Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Practically Perfect Classic Buttercream Frosting ~ a la Rose Levy Beranbaum


If you're looking for a buttercream recipe that is practically perfect in every way, this is it! You really can't go wrong with Rose's recipe. I mean, she did write the cake Bible, after all. No, literally. Her cookbook is called "The Cake Bible," and it really deserves that title. It's exhaustive, it's exact, and every single recipe has been tested and perfected to the nth degree. It's my go-to guide for frostings, fillings, and yes, even cake (though I adapt the recipes to be gluten free, with varying levels of success!)

This is the frosting I used for James' first and second birthday cakes, and I also used it on the 4th of July to frost some chocolate cupcakes (which explains the festive sprinkles! Also, the terrible icing jobs. I am no professional cake decorator. Sorry internet. I can't be good at everything.) It's a great base recipe for lots of other flavors and colors, and it holds up very well to mix-ins and flavorings. For James' last birthday we did it in lemon, but you can also mix just about any jam, liquor, chocolate, extract, or candy into, and it will work beautifully.

This recipe is technically what Rose calls "neoclassic" butter cream. She call it this because to her, "classic" buttercream involves a candy thermometer and the softball stage of candymaking, and that gets complicated and is prone to disaster. Her "neoclassic" buttercream side steps this terrifying procedure by the addition of corn syrup. Now before you snatch your petticoats up in horror over the addition of corn syrup, hear me out: Frosting is not health food people. It really has no place in a sensible nutritious diet. And is shouldn't, because that's not the point of frosting. The point of frosting is to be sinfully delicious and have no nutritional value whatsoever. So what if it has a little corn syrup in it? It frosting! It's not supposed to be good for you. So please, have a cupcake. With some frosting! It's your birthday ;)


Rose Levy Beranbaum's Neoclassic Buttercream
adapted from The Cake Bible
Makes 4 cups

The reason this is Rose' favorite buttercream recipe (and mine too!) is that the corn syrup acts as a stabilizer to the sugar, and when the sugar and corn syrup come to a boil, it is exactly the right temperature, no thermometer needed. Further, the corn syrup prevents crystallization, so your frosting says practically perfect in every way.

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup liquid corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
vanilla or other flavoring

Have a large greased glass measure near the stove. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are pale in color and thick, 3-5 minutes.

Heat the sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan...

...stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.

immediately transfer to the greased glass measure to stop the cooking.

Pour a small amount of the syrup over the eggs in the mixer, and beat until incorporated. Continue until all the syrup is used up, and the mixture is pale and sticky, like liquid taffy. Continue beating until the mixture is completely cool (or you will melt the butter and ruin the frosting).

Got your butter? Awesome! Beat it in, one stick at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding in the next.

When it looks like this, you are done! At this point, you may also add in any flavoring.

Transfer to a storage container, or frost your cupcakes! Enjoy!



  1. Oh that looks good. And frosting is not health food...but it may be lunch. **sneaky glances toward the fridge container of frosting**

    My Strong Will, is combining with a very Weak Won't to have me drooling over your icing recipe. Now I just need to decide if I am making chocolate cupcakes, or just cake.

  2. The corn syrup used in baking, such as Karo syrup, is different than "High Fructose" corn syrup. Regular corn syrup is composed mostly of glucose. Fructose is much sweeter than glucose, so they started treating corn syrup with enzymes to create High Fructose Corn Syrup. HFCS costs significantly less to flavor processed foods, because (a) you don't need as much of it and (b) corn is less expensive to grow than sugar.

    Many people confuse the two, but you don't need to be afraid of corn syrup any more than you are of sugar. It is a naturally occurring sugar.

  3. Utterly beautiful cupcakes Becks, so so pretty and professional looking!

  4. Lindsey - I agree! Thanks for the clarification :)

  5. I have always thought the same thing. I used to decorate cakes for Jewel, then Costco, and would laugh at people (of course after they left) who wanted less frosting because it is so sweet. Of course it's sweet, it's frosting, and besides that, is there a law that says you have to eat every bit of it, are there frosting police that I am unaware of? Anyway, this recipe looks great!!

  6. Oh, how perfectly lovely! Wonderful timing with The Love Magnet's bday this week. I shall put it to good use. Now, off to peruse the rest of your site for a good cupcake recipe....

  7. That buttercream looks incredible! I agree with the comment above that said it looks professional!

  8. You are seriously my favorite person right now! A cooked frosting that doesn't need a candy thermometer! I can't wait to try this, now I just need to decide what flavor cake to try it on!

  9. This sounds great but is there a way to make a smaller amount, I don't think I would need 4 cups of icing

  10. Wow, I've never made icing like that before. When I make icing I'm very lazy - just some icing sugar, knob of butter and dash of hot water and flavour/colour. It's okay but your version sounds so much more tasty!

  11. Does this icing need to be refridgerated?

  12. According to other recipes for buttercreams I've used, they should be refrigerated, and can be for a few days. It's the eggs and butter in it.

  13. This is awesome, as someone who is allergic to egg whites, the Swiss and Italian version of butter-cream icing have been out of reach, but now I have an option. Now to bake something so I can make this!

  14. Hello! I was wondering--and this question is for any of you folks that have used this recipe--how solid is the frosting after sitting down for a bit? Last time I tried to make a cupcake recipe, I used their recipe for frosting with cool whip and the mix was MUCH too soft and slippery to be used for decoration or even to stick onto the cupcake! Because I was in suck a rush, I was forced to run to the store for ready-made frosting (Pillsbury white frosting, I think?) and I much preferred it's solidified molded form that held the design of the cake tip that I used. Do you have any helpful comments about this recipe and/or what I can do to get that same consistency from homemade frosting? Thank you!

  15. I know one of my friends who does not get along well with some corn products tends to substitute maple syrup for corn syrup. (Real maple syrup, not sirop de poteau.) Maple buttercream sounds like it would be amazing.

  16. I have tried this recipe a few times. It has occasionally worked, but more often I've had the problem that when the melted sugar+corn syrup hits the eggs, it instantly congeals and sticks to the beaters. No way to get it to actually mix into the eggs. Any suggestions on what I'm doing wrong here?

  17. I absolutely ADORE this recip Thank you so much!

    To the anonymous poster above: I poured the melted sugar down the side of the bowl, so it slides into the mixture by itself. Worked a charm! Also, maybe you waited for too long from taking the sugar off the heat to mixing with the egg yolks?

  18. I am going to use this recipe for the holidays. Thanks.

  19. How funny- this was actually posted on my birthday- July 13th-- and I absolutely love buttercream frosting! Can't wait to try it!

  20. How much liquid flavouring can this buttercream take before it starts to get thin?

  21. Are you using powder or granulated sugar?

  22. Made this frosting to top a GF Betty Crocker Devil's Food cake (gasp! Yes, sadly, ran out of time on homemade GF bday cake posted on this site with the adorable James so had to compromise). Added in some melted semisweet chocolate to cake mix (1/2 cup) and iced with the above. Could not determine how exactly to turn it to chocolate butter cream so went with it as is. Had a lovely color from the organic egg yolks I used and wonderful, non-grainy texture. Garnished with chocolate shavings and raspberries was a fantastic hit (even with the store bought base). Never liked frosting until this one. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe! To the above poster I used granulated sugar with excellent results....