Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vanilla Frostings Compared

After reading All Yellow Cakes Compared at Cookie Madness, I was inspired to try the same thing with frostings.

I made Swiss and Italian Meringue Buttercream, French Buttercream, American Buttercream, and Boiled Milk Icing.

The meringue buttercreams are made by combining butter, vanilla, and a cooked meringue. In Swiss buttercream you heat the egg whites before beating them; in Italian meringue you whip the egg whites and then beat in a very hot sugar syrup. These are the standard frostings at high end bakeries, especially for wedding cakes. They are very silky and rich, but not very sweet.

French buttercream is made similarly to the Italian Meringue buttercream, using egg yolks instead of whites. The egg yolks are whipped and cooked by a very hot sugar syrup, and then butter is beaten in. Like the meringue buttercreams, it is silky and not too sweet, but a lot richer.

American buttercream is the familiar frosting made by whipping butter, shortening, flavorings, and water or milk, then adding lots of powdered sugar. Sometimes meringue powder is included. Kids like it because of the sweetness. Decorators love it because it crusts and can be made very,very smooth, looking almost like fondant. Also, if made with mostly shortening, it is one of the few frostings that can hold up to heat and humidity.

Boiled milk icing is not as commonly known as the other frostings, and I don't think it can be bought ready-made. In Maryland it is the only frosting traditionally used on red velvet cake. However, it can be flavored like a buttercream and used on any cake. It is also called cooked icing, red velvet icing, and miracle icing. It is made by beating together butter, shortening, granulated sugar, and flavoring, then mixing in a pudding made from boiling milk and flour.

The Results

I had two twenty-year old missionaries and a family with several children over. The frostings were color coded, and I had a piece of paper for people to write their opinions down. We also wrote down the children's opinions. The frosting was on yellow mini-cupcakes, made from the BakeWise recipe.

The Swiss meringue Buttercream was the least favorite--probably because it was the least sweet. I was the only one who really liked it.

The people thought the Italian meringue buttercream was better than the Swiss, but it wasn't anyone's favorite. Reviews were mixed on the French. My friend Alysia liked it, but one of the missionaries said that it was the worst.

Almost everyone liked the boiled milk frosting, though one of the missionaries said it was OK.

Every single person liked the American buttercream best. It is the most familiar, and I've been working on my recipe for a while. I think that, with so much less sugar to balance it out, the cooked buttercreams seemed too buttery. I'll put my Recipe for American Buttercream in the next post.

The best part is that the winning recipe is by far the easiest to make!



  1. If we had made it the results would have probably been the sme. We are all about the sweetness. :). What a great idea! I cant wait to see your recipe, and try it out!

  2. Thanks for doing this!! I think my opinion matches your tasters. European buttercreams can be awesome depending on the recipe and where they are used, but I find them best in small doses -- like on the inside of a sandwich cookie. They're just so rich. Boiled icing is fun and reminds me of the inside of a Twinkie, so I like it for that reason. But for a cupcake, good old American buttercream is my fallback.

    1. I really liked the Swiss best, but that probably because I'm just over-exposed to the American as a baker. But isn't it refreshing that everyone liked the easiest one?