There are many different frosting recipes out there and many of them are called buttercream, but not all buttercreams are created equal, though many people don’t differentiate between the different types when they’re writing a recipe. American Buttercream is a frosting made with butter, confectioners’ sugar, a liquid (usually milk or cream) and some flavoring. It is sweet, sturdy and very easy to make. Italian Meringue Buttercream is made by creating an Italian meringue, a cooked meringue made by streaming a hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites, and beating butter into it. It is known for its exceptionally light, smooth texture and buttery flavor. It is also known for being a little bit difficult to make, since you need to work carefully with your hot syrup. A third type of buttercream is Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This buttercream is also known for its silky smooth texture and rich, buttery flavor, but it is a little bit easier to make than an Italian meringue buttercream.
This method is demonstrated in Craftsy’s Modern Buttercream Class. It’s one of the free classes offered by Craftsy, which is known for its wide variety of online crafting and cooking classes. Making a buttercream with a meringue for the first time can be a challenge without visual aids, and cake decorator and baker Joshua John Russell clearly demonstrates the ins-and-outs of making this buttercream come together.
Swiss meringue buttercream is made by combining egg whites and sugar in a double boiler. The mixture is heated gently over simmering water until the sugar has completely dissolved and the eggs come to 140F. This is the temperature needed to pasteurize the egg whites and make them safe to eat in this buttercream. In the class, Joshua points out that you can buy whole eggs that are already pasteurized, and that by doing so you can streamline the meringue-making process because your mixture won’t need to be heated to as high a temperature to make it safe to eat. Once the sugar is dissolved, the egg whites are beaten until a stiff meringue forms and it has cooled to room temperature. At that point you can gradually incorporate your butter until the buttercream is smooth and glossy, then your flavorings can be added.
Plain vanilla buttercream is always delicious, but after watching the class I didn’t want to make the same old buttercream flavor. Instead, I wanted to put my own spin on it and I used the basic Modern Buttercream recipe for my own Nutella Buttercream. The silky smooth texture of the base buttercream has a fantastic mouthfeel and it isn’t too sweet, so you end up with a frosting that is almost like Nutella mousse, with a clear chocolate hazelnut flavor. It is dangerously addictive, and this recipe makes enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes with a little bit leftover for the chef (that would be you!) to sample as you work.
The Craftsy Modern Buttercream Class is completely free and is well worth taking to get a tutorial on how to make this style of buttercream. In addition to the buttercream recipe, the Atlanta-based instructor offers some tips for customizing your buttercream to suit your needs, including ideas for making your buttercream more hot-weather stable, which will come in handy for those living in hot, humid climates. In addition to the buttercream basics, the class also goes on to illustrate proper layer cake assembly and showcases some basic cake decorating techniques that will help your homemade cakes look more professional.
I kept things simple and skipped the layer cake, opting to simply pipe my buttercream onto some cupcakes, instead. To get the look that I did, simply use a large star tip with a regular pastry bag. This frosting is excellent with any flavor of cupcake, but it goes particularly well with chocolate cupcakes of any kind.
Head on over to sign up for Craftsy’s free Modern Buttercream Class before making this recipe. The step-by-step video will really show you how easy this style of frosting is and it will help you to perfect your buttercream technique – and you’ll need those techniques to turn out your own batch of my Nutella Buttercream.
Irresistible Nutella Buttercream
5 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups butter, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup Nutella
Follow the directions for making the basic buttercream in Craftsy’s free Modern Buttercream Class using the ingredients listed above (which make a smaller batch of buttercream than the full recipe in the class). If you are not using pasteurized egg whites as recommended in the class, be sure to cook your sugar and egg mixture until it reaches 140F.
Once your frosting is thick, smooth and creamy, blend in Nutella until it is well-incorporated and no dark streaks of Nutella remain. Use to frost cooled cake or cupcakes.
Makes enough for 24 cupcakes or 1 two-layer cake.
Disclosure: Baking Bites is a Craftsy partner and this post is sponsored by Craftsy. Any commentary given and all opinions expressed are my own, and the recipe is a Baking Bites’ original.