Cake withFrench Buttercream
Cakes | Icing

How to Make French Buttercream the Easy Way – no syrup required!

January 7, 2018

For an alternative to Swiss meringue buttercream, try this easy French buttercream. I have discovered an easier way to make it and it does not involve syrup-making!


Whenever I have excess egg yolks, I struggle to find a use for them.

What about you?

I find that egg yolks turn gelatinous when defrosted.

I’ve tried adding sugar or salt (as suggested by my Google search), but those didn’t help retain the egg yolks’ original state. I still have to try mixing in simple syrup as suggested by Cooks Illustrated, which hopefully will work.

But I found one answer to extra egg yolks.

French buttercream!

cake with french buttercream

If you want a richer buttercream for your next cake, give this a try!

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4 egg yolks produce enough icing for an 8 or 9-inch cake with 2 layers. By “enough” I mean not too thick and with only simple borders. If you want a thicker icing, for example, to be covered with fondant, use 1.5x the recipe.

And the color! Such a pretty baby yellow!

(But if you need a lighter color icing, it will be best to make a Swiss meringue buttercream.)

I’ve also discovered an easier way to make French buttercream, from Alice Medrich.

Traditionally, to make French buttercream, you prepare a simple syrup from granulated sugar and water and slowly add it to whipped egg yolks. This causes spatters of the syrup on the side of the mixing bowl, which I hate.

It also uses raw egg yolks, which carries a small risk of salmonella.

This alternative method involves cooking the egg yolks (which pasteurizes them when the temperature reaches 59°C/138°F), sugar and water in a double boiler then whipping everything until fluffy and add in the butter.

Easy peasy!!

Always check your ingredients.

Ensure that you have measured your ingredients accurately.

Last month, I made this for an ube cake to bring to a friend’s dinner as our dessert.

We were in Germany over the holidays, so I had to bake in my mother-in-law’s kitchen.

And I, therefore, didn’t have my usual tools (my excuse ;D).

I cooked the egg yolks with the sugar and water in a double boiler and tested the mixture with my fingers (no thermometer). It felt warm enough. Transferred it to a mixing bowl and started whipping on high speed with a hand mixer.

I looked at it and thought it looked somewhat different than normal. It looked thinner than usual.

I should have trusted my instincts and started over.

But I pushed on and started adding the butter. After I added all the butter, the mixture appeared too wet and curdled.

So I thought a few minutes in the fridge would help firm it up. 5 minutes after, I took it out and whipped on high, it wouldn’t form into buttercream! It was separating and I could see liquid seeping out.

So, I figured the mixture might then be too cold.

5 seconds in the microwave and then whipped again on high.

It looked nice when beaten well and all fluffy, but when I ran a rubber spatula through it, it broke again.

Into the microwave again for another 10 seconds, then mixed again.

And so on for another 30 minutes!! I felt so frustrated!

Then I considered I might have gotten the ratios wrong. My mother-in-law didn’t have American measuring cups (German kitchen and all), so I had to convert the measurements to grams and milliliters.

I thought back, and I realized I converted wrong!!

¼ cup of water is ONLY 60ml!

I put in double!! 120 ml of water!

No wonder it wouldn’t homogenize.

But I didn’t time to redo the icing. I used the icing and left it outside to harden (one advantage of winter!)

It worked, still tasted good, sadly not pretty to look at, and if left at room temperature it would separate again.

Oh well, lesson learned.

Always DOUBLE CHECK the measurements and write it down if converting from cups to grams/ml.

I will buy some measuring cups/spoons and a proper weighing scale to leave at my mother-in-law’s as I seem to be always baking something when we come over anyway.

Hope you learned something from my stupid mistake.

But here is how to make French buttercream the proper way.

Prepare your ingredients. Bring your butter to room temperature.

butter cut into cubes granulated sugar in blue terra cotta dish

In a medium stainless steel bowl (if you have a Kitchen Aid, the metal bowl will work well) or double boiler, combine the egg yolks or eggs, water and salt. Whisk together to combine.

Add the sugar and mix well.

Place the bowl over a pan filled with hot water (like here) and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches a temperature of 70°C/158°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, pinch a bit of the mixture and it should be hot, but not burning.

instant read thermometer

Wipe the bottom of the bowl and whip the mixture on high for 3 – 5 minutes, until it becomes a soft fluffy foam (like whipped cream) and is cool to the touch.

whipped egg yolk mixture

Add in the butter one cube at a time and mix well until it is creamy and smooth.

finished french buttercream

I used it for an ube and yellow cake I had in the freezer. Those flavors pair well with French buttercream.

ube and yellow cake

I have the recipe for the ube cake here.

To pin for future reference:

 

easy french buttercream

french buttercream


Yields enough for 8 or 9 inch, 2 layer cake

Easy French Buttercream

An easier method of making French Buttercream

5 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

20 minTotal Time

Recipe Image
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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup/60 ml water
  • 4 large egg yolks or 2 whole large eggs
  • ½ cup + 3 tablespoons (133 grams) sugar
  • 10 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (185 grams) butter, cut into 1-inch/2 cm cubes, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. In a medium stainless steel bowl (if you have a Kitchen Aid, the metal bowl will work well) or double boiler, combine the egg yolks or eggs, water and salt. Whisk together to combine. Add in the sugar and mix well.
  2. Place the bowl over a pan filled with hot water (like here) and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches a temperature of 70°C/158°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, pinch a bit of the mixture and it should be hot, but not burning.
  3. Wipe the bottom of the bowl and whip the mixture on high for 3 – 5 minutes, until it becomes a soft fluffy foam (like whipped cream) and is cool to the touch.
  4. Add in the butter one cube at a time and mix well until it is creamy and smooth.

Notes

Always bring the buttercream cake to room temperature before eating.

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