Cake frosting is the thick coating, often on top or sides of the cake, used to make it more appealing. There are two main types of cake frosting; whipped icing and buttercream. These frostings have unique uses, benefits, and drawbacks, so deciding the best option for your cake can be tough.
This post will take a closer look at whipped icing and buttercream to help you choose between these two types of frosting.
What is whipped icing?
Whipped icing is a frosting made by whipping a dry ingredient, often powdered sugar and heavy cream. You can add salt water, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Some frosting also includes flavorings. The resulting mixture is light and fluffy and used on top of cupcakes or the sides of cakes.
While whipped icing is not as stable as buttercream frosting, it can still be decorated with piping and other techniques. Meringue powder is used to add stability to the icing. In such cases, the icing can be used in between cakes.
What is buttercream?
Buttercream is a creamy type of frosting made with butter, milk, and powdered sugar. It decorates cakes and cupcakes and used a filling for pies and pastries.
The traditional buttercream is typically made by creaming together butter and sugar, then slowly adding milk or cream until the desired light and fluffy consistency is achieved. You can add flavoring agents such as vanilla extract or cocoa powder.
Buttercream can be made in various gel icing colors and flavored with fruit purees, jams, or alcohol. Different buttercream varieties can be used in various ways to create delicious desserts. It comes in several variations; American buttercream is made by beating softened butter and confectioners’ sugar together till you achieve a fluffy consistency.
French buttercream, which calls for egg yolks, and the Italian buttercream variation, which uses sugar beaten into whipped egg whites.
Custard-based buttercream, also referred to as German buttercream, calls for pastry cream. Swiss meringue buttercream requires you to make a meringue base by separating the egg whites.
What is whipped icing made of?
Whipped icing is made from a combination of wet and dry ingredients; sugar, room temperature butter, and egg whites. The good news is that you don’t always have to go for the store-bought icing; you can make it at home! Let’s look at a breakdown of the ingredients:
Powdered sugar, also referred to as confectioners or icing sugar, is a dry ingredient used to sweeten whipped cream.
This is the most important component of whipped icing. It is what makes whipped cream. Turn the mixer to slow speed and whisk the butter until it forms a fluffy and dense texture.
- Egg whites:
The egg whites give the icing a frosting texture, a delectable, smooth, spreadable texture. They are whipped into a stiff meringue and folded into the buttercream to create a light and airy consistency.
Whipped icing can be flavored with extracts like vanilla or other ingredients to create various flavors. It can also be colored with natural or gel food coloring to create beautiful decorations. You can try different frosting recipes with your favorite frosting flavorings.
What is buttercream made of?
Buttercream frosting requires a variety of ingredients. You will need powdered sugar, heavy cream, butter, vanilla extract, and salt.
- Powdered sugar: This dry ingredient helps to sweeten and thicken the frosting.
- Heavy cream: It is used to make the frosting creamy.
- Butter: Butter whisked at slow speed helps achieve the dense texture. It is best to use unsalted butter to balance the amount of salt since different brands have different salt levels.
- Vanilla extract: Add a few teaspoons vanilla extract as a flavoring. The Pure extract gives the best results, but you could try out other extracts like mint and lemon. You can also add in some gel icing color for a nice shade.
- Salt: Salt balances the sweetness in the frosting. You will need just a little of it in your recipes.
Whipped icing versus buttercream
The use of butter is the main difference between buttercream and whipped icing. The function of butter in buttercream is to make it creamy. Whip cream, on the other hand, does not require butter as it doesn’t require creaminess but light and fluffy texture. Some other factors that distinguish these two frostings are:
Buttercream is made from powdered sugar, milk, butter, and flavorings. On the other hand, whipped cream is made from whipping cream and powdered sugar. Meringue powder has been used for stability.
2. Texture and flavor
Buttercream has a creamy, smooth consistency that is easily spreadable. It has a sweet buttery flavor that takes flavorings and extracts well. Whipped icing has a rich, creamy taste and does not spread as well as buttercream because of its airy texture.
Buttercream is used in decorating cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. It holds its shape thanks to its medium-thick consistency. It also holds well to higher temperatures, with a soft crust forming over the soft interior.
Whipped icing is used to cover cakes and cupcakes. Its light, delicate consistency is mostly useful for piping borders. It does not hold up to high temperatures and cannot be used for stacked cakes as it doesn’t form a crust.
Making buttercream starts by whipping butter in a mixing bowl with a mixer at slow speed until it’s light and fluffy. Next, milk is added to moisten the fats then powdered sugar(sifted) is added until the perfect consistency is achieved. You can leave the cream white with a yellow tint or add food colorings.
To make whipping ice, chilled whipping cream is whipped on slow speed until fluffy and light, then powdered sugar is added till soft peaks form. It hardens and can form stiff peaks when left at colder temperatures. It can take colors, but it’s suited to pastel stones.
You can store buttercream in a refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. It can sit at room temperature for 2-3 days if it’s on a cake. Whipped cream frosting cannot sit at room temperature but can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days. If it’s on a cake, keep t refrigerated for 2 days.
What type of buttercream do bakeries use?
Bakeries use many types of buttercream, each with unique properties. American buttercream is light and fluffy, perfect for decorating cupcakes and cakes.
The creamy texture of the French buttercream is used to fill tart shells and cream puffs. It pairs well with chocolate or instant coffee powder.
Swiss buttercream is the most used by professionals because it’s stable and ideal for warm-weather baking. It can be flavored with fruit purees or extracts. It is served as ermine frosting and has a mild sweetness. Its glossy finish is often flavored with citrus or mint and used to frost wedding cakes.
Italian meringue buttercream has a buttery sweetness and is less prone to melting in warm climates.
Which is better, buttercream or whipped cream?
Buttercream and whipped cream are both popular choices for frosting cakes and cupcakes. You might wonder which is better. The truth is that it really depends on your personal preferences. Buttercream is more versatile than whipped cream in terms of decorating. You can easily pipe it into intricate designs, use it in a layer cake, and it holds its shape well at room temperature.
Whipped cream, on the other hand, is used for simpler decorations. It can be hard to control when piping decorations and melts if left at room temperature for too long.
If you’re looking for an easy to work with frosting that can sit at room temperature, then go for buttercream. Whipped cream is best if you prefer a lighter, fresher-tasting frosting.
How to use buttercream
Buttercream is versatile and can be used for various purposes. It is obvious to spread some buttercream on your cookies but there are other ways to use it. They include:
- Make cake balls: Crumble a cake and add some buttercream, then chill for up to an hour. Next, roll the mixture into balls and enjoy.
- Use it as an ice cream topping: Apply slight heat to the buttercream and pour it over your favorite ice cream scoop.
- Create a glaze: Thin the buttercream slightly by adding milk, then glaze your cinnamon rolls and muffins.
- Use it as a spread: You can enjoy whip cream on crackers.
- Mix it with cream cheese: Enjoy it in cream cheese with your favorite seasonal fruit dipped in it.
What type of buttercream is best for decorating?
When decorating cakes and cupcakes, buttercream is a baker’s best friend. There are plenty of buttercream frosting options coming in a variety of flavors and textures. It might be hard to understand the best to work with.
The most common buttercream is American buttercream, perfect for spreading onto cakes. European buttercream gives a richer flavor and is often used in wedding cakes and other special occasion desserts. Swiss meringue buttercream is a stable frosting perfect for complex cake designs.
How to Make Whipped Cream and Whipped Cream Frosting!
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I use instead of buttercream icing?
A few types of icing can be used as an alternative to the buttercream.
Royal icing: Royal icing is made from egg whites, sugar, and lemon juice. Royal icing hardens as it dries, making it ideal for decorating cookies and other desserts that will not be served immediately.
Cream cheese frosting: Cream cheese frosting is made from cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. This frosting is softer than royal icing, but it can still be used to create beautiful decorations.
Ganache: Ganache is a chocolate-based icing that can be made from either milk or dark chocolate. Ganache is typically used as a filling for cakes and cupcakes. It can also be spread on top of desserts like brownies.
Regardless of which type of icing you choose, it’s always best to experiment until you find the perfect one for your needs.
Which frosting is best for cake?
The best frosting for cakes depends on your personal preferences. If you like the rich, creamy texture, go for buttercream. If you like the light, fluffy texture, go for the American buttercream. There is also plant-based frosting, but always use them in moderation.
Decorating with buttercream icing?
There are several decorating techniques with buttercream that you can incorporate. Some great beginner designs are stars, pulled dots, rosettes, cupcake swirl, and swirl drop flowers.
Whipped icing and buttercream are great frosting options. The type of frosting you use will significantly affect your cake presentation. Buttercream holds well on cakes and cupcakes and gives a smooth finish to your baked goods, while whipped icing is best suited for piping borders on cakes. It, however, significantly relies on your whipped frosting recipe.