Buttercream Is My Nemesis! Please Help!

Decorating By cloetzu Updated 27 Oct 2009 , 3:13am by Mike_Elder

cloetzu Posted 24 Oct 2009 , 11:42pm
post #1 of 33

Hello,

I got into cake decorating about a year and a half ago when I wanted to make my daughter's birthday cake. I turned out wonderful but was very difficult to make (specifically frost/ice). Since then I've made several cakes and always lean towards adding fondant details (figures of people or animals etc) but since I don't like the taste as much i still want to frost the cake with buttercream. Every time I do it is a real problem and pain. Even when I start with a crumb coat things go bad... basically what happens is that the frosting lifts pieces of the cake.... or if it doesn't do that then it lifts any previous layers of icing - ie if i have to go over a piece to smooth it out .... no matter what it makes a big mess. I make sure the cake is fully cooled and have tried varios thinness or thickness of icing but it is still a big problem. I get so frustrated I almost give up and in the end the results look far far worse then I want. I can only add so many fondant figures to distract from the icing issues icon_wink.gif

Please help! What am I doing wrong? What can i do to avoid this problem?

Should I refridgerate the cake before the crumb coat? won't that dry it out a bit? Should I thin out the crumb coat frosting more - how soft should it be? Do i refridgerate the cake after the crumb coat but before the final coat? I want to keep the cake light and fluffy and moist.... if I ever get past this issue what is the best way to smooth out the top coat? I've tried the paper towel method and it is fine with white frosting but I find the pattern on the paper shows to much on any other color - it doesn't really have a pattern just little dimples but it is enough to really distract from the look.

32 replies
Sweet_Guys Posted 24 Oct 2009 , 11:53pm
post #2 of 33

Is the cake recipe too, too moist?

Paul

cloetzu Posted 24 Oct 2009 , 11:57pm
post #3 of 33

Hi Paul,

Maybe ... I don't know what to compare it to... it is very moist.... and I have to admit that it is usually a betty crocker devil's food cake mix that I use.... i use it because I love how consistently moist it turns out and everyone that has ever eaten my cakes loves them. I usually use a whipped ganache filling.

If you think that may be it, can you suggest a chocolate cake recipe that may work better for decorating but still tastes great?

THANKS FOR RESPONDING!

cloetzu Posted 24 Oct 2009 , 11:58pm
post #4 of 33

How can I figure out if the frosting is too thick or thin? I.e. how can i judge what the correct consistency is?

SugarFrosted Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 12:07am
post #5 of 33

My preference is buttercream only. There are lots of us here on CC. It sounds like maybe your buttercream is too thick a layer. Have you ever tried the Icer Tip #789? It's a giant tip, almost 2" wide x 1/4" thick, that allows you to apply stripes of frosting on the cake, and then you smooth the lines. I never crumbcoat, ever, because the icer tip does such a fine job of getting the frosting onto the cake. It takes practice just like anything else. After the icing is spatula smooth, Viva paper towel is used to smooth it more. I ONLY use white Viva, no other brand, and never a patterned one.

No, I take that back, I use a regular textured paper towel on my football or basketball cakes to get the bumpy texture those balls have.

Good Luck! thumbs_up.gif

cakeandpartygirl Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 12:10am
post #6 of 33

It's might help if you tell us what recipe that your are using. It is hard to tell you what consistency is best using text but I will do my best. Peanut butter consistency is too thick but I think that whipped cream is a little too thin. Also it may help if you don't try to frost the cake the day that it is baked cause it makes way to many crumbs. Perhaps you could try to crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting and let it set up and then go back and ice the cake as usual. I am not sure what utensils that you use to frost the cake but if you use the big icer tip that helps.

As far as the best methods for smoothing the cake there are different methods such as the paper towel which you have already used, some people use a wax paper and others use the hot spatula. I believe there is another method called melvira's in which she uses a rolling sponge paint brush. I would do a search for that one. Also sugarshack has another system and she has some videos out, one of which is called perfecting the art of buttercream.

SugarFrosted Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 12:45am
post #7 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakeandpartygirl

It's might help if you tell us what recipe that your are using. It is hard to tell you what consistency is best using text but I will do my best. Peanut butter consistency is too thick but I think that whipped cream is a little too thin. Also it may help if you don't try to frost the cake the day that it is baked cause it makes way to many crumbs. Perhaps you could try to crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting and let it set up and then go back and ice the cake as usual. I am not sure what utensils that you use to frost the cake but if you use the big icer tip that helps.

As far as the best methods for smoothing the cake there are different methods such as the paper towel which you have already used, some people use a wax paper and others use the hot spatula. I believe there is another method called melvira's in which she uses a rolling sponge paint brush. I would do a search for that one. Also sugarshack has another system and she has some videos out, one of which is called perfecting the art of buttercream.




Very good point. Cakes need some time to rest. I never ice my cakes before 12 hours after baking, and it's usually more like 18-24 hours. The cake comes out of the oven, cools on a rack for 10 mins, gets leveled while still in the pan, then is flipped out onto a paper towel covered rack. I cover the hot cake with a sheet of plastic wrap. There is controversy about this, but I do not completely cover the cake, only top and sides. Anyway, after the plastic wrap, I set the pan back over the cake, and allow it to cool completely while sitting on the counter, usually a couple of hours. After it's cool, I put it, still sitting on its rack, into a covered plastic storage box till time to ice.

Good Luck! thumbs_up.gif

cloetzu Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:05am
post #8 of 33

Thanks for the info! A few answers ... yes I have that large icing tip but have never used it - forgot all about it actually - will have to try it on the next cake!!!

I use a basic buttercream recipe: 1/2 cup salted butter, 1/2 cup crisco, 1 tbs vanilla, 2 tbs milk and 4 cups icing sugar that has been sifted.

I usually bake my cake and then ice it later that day. If I can't get to it that day I will leave it out on the counter under a cotton towel or two or three.... afraid it will dry out icon_smile.gif or I may freeze it and then take it out the morning i need it to thaw for that day.

I guess I'm just afraid of the cake drying out..... maybe a different recipe would be better....

I use an angled and a straight spatula (metal) to crumb coat and then ice the cake and so far I have been putting the cake in the fridge to set after the crumb coat. The problem has been that first crumb coat .... and the only reason I started trying to use a crumb coat was because I was having this problem to begin with. So I really didn't gain anything but trying the crumb coat.

From the sounds of it I think the cake is the issue rather then the icing - the cake is really moist ... maybe leaving it a day and then icing using the larger tip will help, and I'll go out and see if I can find some VIVA - I know of it but haven't seen it at the store (here in Canada). I usually get Cosco's Kirkland brand - love how great it is around the house and the back is plain - just lots of dimples but plainer would be better.

I've seen mention to Sugarshack but can't find the site to see what she sells as far as DVDs go??

THANKS for all the info and suggestions!!!!

indydebi Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:06am
post #9 of 33

If the icing is pulling some of the cake away, my guess is it's too thick. I like to freeze cakes at least a few hours, let them thaw a few minutes (15 to 60 minutes), then crumb coat. let the cake sit overnight, then ice.

A couple of weeks ago, my schedule was messed up and I removed the cakes from the freezer the night before and came in the next morning and did the crumb coat and the icing all in the same day. They were the WORST looking cakes I'd done in a long time! (As a matter of fact, a fellow CC'er cracked me up by linking one of my pics as an example of a crappy looking cake! icon_lol.gif And she was SO right! icon_lol.gif )

So here's what happens when I try to skip a step ..... one ugly-a$$ cake! icon_eek.gif http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1492272

cloetzu Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:23am
post #10 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

If the icing is pulling some of the cake away, my guess is it's too thick. I like to freeze cakes at least a few hours, let them thaw a few minutes (15 to 60 minutes), then crumb coat. let the cake sit overnight, then ice.

A couple of weeks ago, my schedule was messed up and I removed the cakes from the freezer the night before and came in the next morning and did the crumb coat and the icing all in the same day. They were the WORST looking cakes I'd done in a long time! (As a matter of fact, a fellow CC'er cracked me up by linking one of my pics as an example of a crappy looking cake! icon_lol.gif And she was SO right! icon_lol.gif )

So here's what happens when I try to skip a step ..... one ugly-a$$ cake! icon_eek.gif http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1492272




thanks for adding the link! I don't feel as bad anymore icon_wink.gif Don't get me wrong, yours is still better then the results I'm getting (and thus the desire the hide the cake under fondant) but I'm glad I saw someone else's 'not perfect cake'.

I'm guessing that freezing the cakes for a bit helps them set up faster then letting them sit overnight or other methods? Even with I freeze my cakes I let them fully thaw before frosting - maybe I need to frost while they are still somewhat frozen and thus hold up better - and I'll work with the consistency of the frosting - make it a bit thinner.

To your piont I think I am rushing things.... I'll have to slow things down and try out all the good ideas I got tonight!

I have a cake I'm working on for tomorrow and have already sculpted it and dont' have time to rebake and resculpt in time - have done a horrible job of icing it and have put it in the fridge to set... may or may not add another coat of icing or may just go to fondant at this point since I don't have time to start over.

THANKS again everyone!!!

Jeff_Arnett Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:28am
post #11 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by cloetzu

How can I figure out if the frosting is too thick or thin? I.e. how can i judge what the correct consistency is?


Frosting for icing the cake should be the consistency of whipped cream....if it is too stiff it will pull up crumbs just as you've described.

Do you apply a thin crumb coat of icing before the final icing? I always crumb my cake then into the cooler....often over night before I ice them.....never have any crumb issues.

cloetzu Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:30am
post #12 of 33

Now I need to ask this - is it okay to cover a cake in buttercream icing and then leave it out on the counter over night? How long can a cake covered in buttercream be unrefridgerated? (Betty Crocker Devils Food cake made as per box) and basic buttercream (1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco).

Can I make it up to 2 days ahead and leave out? and then refridgerate any leftovers?

Jeff_Arnett Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:33am
post #13 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by cloetzu

Now I need to ask this - is it okay to cover a cake in buttercream icing and then leave it out on the counter over night? How long can a cake covered in buttercream be unrefridgerated? (Betty Crocker Devils Food cake made as per box) and basic buttercream (1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco).

Can I make it up to 2 days ahead and leave out? and then refridgerate any leftovers?


Powdered sugar based icings can sit out a couple days without a problem.

cloetzu Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:35am
post #14 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_Arnett

Quote:
Originally Posted by cloetzu

How can I figure out if the frosting is too thick or thin? I.e. how can i judge what the correct consistency is?

Frosting for icing the cake should be the consistency of whipped cream....if it is too stiff it will pull up crumbs just as you've described.

Do you apply a thin crumb coat of icing before the final icing? I always crumb my cake then into the cooler....often over night before I ice them.....never have any crumb issues.




I can say that mine is no where near as thin as whipped cream! Maybe that is part of the problem too... I tried thinning out (and thus rebeating) a batch I had made yesturday and then refrigerated and it did get thinner but then when I spread it it was full of bubbles so it looked horrible - like lots of moon crators!

When making a batch of BC how long do you beat it once you've added all the ingredients? Just until smooth or for a long time? 5, 10, 20+ min?

Okay so my original question is now getting scope creep but still on topic icon_wink.gif thanks everyone!!!

cloetzu Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 1:52am
post #15 of 33

I really need to head off to bed now but I know that if I don't ask one more thing I'll be up all night thinking about it and wish I had posted in the hopes there will be an answer in the morning icon_wink.gif

If I make the buttercream ahead of time and then refridgerate or freeze it, what do I need to do to it once I take it out of the fridge or thaw it out? ie leave on counter to bring to room temperature, rebeat it and if so for how long etc???

Thanks and good night!

Jeff_Arnett Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 2:08am
post #16 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by cloetzu

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_Arnett

Quote:
Originally Posted by cloetzu

How can I figure out if the frosting is too thick or thin? I.e. how can i judge what the correct consistency is?

Frosting for icing the cake should be the consistency of whipped cream....if it is too stiff it will pull up crumbs just as you've described.

Do you apply a thin crumb coat of icing before the final icing? I always crumb my cake then into the cooler....often over night before I ice them.....never have any crumb issues.



I can say that mine is no where near as thin as whipped cream! Maybe that is part of the problem too... I tried thinning out (and thus rebeating) a batch I had made yesturday and then refrigerated and it did get thinner but then when I spread it it was full of bubbles so it looked horrible - like lots of moon crators!

When making a batch of BC how long do you beat it once you've added all the ingredients? Just until smooth or for a long time? 5, 10, 20+ min?

Okay so my original question is now getting scope creep but still on topic icon_wink.gif thanks everyone!!!




Here's how I do it....

My recipe is 1 cup butter, 1 cup vegetable shortening, 1/4 cup hot whipping cream [heat in the microwave], 2 pounds powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

I mix the butter [room temp] and shortening thoroughly. I add all the powdered sugar at once along with 1/4 cup hot whipping cream.

Mix on low, scraping bowl often, until combined.

If too stiff, I add more hot whipping cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency.

I let the icing set several hour to overnight.....it will thicken somewhat again as it sits.

When ready to use, I measure what I need into a mixing bowl, heat up a couple tablespoons whipping cream just in case I need it, and I remix the icing on LOW SPEED using a stand mixer with TWO BEATERS...the kind your grandma and mom used. This will make your icing as smooth as silk....add a bit of cream if needed!

Check out my icing's smoothness.....go to www.webshots.com and search for jsarnett and this will take you to my albums.

smashcakes Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 2:22am
post #17 of 33

i like to use all bc. most people in these parts prefer it and it keeps the cost of the cake down. i think you need to add about twice as much liquid as you are currently using to even begin making it thin enough. you shouldn't have to push down on the icing hardly to spread it, you should be able to glide over it. do you use the viva paper towel method to smooth it? i usually crumb coat, let that sit 10 minutes or so, put on a layer, let it sit in fridge a while, smooth with paper towel, and repeat putting in fridge and smoothing procedure as i feel necessary. if you whip too many air bubbles, mix it with a spatula by hand and that will help get rid of some. i cream my butter, shortening for a good 5 minutes, but add the powdered sugar and mix for maybe 5 minutes.

sugarshack Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 2:36am
post #18 of 33

I get the best results with a stiff icing to ice my cakes, but I use an all shortening or half short/half butter recipe. I do not crumbcoat but if you are pulling up cake then:

1) you need to thin the CC icing out some and/or
2) you need to put a thicker layer of icing on and only stroke in one direction with the spatula. when you come back the other way is when the crumbs are pulled up, usually.

Put more on that you need, then take extra off. That is a good rule to avoid crumbs.

denetteb Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 3:09am
post #19 of 33

If I have my frosting in the refridgerator, I take it out and leave it on the counter and let it warm up to room temperature before using. Maybe a couple hours? Then I just give it a stir by hand, I haven't bothered using a mixer but I think some use a mixer. If you try to use fridge-cold frosting it will be too stiff to use.

cathyscakes Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 3:24am
post #20 of 33

Wow Jeff, your cakes are flawless, the buttercream is perfect, i'm definitely going to try your recipe, beautiful cakes and your roses, amazing.

Jeff_Arnett Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 3:46am
post #21 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by cathyscakes

Wow Jeff, your cakes are flawless, the buttercream is perfect, i'm definitely going to try your recipe, beautiful cakes and your roses, amazing.


Thanks for the compliments. This icing will not bulge where the cakes meet either! I do 4 layers per tier and never have a bulge problem.....I did with the old recipe I had that contained water.

zdebssweetsj Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 8:42am
post #22 of 33

You should be able to pull up Sugarshack from here, Sharon's DVD will get you straightened out in no time, they are totally worth the money.

cloetzu Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 3:34pm
post #23 of 33

Jeff your cakes are nice and smooth! Something for me to aspire to icon_smile.gif thanks for sharing your recipe - I will definately try it! But how do I measure out 2lbs of icing sugar? How many cups is that?

Also thanks to EVERYONE who offered advice! I have a lot to work on and you guys are all great for sharing and helping!!!!

cathyscakes Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 6:50pm
post #24 of 33

Just buy the 2 lb bag, no measuring that way

Sweet_Guys Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 7:14pm
post #25 of 33

Cloe---

Just saw your question....Been away for a bit...

The chocolate cake we use is the recipe on the back of the Hershey's cocoa can. Moist yet firm. Like the others, we do a version of chilling. I bake one night, let the cake sit in the pan for 15 minutes, turn to rack to cool for about 2 hours, and then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the next evening.

Paul

TitiaM Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 7:17pm
post #26 of 33

2lbs=about 8 cups pwd. sugar

Jeff_Arnett Posted 25 Oct 2009 , 8:03pm
post #27 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sweet_Guys

Cloe---

Just saw your question....Been away for a bit...

The chocolate cake we use is the recipe on the back of the Hershey's cocoa can. Moist yet firm. Like the others, we do a version of chilling. I bake one night, let the cake sit in the pan for 15 minutes, turn to rack to cool for about 2 hours, and then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the next evening.

Paul


I sorta do a similar method. I bring the cakes out of the oven and cool the small ones [10 inch and less] 5 minutes, the larger 10 minutes, cover with a paper towel, then a cardboard and invert the whole thing. I don't remove the pan for about 10 minutes, then when I do I go ahead and wrap it completely in plastic. Letting it sit upside down sort of compacts the cake and gives me the texture I like....somewhere between a pound cake and boxed mix....not to heavy and not to light! When cooled completely I level the top and slice the cake into two layer and wrap each individually.

I place them in the freezer long enough to firm up so they handle easily when filling and assembling the tier. I then crumb coat and into the cooler...if it's for a tiered cake it's generally overnight, for others at least 2-3 hours. I then ice and back into the cooler a bit, then do any piping, back into the cooler until assembly time. Once assembled....you guessed it...back into the cooler until delivery time.

Seems a lot of work but not really....I am very methodical and pretty much have an assembly line mentality.

prterrell Posted 26 Oct 2009 , 1:40am
post #28 of 33

You might prefer one of the meringue based buttercreams. IMHO they are easier to work with, no need to adjust the thinness/thickness, they come out perfect for every application from the get-go.

I'd describe the perfect frosting texture as about the same as sour cream, if that helps.

Also, don't refrigerate your frosting, it needs to be at room temp.

cloetzu Posted 26 Oct 2009 , 11:48am
post #29 of 33

thanks again eveyone!

I made another batch yesturday using Jeff's recipe - had to rush it but finished just in time - it was better but I think it was still too thick - I think I needed to add more whipping cream.

can you point me to a meringue based buttercream recipe? wouldn't hurt to try that next time too.

cloetzu Posted 26 Oct 2009 , 12:50pm
post #30 of 33

Is there a good meringue buttercream that uses meringue powder instead of fresh eggs - I'm always afraid of fresh eggs in a frosting - never sure they are cooked enough and thus safe. Would a meringue buttercream need to be refridgerated?

I've looked in the recipes here on CC but haven't found one yet using meringue poweder - maybe there isn't one...

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