What is the difference between regular frosting (the kind you pick up at the store) and buttercream? So glad you asked. Buttercream is a thicker and richer frosting that holds up to decorating far better. It slightly crusts over which is great for piping and especially good for fondant. Regular frosting wouldn't "harden" as well and would therefore slide around underneath the weight of the fondant.
I have been asked many times for buttercream recipes, so here are 3 recipes that work well. Pick and choose, find what you like, play around with flavorings… have fun with it.
Traditional Buttercream Recipe
(From www.whatscookingamerica.net, I have been using this recipe ever since I began cake decorating.)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
2 cups Crisco shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter flavoring (Wilton’s makes the best flavored version)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Wilton’s Clear Vanilla)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 pounds powdered (confectioners') cane sugar, divided*
1 tablespoon meringue powder (optional but the texture will be smoother)**
Water or milk as necessary (I usually add about 2 tablespoons but you may need more or less depending on the humidity in your neighborhood)
* 2 pounds unsifted powdered sugar = about 8 to 9 cups.
** You can purchase meringue powder at your local grocery store or craft store.
In the electric mixer, combine butter, Crisco shortening, and salt together to incorporate, about 5 minutes on low.
Add butter, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Mix together well. Add about 1 pound (4 to 4 1/2 cups) powdered sugar and the meringue powder; mix until incorporated.
Add the remaining powdered sugar, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time, and mix until you get the consistency you want. You may not need to use all the powdered sugar.
Add a little water or milk, a teaspoon at a time, if necessary to thin the frosting. Blend well on low for several minutes.
Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. NOTE: Buttercream Icing will last for weeks as long as it is well sealed.
Makes about 3 1/2 pounds of Buttercream Icing
Buttercream Recipe II
(A simpler recipe given to me by my sister-in-law. Thank you Jennifer.)
1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar
2 T. milk
Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
Pure White Buttercream
(Very good at getting a pristine white color.)
Combine water and meringue powder; whip at high speed until peaks form. Add 4 cups sugar, one cup at a time, beating after each addition at low speed. Alternately add shortening and remainder of sugar. Add salt and flavorings; beat at low speed until smooth.