You've heard me sing the praises of Swiss meringue buttercream many times on this blog before. It's my go-to frosting for all my cakes as its insanely delicious, not so sweet, super creamy, and stable at room temperature. Some people say its too buttery, as many Americans are used to the cloyingly sweet powdered sugar buttercream served in a lot of bakeries (bleh), although I've never had any complaints.
But after reading about German buttercream a few weeks ago, I was intrigued, especially after it was described as a "homemade ice cream" in flavor. Ice cream flavored frosting?!?! Count me in!!
And I think I've been counted in for life, as (dare I say) this frosting was even more delicious that Swiss meringue. Plus, it stayed MUCH softer compared with Swiss meringue when refrigerated. While you can't eat Swiss meringue straight out of the fridge (its too solid), this German buttercream remained relatively soft. (I think it was much better at room temp, but still definitely edible straight from the fridge).
The difference between these 2 frostings is in the technique: Swiss meringue starts with, as its name implies, a cooked meringue (egg whites + sugar), to which you add butter. Pretty simple, but it does require a thermometer (to make sure you cook the egg whites to the right temperature) and a lot of egg whites (8 - 12 depending on the batch of your frosting). But German buttercream starts with a custard of just a few eggs, milk, sugar, and cornstarch (like a pastry cream). To that cooled mixture you then add your butter. Easy peasy. No thermometer, and no need to figure out how to use up 12 egg yolks. :)
Basically German buttercream is a cross between a light, custardy pastry cream and a classic buttercream. Similar to a dense whipped cream frosting! You do have to make sure the German buttercream doesn't stay out at room temperature overnight, but its a small price to pay for such a great frosting.
So whether you've been wanting to explore the different European style buttercreams (Swiss, French, Italian, etc) or you're a cake expert and want to test out yet another type of frosting, you can't go wrong with this German buttercream-- my new favorite!
German buttercream, adapted from Yammie's Noshery and Brave Tart
Note: For the amount of butter to add I followed Yammie's noshery and used only 4 sticks (16 oz). However, Brave Tart says to use 8 sticks (32 ounces). The larger amount seemed excessive to me, as the texture of the buttercream was perfect (for me) after the single pound of butter. However, I've never tried it with the full "recommended" amount of butter and would be curious to see how it changes the texture and flavor. I'm including the entire butter range below depending on your preference to play around with the recipe.
Also, check out Brave Tart for some great variations, like caramel or cream cheese.
16 ounces whole milk
2 vanilla bean pods, split and scraped, seeds reserved (optional) or 2 tsp vanilla extract.
10 ounces sugar
1½ ounces cornstarch
2 egg yolks
16 to 32 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- If using the vanilla beans: bring the milk to a simmer along with the vanilla bean pods in a medium pot. Turn off the heat and set aside to steep for at least one hour, or as long as time allows. After steeping, remove the vanilla bean pods and use a rubber spatula to extract the thick vanilla goo from inside each.
- If not using vanilla beans: continue to step 2.
- Bring the milk to a simmer (or return to a simmer if you've been steeping vanilla pod). Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, reserved vanilla bean scrapings, cornstarch, eggs and yolks in a medium bowl.
- Whisk about a half cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture—it will be thick at first but will loosen as the milk incorporates. Continue whisking in hot milk until the egg mixture is fluid and warm.
- Now, return the tempered egg/milk mixture back into the pot of hot milk, whisking all the while. Turn the heat to medium and whisk until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble sluggishly. From that point, continue whisking and cooking for a full minute more; use a timer or you run the risk of not fully cooking out the cornstarch. (It'll be THICK and a bit of a workout stirring the custard. Just make sure to keep it moving so you don't end up with cooked egg pieces in your custard.) When the minute is up, pour the custard into a large mixing bowl.
- The custard may be cooled quickly by mixing it continuously in a stand mixer. If time isn’t an issue, you can press a layer of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate until cool. (You can keep this mixture in the fridge overnight or up to a few days.)
- Once the custard has cooled completely, use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment to beat it on medium to medium high speed until creamy. (If you did not refrigerate the custard, please do take caution to make sure you’re not rushing things; if the custard has not been mixed long enough to cool to perfect room temperature, the butter will melt in the next step and you’ll have a very soupy mess on your hands.)
- Once the cooled custard has been whipped until creamy, begin adding in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add the salt and continue to whip until the mixture is creamy and homogenous.
- If you’d like to flavor the buttercream with any extracts, melted chocolate or other flavorings, now is the time.
- Use immediately or refrigerate until needed. When ready to use, whip until creamy before proceeding.