The Problem with Buttercream

Buttercream. Just the name alone sounds delectable, summing up images of sweet, creamy melt-in-your mouth, rich wonderfulness.

But in reality buttercream frosting can often end up tasting like, well, a stick of butter.

Growing up, I remember when we’d get birthday cakes frosted with buttercream. It was always a case of disappointed expectations—the beautiful roses, smooth exterior, and fabulous decorations were thrilling, but the frosting itself was underwhelming. It looked so beautiful on the cake, but when you bit into it it had a waxy, oiling feeling in my mouth, and instead of melting on my tongue would crumble into hard little oily globs.

I tried to make buttercream a couple of times in college, but I was never satisfied with the results—it was too rich and dense, without the fluffy, creamy quality that I seek in a frosting. Once I tried to make a raspberry buttercream that utterly failed; the butter never mixed into the rest of the frosting, leaving me with a bowl of raspberry goo, flecked with tiny dots of pure butter

So I gave up, turned away, and went back to the frosting of ease—the ones made with baking powder, milk and flavorings. They were so easy, so foolproof, and so crowd pleasing, that I thought for awhile that I would never look back.

But now here I am, looking back. It’s been several years since those college parties where I indulged my cake-baking passion, and I’m no longer questing for the simply sweet. I tried sweet with The Beehive Cake, and it was just too much—it ultimately was the cake’s great downfall.

I want a more grown-up frosting, a mature frosting, something that you can actually flavor without having it be drowned out by the sticky sweetness of the powdered sugar.

So I’m back, buttercream. Back for another round. But will you just disappoint me again?



  1. Victoria Leavelle said

    Good luck with the buttercream. I hope it works out so you can give us another great recipe.

  2. Trekkie said

    I love the buttercream! But yes it needs to have careful attention to get the right flavor. My question for cake lovers is what is up with fondant? Yes it looks great on a wedding cake but the taste is horrible. not a wedding memory I would want. We went with butter cream and it was delish.

  3. […] In fact, it was that cupcake experience that made me wonder if, perhaps, I shouldn’t give buttercreams another chance and try them for my birthday […]

  4. […] of the internet – from what to cook in the recession, to who should have won Top Chef, to what a real buttercream frosting should taste like. If you keep reading, I’ll keep […]

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