Rich French Buttercream – The Ultimate Cake Frosting Recipe

Cake frosting or icing is almost always misleading, it looks so delicious and decadent on beautifully decorated cakes, but then the first taste of it either feels like a greasy gob of sweet shortening on your tongue or the sweetness of it has burned your taste buds. Also, have you ever really just tasted powdered sugar by itself? It has corn starch in it, and I swear I can taste it.

Whipped cream frosting is good, but doesn’t have the same stability as a shortening and powder sugar based decorating frosting. In my opinion, the taste of it is missing a little something-something.

So thankfully, there are real buttercream recipes in existence. The kind of buttercream you’ll find on a $6.00 slice of cake served at a quality restaurant. The two more popular buttercreams are Swiss meringue buttercream and Italian buttercream, which are usually egg white based and are very similar to each other, except the methods are different. These are the elite frostings usually reserved for wedding cakes because of their silky textures and light flavors. As long as the weather isn’t too hot, they are stable and hold up well.

French buttercream isn’t as well known, it’s the naughty little cousin to the other buttercreams. It’s naughty because one tablespoon of the stuff has 5 grams of fat. This isn’t an everyday kind of frosting, friends. This should be reserved for special occasions, or when you want to present a knock-out dessert. The buttercream has a very creamy pale yellow color, so cakes will not be a true white color. The richness and silky texture are amazing, and the light flavor is complemented by just enough sweetness. I will never make a powdered sugar based frosting again!

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: Makes 4.5 cups
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pound unsalted butter (4 sticks) brought to room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg yolks until light lemon yellow colored.
  2. Carefully combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  3. Simmer the sugar mixture over medium heat (without stirring) until 215°F is reached on a candy thermometer. If sugar crystals form on the inside of the pan, carefully brush the insides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.
  4. With the mixer on low, slowly stream the hot sugar mixture into the egg yolks, if done slowly and properly, this “cooks” the egg yolks but doesn’t cause them to curdle.
  5. Once the sugar mixture is in, turn the mixer to high and beat the mixture until the sides of the mixing bowl have reached room temperature, approximately 10-12 minutes. The mixture will be smooth and creamy.
  6. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, and slowly add the softened butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles a spreadable frosting. If your mixture is too warm, put the mixing bowl and buttercream in the refrigerator for 15 minutes – and beat with the mixer until smooth.
  7. The frosting can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before spreading.

This recipe makes enough frosting to fill and decorate a 2-layer 9X9 inch round cake.

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