Choosing the Best Buttercream Recipe

Choosing the best buttercream recipe

SO many buttercream recipes but which one to pick?

Choosing the best buttercream recipe for you and your cake projects can be daunting for some people while others will say “I only use this recipe. Period.”

For me I have always used three recipes and will go back and forth between those three depending on what I am making and for who I am making it for.

When I owned my bakery it was always determined by what the customer wanted for special order cakes, but when it came to making the cakes for the retail end of my store it was a well thought out process.

Here you can check out each of my individual recipes to see the process for yourself and decide which you like best as the taste, well rather the sweetness and textures will differ slightly.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

First there is my famous Swiss Meringue Buttercream which is the recipe that literally put me on the youtube map.

When I started making videos over 6 years ago this recipe hit like none other and it is still one of my top ranking videos.

People talk about this recipe all over social media and at one point it was ranking higher in a Google search than Food Network and Martha Stewart’s Buttercream recipes!

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM click here for the recipe

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a silky smooth, very adult style buttercream.

It is made from whipping egg whites and sugar over a double boiler to dissolve the sugar and then the butter and shortening are added with an addition of confectioner’s sugar as well.

Many people have asked me “why the confectioner’s sugar?”

I like the addition of powdered sugar as it adds more sweetness to what could otherwise be a very buttery blend as well as stabilization for piping and decorating your cakes.

For the most part this recipe is the #1 winner for the majority but some have said they think it is too sweet so to omit that confectioner’s sugar would be the solution there.

Others have actually said it is not sweet enough!

So here is a perfect example of how taste and the question “does it taste good?” is subjective since “good” is a unique experience to each and every person.

What’s good to me, may not be good to you, but I think this recipe speaks for itself in the hundreds of thousands of shares and likes it has gotten over the years.

The recipe is versatile enough to allow you to adjust the amount of sugar or omit it altogether.

Additionally some people are against using shortening in their buttercream and I totally get that.

You can of course use all butter in place of the shortening but be aware that shortening gives stability and strength to the recipe and will also allow it to keep it’s integrity much longer in hotter climates than straight up all butter recipes.

Just as some people have said it is too sweet or not sweet enough, I have had others say “it is just too buttery!”

I think that is because those people have never had real deal buttercream before.

Most people are used to grocery store buttercream or even old fashioned bakery style buttercream; so when they taste a classically prepares buttercream recipe made with real butter, they are just not used to it.

That same phenomenon occurs when eating a scratch made cake for the first time, as most people have been raised on box mixes, when they taste a classic genoise or a sponge cake they are just not ready for it.

Click here for my blog post about What is Cake? To give you an idea of all the different cakes there are similar to the different styles of buttercream.

Get to know each and your cake making life will become much easier (and more lucrative!)

So for me the Swiss Buttercream recipe is the winner as it is a perfect combination of sweetness, stability and ease of preparation (once you do it a couple times you will be able to make this in your sleep.)

I have used the Swiss Buttercream recipe in cakes such as: S’MORES CAMPFIRE CAKE / MINT CHOCOLATE CAKE / CARAMEL APPLE CAKE / PETIT FOURS just to name a few.

If you click the link for the recipe for Swiss Buttercream above you will see I have included Chocolate and Mocha varieties, but you can also create your own buttercream flavors for any of the recipes listed here simply by checking out this blog post to advise how



AMERICAN STYLE BUTTERCREAM click here for the recipe

Choosing the best buttercream recipe

All that being said, the next recipe that I use most often lately is the American Style Buttercream

I hate to say it but this is the lazy man’s recipe.

It is so easy to mix but the quality is not compromised by it’s ease of preparation.

Many people love it because it is the closest to my bakery buttercream recipe that was used on the cupcakes and most kids cakes.

That right there will indicate it’s higher level of sweetness which many who are not used to the Swiss Buttercream or Italian versions will love the most.

It is light and fluffy and a dream to work with.

It pipes stiff borders and makes the best buttercream roses 

It takes on gel paste colors better than any recipe, but most of all it is the most stable.

Again I use shortening in all my buttercream recipes and for those who do not you can simply substitute in more butter for the shortening amount.

I have used this buttercream recipe on cakes such as TWINKIES / DEVIL DOGS / SNOBALLS / RAINBOW CUPCAKES / HALLOWEEN CAKE just to name a few



Italian style meringue is quite possibly the most sophisticated of all the buttercream recipes.

It requires cooking sugar and water to 270°F to make a syrup that is then drizzled slowly into the whipping egg whites to make what is known as the Italian style meringue.

The addition of butter (and yes I use shortening too, but again you can sub in all butter) turns this fluffy billowy meringue into a luscious buttercream that is so silky smooth you will think you are eating clouds.

While this recipe is probably the most difficult of the three (but only until you get the hang of it, and you definitely need an instant read thermometer to be sure you are at 270°F) it is the best option for those who seem to get sugar granules in their buttercream when relying on the Swiss or American style.

The cooking of the sugar ensures that all the grains will dissolve since they cannot withstand the high temperature of hte sugar syrup.

Again I use an addition of confectioner’s sugar here, but that is also optional and can be left out completely.

Perhaps here in America we are just used to eating our sweets sweeter than folks in other countries. Actually not perhaps, this is a fact as I have been told my many of my friends across the pond that this is indeed true.

I have used the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe on cakes such as: IRISH CAR BOMB CHEESECAKE / GUINNESS CUPCAKES / and turned it into Irish Cream Butteream too!



Ok I know I said I only use three recipes but once I transitioned my channel, blog and recipes to vegan at within the last year I have been making Vegan Aquafaba Swiss Meringue Buttercream too!

It is amazing! I love it so much and have used it is my most recent recipe for Opera Cake as well as Orange Scented Vanilla Custard Cake  and Vanilla Mocha Cake

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  1. Hi Gretchen! Love watching your videos! Quick question, you said the American BC recipe is not a crusting recipe. Does that mean it would be well suited under fondant? Thanks so much!!

  2. Hi my name is Rachel I am interested in making a buttercream that doesn’t require heavy cream or eggs for that matter for your American Buttercream recipe can I substitute water instead of heavy cream so that I can keep it in a air tight container out on the counter instead of in the fridge for like 2 days or better I just would like to know

  3. Thanks so much for this vegan buttercream recipe! I am making a wedding cake for a friend who’s groom is allergic to eggs. what cake recipe should I use to use Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer? please email me at I need to make the cakes today to practice. thanks!

  4. Hi, Do you have any crusting butter creams you would recommend for putting fondant over? I’ve been told I should use a crusting buttercream, which I should refergigerate to become hard, then apply my fondant which will allow me to get sharper edges.
    Thank you – Armaan

    1. Hey there, I dont have one that crusts, the American style will be the closest to that though
      I have never had a problem with any of my recipes while using fondant, even in all the wedding cakes Ive made over my career (I used Swiss Buttercream 99% of the time) with no trouble
      Click here for more

  5. Loved your Swiss buttercream recipe! It worked for me on the first try and never separated. Super easy! I am wondering if you can use cream cheese in place of the shortening to create a cream cheese butter cream frosting. Would that work? Thanks!

  6. Hello Gretchen, I absolutely love you for sharing your wonderful recipes!!
    Can you fully decorate a cake then freeze it for up to a week without any adverse reactions from the Butteream?

    1. Hi Thanks! I never liked to decorate and then freeze the final cake. Too much risk of sweating when the cake thaws.

  7. Hello Gretchen! I love your creations and am an ardent follower of your YouTube channel. Just a quick query – what buttercream would go best for a rainbow cake?
    Appreciate your reply. Much love!!

    1. Hi Pam thanks!! I would say the American for sure, it takes color the best, but for a more silky, less sweet option, the Italian or Swiss is always a winner

  8. Hello Gretchen, firstly I would like to say you are amazing at what you do and thank you very much for sharing.

    I’m based in the UK and normally have Sweetex shipped out here to the UK. However, this is proven to be difficult now especially with the Sweetex change. I absolutely love your Swiss meringue buttercream and refuse to use anything else. Therefore, I kindly ask for your advice in keeping the same perfect taste without unfortunately the Sweetex. I know you say it can be omitted, but wanted to make sure nothing has changed since then.

    Your the best!

    1. Hi Thanks. Yes I know the Sweetex change has caused some problems. I have resorted to Crisco (not great, but for stability it works) So if you are not concerned with super stability (let’s face it, that’s the ONLY reason we are using shortening) you can use all butter.
      CLICK HERE for more

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