Buttercream is the perfect coating for many cakes and other baked goods – but your buttercream won’t set? A tricky situation. After all, the mass of whipped butter should keep the pastry in shape. A cream with a very liquid consistency brings many a baker to the brink of despair.
In this article you will find out what is important in the production and how you can serve first-class buttercream.
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Why doesn’t buttercream set?
If buttercream doesn’t set, it’s either too warm, has too much liquid, or wasn’t whipped long enough. Buttercream thus becomes firm through the addition of fat, cold and with the right technique.
Why exactly? Let’s get into the details.
The fact is, making buttercream with the optimal consistency can be a challenge. One reason for a less-than-great result can be that there is not enough butter in the cream. If you mix the fat with a lot of pudding and milk or cream, you prevent it from becoming stiff.
Often the cause is a lack of patience. The butter must be soft before you mix it with other ingredients. This is the only way to ensure that all the ingredients can mix well and that the fat in the butter runs through the entire mass.
Before you stir in the pudding, the butter needs to be properly whipped. Then the ingredients can combine and the cream will not look curdled. The pudding should also no longer be hot when you add the butter.
Tip: You make a buttercream without pudding? Do not worry. At the end of the article you will learn how to set the most common types of buttercream. But the basic techniques always remain the same!
If you are making buttercream, you should refrigerate it at the end of the manufacturing process. Low temperatures harden the fats in the mass and ensure rigidity. The refrigerator is the ideal helper to get the cream firm.
So now you know exactly why buttercream doesn’t set – but how do you set it properly? Let’s start with the right timing.
When does buttercream set?
Buttercream will set when the ingredients have combined and the mass has cooled. A cooler speeds up the process.
If there is a lot of liquid in the cream due to milk, cream or water, stirring and cooling it properly will not help. Or?
Does buttercream still set in the fridge?
Buttercream can still set in the fridge if there is a high proportion of butter in the mass and you have mixed everything well. At the prevailing temperatures in the apparatus, the fats harden and ensure the ideal consistency of the cream.
Now you already know one of the most important tricks, the temperature. But that wasn’t all…
Buttercream won’t set: How to save buttercream
If your buttercream just won’t set, you can save it by adding more butter. Allow the fat to soften and stir it properly into the mixture. Once all the ingredients have been mixed, the cream goes into the fridge.
Coconut fat also helps to get a firmer consistency in the buttercream already made. Let about 100 grams of it melt, stir into the mass and put it in the fridge.
But make sure to use refined coconut fat here if you don’t want a coconut note in the cream. Because virgin coconut oil still contains (valuable) residues from the coconut, which also bring a delicious taste.
Gelatin and agar agar also provide rigidity. Prepare them according to the instructions and stir them into the cream. It is important that all ingredients combine optimally with each other, otherwise you will have lumps in the buttercream later.
Tip: If other icings cause you problems, you can find out here how every cake icing is guaranteed to set.
Does cream stiffener make buttercream hard?
Cream stiffener is a white powder that consists of modified starch, dextrose and a release agent and supports you in your attempt to get the buttercream firmer.
Cream stiffener acts like a binder that promotes the chemical process of setting. It combines fat and water molecules into a stable mass and thus ensures the right consistency of your cream.
To get the buttercream firm with cream stiffener, mix the powder with a pack of fatty cream and then stir the mass into your cream. Stored in the fridge, the ingredient for cakes and the like should set quickly.
Tip: Cream stabilizer is not necessarily vegan. San apart yes. You can find out all about it here.
So much for the simple case. Now comes the worst case of buttercream preparation.
Can you save too soft buttercream on the cake?
If the buttercream is already on the cake, a rescue operation is hardly possible. If the mass can still be removed without major effects on the appearance of the pastry, you can treat the cream with butter, coconut oil or gelatine / agar agar and smear it on again.
If the buttercream melts because of the room temperature, simply put the cake in the fridge.
Now let’s take a look at the 11 most common types of buttercream. Because not all buttercream ticks the same way.
Here’s how to save the 11 most popular types of buttercream
How does vegan buttercream set?
You can give vegan buttercream a firm consistency with coconut oil. The cooking fat with a slightly aromatic taste is ideal as a plant-based butter substitute and makes the mass stiffer. The abundant unsaturated fatty acids in the ingredient also have a positive effect on your health.
Margarine can also help with vegan buttercream. It ensures that your cream is firm but spreadable, without any animal ingredients.
How does custard buttercream set?
Pudding buttercream will set if you use a lot of butter in the mass. Let the pudding cool down a bit before preparing it and beat the butter vigorously before stirring it in so that all the components can combine.
Tip: You can also use pudding that has exceeded the MHD. Expired pudding will keep forever. You can find out about the only exceptions here.
How does French buttercream set?
French buttercream is made with egg yolks, sugar, and water. So that the liquid does not affect the firmness of your cream, make a syrup from the sugar and water and then mix it with the buttercream. More butter in the mass ensures a better consistency.
How is Italian buttercream set?
Italian buttercream consists of meringue and butter. So that the whole thing gets nice and firm, you should let the meringue cool down before you add the butter. If the cream flakes in the fridge, you can get it smooth again with a water bath and constant stirring.
Don’t hold back on the sugar, because this ensures a stable condition of the meringue and the finished cream. A recipe with six eggs and 500 grams of butter must not fall below a value of less than 80 grams.
How does German buttercream set?
Due to the higher liquid content, German buttercream is often not firm enough for use on the cake. For the perfect preparation, you should cream the butter with a food processor until it has a creamy consistency. Then you gradually add the pudding and stir the mass with the mixer.
If the result is not satisfactory, more butter or coconut oil will help. It is important to stir constantly so that no lumps form and the liquid does not settle in the mass.
Tip: Buttercream needs a lot of butter. You can buy them in advance and then freeze them. You can find out how to freeze butter here.
How does American buttercream set?
American buttercream thickens with a lot of sugar. The proportion of the sweet ingredient is higher than the proportion of butter, which gives the mass optimal rigidity. Only use a little milk or cream, otherwise the cream will be too runny.
How does cream cheese buttercream set?
You get cream cheese buttercream by processing a lot of cream cheese and butter in the mass. If you also use low-fat milk here, the cream will only work to a limited extent.
Tip: Cream cheese separates a little when it freezes. But you can reconnect it by opening it. This allows you to freeze cream cheese as soon as it is near the end of its best-before date and later process it into buttercream.
How does milkmaid buttercream set?
Milkmaid buttercream sets nicely in the fridge and keeps the cake in shape. The sweetened condensed milk and butter should end up in equal parts in the cream so as not to have problems with the consistency.
How does strawberry buttercream set?
In order for the strawberry buttercream to have optimal stiffness, it makes sense to use dried strawberries. These contain no liquid, which means that the mass retains its stability. Crushed to a powder, stir the fruit into the cream.
If you use fresh strawberries, you should add more butter to the cream. With frozen fruit you take a little more of the fat, as there is also a risk of more liquid.
How does buttercream set with Swiss Meringue?
Buttercream with Swiss Meringue becomes very firm if you use a lot of butter. If you want to add other ingredients like fruit puree, you should make a heavy cream as a base.
How does buttercream set in the Thermomix?
Buttercream from the Thermomix is not necessarily suitable for fondant. In order for the mass to set, you should cool the pudding and then let the room-temperature butter run into the pot. Pudding and butter must be at the same temperature to avoid curdling.
Conclusion: save soft buttercream
Soft buttercream can be salvaged in many ways if it’s not already on the cake. With the addition of butter and sugar, the mass becomes more stable. Alternatively, cream stiffeners, gelatine, coconut oil and margarine can also be used for a better consistency. Always make sure that all the ingredients are well connected to each other so that no lumps form and the liquid in the cream is bound.