Okay, I’m sure you’ve seen it before – you see an ‘easy to make’ cake or cupcake recipe on Pinterest. You go for it and you realise there’s a lot of fancy equipment and rare farmer’s market ingredients you don’t have to make delicious cakes. I have fussy friends (think Vanilla and chocolate flavour only), so I knew I needed to get better at the flavours my friends love.
I went for a cupcake decorating class (hosted by the lovely Cakes By James in Belfast), and that’s where I learned this buttercream recipe. It is all over the internet, but it’s absolutely way too beautiful to share.
This is so simple – if you forget, think ‘1, 2, 3’ (or ‘100, 200, 300!). You’ll see why. You need:
- 100g egg whites (A large free range egg is approximately 30-40g, so you’ll need 3 eggs for this)
- 200g caster sugar
- 300g unsalted butter
- Vanilla flavouring
Steps to Make:
- The first step is to make the meringue. Measure out the egg whites, and place them in a bowl. Mix them vigorously with a mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid mixer, but any electric mixer will do). Basically you’re making a meringue, so beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
2. You can do this at the same time (if you have an automatic mixer), but if you’re using a hand mixer, do this step after. Measure out the 200g of sugar into a saucepan and cover it with just enough water (cold/room temperature) to cover all the sugar. Then heat the water to 110°C (230°F). If you have a sugar thermometer this is fairly straightforward to check (you can get cheap ones in shops like Tiger in the UK). If you don’t have one, my advice is to not stir the sugar, and to wait until the steam stops coming off the sugar syrup. It’s sometimes hard to see so I do recommend the thermometer (I got mine for £2, and it’s done me for 2 years so far!)
3. Keep the eggs whisking, but at a slower speed than before. Slowly but continuously add the sugar syrup into the egg whites – you should see the whole thing expand a lot. It really should double or even triple in volume at this point and be very white and foamy. Once you’ve added the sugar syrup completely, turn up the speed and keep whisking until you get back to the fluffy peaks that a meringue should have.
When you add the sugar syrup you’ll probably be able to feel at the bottom of the mixing bowl that it’s very hot (be careful!). You shouldn’t really go onto the next step until it’s all well mixed and the bowl feels like a reasonable temperature (90% I wait for it to be back at a just-above room temperature until I move on)
4. Next add the butter. Normally by this point, the butter I’ve weighed out at the start is at room temperature. If it isn’t, microwave it for 10 seconds. Drop the speed on the mixer and add the butter in bit by bit, letting the previous chunk mix in well before adding more. It might not be as stiff as before but again it probably needs more whisking.
NOTE: Sometimes the icing can ‘curdle’. This has only happened to me once (the first time I made this) but it’s good to know how to deal with it. Basically you’re icing will be runny and curdled, as if it were cottage cheese in texture. IF THIS HAPPENS:
- Get a bowl, scoop out a small amount of the icing into the bowl.
- Microwave this new bowl of icing for about 10-20 seconds until it’s totally liquid.
- Put it back in to the mixture and start to whisk it again. It should take 5-10 minutes of whisking to be what’s expected.
As far as I’m aware it happens from the sugar syrup still being warm when the butter is added, and the difference in temperature gives you something gross!
5. Finally, once the butter is all mixed in, add in the flavour. I always add Vanilla as a base, even if I want a different flavour – it’s a good sweet start off point, and I think it really adds to it. You could also add a little bit of colour if you want to at this point!
The main reason I choose this recipe over other buttercream recipes is just how light it is. The meringue base makes it beautifully light (unlike American buttercream which can be so heavy), but also gives it structure that’s absolutely great for sculpting and icing! I’ll be adding a different post later, but these are some of my Mother’s Day cupcakes, using this Italian Buttercream recipe and also some fondant for the daisies.
Anyway I hope this recipe is useful for you! I’ve found it tough knowing exactly what to expect my icing to look like so I really hope this helps you!