I've used the Wilton recipe since I began decorating cakes (11 years ago now, yikes!). A few years ago I decided I wanted to shake it up and try a REAL buttercream to see what the fuss was all about. I have to say that the consistency was beautiful but the taste was as if I had just peeled the wrapper off the butter and started eating it right there from the stick! I adore butter, but not like that.
Now throw into the mix the different styles of buttercream...Italian, French, Swiss...and now I'm overwhelmed. I would like to try one that is a bit sweeter than the one I had but don't want to waste all that butter in search of a good recipe! Not to mention, from what I can see, these are really not the type of icings you can use to decorate much, just borders and such, and I suppose that is the tradeoff for a good buttercream. (This is where I have to learn to make good gumpaste flowers!)
What do ya'll recommend?
I always use the Wilton recipe, but instead of all shortening, I use 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter. I also use heavy cream instead of water. Everyone loves the taste.
I don't know if I'm the best to give you advice since I really dislike the Wilton recipe.
When using butter it's not going to taste right if it's cold. It must be eaten at room temperature. The same holds true for the Italian/Swiss/French. It will taste like butter if it's cold.
However I can tell you that Italian and Swiss are identical, except for Swiss is easier to make. French uses yolks, and if you want something sturdy, this is the least sturdy one, and also has to be kept cold, where the others can be left out, but only for a day or two, depending on the recipe. Some can't be left out at all. The Italian and Swiss are the most sturdy. However it's going to be a lot more difficult to decorate with.
Another I have heard of is the Wilton Extra Special buttercream. It uses heavy cream, and it's supposed to be very good. If you like the Wilton, I'd try that recipe as a first try. My guess will be it is exactly what you want. You can find it on wilton.com
Extra Special Buttercream Icing
This icing is similar to the flavor and has a medium consistency like bakery icing. It is ideal for frosting and borders.
2 cups solid vegetable shortening*
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar (There are 4 cups to a pound)
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. clear vanilla or your favorite flavoring
6-8 oz. whipping cream
Cream shortening until fluffy. Add sugar and continue creaming until well-blended.
Add salt, flavoring and whipping cream; blend on low speed until moistened.
Beat at high speed until icing is fluffy.
Extra-Special Buttercream icing needs to be refrigerated, both after it is made and when it is placed on a cake. It will keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
*You may substitute 1 cup butter or margarine plus 1 cup solid vegetable shortening to achieve a more buttery taste.
Yield: 7 1/2 cups.