Buttercream is one of those things which always looks easy to make, but can be deceptively difficult – getting the right ratios of butter, sugar, flavour, colour and other ingredients can be very tricky, as well as the right temperatures avoiding it splitting and getting the right consistency. But I think I have managed to nail down a pretty much perfect recipe finally. I have tried this over a dozen times and it has always worked. So – how do you make buttercream frosting without it messing up?
It’s Actually Pretty Easy!
The truth is that there is no secret. All you need is a little bit of patience. Seriously!
So if there are no secrets, how do you make buttercream frosting?
Here are the key things you need, with the main recipe below:
Your Super Handy Hand Mixer
See below for our recommended hand mixers, available directly from Amazon.
I prefer using a hand mixer to using a stand one, as it gives you a bit more control and lets you keep an eye on things a bit more closely. You just need to make sure you have a sturdy one that can support itself when standing upright – which is why you don’t want a super-cheap one!
The Right Amounts Of Butter And Icing Sugar
You need butter and icing sugar in a roughly 1:2 ratio, so for every 1 gram of butter you should have roughly 2 grams of icing sugar. I have found this to be generally the right amount, although it can vary depending on what else you are adding to it – I will get on to that below.
A Little Bit Of Extra Dairy
Beating together butter and icing sugar, while very sweet, can result in a slightly chalky mixture, and adding in more butter might make your frosting runny and a little bit unpleasant. So it’s good to add a little bit of extra dairy.
The optimal amount is roughly 2 tablespoons per 100g icing sugar you’re using in your recipe.
Colour And Flavouring
If you are using any colour or flavouring, it can impact on the ratios of your other ingredients so you may need to vary your ingredients slightly.
For example, adding cocoa powder to make chocolate buttercream could mean you will need a little bit of extra dairy to balance out the extra powder.
Adding liquid colouring or flavouring could mean needing a little bit more icing sugar to keep the mixture from separating.
We’ve got you covered with lots of recipes below.
So How Do You Make Buttercream Frosting?
This is my go-to base recipe for foolproof buttercream. I will show you underneath, how to adapt it for flavourings, colourings and so on.
This recipe makes enough buttercream frosting to cover the top of two 8 inch cakes.
- 240g icing sugar (powdered sugar for my international readers)
- 120g softened – but not fully melted – unsalted butter
- 3-4 tbsp full fat milk or double cream, at room temperature
- Using your hand mixer at medium speed, in a medium sized mixing bowl, beat your butter on its own. This should soften it.
- Add about one third of your icing sugar, and beat again until it is fully combined in. You should start to see it coming together into small crumbs.
- Add another one third of your icing sugar, and beat again. It will be a very chalky mixture and you do need to be careful that the powder doesn’t fly out and go everywhere!
- So now you need to add a little bit more liquid to start to being everything together, so add 2 to 3 tablespoons of double cream (or full fat milk) and beat your mixture together on a low speed. If you go too fast at this stage, it can start to separate and curdle.
- While beating, gradually add in the rest of the icing sugar, a bit at a time. Keep going until you have rich, creamy, delicious buttercream frosting.
How Do You Adapt This Recipe?
If you’re adding gel or liquid – both colouring and flavouring
If you’re adding gel or liquid food colouring to your buttercream, I would recommend adding this with the milk or cream. You may need to add a little bit more icing sugar or lose a little bit of cream to keep your ratios in balance, but I haven’t had any problems with adding a few drops of liquid to this mix.
If you’re adding powder or dry ingredients
This part does not apply to cocoa powder for chocolate buttercream, which I address below. But if you are adding powdered ingredients, you can either mix them in with the icing sugar before adding to the butter or…and this is the method I strongly prefer, gently fold it in afterwards. You get a beautiful speckled appearance, which gives your buttercream a bit of an extra pop.
Of course if you are using powdered food colouring and want everything to look evenly coloured then of course you would need to add the powder to the icing sugar at the very start.
And for chocolate buttercream frosting
Chocolate buttercream is a bit of a trickier beast. Depending on how chocolate-y you want your buttercream frosting, the amount of cocoa powder you add will vary.
Using the above recipe, I ended up with about 50g cocoa powder being the optimal amount for rich buttercream with a good dose of chocolate flavouring – and with the same amounts of butter and icing sugar, but with 1 extra tablespoon of cream.
If you want a darker flavour, I would add more cocoa powder, a little bit more dairy and leave the butter and icing sugar amounts the same.
The Tools You Need For Perfect Buttercream Frosting
As I already mentioned, I would very very very strongly recommend investing in a good quality, sturdy hand mixer with variable speeds.
You can use a stand mixer of course, but it is bigger, clunkier, messier (for this purpose) and you can’t keep an eye on your frosting quite as easily.
With a hand mixer you’re just in better control of how your buttercream mixture progresses.
Based on where you are, I have listed the best option for hand mixers below. These are the most reliable, I have tested them before, have 5 speed settings and just get the job done. They are available to purchase on Amazon as well.
If You Are In The UK…
For my fellow Brits, I would, without hesitation recommend the Bosch MFQ36300GB 400w hand mixer.
So why do I recommend this particular hand mixer (if you’re in the UK of course)?
A lot of reasons.
- Lightweight but firm and sturdy
- Has 5 speed settings
- Comes with whisk and dough hook attachments
- It has over 100 reviews on Amazon UK – with an average star rating of 4.5/5
- Eye-catching red and white design – my personal favourite!
- The price does vary from time to time on Amazon, but with an RRP of under £40 and usually on sale, it is great value for money for a strong reliable hand mixer.
If You Are In The USA or overseas…
If you are in the USA then I have a great recommendation for you. I don’t know whether the same Bosch one is available overseas, but there is one particularly good one that I would very strongly recommend checking out.
And it is a KitchenAid one – which as far as I’m concerned, that brand name virtually guarantees quality.
I present to you the KitchenAid KHM512 – available in an incredible range of colours including majestic yellow (pictured above), apple green, empire red, white, black, cranberry, crystal blue, lavender and boysenberry.
So what is so great about this one?
- Over 800 reviews on Amazon a star rating of 4.5/5!
- It’s KitchenAid – which virtually guarantees quality and reliability.
- 5 speed settings and two strong turbo beaters
- Lockable swivel cord – so you can move the cord to the left or the right and lock it in place so it stays out of the way
- Huge range of colours to choose from and eye catching design
- Has a “soft start” mode so your ingredients won’t fly everywhere when you switch it on
- 1 year hassle-free replacement warranty
- Great value for money