What The Heck Happened To My Buttercream?

Baking By dsilbern Updated 25 Dec 2009 , 10:31pm by dsilbern

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dsilbern Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 12:59pm
post #1 of 11

I threw together a batch of buttercream yesterday to pipe some holly. Made green, white and red. White seemed fine but the white and red started looking realllly weird while I was decorating. The color seemed to be separating from the icing. I could see white specks in the pastry bag. And the icing became mushy. icon_surprised.gif Especially the green. I wanted to display the cakes at the event but ended up plating the slices in the kitchen because I didn't want to put them out.

Recipe was 1 cup shortening (Wegmans store brand), 1 lb confectioners sugar, 1 tsp clear vanilla and enough water to make the consistency I needed. I didn't add meringue powder but I've made recipes before that didn't call for it so I didn't think twice. Creamed the liquid and shortening together then added the sugar and mixed.

Does anyone know why this happened?

10 replies
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2SchnauzerLady Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 1:10pm
post #2 of 11

What type of coloring did you use? Also, did you add salt to the BC? If the salt isn't totally dissolved, it will come out as white specks.

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leah_s Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 1:19pm
post #3 of 11

Check the label on the shortening. Sounds like the result of Zero Trans Fat. That crap may be "better for you" (like one slice of cake with icing makes any difference at lin the big picture) but it's impossible to use for icing.

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indydebi Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 1:57pm
post #4 of 11

It's a lot more fat than what I use in my recipe. I use less than 2 cups of fat per 2lbs of sugar. Or it could be that it was a store brand shortening. Hate to sound like a commercial but years ago, "I used a cheaper shortening and I'll never do that again." Crisco only for me.

I dont' know that the zero-trans-fat has anything to do with it. I never even noticed the ZTF recipe change and only found out about it when people mentioned it on CC.

How long do you beat the shortening? I beat mine until it's absolutely pulverized .... no little particles of fat anywhere.

And it could be the brand of color that you use.

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Chippi Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 2:30pm
post #5 of 11

I remember when I first started decorating cakes I would make buttercream and use plain ole Crisco. I would get the same thing, icing seperating w/ white specks. Once I joined CC and after talking with the great decorators on here I started using shortening w/ trans fat and wallaaaa no more separation of icing. icon_smile.gif hth's

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Cakerer Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 7:32pm
post #6 of 11

This seems to happen to me when I use water in my BC. I use the buttercream dream recipe and only use milk or creamer. Not really sure why water makes a difference with me but it does. I did this the other day for a FBCT (used water...duhuh?) and I used americolor green and blue and both of them separated and became mushy. It wasn't a problem because of why I was using it but I could definitely see it causing an issue with an entire cake. Oh, I also used wilton orange color gel and the same thing happened so for my recipe, I think the water was the culprit.

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TexasSugar Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 9:00pm
post #7 of 11

This happens to me when I make dark colors, no matter what brand of coloring I use. I think that the amount of coloring thins the icing down and it starts to seperate. It happens when you get white to thin, though you don't see it as much as you do with the colors.

Any time I am making darker colors I throw in some cornstarch. It absorbs the extra liquid in the icing and my colors don't seperate. I think it also has something to do with with the heat of your hands, because I never see it until it was bagged and I started to use it.

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tiggy2 Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 9:14pm
post #8 of 11

If you use chefmaster colors you use very little and it doesn't change the consistency. You also don't have to wait for the colors to intensify...........especially red and black.

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indydebi Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 9:53pm
post #9 of 11
Originally Posted by Cakerer

This seems to happen to me when I use water in my BC.

You know, I'd go with this explanation.

I've NEVER had this issue and I've ALWAYS used milk in my icing. Based on the numerous other threads on this topic, there is a great majority of opinion that milk is the big stablizer in this area.

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kakeladi Posted 22 Dec 2009 , 10:51pm
post #10 of 11

Yes, using milk will help.
It sounds to me like you added too much liquid.
As others mentioned, dark colors (using more than a toothpick full of paste/gel coloring to a cup of icing) will cause the separating you mention.
Sometimes you can mix it (slowly!) longer and it will come together again.

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dsilbern Posted 25 Dec 2009 , 10:31pm
post #11 of 11

I seem to have done everything that could have caused this. Used alot of color in the green and red, thinned with water, added salt (oh yeah - and it was Kosher salt because I was moving fast and thinking slow). Measured on the fly instead of accurately...

I've done all these things before without a problem (except the kosher salt - duh! icon_redface.gif ), but never all at once. Guess it was a perfect storm.

Live and learn. Of course this holly thing I wanted to be perfecto was a bust but the cupcakes I threw together yesterday out of leftover buttercream, a doctored box cake mix and the last of the frozen FBC from the Great Experient turned out crazy good.

This hobby of mine is humbling and downright strange sometimes. icon_lol.gif

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