Everyday Cooking

Easier French Buttercream

October 20, 2014

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich is going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Master classic French buttercream without the mess, thanks to Alice's reinvented recipe.

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Real French buttercream -- which involves pouring a small quantity of 242° F syrup over a couple of eggs or egg yolks, while beating them, and without scrambling the eggs -- is no picnic for home cooks. Maybe you’ve tried it and ended up with most of the hot syrup congealed on the sides of the mixer bowl instead of incorporated into the eggs. It happens. Home cooks are at a disadvantage because (ironically?) it’s actually easier to succeed with large quantities than small ones.

Here’s a streamlined recipe that produces results identical to the classic recipe, but with fewer, less tricky steps. This new method also ensures that the eggs are heated to a safe 160° F (which was never true of the syrup method, even if you heard otherwise!).

New Classic Buttercream

Makes 3 cups, more than enough for one 8- or 9-inch layer cake

4 large egg yolks or 2 whole large eggs, at room temperature
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
2/3 cups sugar
3/4 pound unsalted butter, slightly softened but not too squishy

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Get excited about Alice's forthcoming book Flavor Flours: nearly 125 recipes -- from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread -- made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor, too).  

Photo by James Ransom


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My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).