Which Cream Should I Use For Cake Decorating? | CoachSweetTooth

Adding a layer of cream on top of a cake makes it more appealing. However, which cream should you use for decorating cakes?

There are dozens of creams you can use to transform a cake into a masterpiece, from traditional American buttercream to contemporary mirror glaze. But which one should you use to turn your cakes into works of art?

When it comes to choosing a cream for cake decoration, you have multiple options, including buttercream, Whipped cream, heavy cream, Italian Meringue buttercream, French buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, German buttercream, Ermine buttercream, and Chantilly cream. 

You'll have a delicate, fluffy icing that's great for cake decorating if you make your frosting with the appropriate quantities of cream. As mentioned above, there are several options for you to consider when deciding between a cream for cake decoration. You can use different recipes to make creams to add to your cake. However, we recommend that you use tried-and-tested ones because they will allow you to create the required frosting properly.

We are experienced cake designers and are well aware of the different types of icing used in cakes. In this article, we'll mention some of the best creams that you can use to decorate a cake and the methods to prepare these creams easily so that your dessert looks and tastes delicious. 

Table of contents


1. American Buttercream

American Buttercream is a favorite choice for flavor and suppleness because it is smoother and creamier than most icings. It could be used as a stuffing for cakes and a decorative covering. Sugar, butter, and other fats like margarine or lard are creamed together to make it.

The taste, texture, and look of the cream icing will be influenced by the fat used and the degree to which the butter is beaten. Vanilla extract can be used to add a blast of flavor. Because the cream melts quickly in warm temperatures, it must be kept refrigerated to maintain its shape. Let's look at a wonderful recipe to easily create the best American buttercream at home.

For this recipe, the ingredients you will need are 230 grams or 1 cup of unsalted butter softened at room temperature, 60 ml or ¼ cup of heavy cream, 5-6 cups of crushed sugar, salt to taste, and 2-4 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Start by beating the butter on a medium speed for about two minutes until it gets creamy and smooth. You can use a portable stand mixer with a paddle attachment for this. The next step would be to add 41/2 cups of sugar followed by heavy cream and vanilla extract, all while keeping the speed of the mixer at a low frequency for proper mixing.

After this, increase the speed to high and continue beating for 3-4 minutes. If you feel that the icing is very thin, add some more sugar as per your taste.

Similarly, if the frosting appears too thick, you can add a tablespoon of cream to fix it. Finally, drop a pinch of salt in the mixture if it is sweeter than you want. After the frosting is ready, you can easily cover it and store it for up to a week in the refrigerator.

2. Whipped Cream

Whipped cream is the way to go if you want lighter icing. The whipped cream frosting is an excellent eggless substitute for buttercream and other egg-based frostings like Italian Buttercream and Swiss Meringue. It is easy, fast, and straightforward to create.

It's sometimes called Chantilly cream, created by mixing sugar and heavy cream until light and fluffy in the refrigerator. For added stability, you can add meringue powder.

It only takes a few ingredients to produce a soft and airy delectable cream frosting that can be piped onto cakes and desserts. It's an excellent icing for your cake decorating, exquisite piping, or a delectable covering for cupcakes, pastries, or desserts. We have an easy homemade whipped cream recipe that will be perfect for frosting your next cake, so let's get into it.

This recipe includes just two basic ingredients, which are whipping cream and sugar. Mix the two and whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. You can use whichever flavoring or coloring agent you like later. This whipped cream recipe is so light that it seems like a cloud on your tongue. Moreover, unlike a conventional Buttercream preparation, it is not sugary, making it a fantastic whipped frosting for adorning a cake or cupcake.

It's easier to handle because it doesn't require as many ingredients or procedures, and it goes well with any flavor. Add cream cheese to this recipe to help it settle and last longer. Indeed, a small quantity of cream cheese added to your whipping cream transforms it into the finest creamy frosting recipe.

3. Heavy Cream

Heavy cream has a higher fat content. It can be used to make a variety of different fresh cream cakes. Even though it has a higher-calorie content than fresh cream, it always works nicely. This cream can readily be whipped to soft peaks, but it will curdle and turn into butter if beaten longer than normal.

When utilized in cakes, heavy cream will quickly start disassociating and is not stable, making it difficult to pipe. However, pudding powder, which is an effective agar-based powder, can be used to solidify this cream. Regardless, it is not very stiff, and you'll have to face some difficulty if you are a new cake decorator.

We have an excellent whipped cream frosting recipe that uses heavy cream to be prepared and works great if applied with the correct technique. It is similar to a conventional buttercream but is whipped with heavy cream to make it fluffier and is also the distinguishing point of this delicious frosting. The ingredients required include confectioner's sugar and butter and simple extra whipping to create a frosting that pipes well.

To begin, you'll want to use the butter at room temperature. This technique will not work with chilled or melted butter. You'll be beating your butter and other components together for a velvety, smooth texture. Cut the cold butter into tiny pieces and place it on the countertop to start the warming procedure. An entire stick of butter will take longer to warm up than diced butter. The frosting can be stored easily in the refrigerator and be used from time to time.

4. Italian Meringue Buttercream

The sugar and butter in Italian meringue buttercream are the same as in regular buttercream; however, egg whites are added to soften the texture. Before incorporating the butter, make the frosting by boiling sugar syrup over egg whites and continue whisking to create a finished meringue. This is a much more complex cake frosting because it necessitates using a sugar thermometer to ensure that the sugar syrup is at the proper temperature, and it's ideal to use a stand mixer.

You'll want to maintain the pan stable and your hands out from the way because you're working with burning hot sugar syrup. You'll be greeted with a wonderfully airy, mousey buttercream which is not too sugary and doesn't get crusty once you've perfected it. When piping designs, it also keeps its shape well. Italian Meringue buttercream can be used as a cake topping and a cake filler, just like a traditional buttercream.

To make Italian meringue buttercream, the ingredients needed are 200 grams or 1 cup granulated sugar, four egg whites, 60 ml or ¼ cup of clean water, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 450 grams of butter at room temperature. 

To begin with, mix the water and sugar in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, while occasionally stirring, until the mixture reaches a boil. Stop mixing after it reaches a boil and attaches a sugar thermometer to check. 

Next, beat the egg whites until soft peaks are attained in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the sugar reaches 115 ° C., slowly drizzle it into the egg whites while mixing on moderate speed. Increase the mixing speed and continue to beat until the mixture has reached a steady temperature.

While mixing on medium to high speed, incorporate the butter using a few tablespoons. Pour in the vanilla extract, increase the speed and keep beating until the mixture is smooth.

5. French Buttercream

The classic French buttercream is extensively used to decorate and embellish cakes, like the French Christmas roll cake, traditional pastries such as the mocha cake, and other delicacies. Unlike some other famous buttercream formulations that use meringue egg whites, like Italian or Swiss buttercream, this one uses simply egg yolks.

As a result, it's the most delectable of all buttercreams. You can use a variety of buttercream formulas according to your tastes, but this is really particularly popular because of its flavor and creamy, sparkly texture. It has a richer golden tint than other creams made with egg whites since it includes yolks. That is why bakers are often skeptical about using it on cakes.

It can, however, be colored simply, and flavors such as cocoa powder, fruit puree, and others can be added to give it a superb taste. Margarine or shortening, both of which tend to cover the mouth with oil if used in frosting preparations, are not used in French buttercream. Its lovely color makes it a favorite wedding cake icing, even though the butter concentration makes it problematic to use in hotter climates.

The main ingredients required to prepare French buttercream are 75ml water, 150 grams of sugar, 250 grams of cold, unsalted butter, four large egg yolks at room temperature, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. To begin, you will have to cook sugar and water in a saucepan of a heavy base on moderate heat. Keep mixing the sugar gently until it reaches the melting point, and then stop stirring and reduce the heat of the saucepan to low. This is a crucial step to ensure that the sugar does not stick to the surface of the pan. Let the sugar simmer for some time. Make cubes of the unsalted butter. About ten cubes will be enough. Next, put the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl that's not made of plastic. Wait until the mixture comes to a temperature of 108 centigrade.

Now, start beating the egg yolks using a hand mixer at high speed. Keep cooking the syrup until a softball stage at 118 degrees centigrade is reached. As soon as the desired temperature is reached, pour the hot syrup into the egg yolks while beating continuously. Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and light, and ribbons appear when the beaters are lifted.

Allow the eggs to set in a chilled water bath if they are still hot. Slowly add the butter that should have softened already, beating gently after each addition. Lightly whisk the buttercream until it becomes nice and fluffy. If desired, add vanilla extract, and you're done!

6. Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss meringue buttercream is a great substitute for Italian meringue buttercream if you do not own a stand mixer to hold the bowl stable while adding boiling sugar syrup. The egg white will still be cooked when it is whipped together into the meringue, but rather than creating a hot sugar syrup, it is whipped over a Bain Marie, a double boiler.

This frosting is velvety, silky smooth, and keeps its shape nicely. The best thing is that it isn't as sweet as regular whipped buttercream, so everyone likes it. Unfortunately, the whipping procedure for this buttercream is lengthy, and this is where certain issues can arise, such as the inability to achieve stiff peaks.

It's also possible that the butter will melt or that you'll over-whip it all into curdles, so proceed with caution. This buttercream has a solid texture that spreads well over cakes and pastries, and it can be piped into precise peaks and designs once it has been prepared.

To make the best Swiss meringue buttercream, you will need some basic ingredients which include egg whites of 3-4 large eggs which should be around 120 ml or ½ cup, 1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract, 200 grams fine sugar, 1 ½ cup of unsalted butter at room temperature, and ½ vanilla beans scraped seeds if desired. 

In a wide heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and icing sugar. To avoid the egg whites boiling on their own, mix them quickly with your hands, just till they are blended. Fill a pot halfway with water and come to a gentle simmer.

Put the mixer bowl with the egg white solution on top to make a double boiler. The water must be maintained at a low simmer and not touch the bowl's bottom. The mixture of egg whites is heated indirectly in the double boiler.

Boil the egg white solution, mixing with a spoon occasionally, until it hits 70 degrees on a sugar thermometer. The sugar should have been dissolved, and the fluid should be extremely hot. When the egg white mixture is heated, carefully move the bowl to a heat-proof table and absorb any condensation with a kitchen towel. For around 8 minutes, beat the mixture at great velocity with a hand mixer.

The meringue should have beautiful, moderate stiff peaks and stay at an ambient temperature when finished. Add the butter to the mixer on low heat. To thoroughly combine the butter and the meringue, it must be at room temperature. Add the vanilla extract and seeds after the butter has been incorporated. Finally, increase the mixer's speed to moderate and continue mixing until the solution is super smooth.

7. German Buttercream

German buttercream is a custard-based topping made with just butter, pastry cream, and whatever flavorings you choose. This buttercream is ideal for those who prefer a creamy, fluffy frosting with just a hint of sweetness. Since the sweetness will originate from the pastry cream alone, you can make it as rich as possible. This vanilla-flavored icing could become your favorite if you don't like too sugary and sweetened buttercreams. 

Finally, you should know that this frosting is a two-step process that begins with producing the pastry cream and ends with beating it with butter. It's rich since egg yolks are used, and it can be seasoned by soaking different things in the milk when making the pastry cream, like citrus rinds, coffee, and vanilla beans. It can be used to decorate a cake or for filling an éclair.

To prepare German buttercream, you will require ½ cup of granulated sugar, 1/8 teaspoons of salt, 180 ml of milk, 3 egg yolks maintained at room temperature, 1 tablespoon cornstarch of 225 g of unsalted softened butter. The first step would be to mix the milk and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Set it aside after mixing thoroughly. Take another bowl and beat the eggs, remaining sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla extract.

Keep whisking until the mixture becomes foamy, and then set aside. Next, take the milk and sugar mixture and start heating it at medium to low heat; keep stirring to prevent it from burning. After simmering, set this aside. Next, pour roughly a third of the heated milk mixture further into the egg mixture while beating continuously. 

Slowly pour in the leftover milk. It will be a very liquidy combination. Return the mixture to the same saucepan and cook, frequently stirring, over medium-low heat until the custard solution thickens. Wrap the custard with cling film and place it in a bowl. Refrigerate the custard for around 2 hours or until it reaches room temperature. It's always possible to do this some days in advance.

Then, beat your melted unsalted butter in your stand mixer for around 2-3 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Keep adding a few tablespoons of the cooled custard, creaming until blended, and scraping with a rubber spatula as needed.

This buttercream can be used right away or stored in the fridge for up to five days. It may be frozen for up to three months. When you wish to use it again, simply thaw it at night and re-whip it until it gets smooth.

8. Ermine buttercream

Ermine Frosting is a buttercream creation inspired by the French. It's also known as boiled milk frosting or roux frosting, and it's prepared by mixing flour, milk, and sugar to make a sweet paste.

This paste is then beaten till smooth and creamy with softened butter. For flavor, vanilla and salt are used. This may be a strange method, but the result is a wonderful frosting! Because this frosting is egg-free, it's a great substitute for Swiss Meringue Buttercream if you need a light frosting but can't eat eggs. Ermine buttercream was once only used to garnish Red Velvet Cakes, but it can now be used to decorate a wide range of cakes and cupcakes and has exceptional piping abilities.

To make delicious Ermine buttercream, make a list of all the required ingredients, which are 35 grams of all-purpose flour, salt to taste, 1 cup of milk, 200 grams of granulated sugar, 1 cup unsalted softened butter at room temperature, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract.  

The recipe begins by combining sugar, flour, and salt in a medium-sized pan. Whisk the mixture and keep adding milk as needed. Now, place the saucepan on the stove on low heat so that the mixture can come to a boil. Keep constantly stirring in this step.

When the mixture begins to form bubbles, take off the pan and whisk for some minutes to beat the heat out of the pudding mixture. Put the pudding onto a clean dish with a rubber spatula and wrap it quickly with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic wrap firmly onto the pudding. This prevents the formation of the skin. Let it reach room temperature before serving.

After the pudding has chilled, whip the butter inside a medium-sized mixing dish for 5–7 minutes, or till it becomes creamy, fluffy, and lighter in color. One tablespoon at a time, incorporate the cooled pudding, which will appear like glue at this stage, stirring well after every addition. Stir for a few minutes more after adding the pudding until the buttercream is thick, rich, and creamy.

Toss in the vanilla extract and stir quickly to blend. Next, place the buttercream against the edges of the bowl using a rubber spatula to remove any huge air bubbles. It's a lot easier to pipe the buttercream this way. Use it right away or put it in the refrigerator for up to a week while keeping it covered. Let buttercream reach room temperature before using, then whisk gently until it is light and fluffy. 


Karen Sladyk

Karen Sladyk

Karen Sladyk has been studying and teaching cake decorating topics and culinary crafting projects for over 30 years. She has multiple awards-including first place finishes-in a variety of shows and conferences. She has made and or sold hundreds of dessert-themed gifts, masterpieces, and crafts. She enjoys the challenge of problem-solving chocolate issues in show pieces and making chocolate accessible to all people.

Read more about Karen Sladyk