by Katherine Walton on May 2, 2022 14 Comments
American Buttercream is perhaps the most widely used frosting or icing in modern cake decorating. It typically consists of butter, icing sugar also known as Confectioners Sugar or Powdered Sugar, flavouring and an extra addition such as milk or cream. American Buttercream can come in all types of consistencies as well, from soft to medium to stiff and thick consistencies.
The Walton Cake Boutique Stiff American Buttercream is as the names suggests stiff and thick in consistency but it also has half the amount of icing sugar used in my Smooth Buttercream recipe. This makes it less sweet and smoother than most American Buttercream Recipes. The key ingredient to make it stiff is the addition of vegetable shortening (Copha in Australia, Crisco in the U.S.) in combination with butter. No milk is needed in this Stiff American Buttercream Recipe, which makes it ideal for adding twice or even more the amount of flavouring typically used in a frosting recipe.Now, you may wonder how can this simple buttercream be stiff, smooth, and less sweet. The secret lies in the way I make this buttercream from the moment the shortening is softened at room temperature and placed into the mixer bowl. Continue to read on and watch my full Step by Step Stiff American Buttercream Recipe video tutorial below and read along with the full written recipe below.
How are the ingredients measured in this recipe?
In this recipe and in all of my recipes I provide all ingredients in grams and in mL (millilitres) where applicable. I also provide the ingredient quantities in METRIC cup measurements. However, be aware that cup measurements and spoon measurements vary in different countries. Therefore, I highly recommended the use of kitchen scales where applicable to measure the ingredients to achieve exactly what the recipe intends.
What is icing sugar and can I substitute it in this recipe?
Icing sugar is also known as powdered sugar and confectioners’ sugar. Not to be confused or replaced with caster sugar also known as super fine granulated sugar. The icing sugar in this recipe cannot be substituted.
What does it mean by softened shortening?
Vegetable shortening can be very hard and stiff when refrigerated or when it is kept in a cool room. The vegetable shortening must be softened by either leaving it at room temperature (preferably a warm room) overnight or a few to several hours. Using a softened but not melted shortening is part of the secret to make this a successful smooth and stiff American buttercream.
What does soft but not melted butter mean?
The butter must be cool to the touch but soft. That means you should be able to press with your finger and make an indentation. If the butter looks like it is melting, you can put it back in the fridge until it feels cold to the touch again and firms up a little bit. Five minutes should suffice.
Why does this buttercream use salted butter and not unsalted butter? Can I substitute it?
In my Stiff American Buttercream recipe I use salted butter to enhance the flavours in this buttercream and at the same time reduce the sweetness that comes from the icing sugar. You may substitute the salted butter with unsalted butter and add a pinch of salt for added taste. Keep in mind that adding a pinch of salt may not completely dissolve and incorporate into the buttercream if not thoroughly mixed. Make sure the added salt is well mixed in or you may end with an unpleasant salty buttercream.
How to store this Buttercream and what is its shelf life?
Store the buttercream sealed in an airtight container. You may store in the fridge for up to 5 days and at room temperature for up to 3 days. If stored in the fridge bring to room temperature before using again. The buttercream will harden. You may re whip in a mixer or with a metal spoon.
The buttercream is too soft to work with. What can I do to fix it?
In rare cases you may find that this stiff buttercream is soft to work with. In most circumstances this will be due to the temperature of the room the buttercream is being used in. In hot weather, this buttercream should be of a medium to stiff consistency and stable enough to withstand very hot temperatures. However, if you still find that the buttercream is not stiff enough, you may place the frosting in the fridge for five to ten minutes for it to firm up. You may also find that this Stiff American Buttercream becomes thicker and stiffer over time, a feature that makes it perfect for making it a day ahead.
Also, when piping you can place the whole piping bag in the fridge for five minutes at a time. This trick is useful and works well for those that get warm hands when piping.
Watch the full step by step video provided with this recipe for visual instructions. If you have any questions leave me a comment and I’ll be more than happy to guide you through.
Is this frosting better to use on cupcakes than the Swiss buttercream in hot climates and does the copha affect the flavour?
Hi Jenny ☺️, both are stable enough for hot climates. I use both here in Sydney where we get to an average of over 35 degrees Celsius in summer. The Copha has not flavour or taste, so it doesn’t affect it.
Katherine, I just made this recipe, I love love love it. Although, it turned out much softer than I expected, I would not have called it stiff buttercream at all. Maybe I did something wrong, can you overcream the butter and shortening? Or, however, I do live in Texas and our outside temperature is 100+ F. Thank you so much for a great tutorial!!!
Hi Sherry ☺️
Thank you for trying my recipe!
Also that’s very common for the buttercream to be softer than expected when freshly made. It goes stiff once the shortening starts to “settle” into the frosting. So you will find that’s it will stiff or firmer the following day. If you do find that the following day or after over night the buttercream hasn’t become stiff or firmer you can adjust the recipe itself by adding 1-2 extra cups of confectioners sugar. Also in general most frosting recipes such as this one and vegan buttercream for example tend to colour better the following day. You will achieve brighter more intense colours. Let me know how you go please! ☺️
Hello. I wanted to use this recipe for my chocolate cake. I wanted to make a caramel buttercream as frosting. Instead of icing sugar, can I substitue it for the caramel that I made? Or do I still need to use the icing sugar and only put a few tablespoons or half a cup of the caramel as flavor?
You will still need to use the icing sugar as it’s need to give the frosting its structure. Without the icing sugar you have have a soup like mixture. You can certainly add the caramel after. Start with about 1/4 cup and test for flavour, texture and consistency. Then see if more is needed. Let me know how it goes.
Your recipe looks fantastic I can’t wait to try it. I’m making a cake 2 days in advance and was going to use this recipe. Will the icing be affected by being on the cake in the fridge for that long?
(Sorry, I don’t know if that made sense)
Hi Anna 😊, thank you. Not at all. You can leave the frosted cake in the fridge for a few days. For optimal freshness no more than 3-4 days. The only thing you need to be aware of is condensation on the cake after it has been in the fridge, which can be more noticeable if the cake is transferred into a warm environment. The condensation can ruin any decorations on the cake as it goes through condensation.
I just tried this recipe! I’m glad it’s not too sweet but it has hardly and flavor. Do I just add little more vanilla if I want it little more sweet?? Also can I cream cheese frosting or strawberry frosting like this is if divide the butter with shortening?? Would it affect the flavor ?? Please get back to me thanks
Hi 😊! thank you so much for trying my recipe! You can certainly add more flavouring. You can try 1-3 teaspoons of flavouring. You can also mix this frosting with cream cheese or strawberry frosting. The key thing is to remember is that you can add extra powdered sugar into the frosting if the consistency changes and becomes softer for example. I think it will have a great flavour. Let me know how it goes.
Hi, would it be okay to ice cupcakes a day before and refrigerate them without issue?
Hi 😊! yes it certainly is. After, you can take them out of the fridge to soften for about 30 minutes to an hour before consuming.
Hi Katherine, can you please advise the multiple I would need to cover and fill a two tier 10 inch cake, thanks.
Hi Linda, yes of course. I have updated the recipe serving size (you’ll be able to see it at the top). It makes 950 grams of buttercream for 12 to 24 cupcakes or to layer and cover a 6 inch by 6 inch cake.