Help! What do I do? My buttercream is a mess!
Is there any way I can save curdled buttercream?
Curdled buttercream is an all too common problem especially in the world of vegan buttercream.
The number one culprit, in my humble opinion, is vegan butter.
Vegan butter has a higher amount of moisture content and a very fragile melting point thus throwing off the already delicate balance of this fragile emulsion
We need to start at the beginning though, in understanding what buttercream actually is before we can determine what is causing it to act so damned defiant.
Buttercream is an emulsion which very simply is:
A mixture of two or more liquids that do not easily mix together (think oil and water) which lends itself to the tendency for a liquid-liquid phase separation
That’s just a fancy way of answering the question “Why is my buttercream seeping moisture!!”
Now this could also be a totally different reason which points to condensation
If you take your refrigerated buttercream iced cake out of the cold ice box and into a drastically lower room temperature you will get instant “sweating”
Sweating is the not the same as separation or curdling which is the focus of this article.
But a quick solution to a sweating cake is a less drastic temperature change from cold to warm environments.
When I owned my bakery the refrigerator for all the cakes was way in the back of the bakery where all the ovens and compressors were; so the mad dash to the front of the store where it was air conditioned was always an interesting one to prevent as much cake sweating as possible by getting that cake from cold refrigerator to cool air conditioned store with as little exposure to the heat of the bakery kitchen as possible.
But to stay focused on the terrible occurrence of curdling buttercream let’s take into consideration the top 3 most important factors.
#1 Vegan Butter
Here in the US I prefer Earth Balance Butter for all my buttercream recipes *not sponsored
I find it has the lowest moisture content and it also gets hard in the refrigerator which is always a plus.
I have not had much success with coconut oil based butters including my own homemade vegan butter as it literally disintegrates into a soupy mess once it makes contact with the meringue in the case of an Aquafaba Swiss or Italian Meringue style buttercream recipe.
The fact that coconut oil has an extremely low melting point even using it in my American Style Buttercream has not been very stable
Since the melting point of coconut oil is 78°F which is slightly cooler than a standard room temperature.
And in the case of the meringue style buttercream we are usually adding the vegan butter at an even higher temperature than that
Not to mention basic friction from the mixing itself adds heat.
So I guess I’ve already delved into that topic but on the other hand of extremely high temperatures in relation to vegan butter and separation
There is also the problem of the entire mixture being too cold
This specifically pertains to re-whipping buttercream after it has been in the refrigerator
If you are trying to remix your buttercream straight out of the refrigerator chances are you are going to have a broken, curdled mess in your bowl.
This is simply due to the fact that the entire mixture is too cold thus prohibiting a homogeneous mix
By bringing your bowl of buttercream to room temperature first you will have a much better time of whipping back to a smooth silky workable cream in no time
If you cannot wait the hour or so to get the entire bowl back to room temperature, you can commission the use of your trusty blow torch to help the process along faster!
Agitation in combination with the right temperature is going to give you the best buttercream results so understanding this is the key to success
Again, think Oil and Water.
What do you have to do to get those two unlikely liquids to meld together?
Shake it up vigorously!
So whether you are making the Swiss Buttercream, the American Style Buttercream or the Italian Meringue Buttercream the following video shows you first hand what happens when the buttercream breaks upon mixing
Click the links below for all of my buttercream recipes!
No Dye! Red Velvet Cake ~ Vegan (This recipe link has the ERMINE BUTTERCREAM RECIPE)
Also, for those who have questions pertaining to flavoring your buttercream recipes
I have another article that talks all about the best way to flavor your buttercream recipes!