttercream.

GERMAN BUTTERCREAM (amount sufficient for a torte)
125 g butter
125 g shortening
55 g castor sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract

With hand held mixer, cream together butter and shortening until foamy. Alternately add powdered sugar and eggs and beat at high speed until foamy. Add vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.


AnnaInMD's picture

fathom shortening to taste good as a frosting albeit incorporated with butter.

I know some German recipes use "Palm - something, forgot the name.

One of these days I have to try it, but geez the fat  ;


ronhol's picture

Your recipe has 100% butter, and may well be what made Mrs Gugar's icing so delectible, so much, that I still crave it, some 45-50 years later!

My runner up would be, hanseata's, which has 50% butter to 50% shortening.

I generally don't care for bakery icing which has a high percentage of shortening, it tastes like, well...........shortening.

But I don't know how much shortening one can get away with and still have a superior product.

So I will start experimenting, and commence packing on the pounds. lol

I'm also eager to try some of the other ingrediants, such as pudding, cool whip and whipping creme (which I KNOW I will LOVE!!!).

Thanks again, everyone, I just love TFL, what a great community! 


AnnaInMD's picture

use of shortening. I remember my mom using pure butter and of course it was better on cooler days (no A/C in the fatherland at that time, grin). I don;t think she used powdered sugar, just beat normal sugar and butter and a bit of vanilla. HOWEVER, good things come to those who dig. I just looked through her handwritten cookbook and found a small piece of paper with buttercreme filling. She did indeed use a part of shortening along with the butter and the vanilla pudding to use as a filling between two cake layers.

FWIW, cool whip and cream cheese will not taste German - not that there is anything wrong with it, hehe

sandy2's picture

What you want is REAL buttercream!  Once you've had the real thing, you will never use powdered sugar again. 

Buy, borrow, or rent The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum - her instructions are excellent.  Use pasturized eggs and unsalted butter and be sure you are using cane sugar, not beet sugar (the package will say cane if it is cane). 

Silky, luscious, and never too sweet.  Good luck!


berryblondeboys's picture

I'm a cake baker and decorator for a hobby and that book was horibble, imo. So much so, I gave it away. That kind of icing, my kids and husband refused to eat - it tasted like pure butter slathered on a cake. Blech. Plus every recipe I tried, was DRY. Even lost a sale on one - had to give a refund. She was used to my moist cakes, I used a recipe from this book and dry city.

Yet, tons of people love it, but I know I'm not the only not to.

Now, back to the OP. My husband is Croatian, and most of their cake recipes are austrian/hungarian. Their 'buttercream" ahs to be refrigerated. it's a custard of eggs, flour and sugar and when that cools, whipped together with butter. It is DIVINE, but must be refrigerated, so it's not what you are thinking about, but I'm sure no American version will taste European at all.

sandy2's picture

Yes, there is validity to  the previous commentor's statements.  Rose is great on technique and somewhat lacking on flavor and texture in her recipes.  I don't like her cakes, either.

However, her buttercream rocks.  It is sophisticated and the real thing - I know this because I dated a world-reknowned pastry chef, and his wonderful buttercream was just like Rose's and made in the same fashion from the same ingredients.

It is hard to shake loose the American affection for too-sweet pastries. 

hanseata's picture

Anna, I don't like the taste of shortening at all, and would never use it other than in recipes where you can't tell it's in there. The reason for the addition of shortening in this buttercream is the consistency - the buttercream contains less sugar than American buttercream and is therefore less stiff. In a warmer environment a butter-only-less-sugar version might get too soft or melt.

I made this buttercream - it is very light and really doesn't taste like shortening! I defininitely prefer this to a sugar loaden version.

Palmin is palm oil, I know it from my childhood's death-by-chocolate icebox cake with chocolate-Leibniz cookie layers (Kekskuchen or "Kalter Hund"). As far as I know, it's mostly used for deep frying.



AnnaInMD's picture

Karin, putting Palmin into the frosting makes sense. Glad one can't taste it.

Thank you !


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Here's an old-fashioned recipe from an out of print book, A World of Baking by Dolores Casella. I'm not sure if it's the one your neighbor used to make, but it's one of my favorites and it fits your description of "rich, creamy, light and not very sweet." You can easily add more icing sugar to taste, if it's not sweet enough for a particular cake. This makes a good filling too.

Cooked Cream Frosting
enough to fill and frost two 9-inch round layers

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Blend milk and flour until smooth (add a pinch or two of salt if using unsalted butter). Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until as thick as pudding. Cool to room temp.

With electric mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add pudding and blend thoroughly. Gradually beat in sugar and vanilla, and continue beating until of spreading consistency, about 10 to 15 minutes.

ronhol's picture

We have a winner with the cooked cream frosting!!

It's every bit as delicious as I remember Mrs Gugar's, 45-50 years ago, growing up in Cleveland.

But boy is it RICH!!

As a kid, I would consume mass quantities of her cakes, but two pieces have my tummy on edge tonight. lol

Not as tough as I used to be.

Now all I need is a great fluffy cake recipe. I tried Cathy's Chocolate cake recipe, here...

1 1/2 cups All purpose Flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 cup milk

1.Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

2.Measure all you dry ingredients into a 9×9 baking pan. Blend together well with a fork. Make three little “wells” or indentations in your dry ingredients.

3.Pour the vanilla in the first hole, vinegar into the second, and canola oil into the third.

4.Take a cup of milk and pour it over the whole works. Stir the ingredients together with a fork until well blended.

5.Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out pretty clean.

6.Serve warm from the pan with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Or, allow cake to cool in the pan and then top with your favorite icing.

But it was not really to our liking. It was more like a brownie cake, than a cake.

My wife usually uses Duncan Hines, box mix, and they are really quite good, but since I'm on this baking from scratch kick, I'd like to see what I can come up with.

We really love the Duncan Hines cake mix, so if you are familiar, it is very moist, light and fluffy.

The main reason I even started this was because I cannot stand canned frosting, and all my life have craved a great butter frosting.

The closest I've come prior to today was on Pepperidge Farms frozen chocolate layer cakes, I've consumed my share of them over the years. Ironically, I was not as fond of the cake itself, as I was of the icing. lol

Thanks everyone, I'm going to continue experimenting with the different recipes you have all posted, and see which ones I like best.



Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

"We really love the Duncan Hines cake mix, so if you are familiar, it is very moist, light and fluffy"


Try this one, also from A World of Baking. If I remember right, it pairs well with the cooked cream frosting. It is soft, light and moist, with a fine, even crumb. A very high-rising American-style chocolate cake comparable to devil's food. It takes 24-48 hours for the flavor to really develop, so be sure to bake at least 1 day ahead.   -dw


Ice Water Chocolate Cake

This cake is tender, delicate, and tall, as delicious to look at as to eat. The old, handwritten cookbooks specified sweet well water or mountain spring water, but plain ice water will do just fine (but make certain it is icy). Except for the ice water, all ingredients should be at room temperature.

  • 3 cups sifted pastry or cake flour [300 gm]
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt [3/4 tsp, if using unsalted butter]
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 1/4 cups superfine granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted [Hershey's works well here]
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water

Sift the flour with the baking soda and salt and set aside.

Cream the butter or margarine until very light. Gradually add the sugar and cream until mixture is thick and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat in thoroughly. Now blend in the melted chocolate and the vanilla. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the ice water, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix only until batter is smooth.

Turn into 3 8-inch [or two 9"] round layer pans that have been buttered and floured. Tap the pans lightly on the counter top to remove excess air, and then bake in a 350ºF oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until done. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto racks. Cool thoroughly before filling and frosting.

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Debra,

I remember from when I was younger that my friend's German mother made one of the best cake frostings. When I asked about it she said she made a custard first and then beat the butter into that, so maybe this is similar? I remember that what appealed was the lightness, which is something Karin also mentions. Thanks for sharing.

Kind regards, Daisy_A

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you make the butter cream with vanilla pudding (my favorite) beat the butter first and add the chilled pudding spoon by spoon. 

If you beat the pudding first and add the butter, there will be tiny visable flecks of butter in the cream, not pretty unless that's the effect you want.

Sift in cocoa if desired.  Use unsalted butter, cane sugar, and real vanilla.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Daisy, I'm sure you could play around with the "pudding" part, using different thickeners or adding eggs for a more custardy flavor. This one tastes a bit like sweetened whipped cream (milk + butterfat) with vanilla. But whatever your base, the advantage to using thickened milk for a good bit of the volume IMO, is so you can get by with much less butter than for a European buttercream (I share berryblondeboys' sentiment on that one), much less sugar than an American buttercream, and no shortening. It fixes a multitude of sins :-)

Happy Baking,

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Mini and Debra,

Many thanks for the advice. Come to think of it I'm not sure my friend's mum did tell me the order in which she mixed ingredients. Chilled pudding into butter sounds best and follows the line of Debra's recipe also. Great tip Mini - thanks - I think it would be better without the 'flecked look'!

Debra - many thanks for suggesting these alternatives. The possibility of using less butter and sugar was one of the things that appealed!

Kind regards, Daisy_A

berryblondeboys's picture

That's what I mentioned above. You make a custard of eggs and sugar and milk until thick, cool it and then added in room temperature butter, whipping it until smooth. You can add chocolate to the custard too for super yummy chocolate european style icing.

I might have some photos of cake done in this way somewhere and can post a precise recipe. It's all we use - with tons of variations - with coconut milk, with a bit of coffee, etc.

Daisy_A's picture

Thanks too, berryblondeboys. I'm quite new to this type of more decorative baking so appreciate all the tips I can get! Kind regards, Daisy_A

dscheidt's picture

This is a so-called "german buttercream", which consists of equal parts (by weight) pastry cream and butter, plus about 1/4 the weight of butter in powdered sugar.  (Sugar can be omitted, but since the sugar and butter are creamed, it will be denser.) 

Cream the butter (use the best tasting available) and sugar thourghly, then add the pastry cream a bit at a time.  (Any decent pastry creme formula can be used.  I'll post one if you need one) 

This can be flavored, either with something like melted and tempered chocolate (about 2 or 3 ozs per pound of buttercream) or extracts.  or with chestnut puree, which is a traditional flavor.

probably34's picture

If you don't mind cooking a sugar syrup, this buttercream is great. It is extremely rich. For a two layer a cake I would recommend multiplying by three.

Sugar- 8 oz

water- 2 oz

Egg yolks- 3 oz

butter, soft,- 10 oz

vanilla- 3/4 tsp

cook the sugar and water to 240 F

while the syrup is cooking, beat the yolks until light and thick

when the sugar reaches 240F, slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream into the yolks with the mixer running .

whip until completely cool.

add the butter a little at a time to emulsify. add the vanilla.

if have access to xanthan gum it will stabilize the buttercream beautifully.

you can also add other flavorings and liquors to suit your taste.