Time to spring clean your icing repertoire. It’s out with the old – sorry, classic buttercream, you’ve been consistently sweet and tasty and no one can argue about your fuss-free reliability, but change is inevitable. It’s in with the new – crème au beurre, also known as French buttercream.
Lush and silky smooth, it’s truly in a league of its own. It has a buttery pale-yellow goodness that’s similar to pastry cream. Being rich in flavour and not overly sweet, French buttercream is a real game-changer!
French buttercream can be easily mastered at home in just a few easy steps:
Step 1: It’s all about the egg yolks – they form the base, so quality is important! In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks until thick and foamy.
Step 2: Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring continually until sugar crystals have dissolved. Crank the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Don’t stir at this stage – you don’t want the sugar syrup to crystalise. Bring the sugar to soft-ball stage (112 to 115 degrees Celsius).
Step 3: With your stand mixer set to a medium-low speed, drizzle hot syrup down the side of the bowl into the yolks. (Be careful not to pour the hot sugar syrup onto the moving whisk attachment.) Continue to beat on high until the yolk mixture has cooled to room temperature – if you add butter to a hot mixture, it will melt and the mixture won’t emulsify, resulting in a French buttercream disaster and overall human meltdown).
Step 4: Ensure your butter is at room temperature (the addition of cold butter may split the mixture). With your stand mixer set to a medium-high speed, drop one cube of butter in at a time and allow for each piece to fully incorporate before proceeding.
Step 5: At this stage you should have a pale-yellow luscious buttercream. Add a pinch of salt (salt is a flavour enhancer, even for sweet creations), additional flavourings and continue mixing until a smooth and creamy texture is achieved.
Step 6: Pipe or decorate accordingly and refrigerate. (Or simply eat by the spoonful – yes, it’s that good!)
Don’t be scared to get creative with the flavouring; anything goes – spices (don’t overdo it on powdered spices, though, gritty buttercream won’t be met very welcomingly), melted chocolate, jams, curds and cooled salted caramel all make for perfect additions.
French buttercream is totally worth the extra effort – your cupcake game is guaranteed never to be the same again.