Here in Malaysia, the cakes we get at stores and homemade custom cakes are very different. Not just aesthetically or even the cake, in fact it’s in the icing. First of all, it’s quite rare to find butter cake in stores in the first place. This is why, in my opinion, butter cakes are high in demand when it comes to ordering homemade cakes. And what makes these cakes so good is the “butter icing”. That grainy, butter-y icing covering the butter cake makes it that much better. The fact that you can rarely ever find this combination at stores makes it rare and what people look forward to most in homemade cakes. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to learn how to make the classic butter cake.
It wasn’t until I tried Chelsweets’ American Buttercream that I realized, the butter icing everyone loves so much over here is actually American Buttercream.
This is my go-to frosting of choice when it comes to butter cake. But Chelsey does warn on her site that she has an incredible sweet tooth and her recipes may be too sweet for some people. I’m one of those people. I’ve since altered the recipe more to my taste. I’ve also substituted the heavy cream in her recipe for regular full-cream milk as the recipe only requires a few tablespoons and that would be a waste of a whole box of cream. The salt content is also slightly higher in this recipe so the buttercream is not too sickeningly sweet.
- 2 sticks butter
- 3 cups icing sugar*
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. full cream milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla essence or extract
- Beat the butter in an electric stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy with a paddle attachment. Never use the whisk attachment because that incorporates air into the buttercream and that’s not what you want in your buttercream.
- Sift in the icing sugar, cup by cup, beating in each cup until incorporated each time. This is to make sure you get a nice, even, and smooth buttercream.
- Sift in the salt with the last cup of sugar. Beat a little, then add in the milk and vanilla. You can always substitute any flavouring you prefer for the vanilla essence.
*You could add 1 more cup of sugar to every 2 sticks of butter if you want a crusting buttercream. Basically, more sugar content helps the buttercream crust so it’s easier to decorate. I personally don’t like it because it gets too sweet. I also use 1/4 tsp more of salt to cut the sweetness slightly. So you may alter it as you wish.
Note: To get amazingly smooth buttercream, you should use the full bowl method. Where you multiply the buttercream recipe so it fills your whole mixing bowl. The science behind it is that if you fill the bowl with your ingredients, there is no room for air to get in and therefore, there will be no air pockets and you get silky smooth buttercream. For my own bowl, I had to triple this recipe.
You would have seen from my mermaid cake and World Cup cakes how important it is to let your icings rest to really absorb the colour. I recently got myself some gold Americolor just to try it out and see what colour I actually get. Long story short, my friends thought it was peanut butter! It becomes a sort of mustard-y colour, which if you want to enhance the gold I think you should use some airbrushing or edible luster dust. However, letting it rest did still help.
This is how the colour enhanced after letting it rest overnight. So, always, always let it rest!
There is a trick, though, to colouring darker colours like red or black or even dark blue. Start out by adding cocoa powder to the buttercream before colouring it. When I’m making red or dark blue I like to use regular cocoa powder in small amounts just to get it to that darker shade first. Then add in the colour. This red right here, was what I got when I did exactly this. I was actually aiming for a slightly brighter red but I added 1 drop of black colouring at the end. So if you want the red to be bright instead of deep, just do the cocoa powder and not the black colouring.
For black buttercream, I like to pile on a load of extra dark cocoa powder to start and then top it off with black colouring to finish.