Comparing Types of Buttercream Frosting
Learn the differences between the 7 types of buttercream: American buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, Italian meringue buttercream, French buttercream, German Buttercream, Russian Buttercream, and Korean Buttercream.
Table of contents
- What is Buttercream?
- Types of Buttercream
- General Buttercream Guidelines
- American Buttercream
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Italian Meringue Buttercream
- French Buttercream
- German Buttercream (Creme Mousselline)
- Russian Buttercream (Sweetened Condensed Milk Buttercream)
- Korean Buttercream (Glossy Buttercream, or G.G. Buttercream)
- Buttercream Flavor Options
What is Buttercream?
Buttercream, in its most simple form, is a mixture of butter and sugar that has been creamed together to make a fluffy frosting. Buttercream is used for filling, icing, and decorating cakes and pastries.
It is no surprise that the fat in buttercream is typically all butter, which is where the name comes from. However, some buttercream recipes do call for other fats, like shortening, to create a more stable style of buttercream called decorators buttercream.
Types of Buttercream
There are a variety of styles of buttercreams all varying in their degree of difficulty to make. Each style of buttercream has different pros and cons as well as best uses in the pastry kitchen.
There are three types of buttercreams that are most often used: American Buttercream, Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and Italian Meringue Buttercream.
There are a few other types of buttercream that are less commonly used like French Buttercream, German Buttercream, and a very new style of buttercream called G.G. Glossy Buttercream (or Korean Glossy Buttercream).
General Buttercream Guidelines
- To properly cream the butter to form the buttercream, the butter must start at room temperature. If the butter is too cold, the emulsion might break causing a separated buttercream.
- Buttercream is a blank canvas that can be flavored with virtually anything such as extracts, spices, melted chocolate, jams, and curds. As a general rule of thumb, the flavoring added to the buttercream should not exceed half the weight of the butter in the recipe.
- If the buttercream will not be used right away it must be stored in the refrigerator. It will firm up quite a bit and should be allowed to come back to room temperature before piping or spreading.
- Buttercream should always be served at room temperature. Because buttercream has such a high fat content, the texture will not be pleasant if eaten cold and will leave an extra greasy mouthfeel.
American buttercream, also known as simple buttercream, is the easiest buttercream frosting to make and the one most commonly used in non-professional kitchens.
American buttercream is made simply by creaming together butter and confectioners sugar with milk or cream. If desired, vanilla extract or another flavoring may be added.
American buttercream is typically made from a ratio of 2:1 sugar to butter by weight. This ratio makes this style of buttercream the sweetest of all the styles.
American buttercream is also sometimes referred to as “crusting buttercream” because it forms a thin crust after being exposed to air for some time, which can be desirable in some situations.
American Buttercream Overview
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Characteristics: ivory color, relatively thick texture, easy to pipe, very sweet flavor, forms thin crust when exposed to air
- Best for: simple cakes and cupcakes such as this classic white cake, last minute frosting needs, base for intricate designs, when crusting is desired
Note: A lighter variation on this buttercream can be made by whipping the butter with marscarpone cheese.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Swiss meringue buttercream, also known simply as Swiss buttercream, is perhaps the buttercream most commonly used in professional pastry kitchens. This style of buttercream gets its name because it starts out with the process of making Swiss meringue.
Swiss meringue buttercream is somewhat more difficult than American buttercream because it involves a double boiler to heat the egg whites and sugar. This mixture is beaten into a meringue and then butter and flavorings are added.
Swiss meringue buttercream is silky smooth and less sweet than American buttercream. Because of the cooked sugar, it also does not form a crust and is a relatively stable style of buttercream. It is also a very pale ivory color which makes it perfect for adding color.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Overview
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Characteristics: pale white color, fairly stable, silky smooth texture, not overly sweet, strong butter flavor, remains soft when exposed to air
- Best for: layer cakes, creating a silky smooth finish, frosting that will be colored like for Succulent Cupcakes, when jams or curds will be used as flavoring
Italian Meringue Buttercream
Italian meringue buttercream, also known simply as Italian buttercream, is the most stable of all of the buttercreams but also the most difficult to make. This style of buttercream gets its name because it starts out with the process of making Italian meringue.
The element of Italian meringue buttercream that makes it so difficult to make is that a boiling hot sugar syrup must be streamed into the egg whites as they are whipped. This process requires the baker to take great care not to burn themselves and to cook the sugar syrup to a very specific temperature.
Italian Meringue Buttercream Overview
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Characteristics: pale white color, most stable of all the buttercreams, luxurious mouthfeel, lightest texture, not overly sweet, remains soft when exposed to air
- Best for: standing up to higher temperatures, frosting that will be colored, intricate designs
French buttercream is a lesser well-known style of buttercream. In contrast to the meringue style buttercreams, French buttercream utilizes yolks instead of egg whites. Because of this, French buttercream is naturally yellow in color.
The process of making French buttercream is almost identical to making an Italian meringue buttercream. You must heat your sugar to 240 degrees F and pour it into the mixer while the egg yolks are beating. This buttercream tastes very similar to a custard, like pastry cream.
French Buttercream Overview
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Characteristics: Yellow color due to egg yolks, very rich in flavor, slightly sweet, not very stable- does not hold up to heat well, tastes similar to pastry cream, very silky smooth
- Best for: Using as a filling in a cake, topping a cupcake, as a base for a fruit tart instead of custard
German Buttercream (Creme Mousselline)
German buttercream, also known as creme mousseline, is a custard-based buttercream. The recipe starts exactly the same way a pastry cream does by mixing whole eggs with cornstarch and sugar and then pouring warm cream into the mixture. This mixture is then cooked until thickened. The custard is then beaten into butter
German Buttercream Overview
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Characteristics: Light yellow in color due to using whole eggs, softer than meringue buttercreams or american buttercreams, does not hold up well in hot temperatures, lightly sweet in flavor, very silky smooth, very buttery in flavor
- Best for: Filling a cake, piping on top of cupcakes
Russian Buttercream (Sweetened Condensed Milk Buttercream)
Russian buttercream is one of the lesser-known styles of buttercream. Some also refer to it as sweetened condensed milk buttercream because that is exactly how it’s made! Two ingredients: whipped butter and sweetened condensed milk.
This style of buttercream has a very strong milk flavor and is the texture of a slightly thicker whipped cream. It is much lighter than all of the other buttercreams.
Russian Buttercream Overview
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Characteristics: Very white in color, does not hold up well for long periods of time or in heat well at all, much ligher in texture than other buttercreams
- Best for: For cakes or cupcakes that will be served quickly, or as a filling between layers
Korean Buttercream (Glossy Buttercream, or G.G. Buttercream)
Korean buttercream (also known as glossy buttercream or G.G. glossy buttercream) is the newest style of buttercream taking the internet by storm. This style of buttercream was developed G.G. More who has a YouTube Channel G.G. Cakraft. This style of buttercream gained popularity for the way it makes beautiful piped buttercream flowers.
Korean glossy buttercream is exactly the same as Italian meringue buttercream with one small change. The butter in Korean buttercream is cold when it is beaten in. This one change completely changes the texture and look of the final buttercream.
Korean Buttercream Overview
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Characteristics: Very glossy in consistency, almost transparent in color, holds its shape very well, withstands heat very well
- Best for: Piping buttercream flowers for cupcakes and cake toppers, doing intricate buttercream designs
Buttercream Flavor Options
You can flavor any style of buttercream. Here a few flavoring ideas!
- Vanilla Buttercream: Beat in 2 tsp vanilla extract to any recipe above.
- “Wedding Cake” Buttercream: Beat in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp almond extract to any recipe above.
- Chocolate Buttercream: Beat in 8 oz melted and cooled dark or bittersweet chocolate to any recipe above.
- Lemon Curd Buttercream: Fold in 1 cup of lemon curd to any recipe above.
- Strawberry, Raspberry, or Blackberry Buttercream: Fold in 1 cup of seedless preserves into any recipe above.
77 Comments on “Comparing Types of Buttercream Frosting”
First I have not made any of these recipes as I only found you yesterday on Pinterest. I will, but I Love the way you explain the Differences in the various Buttercreams used for frostings. This I always wondered and didn’t bother to research, I am only so so at making Frostings. Good enough to please my family but not great in my book. I agree with your description at the bottom of each page about your beliefs in helping a person gain confidence in the kitchen. BASICS are incredibly important as well as following the recipes, paying attention to the TIPS that one has shared. It’s all in the knowledge of how to be successful or fail. Baking is a Science as I have well learned. Also, your site has the simplicity and ease of reading and isn’t so cluttered that staying on task is easy. With the internet these days pages get too cluttered, making it too easy to get sidetracked. Thank you for your hard work, and a great site.
Hi Roni! This comment means so much to me. Thank you for writing it! I love to teach the basics and really appreciate that you find it useful. I’m so glad you enjoy my site and the information provided!
Thank you for your response. I think that viewers NEED to see the comments about following TIPS. We learn these by trial and error. I have tried so many internet recipes that were not written well, so with that is many Fails. You have done a wonderful job explaining so much to help us. Kudos my Dear.
I’ve made all of these and I am a novice baker. Follow directions exactly and use a thermometer for the cooked ones. My question is which would work best with the Russian decorating tips. I recently bought a set. Also, I live in a hot climate and even working in AC affects the frostings. Very frustrating. Thanks for an informative article.
Hello sis this was very useful for me I am literally fed up with American butter cream because it is too sweet I wanted to try Swiss meringue and Italian butter cream but I wanted some tips and help so I ended up here Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to pen it. You have done a great job.
Thank you so much for your detailed and clear explanations. I teach this subject and we have just done a lesson around ‘Fats in cake making’ taking notes from your video. We can do frostings next. My students love the fact that you have are so knowledgeable. Thanks again.
Hi Cathy! That is so great to hear! I hope they enjoy the buttercream lesson. I wish I had a class like that when I was in school!
Great information! Which type of buttercream would be best for piping ruffles around a round cake?
I’m wondering about piping as well, which would be best for roses?…
I personally like to use american buttercream for flowers because it crusts over and is easier to transfer onto the cake. You can use italian or swiss meringue too, however, the flower will stay soft so if it gets bumped it will mess it up.
You can use either of the meringue types for that! They will both work well, but be aware that they won’t harden the way American does. So if you want it to be more stable in case it gets bumped, you can use american.
Can flavors/extracts be added in the GG glossy buttercream? I tried ot today and it isn’t too tasty, it taste like sweet cream butter.
Hi Rebecca, yes you can add extracts. The glossy buttercream really isn’t meant to be super delicious. It is used for beautiful roses so the focus is more on the texture instead of the taste. But I totally get what you’re saying. You can vanilla or almond extract into it to help it along.
Amazing description. There is one missing, sugar geek has it and it’s called smbc starts with whites and sugar and then you add soft butter, turns out amazing
Hi Daisy! Glad you enjoyed the info! “SMBC” is an acronym for Swiss Meringue Buttercream- the second one listed here. It is delicious!
Hello! Check lizzo marek one, it’s not the Swiss meringue traditional! It’s all done “cold” and it’s really good
Oh interesting! I’ve actually had it on my list to give this a try but didn’t know it already existed. The process of making a cold meringue is French meringue so it would technically be a French meringue buttercream. I kept saying to my assistant “I’ve never seen anyone try that, we should try it.” but we just haven’t got around to it. Glad to know it works!
Thanks so much was really helpful….
U are the best teacher.
Thank you for the deep look into these butter creams! It definitely helps to know how well each one will hold up when piping flowers, especially roses.
I’m so glad you enjoy this post, Roberta!
I dont know if it’s just me but I dont really like American buttercream because its painfully sweet and Italian and Swiss buttercream is way too buttery. Lately I’ve been seeing a few recipes for russian buttercream which is made out of condensed milk and butter. I wanted to know your opinion and if it is also super buttery
LOVED this explanation!!! Thank you!
Love this Posting and it’s simplicity. I have a few questions….Have you used freeze dried fruit and ground into a powder to add color and flavor? Also can I use any of these recipes to make a chocolate ganache whipped frosting?
I have, and it worked well. Also, I use unsweetened koolaid packets for coloring and flavoring! It’s cheap, fast and fantastic!
Hi. Can you advise on the cost comparison of making the different buttercreams?
Thank you for all this great info! I recently tried and loved a buttercream to which whipped cream was folded into. Everyone went nuts over this and I loved the texture. What is this called? I didn’t see it on the list. Thanks, Amy
This is so helpful. I’d like my American buttercream a bit crustier but I don’t want to use more powdered sugar than necessary, how long should I let the buttercream sit and when I stir it, won’t that get rid of the crusting?
I enjoyed all the information on this page and learned a lot. Thank you very much!
Omggg the ads are just…
Can you let me know how to properly store leftover cake that’s been frosted with italian meringue buttercream?
You will want to store leftover cake in an airtight container in your fridge. Let it come back to room temperature before eating. You could also adhere a piece of parchment or plastic wrap to the cut side of the cake to help it from drying out.
Thank you! As a beginner who just got into baking, this is so helpful!!!
I’m so glad!
My grandmother gave me a recipe for buttercream frosting that used milk and flour
Sounds like an Ermine frosting!
Hello there – one problem I have had when adding the melted cooled chocolate to Swiss meringue buttercream is… I get very small minute fragments of chocolate in the buttercream. I noticed this when I’m combing my icing. Is it because I’ve allowed the chocolate to cool a tad too much? I’ve heard a tip that, instead of actually adding melted cooled chocolate, to instead actually make a ganache with the chocolate and blend that in (something to do with the cream in the ganache preventing the chocolate from forming those fragments when it’s blended in). any tips? Thank you for your time!
Yes, I suspect your chocolate cooled a bit too much. Another idea is to simply add cocoa powder to your buttercream- I’ve done that many times and it’s a delicious flavor.
Not just you, I hate American buttercream also to a point I almost always scrap it off before I eat a cupcake. Never heard of Russian buttercream and I would like to look it up and give it a try.
Go for it! I don’t have a Russian buttercream recipe on my site but I have German, French, Swiss, etc that you might like!
I agree with you
I’ve been looking forever for the recipe my mom used for butter cream frosting. All I can remember is that you use shortening, butter and scalded milk. Can anyone please help me?
I think what you are looking for is something like this: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/7796/moms-buttercream-frosting/
I was given a recipe for Swiss butter cream using pasteurized egg whites and so not heating the egg whites, have you ever used pasteurized egg white? Would it work or detract from the over all flavor/texture?
Hi, how long can a chocolate cake with fudge frosting last in the fridge? How do I know if the cake is dry? Will the cake be good to keep at room temperature for too long or will it spoil? Thank you for sharing your knowledge…
The uncut cake will last 4-5 days in the fridge. Once you cut into it, it will start to dry out. You can tell it’s dry by touching the sponge and the taste. You always want to eat cake that’s room temperature, a cold cake will taste dry and dense. You can leave the cake at room temperature for several hours but you will want to store it in the fridge overnight.
this is fantastic- thanks!
Your article about the different buttercreams was very interesting. Thank you for providing that information.
Thank you so much for your instructions. You are an amazing teacher!
Do the meringue or French buttercreams freeze well? Also – if I freeze flowers made from meringue or French buttercreams will they hold their shape when they thaw?
I would love to make the cake for my daughter’s graduation celebration. My hope is to do some things in advance to avoid PANIC.
Yes, they freeze well! You can freeze your flowers before assembling them onto the cake.
Thanks for this good information.
Hi! Thank you for your explanations and sharing the descriptions. Would you use any of these recipes for decorating sugar cookies or are these mostly just for cakes? I have been using American buttercream since I was a child, but I do understand how sweet it is and not everyone likes that.
Yes, you can! The good thing about using American buttercream for cookies is that it crusts over and doesn’t smudge too badly. The other frostings will be very delicious but you have to make sure they are thick enough not to run. And you’ll need to be careful not to smudge them after decorating.
I am so excited to have found you! Such great explanations and tips.
In your experience, can you please comment on whether any of these buttercreams freeze well? I tend to favour Swiss Meringue Buttercream for its light and creamy texture, and most importantly, its gentle sweetness. I will be driving from TN to NM for Thanksgiving and would prefer to make the frosting ahead of time.
Thank you again for delivering such helpful and useful information!
Thank you for sharing this valuable information.
I have made the swiss buttercream a few times and I love it.
Am excited to try the others!
You’re welcome- have fun experimenting!
I have been using Russian buttercream for about a year now and all of my customers have loved it but your recipe isn’t correct. I accidentally used that recipe once and the results were not good. The frosting was thin and did not hold up well for piping. If you use 4 sticks of butter instead of 2, the results are SO much better. I am in several cake groups and every time someone says it turned out bad it is because they only used 2 sticks. Once corrected, they usually come back saying it is one of the best buttercreams they have tried. Also it does hold up extremely well in heat if you use half butter and half shortening. Those last 2 sticks of butter make a HUGE difference though! You should try it! I am working my way through all the types and so far Russian and Italian are my favorites!
Does Splenda work in place of sugar in frosting? I am looking for sugar free ways to indulge!
That a great tutorial, thank you so much! Time to hook up the mixer… 🙂
Have you ever heard of butterfluff frosting? I was told that was what was in a doughnut I had, but I don’t seems to be able to find it…
I haven’t heard of it! Do you know the ingredients? I wonder if it’s something we’ve made before with a different name.
Hi Bettie! Thank you for your great article. I am curious why Ermine frosting was not included. It always seems to be the poor stepchild of frostings!
I love ermine frosting! It is very similar to German Buttercream in process and texture.
I just tried your German Buttercream recipe. We did like it. But, I still think I like Ermine better. Maybe because it’s what I grew up with. Thank you for all your recipes.
Thank you for such clear descriptions and recipes of each buttercream. Very helpful!! Looking forward to trying the German buttercream.
Very useful information. Thank you..
This was a great tutorial! I didn’t know there were so many types of buttercream. Thank you!
Glad you liked it!
I am a beginner baker. I really appreciate the information that provided, especially the breakdown for each type of buttercreams uses, can’t wait to try each one.
So glad you like it! Have fun with it!
I would love to know how Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Neoclassic buttercream and perhaps Ermine buttercream fit in this list (a wonderfully exhaustive list otherwise).
I appreciate the concise descriptions of the various buttercreams, but I have a question: what about Ermine (or Cooked Flour or Boiled Milk) Buttercream?
Thank you! That was extraordinarily informative and easy to understand!
I found this to be an excellent resource for identifying the differences between the various buttercreams. It was well-written, easy to understand and addressed what I feel would be the questions most frequently asked regarding this type of frosting.
Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
I love this! I had no idea there were so many types. What kind is used on cakes from the grocery store or Walmart? Not the light, whipped kind but the decadent, rich, thick kind? I love that and want to try making it.