Peggy's Baking Corner
by Peggy Weaver


Decorating with Buttercream Icing - Questions & Answers
 

 

  Home    |   Recipe Indexes   |   Dinner Party Menus   |   Food History   |   Diet - Health - Beauty

Baking Corner |  Regional Foods | Cooking Articles Hints & Tips | Culinary Dictionary | Newspaper Columns


Search What's Cooking America


QUESTION:
I have a Frosting question. By the way your information on this website is great. My question is on the Buttercream Icing for the Crisco, can I use the butter-flavor Crisco or is that a mistake? (5/04/07)

ANSWER: 

Good Question.  I wouldn’t use the butter-flavor Crisco. You need to control the amount of butter flavor, and other flavors, in the icing. The Butter Flavor Crisco is just TO STRONG. When it comes to icing you want delicate flavors, not “WOW this tastes like butter with sugar added in.” 

Another problem that I have with the butter-flavor Crisco is that when I open the can, the first smell I get is a chemical smell that lingers in my nose.  Not nice.  I don’t want to think butter/chemical. I want to think Butter/Cow/Fresh Grass.  I also do not care for the nearly electric yellow color.  Your icing will take on a yellow tone.  If you use food coloring you will always get an off color because you did not start with white icing.

 


QUESTION:
I need to makes flames for my sons birthday cake.  I was going to use fondant or buttercream.  I am making a dragon cake and the flames were going to be for a border.  Any ideas? - Sandra (1/18/07)

ANSWER:
What I would do is use the grass tip.  I would make a small batch of buttercream icing. 

Make 1/3 batch fire engine red, 1/3 bright orange, and 1/3 bright yellow.

Put each color into the piping bag, 1 teaspoon at a time, rotating the colors.  It seems a nuisance but that will give you variations of color in the flames. Then just pipe away.

 

QUESTION: 
I was looking for fondant recipes and could not find any thing until I found yours. You have such a heart for people. I found so much on your site and I plan to call my friends who like to decorate also. I was wanting to decorate my daughters wedding cake with sunflowers and make them by hand, but don't know what kind of icing I could use. I really appreciate any advice that you may have. Thank you and God bless.- Pam (4/03/06)

ANSWER:
I love sunflowers! You’ve got me on your team. (smile)

I tried making sunflowers with gumpaste and I was not pleased with the results. Part of the reason is because you will be working for days with the shaping, drying and coloring.  Another reason is that the yellow color fades as the gumpaste dries.  I had to use petal dust to try to liven up the color and make the flowers look healthy and happy.  

Last thought is that they supplies that you need (cutters, rollers, colors and tools) are a bit expensive if you aren’t going to be using them again.  But you can always resell most of the items on EBAY.  There is quite a brisk business on Gumpaste tools.

Now, my results with buttercream was radically different.  Sunflowers are fast to make, easy (actually a beginners lesson) and the colors can be vibrant and exciting. I suggest that you try the buttercream first as a trial and then try the gumpaste.

Here is a link to my sunflower lesson. Check the cake ideas at the bottom of the page:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/PegW/SunFlower/SunflowerCupcakes.htm

 


QUESTION: 
I just recently visited your website and you seem like you could help me.  I am getting married in
June and I have asked my aunt to do my wedding cake.  Her cakes taste fabulous and it would be an honor to have her do it.  The design that I have chosen calls for the frosting to be very smooth.  She has tried to use her buttercream recipe, but it just isn't smooth enough.  I was wondering if you could give me some other choices besides fondant and buttercream? - Stephine (3/27/06)

ANSWER:
Part of the problem I have in answering, is that I have no idea what recipe is being used. I will take a best guess and hope that it will help you.

Many people feel that “Not smooth” means that as you spread the icing and try to smooth it out, you get little holes.  Thousands of them. Well the holes are caused by bubbles. 
 

If you want an icing to be light and fluffy you have to whip the icing for a long time and that incorporates bubbles in to the icing for that fluffy texture.  If an icing that has swirls and curls, this is great.  For an icing that must have a smooth texture it is a killer in my opinion. I beat the icing ingredients in my mixer, long enough so that ingredients are well blended. I often store the icing in the refrigerator at this point. 

I remove the icing and place it in a very large bowl and with a large spoon, rework the icing and knocking the bubbles out of the batch.  I sort of use a smearing action with the back of the spoon against the side of the bowl.  I work the icing until I get the texture that I’m looking for, for this project. If you need a lighter weight icing for piping some flowers and leaves, add a few drops of water and mix it in.

For wedding cake icing, I have only seen Fondant, Buttercream, Ganache, and in a few countries, Royal Icing.

 


QUESTION: 
Thank you for all your help! I have been practicing your cake mix (with white chocolate) and your cooked buttercream (which is very yummy!).

I am having a problem with the cake. The middle always seems to sink. I have tried cupcakes, mini loafs and a 9x9 cake. It happened with all of them. Although they still taste wonderful. Am I doing something wrong? Also for the icing (Buttercream-classic recipe) how long can it be kept in the fridge and how long just on the counter?  If I keep it in the fridge, do I need to rewhip it again when I take it out?  Justin's birthday is the 11th and I was hoping I could get some of the cake done ahead of time so if I mess up I have time to make another batch. - Rob, Justin, Jayden and Janet (03/04/06)

ANSWER:
I am having a problem with the cake. The middle always seems to sink. I have tried cupcakes, mini loafs and a 9x9 cake. It happened with all of them. Although they still taste wonderful. Am I doing something wrong?
Try cooking the cake a few minutes longer, maybe, as much as 8 minutes.

Also for the icing (Buttercream-classic recipe) how long can it be kept in the fridge and how long just on the counter? 
Just so we can both be on the same track, the butter cream that is made with all Crisco can stay on the counter at reasonable room temp for as long as a week but I don’t like doing that.  The BC that is made with butter and Crisco can stay on the counter for a few days if the room is not to warm. (It doesn’t go bad but the ingredients break apart and you can get a lousy consistency BC.)  The cooked BC in my opinion, should stay in the refrigerator until a couple of hours before covering the cake. Allow to come to room temp and then decorate.

If I keep it in the fridge, do I need to rewhip it again when I take it out? 
I don’t know, every recipe comes out a bit different. Give the icing a stir and see if you like the consistency. On some cakes, I want the icing to be very smooth and heavy. On others, I want a very fluffy look so I need to mix again.
 


QUESTION: 
I am trying out the MM fondant for the first time and I am using two 9-inch round cake pans to make my cake.  I am planning on using your buttercream recipe for in between the two cakes and also as a crumb coat for the fondant. - Rachel Devine (02/23/06)

My questions are:

1. Will your buttercream recipe be enough for my cake or do I need to double it? 

2. Will your fondant recipe be enough for my cake or do I need to double it? 

3. I also wanted to make it a polka dot cake and add fondant polka dots all over the cake.  Will there be extra fondant to do that, and also do a border at the bottom of the cake?

4. Can you tell me how I might go about getting the fondant polka dots to stick to the fondant covered cake?

5. You mention using corn starch when rolling out the fondant.  why use corn starch instead of just using more powdered sugar?  

6. I just have a wooden rolling pin, should I invest in a non stick one like you show in your how-to pictures, or will mine be fine?

I know that is a lot of questions, but thank you so much for any help you can give.  and also thank you for all the really great advice on your website.

ANSWER:
I'll answer your questions, one at a time:

1. Will your buttercream recipe be enough for my cake or do I need to double it? 
The buttercream recipe will be fine.

2. Will your fondant recipe be enough for my cake or do I need to double it? 
It will be enough and you will no doubt, have plenty of leftovers.

3. I also wanted to make it a polka dot cake and add fondant polka dots all over the cake.  Will there be extra fondant to do that, and also do a border at the bottom of the cake?
There should be enough fondant to make your dots.  You will only need enough to cut out a few spots.  If I’m making all the spots of the same color but various shades of pink, I’d make the palest pink first and cut out the spots.  Pick out the fondant scraps.  Add a bit of white and more pink food coloring, mix, then cut the next size dots.  Repeat with the largest size dots. 

To also make a rope around the sides you will probably need to make a second batch of BC just to be sure.

4. Can you tell me how I might go about getting the fondant polka dots to stick to the fondant covered cake?
Put a tiny drop of water on the dot and smear it around the dot.  Gently press it onto the cake and hold for a few seconds.  The sugar will melt in both pieces and bond to hold the dot on.

5. You mention using corn starch when rolling out the fondant.  why use corn starch instead of just using more powdered sugar?
Now you are getting into chemistry, LOL.  Chemistry is not my nitch in this world but I’ll try to answer your question based on my experiences.

6. I just have a wooden rolling pin, should I invest in a non stick one like you show in your how-to pictures, or will mine be fine?
When I roll the fondant out, on a clean counter, it sticks. When I use powdered sugar, the sugar is absorbed into icing and the fondant sticks to the counter.  When I use cornstarch, that dries out the surface of the fondant enough so that for a few minutes the MMF can move, and shift on the surface of the counter.

If you are just doing a few cakes, your wooden rolling pin will work.  You will have a more difficult time than if you have a non stick pin though.  Some wooden pins leave grain marks on the fondant so roll gently.  You should be able to smooth the marks out when you apply the icing to the cake.

If you plan on also making cakes in the future, spend a few $ on yourself and pick up the nonstick version that is the shape of a dowel rod.  Remember you can also use them on pie crusts and gumpaste projects so it is a multi use kitchen tool.

 


QUESTION: 
Thanks for providing such a great website. It is has been very helpful. I have always enjoyed baking, and would like to venture into the cake decorating world now.  I have done a few basic cakes using the buttercream icing recipe in my Wilton Course 1 book. Recently, I was asked to do a cake with whipped icing. The person did not like the sweetness or the hard texture of the buttercream. Do you have a good recipe for this? Or, would you recommend a buttercream icing that isn't so sweet & hard? - Julie (2/7/06)

ANSWER:
Have I got a recipe for you!  It is delicious, and so smooth. My daughter said that it is the Buttercream Icing version of Egyptian Cotton 500 Thread Count Sheets.

Buttercream - Classic Recipe
Recipe from: Sweet Celebrations: The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes by Sylvia Weinstock with Kate Manchester (Simon & Schuster)

Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups sugar
13 large egg whites
3 pounds (12 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into half sticks
6 tablespoons clear vanilla extract

Instructions:
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water, mixing with a wooden spoon until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Place the pan on the stove, and use a clean pastry brush to paint the area just above the water line with water. Turn the burner on to medium and heat, watching the sugar mixture to be sure it does not caramelize or burn. Lay a candy thermometer in the pan and simmer the sugar-water mixture without stirring until the thermometer reaches 240 degrees F (soft-ball state); this will take about 5 to 7 minutes.

As the sugar nears the required temperature, place the egg whites in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they turn from opaque to white and begin to hold soft peaks. They should be at least double in volume in about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overbeat.

Turn the mixer on high and very carefully and slowly pour the hot sugar mixture in a very thin stream near the edge of the bowl and into the stiffly beaten egg whites. Beat for 20 to 35 minutes on medium to high speed. The egg whites will lose some of their volume and the mixture should resemble a very thick meringue. The outside of the bowl should be moderately warm to touch.

At this point, reduce the speed to medium or low and add the room temperature butter pieces, one at a time. The mixture will break and begin to look like cottage cheese, but don't worry. Keep the mixer running, continue adding butter, and let the mixer whip the buttercream until it begins to get smooth once again; this could take up to 10 minutes. Once the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and beat for five minutes more.

The buttercream is now ready to be colored or chilled. (If the buttercream is too soft, chill for 10 minutes and then whip again. If this doesn't work, cream 4 tablespoons of chilled butter, and then gently whip the creamed butter into the buttercream, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until the buttercream is smooth and there are no lumps.)

Use with Classic Yellow Cake.

Makes about 12 cups, more than enough to ice and decorate most cakes; Leftover buttercream can be frozen for up to three months.

 


QUESTION: 
I am a novice when it comes to baking cakes but I plan to bake a birthday cake for our 5 yr old son.  I want to make a volcano birthday cake and have found some ideas already.  I plan to use buttercream icing to ice the cake but I don't know how much I will need.  I plan to make a 9 by 13 inches cake pan and put a small dome cake on top.  Is there a better way to estimate the amount of icing I will need?  As far as powdered sugar, I already bought Domino's brand of powder sugar.  Will this work fine?  Thank you for your wonderful and informative site.  - Thanks Annie (1/30/06)

ANSWER:
I’ve never made a Volcano cake so I’d have to advise you to make a double batch of icing.  You will probably have leftovers but that is so much better than running short.  I am guessing that your 9x13 sheet cake will require one batch of batter (a batch is considered to be about 5 ½ cups). 

The Volcano/ Dome cake will require ½ batch of batter. That would leave you with leftover batter. How about using the leftover icing and batter to make yourself a tiny cake.  If you only have a 9” round layer pan, bake the cake, cut it in half like a half moon, stack them one on top of the other to make layers. You could put a bit of your favorite jam in between, the layers along with the buttercream.  Ice your tiny cake and after the party is over, celebrate your child’s life, quietly, with your Honey. 

P.S. The Dominos sugar will work fine.   


QUESTION: 
Having a baby shower for my first grandchild.  Making 5 star-shaped cakes (silicone pan from Crate and Barrel).  It's a heavenly theme....stars, clouds, etc....a little girl is coming soon!   Would you recommend the MM fondant or a pourable fondant?  Should I follow your technique as shown on the Dress for Dad cake shown on your website....nervous about the 5 pointed star....and did I mention this is my first time using fondant?  Thanks very much. - Mary 1/03/06)

ANSWER:
Congratulations on the newest member-to-be in your family.

I love the MM Fondant but I think for a Star cake I’d rather use a Buttercream or a poured White Chocolate Ganache that can be colored any shade you need.  I think I could do the rolled fondant but I certainly wouldn’t be happy with the results and I’d really be struggling with the whole thing.  If you use the Ganache, make sure that you use a powdered food coloring.  The liquid food coloring can cause the chocolate to seize and you would have to start over. 

One thought, you can make a cake board in the shape of a star if you want.  It’s more of a hassle but it looks prettier than a square board with a star on it.  Just a thought. 


QUESTION: 
My daughter and I just opened a small home bakery and fell in love with marshmallow fondant covered cakes. My buttercream frosting includes Crisco, butter and whipped cream. Is the whipped cream addition okay for the fondant covered cakes since they have to kept at room temperature?
Thanks - Brenda D. (1/04/06)

ANSWER:
Instead of using whipped cream, consider using water. That would extend the safety of the buttercream that is sitting at room temperature.


QUESTION: 
Can you attach ribbons/bows made from fondant to a wedding cake iced in buttercream icing? Will they stay attached? How would you attach them? Thanks - Cheryl (12/05/05)

ANSWER:
No, the fondant bow will not stay attached to buttercream icing. The weight will most likely be to heavy and slide right off.

I have heard of folks putting tooth picks into the fondant decoration before drying it and then pushing the picked flower into the buttercream icing at the last minute. Be aware that the fondant will absorb moisture from the buttercream and it can do weird, drooping things if decorated early.
 


QUESTION: 
Hi, I was looking at your website, which by the way is a great site and I'm interested in making a MM fondant cake. Your instructions call for buttercream icing before applying fondant to cake. My question is " does this icing have to be homemade or can it be store bought? I'm new to all this but, very anxious to try. Thanks for a wonderful website I've enjoyed it dearly!!! - Mari Lou (11/14/05)

ANSWER:
Certainly, you can use the canned Buttercream under your fondant. First, put the canned product in a bowl and give it a good stir. If you need to thin it out, add a little water a few drops at a time and then stir again. This can greatly improve the consistency and help the fondant stick to it. Apply your fondant before the icing crusts over for the best results.

Please consider using the home made Buttercream in the future though. When you compare the tw[ products, you will be surprised at the differences. The flavor difference is huge, I can sense a chemical taste and feeling in my mouth with the canned product. The consistency of the homemade is much smoother and easier to work with, and the cost for the same quantity is also way different.  Remember that you can prepare the homemade recipe in advance to help you out when there are time constraints. Please, keep the buttercream in the refrigerator though. Take it out and allow it to warm up to room temp for ease in working it on to your cake.


QUESTION: 
I would love to make my husband an airplane cake, as a surprise for his 30th birthday. Do you have any recipes or hints/ideas for me? - Tanya (10/13/05)

ANSWER:
The cake pan that I got for myself is one that was made in Portugal. You can find it at Sugar Craft for $12.50:  http://www.sugarcraft.com/

Go to the link above.  Look to the left side of the page for the Cake category and scroll down to Pans and click.  Look to the far right side of the page and click on airplane.  I had to scroll down a few lines. It is close to the bottom of the page. I attached a picture.  I didn’t make this cake but I liked the idea and kept a copy of the photo.
 


QUESTION:
Thank you for your recipe on buttercream icing.  I am looking a buttercream icing that is hard to describe.  It is utterly delicious, smooth, creamy, white in color, the kind you find a an old style bakery , it does not taste like Crisco and has a smoother, very sweet taste.  A bakery back home in New Jersey we used makes it they were an old German bakery if that helps.  I live in Tennessee, and you can not find a bakery here.  I love to bake and make cakes, however, have not been able to find the right buttercream icing.  would you please lead me in the right direction. - Robin (8/9/05)

ANSWER:
Without tasting the icing, I can’t be totally sure but it sounds like you were eating a Buttercream that is made from butter, eggs and sugar, not powdered sugar.

Following is a recipe that is a Classic Buttercream Recipe. Silvia Weinstock published the recipe in her book: Sweet Celebrations The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes by Sylvia Weinstock with Kate Manchester.  (Simon & Schuster)

Buttercream Icing
The author says: "All my cakes are done in buttercream icing. It's a finer finish and tastes better. Once you try this buttercream icing, you will never use a commercial icing again."

3-1/2 cups white sugar
13 large egg whites
3 pounds (12 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into half sticks
6 tablespoons clear vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water, mixing with a wooden spoon until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Place the pan on the stove, and use a clean pastry brush to paint the area just above the water line with water. Turn the burner on to medium and heat, watching the sugar mixture to be sure it does not caramelize or burn. Lay a candy thermometer in the pan and simmer the sugar-water mixture without stirring until the thermometer reaches 240 degrees F (soft-ball state); this will take about 5 to 7 minutes.

As the sugar nears the required temperature, place the egg whites in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they turn from opaque to white and begin to hold soft peaks. They should be at least double in volume in about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overbeat.

Turn the mixer on high and very carefully and slowly pour the hot sugar mixture in a very thin stream near the edge of the bowl and into the stiffly beaten egg whites. Beat for 20 to 35 minutes on medium to high speed. The egg whites will lose some of their volume and the mixture should resemble a very thick meringue. The outside of the bowl should be moderately warm to touch.

At this point, reduce the speed to medium or low and add the room temperature butter pieces, one at a time. The mixture will break and begin to look like cottage cheese, but don't worry. Keep the mixer running, continue adding butter, and let the mixer whip the buttercream until it begins to get smooth once again; this could take up to 10 minutes. Once the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and beat for five minutes more. The buttercream is now ready to be colored or chilled. (If the buttercream is too soft, chill for 10 minutes and then whip again. If this doesn't work, cream 4 tablespoons of chilled butter, and then gently whip the creamed butter into the buttercream, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until the buttercream is smooth and there are no lumps.)

Makes about 12 cups, more than enough to ice and decorate most cakes; Leftover buttercream can be frozen for up to three months.

 


QUESTION:
I am making:  Buttercream Icing - Holds up in humidity better – Faux Fondant

How is this used?  I just made a batch and it seems too thick to spread with a knife and not thick enough to roll out like a fondant.  If it is to be spread with a knife, how do I thin it out so that it doesn't rip a hole in the cake when spreading. 

ANSWER:
You can add a few drops of water at a time, then mix completely after each addition. Keep adding until you get the consistency that you need to spread the icing with a knife.  It depends on the area that you live in and the atmospheric conditions as to how much water you will need to add. 

I live in the high desert and I usually end up adding quite a bit of additional liquid to most of the recipes that I prepare. I have a daughter that lives in Alabama and she adds less water than the recipes call for. The icing just needs to be the consistency that allows you to spread it comfortably, and you are happy working with it.
 


QUESTION - Buttercream Recipe: 
I asked you about chocolate marshmallow fondant a few months ago. You responded to add 1 ounce of melted chocolate plus 1 tablespoon of good quality cocoa powder to the fondant recipe. Would you please tell me which MMF recipe will this addition work with?

Also, I have an even bigger problem with icing smooth my cakes. I have been using the Wilton Class Buttercream for the last couple of years, and I still can not get a perfectly smooth surface. I am using it at a very thin consistency, with the icer tip and the wide large spatula dipped in hot water after every couple of strokes. I also tried the painters plastic masker thingy and the Viva paper towels and parchment paper. 

None of these things work (and on top of all the practice). What I like about this particular icing is its convenience (being a non-dairy product) and everybody enjoys the taste.  However, I am at the point of desperation! Could you please help me?  Once again I will greatly appreciate it!
 

ANSWER:
Use the recipe on Linda Stradley's web page: http://whatscookingamerica.net/PegW/Fondant.htm

I’m afraid that one of the tricks is “Practice, Practice, and Practice." I personally avoid the hot knife trick.  Once you melt the butter, you don’t get a second chance.  For an old pro, this trick is not a problem. They do a great job on the first attempt. You and I need a few more passes to get the icing where we want it to be. 

I have the best results with the parchment paper technique after the icing has crusted for at least 20 minutes, if the weather is DRY. High humidity makes icing much more difficult and there are definitely Bad Buttercream Days.

OK, I have honest and blunt questions here.  Are you a perfectionist?  It’s very good to want to put out a wonderfully decorated product but are you pushing yourself to a point that decorating is not fun?  Remember that you are working in a medium that will be eaten.  Most of the folks at a gathering will look at a cake, Ooh and Awe a little bit, then they want to know when you will be cutting a cake so they can get a slice or two. 

Here is one trick that I have. When you have a spot on the cake that you’re not satisfied with, put a bit of decorating on it.  That covers the area that you consider a problem up nicely. 
 


Back to:

Peggy's Baking Corner Home Page

Check out some of Peggy Weaver's many Cake Decorating Articles, Tutorials, and Q&A pages below.

Fondant Icing/Covering:

Fondant Icing 101
(Recipe and Tutorial on making & using fondant icing)

Fondant Recipes

Making Fondant Icing

Bubbles in the Fondant

Covering Cakes with Fondant Icing

Decorating Cakes with Fondant Icing

Marbling Fondant Icing
 


Fondant does not freeze well at all, as a matter of fact, downright lousy. Do not even think about refrigerating it either. The condensation that can occur when you defrost or bring to room temp can destroy the finish of the fondant.

Now, if you are going to freeze the cake, as many folks do until the first anniversary, yes go ahead and freeze. The cake will not look as beautiful as it did originally but you just have to keep the idea in mind that it was perfect on the day of the wedding.
 

Buttercream Icing/Covering:

Buttercream Icing 101

(Recipe and Tutorial on making & using buttercream icing)

Buttercream Recipes

Decorating with Buttercream


Wedding Cakes:

Assembling Cakes/Wedding Cakes

Cake Fillings

Covering Wedding Cakes with Fondant

Decorating Wedding Cakes
(Lots of Q&A's on decoration a wedding cake)
 

Other Cake Baking and Decoration Topics:

Recipes & Baking Ingredients

Miscellaneous

Comments From Bakers

Cookies & Cookie Cutters

Peggy's Cake Decorating Idea Photos (The idea page has photos only and no detailed decorating instructions.)


Peggy Weaver
Email Peggy Weaver:

If you have any additional questions or comments that have not been answers in the categories above, Peggy will try to answer them for you.

Email Peggy:  (just click on the underlined): Peggy Weaver.


Please, please first check the sections above before emailing, as Peggy gets many repeat questions.

 

Looking for fondant icing tools and/or equipment and Gum Paste to help you decorate your cakes using MM (Marshmallow) Fondant Icing

  What's Cooking America Fondant Store


 


What's Cooking America© copyright 2004 by Linda Stradley - United States Copyright TX 5-900-517- All rights reserved. - Privacy Policy