German Buttercream

May 14, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Makes about 4 cups
Author Notes

A yummy frosting that starts with pastry cream, it's great for filling cupcakes (even doughnuts!) and for filling "naked cakes". —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a very sweet lesson in all things frostings, icings, and glazes. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
German Buttercream
  • For the pastry cream:
  • 1 1/4 cups (289 g) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (99 g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup (21 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) fine sea salt
  • 2 (113 g) large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • For the final buttercream:
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (113 g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) vanilla extract
  1. In a small pot, bring the milk and half of the sugar to a simmer over medium heat. While the milk heats, whisk the remaining sugar with the cornstarch. Place the eggs in a medium, heat-safe bowl.
  2. When the milk is hot, whisk the sugar/cornstarch mixture into the eggs to fully combine. Gradually add the milk to the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Don't dump the milk in too fast, or you risk scrambling the eggs!
  3. Return the mixture to the pot and cook until the mixture comes to a boil—large bubbles should emerge from the center of the pot. Remove the pot from the heat and mix in the 2 tablespoons of butter.
  4. Transfer the pastry cream to a shallow bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap. Chill the pastry cream in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  5. Transfer the cooled pastry cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip for 1 to 2 minutes, to aerate. While the mixer is running, gradually add room temperature butter in 1/2-tablespoon chunks. Continue adding and mixing until all of the butter is added and the buttercream is light and smooth.
  6. Beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla, mix to combine. The buttercream can be used immediately or refrigerated in an airtight container.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bethany Ringdal
    Bethany Ringdal
  • Can I have a bite?
    Can I have a bite?
  • frizz
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

8 Reviews

Bethany R. March 16, 2023
I've made the pastry cream part so far, and it came out MUCH too thick - I couldn't get it through a strainer. Looks like the ratio of cornstarch here is double what's in the King Arthur recipe. It's already pretty gloppy before it's even cooled, so I'm worried what will happen when I whip it up with the butter. Think I'd better start again.
Carol789 November 15, 2021
I may have overlooked it, but when do I add the sea salt?
Prathima November 16, 2021
you can add it to the milk
Prathima March 11, 2016
German Buttercream is my favorite frosting to make, but I've never seen a recipe including confectioners sugar. I wonder if that is a typo. In my experience, German Buttercream is incredibly fluffy and smooth, and less sweet than American Buttercream.
Erin J. March 16, 2016
You can totally leave the confectioner's sugar out - I like to add it to help make the mixture homogeneous (thanks to the cornstarch inside powdered sugar). But if you prefer it less sweet, it's definitely not required!
Can I. March 11, 2016
This looks yummy but I don't see where the confectioners sugar gets added.
Erin J. March 16, 2016
Hi there! I've added it in - thanks for pointing out the error!
frizz March 10, 2016
I'm really curious about the texture of the buttercream. How does it differ from other types of buttercream? I assume it'd be more substantial? Maybe that's good for a filling but less appetizing for a swirl on top of a cupcake? So many questions, so little time.