Decorator's Buttercream

When piping borders and flowers, icing consistency it crucial to a successful outcome. Meringue buttercreams, while delicious, lack the stiffness for well defined petals and layered border techniques. A decorator’s buttercream should take color well, hold up as best as possible to the heat from your hand, be stiff enough to hold it’s shape, but smooth enough that petal edges don’t appear jagged. Sounds like a tall order.

The Icing Diva, Lucinda Larson, shared her decorator’s buttercream with us in Volume 1 Issue 7 of Cake Central Magazine, where she used this amazing buttercream to pipe gorgeous buttercream orchids.

Lucinda Larson’s (The Icing Diva) Decorator’s Buttercream
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup canned evaporated milk, full fat
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
Dash salt
2 cups vegetable shortening

Beat sugar, milk, salt and vanilla into a smooth paste.
Add shortening and beat until smooth and well combined.

Prepare this buttercream a day in advance for best results. Using an icing spatula, beat slowly by hand to remove air bubbles before each use.

Comments (21)


I have personally made it with Crisco with no issues. I would be curious for someone to do a side by side comparison and let us know. I don't have any high ratio shortening around to try myself.


Traditionally, buttercream icing was made with butter and cream (plus sugar, of course). But at some point in history, it was found that the addition of "fat", i.e. vegetable shortening (or lard years ago) resulted in more stability of the icing, especially in warmer temperatures. Also, the use of all white vegetable shortening results in a whiter "white" icing, like that used on wedding cakes. High ratio shortening is an "emulsified" shortening that can absorb more sugar and greater disburse the liquid resulting in a lighter, smoother icing texture. Generally, when you see the name "buttercream", it is now assumed to contain butter, white shortening or both. All these result in a "crusting" icing. Hope this helps!


Instead of using the clear vanilla extract, you can sub it with butter extract. Do it all the time and it works just fine.


Hey all....  this is almost exactly the recipe I use.   Cyeley, yes it needs to be refrigerated because of the evap.

Also, if you whip the shortening before you add anything else to it, whip it until it looks like whipped cream, it will absorb the sugar better and it ensures that there's no greasy mouth feel.  

Also, Crisco doesn't work like it used to since they changed the recipe.  It's more expensive, but you should invest in hi-ratio shortening for your buttercreams. 

It will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, Blue_eyed_baker.  You'll know it's no longer good if you open it and it has a perfume-ish odor.  It takes a good 5-6 weeks to mold, but the smell will be the first indicator.

No it doesn't taste like canned milk, Crumbcake. It actually tastes better than buttercream that has butter in it.


So I Just made a batch of this...I did as you suggested, BakeMiaCake, and whipped the hi-ratio shortening I used. However, once I combined the paste and the shortening, it got lumpy....

Anyone have any suggestions? I am positive that I measured correctly, as I pre-measured...I don't know if it needs more liquid? A different attachment on my kitchenaid? less powdered sugar...? 

Also, as a note, I JUST finished it...I know it says to use it the following day. But it just doesn't seem like it would make a big enough difference...


I don't like non natural things so I wouldn't make this recipe, however, it is seems logical that one needs to beat the sugar with the shortening and then add the liquids. Then it won't be lumpy, ADDBaker. Personally I hate the feel of Crisco which clings on the lips. 


So I am always looking out for new and improved recipes so I tried this recipe because it piqued my interest because of the canned milk.  Even though I knew what canned milk has a very distinct flavor, I at least wanted to give this recipe a try.  I followed every step and while it came out beautiful and smooth, the taste is lacking and had a "funny" after taste to it.  I tried adding vanilla, almond extract, butter flavoring and nothing could hide that taste.  For that reason, I will not be making this recipe again.  


I'm English and live in the USA.  Personally I can't stand 'butter'cream made with shortening and people who eat my cakes will no longer eat Crisco or shortening made buttercream - it leaves a nasty film and after taste on the inside of your mouth and I see the only benefit is you can get a REALLY white icing with it.  I have shared my 'traditional' English buttercream recipe (which only has 4 ingredients and nothing fake in it) with loads of my American friends!!

Sweetheart1978, I wouldn't bother trying because it tastes gross but yes, Trex is the same as Crisco over here (or Flora veg shortening if that still exists - I've been over here for 11 years so not been to Tesco recently!)

But in my humble opinion, the only thing that is good for is a lard replacement (which is essentially what veg shortening is) in pastry - ask yourself, would you make buttercream with lard?  Yeah, me either!!