My Buttercream Is Always Grainy, What Am I Doing Wrong?

Baking By Hollandy Updated 1 Jul 2010 , 1:28pm by LindaF144a

Hollandy Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:42pm
post #1 of 22

I am using cocobeans key lime buttercream recipe and I seem to be doing something wrong. Here is the recipe

Key Lime Buttercream:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Crisco
2 teaspoons real vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons key lime juice (more if desired for consistensey and flavor)

I am also adding a few drops of food coloring to try to make it orange, which is proving difficult.

I am also using all butter because finding crisco here means a trip to the city and paying an arm and a leg for a tiny container.

Am I just not mixing it long enough? I don't have a heavy duty mixer, just a cheapy handmixer but it seems like I'm mixing forever but the grainy powdered sugar texture never seems to go away.

Also, it says to beat until fluffy and I just never seem to really get "fluffy. This batch seems runny, so I think I need more sugar but the last batch seemed okay with the exact same ingredients. What does "fluffy" consistency mean to you? To me it means light and airy but I just dont'seem to be getting it!

21 replies
tmelrose Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:57pm
post #2 of 22

Are you sifting your PS?

Also try using popcorn salt, much smaller grains.

Hollandy Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:01pm
post #3 of 22

No, I'm not sifitng my powered sugar. The recipe doésn't say to so I never thought about it. Do you always sift dry ingredients for everything cake related.
I doubt I'll be able to find popcorn salt here but I'll keep it in mind next time I'm at an international store.

so you don't think it has to do with how long I'm beating it?

Jayde Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:01pm
post #4 of 22

It really depends on your area, the weather, the humidity, and a bunch of other factors that you have no control over.

I always tell people that BC isnt an exact science. I throw in my Crisco and butter and mix that together really well. Then flavorings, salt, and mix well. I gradually add sifted PS until I get the consistancy that I want, which can mean a lot of different things. I never measure the PS cause sometimes it takes a whole bag, sometimes it takes one and a half, sometimes less depending on the consistancy that I am going for.

I do mix on high speed for usually around 30 minutes though. I like everything to be well incorporated and creamy so that its easy spreadable.

To avoid crystallization, mix your flavorings into your butter/crisco before you mix in PS and SIFT your PS to remove lumps.

Hollandy Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:07pm
post #5 of 22

30 minutes, really?!?!?!? WOW, that makes my 8-10 minutes look like childsplay. I was afraid to over mix but maybe i"m just not mixing enough. Today is a particularly hot and humid day so maybe that's why it's so runny. Thanks for your advice! Thats really good to know!

On another note, I wish I could buy bags of PS here. I can only get them in little cans and to get four cups I have to open 7 to 8 little cans! I look like a freak buying 8 cans of PS at the Dutch grocery store and always get the side eye from people. I need to find a cake supply store ASAP.

LindaF144a Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:10pm
post #6 of 22

With a handmixer you are going to need to mix it longer and at a higher speed than with a KA. I have read somewhere around 10 minutes or longer.

I feel the longer you let this kind of buttercream mix, the less grainy it gets.

And I use 3 sticks of butter to 4 cups of sugar. Your ratio has a twice as much sugar as mine, but only 1/4 more the amount of fat. Try cutting back a wee bit on the amount of sugar, say to just 4 cups of sugar to start and then you can add to taste.

Also I only use 1T of liquid. That is adjustable too, but 6T gives me a runnier frosting that I can't pipe out onto cupcakes. I only use this recipe for cupcakes.

Hope this helps.

Hollandy Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:17pm
post #7 of 22

I thought that seemed like a lot of liquid in comparison to other bc recipes I've seen but as a newbie I stick to recipes! It does taste really fresh and citrus-y, it's just the grainyness that I don't like. I'm going to beat the heck out of it tomorrow and see if that helps!

Doug Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:22pm
post #8 of 22

also, butter is MUCH softer than vegetable shortening....so in warm weather the BC will be MUCH softer.

high humidity means softer BC as well (sugar draws moisture from the air)

and for finer salt -- if have a spice or coffee grinder, put reg. salt in there and give a short whirl -- not too long or you'll have salt dust.

tiggy2 Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:40pm
post #9 of 22

Brand of PS also makes a difference as does 10X vs 6X

ycknits Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 8:07pm
post #10 of 22

I use ONLY cane powdered sugar for my buttercreams. We only have one brand of cane sugar available here, but most grocery stores carry it. When I use Cane PS, my buttercreams are not grainy no matter how much or how little I mix them. Many recipes instruct to mix only until blended.

I tried to use another brand of powdered sugar, however, and got a grainy mess using one of my standard recipes. I made two double batches and threw them both away. Then I threw away the rest of the unused powdered sugar. The buttercream tasted nasty, too. I was really shocked.

So I will continue to use only C&H pure cane sugar - right out of the bag. No sifting and no problems. I make double and triple batches in my KitchenAid Pro mixer and they come out smooth and creamy - everytime.

Megz7617 Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 8:29pm
post #11 of 22

Try mixing all of your liquids together, and then mixing the salt into the liquids until it's disolved. I use regular table salt, do that, and my bc is never grainy. thumbs_up.gif

LindaF144a Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 9:05pm
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ycknits

I use ONLY cane powdered sugar for my buttercreams. We only have one brand of cane sugar available here, but most grocery stores carry it. When I use Cane PS, my buttercreams are not grainy no matter how much or how little I mix them. Many recipes instruct to mix only until blended.

I tried to use another brand of powdered sugar, however, and got a grainy mess using one of my standard recipes. I made two double batches and threw them both away. Then I threw away the rest of the unused powdered sugar. The buttercream tasted nasty, too. I was really shocked.

So I will continue to use only C&H pure cane sugar - right out of the bag. No sifting and no problems. I make double and triple batches in my KitchenAid Pro mixer and they come out smooth and creamy - everytime.




Yes, but our OP is from the Netherlands. I don't think she has the luxury of getting the same sugar you do.

Seeing how she gets a different kind of sugar, I think sifting might be a good idea. But I think the graininess is just indicative of powder sugar period. I can always tell a buttercream made with powdered sugar. Aside from the very sweet taste, it crunches when you bite down. Thus the little bit of graininess. When I make mine, I find the longer I mix it, the less grainy it becomes, to the point of no graininess at all.

ycknits Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 9:14pm
post #13 of 22

My experience is that the European market has far many more sugar choices than we do in the United States - both in sources and grades of fineness. We've become dominated by sugar beet sugar and see only a few grades (powdered, granulated, etc.) I'm very envious of what the Europeans have available to them in their larger stores.

DeeDelightful Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 9:16pm
post #14 of 22

I seem to get grainy buttercream when i use salt, even if i dissolve it in liquid first.

Hollandy Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 7:06am
post #15 of 22

Thanks for all of your input ladies. YAs always you've been a wonderful help!

I can appreciate that the European market ,as a whole, may have more sugar choices, but Holland really does not. Sweets and cakes and things are not seen as important or special (for lack of a better description) and the baking aisles, although improved, aren't quite up to snuff. I'm going to seek out a couple stores here that may have a wider variety but I'm not into paying 4x's the amount of money for a finer grain of sugar that's for sure.

Lindaf144 you said you can tell when bc is made with powdered sugar, which leads me to believe there is an alternate choice? Do you have a recipe that doesn't use it?

mamawrobin Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 7:46am
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollandy

No, I'm not sifitng my powered sugar. The recipe doésn't say to so I never thought about it. Do you always sift dry ingredients for everything cake related.
I doubt I'll be able to find popcorn salt here but I'll keep it in mind next time I'm at an international store.

so you don't think it has to do with how long I'm beating it?




Yes....sifting makes a big difference. I sift all dry ingredients when making any cake or icing Also you can warm your liquid and that will help if you're having problems with a "grainy" texture. Also, you should be letting the mixer run longer. I beat my shortening/butter....15 minutes before adding any other ingredients when making icing and I let the mixer run at least 20 minutes AFTER all of the ingredients have been added plus I let it run while adding all of the ingredients. So...I probably "beat" icing for a total of 30-40 minutes.

Hollandy Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 8:51am
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamawrobin

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollandy

No, I'm not sifitng my powered sugar. The recipe doésn't say to so I never thought about it. Do you always sift dry ingredients for everything cake related.
I doubt I'll be able to find popcorn salt here but I'll keep it in mind next time I'm at an international store.

so you don't think it has to do with how long I'm beating it?



Yes....sifting makes a big difference. I sift all dry ingredients when making any cake or icing Also you can warm your liquid and that will help if you're having problems with a "grainy" texture. Also, you should be letting the mixer run longer. I beat my shortening/butter....15 minutes before adding any other ingredients when making icing and I let the mixer run at least 20 minutes AFTER all of the ingredients have been added plus I let it run while adding all of the ingredients. So...I probably "beat" icing for a total of 30-40 minutes.


WOW! I am definately not mixing enough! I also think I need to invest in a really good mixer if I start baking more frequently and more seriously because this little hand beater doesn't quite have the oomph I'd like it to have. I've been eyeing the kitchen aids for a while now.

great tip on warming the liquids!

LindaF144a Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 11:49am
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollandy

Thanks for all of your input ladies. YAs always you've been a wonderful help!

I can appreciate that the European market ,as a whole, may have more sugar choices, but Holland really does not. Sweets and cakes and things are not seen as important or special (for lack of a better description) and the baking aisles, although improved, aren't quite up to snuff. I'm going to seek out a couple stores here that may have a wider variety but I'm not into paying 4x's the amount of money for a finer grain of sugar that's for sure.

Lindaf144 you said you can tell when bc is made with powdered sugar, which leads me to believe there is an alternate choice? Do you have a recipe that doesn't use it?




Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Italian Meringue buttercream both start with a granulated sugar base. If you check out the recipe section here, you will find both recipes. I would suggest reading about it first before attempting it as both require some precooking on the stove before you whip.

LindaF144a Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 12:19pm
post #19 of 22

I was hoping Mamawrobin would chime in here. I plan on using her mixing techniques the next time I use a shortening based frosting, Indydebs recipe to be precise.

makeminepink Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 12:51pm
post #20 of 22

Just thought I'd throw my 2 cents in! icon_smile.gif I don't mix for a long time, I always use salt, and the only time I had the problem with grainy buttercream was when I used some powdered sugar from the dollar store trying to save. That might be your problem.

Doug Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 1:17pm
post #21 of 22

I got into the habit of long mixing as a result of:

1) the basic technique used to cream butter and sugar when starting a cake batter.

2) watching a "How It's Made" episode that showed how a bakery made it's cakes and the guy making the icing said he let it go at least 30 min (in a 20 qt Hobart of course)

On my KA, I first precream the fats and any liquids until pale and nearly double in volume (just like for a cake) and then add PS with machine OFF. Then mix at 2 for most of the 30 min with a short 1-2 min blast at full tilt about 20 min in and then back to 2 to finish.

Sometimes I sift, most times I don't.

Makes it both smooth and very light and "fluffy"

LindaF144a Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 1:28pm
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug



2) watching a "How It's Made" episode that showed how a bakery made it's cakes and the guy making the icing said he let it go at least 30 min (in a 20 qt Hobart of course)




I love that show! But I missed this one. icon_sad.gif I'll have to start trolling the show again for reruns. Thanks for the heads up.

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