A basic American buttercream icing is not only versatile, but durable. You can thin it down for a glaze or thicken it with powdered sugar so it's stiff enough to pipe. Adding too much milk can usually be fixed by adding more thickener. Get it to the right consistency before you add flavorings or food coloring.
Add a Little Sugar
A basic buttercream icing made from powdered sugar, butter and milk is hard to mess up. If you add too much milk, you can simply beat in more powdered sugar to thicken it again. Sift the powdered sugar if it has clumps before you add it to the frosting, and beat the icing until it's thick and creamy.
Once you've thickened the icing with more powdered sugar, chill it for 20 to 30 minutes to thicken it further. Butter begins to melt at temperatures between 88 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit, but it hardens quickly in the refrigerator. Shortening has a higher melting point -- around 106 F -- but it also becomes firm when chilled.
Warm Things Up
Buttercream icing is an emulsion -- or suspension -- of two disparate ingredients, dry powdered sugar and creamy butter or shortening. Fat provides the magic ingredient that coats the powdered sugar, allowing it to become velvety smooth. Sometimes, adding milk to an icing can break this emulsion, causing the frosting to take on a granular or curdled appearance, especially if the milk is cold. If your icing has broken because the milk and butter were too cold, heat the side of your mixing bowl briefly with a hair dryer. Then beat the icing again. If it remains broken, beat in a spoonful or two of heavy whipping cream. The fat in the cream coats the powdered sugar to make it creamy once more.
Adding more powdered sugar and chilling the icing should restore it, but you can also save the icing and use it as it is. Thin icing becomes a sweet glaze for cinnamon rolls, donuts or coffee cake. Pack the icing in an airtight box or freezer bag and refrigerate it for up to one week. Label it and store it in the freezer for two to three months. To use the icing, let it come to room temperature and drizzle it over any sweet treat.
- What's Cooking America: Best Buttercream Frosting Recipes
- King Arthur Flour: Blissful Buttercream: The Beautiful Side of Baking
- The Art & Soul of Baking; Cindy Mushet
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images