Are you confused if you should use buttercream or whipping cream? Or are you wondering if you can use buttercream and whipped cream interchangeably? If you are new to baking and are trying to decide if you should use buttercream vs whipped cream with your delicious dessert, you’ve come to the right place.
Whipped cream and buttercream might seem like they are very similar, but if you look closely they really aren’t. They share similar characteristics but are used in different ways and generally cannot be used interchangeably.
If you want to find out more about whether you should be using whipped or buttercream frosting, keep reading!
What is Frosting?
Frosting, also called icing, is a sweet layer or coating for cakes and other baked goods. These terms are used interchangeably and usually mean the same thing. If the term frosting is used, it is most likely to mean a thick, creamy batter that is spread or applied using a spatula or palette knife. Frostings or icings have three main functions:
- To give flavor and richness.
- To improve appearance.
- To form a protective layer around cakes.
If you choose to flavor your frosting, ensure that you use quality flavorings to enhance the cake instead of detracting from it.
What is Buttercream?
Buttercream is a mixture of fat and sugar creamed with a hand or stand mixer until light and smooth. If you are using a stand mixer, it’s best whipped using a paddle attachment. The buttercream may also contain eggs to increase the smoothness or lightness. It can be easily colored and flavored to suit your tastes.
It is used to fill and coat cakes and is a popular way to ice cupcakes. It is very sweet, since it has a lot of sugar, and can be quite dense. If you think about it, when you eat buttercream you are essentially eating butter and sugar so it makes sense that it would be sweet and dense.
There are multiple variations of buttercream out there. Here are four of the most popular types of buttercreams.
It is made by creaming fat and confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) until it reaches the desired consistency and lightness. Whole eggs, egg whites, or yolks can also be added. (Pasteurized eggs are recommended for safety.) Milk or other liquids can also be included to make the buttercream smoother.
This is a combination of stiffened egg whites and softened butter. Italian buttercream is the most common meringue-based buttercream. You can also make Swiss meringue buttercream as well.
French Buttercream is made by beating boiling syrup into beaten egg yolks and whipping until light and foamy, then butter is whipped in.
Pastry Cream Buttercream
Also known as German buttercream, this type of buttercream is made by combining equal parts of pastry cream and softened butter and whip until light and airy. If you want it sweeter, sifted confectioner’s sugar can be added.
Unsalted butter is typically used to make the buttercream. The downside of using butter is that it makes a less stable frosting since it melts quickly. This can be solved by:
- Using buttercream in cool weather.
- Using a combination of shortening and good-quality butter.
- You can add a small quantity of emulsifier shortening to stabilize the buttercream.
Shortening is great to use if you are planning on piping out intricate buttercream designs as it is much more stable than normal butter.
The great thing about buttercream is that you can make it in advance and store it in the fridge. Ensure that it is tightly covered and sealed. Once ready to use, bring it to room temperature for at least an hour before using it and beat it until smooth.
As I mentioned earlier, buttercream can be flavored in any way you like. Here are some ways you can flavor your buttercream. The quantities I have written are suggested amounts for each 1 pound or 500 grams of buttercream. Flavoring can be increased or decreased to taste.
- Chocolate. Melt 3 ounces or 90 grams of semisweet dark chocolate and cool slightly. (Ensure that the chocolate is not too cool to avoid solidifying the buttercream before it is completely blended.) Mix with about 1/4 of the buttercream before blending it into the rest. Use 1 1/2 ounces or 45 grams of unsweetened chocolate if your buttercream base is on the sweeter side.
- Coffee. You can choose to use 2/3 fl. ounces (20 ml) of coffee compound (coffee flavoring) or 1 1/2 tablespoons (5 grams) of instant coffee dissolved in 1/2 ounce (15 ml) water.
- Marron (Chestnut). With a bit of buttercream, add 8 ounces (250 grams) of chestnut purée and blend until the mixture is soft and smooth. Add this mixture to the remaining buttercream, and mix until the buttercream is well blended. You can flavor it with a little rum or brandy if preferred.
- Praline. Take some of your buttercream, add 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 grams) of praline paste and blend until soft and smooth. Combine with the rest of the buttercream.
- Almond. Soften 6 ounces (180 grams) of almond paste with a few drops of water. Add a small portion of your buttercream and blend until smooth. Add the rest of the buttercream.
- Extracts and Emulsions. An example of this is Lemon, Orange, Vanilla, and more. Add according to your preference.
- Spirits and Liqueurs. Examples are orange liqueur, brandy, rum, and kirsch. Add according to taste.
Take a look at my favorite recipe for Swiss meringue buttercream!
What is Whipped Cream?
Whipping Cream contains 30 to 40% of fat. You can get light whipping cream, which has 30 to 35% fat, and heavy whipping cream, which has 36% or more.
So, what is whipped cream? In addition to being one of the most useful fillings and toppings for desserts, whipped cream is a common ingredient in several desserts. We use heavy whipping cream that has been whipped until light and fluffy.
The cream starts out as a liquid but once beaten, it turns into stiff peaks. Whipping creams are tasteless, which is why confectioner’s sugar is usually added to add sweetness to whipped cream. In traditional pastry shops, sweetened, vanilla-flavored whipped cream is known as crème chantilly.
Whipped cream isn’t as stable as buttercream and will begin to melt or lose its shape the longer it is left at room temperature.
Whipping cream and “whipped toppings” can occasionally be confused by consumers. Large plastic tubs containing “whipped toppings” are typically seen in supermarket shops’ refrigerators or freezer departments. As opposed to whipped cream, which is often made just with heavy cream, sugar, and maybe vanilla, and gelatin as a stabilizer.
Whipped cream is a common topping for sweets and drinks. It can be used in pies, ice creams, cakes and cupcakes, puddings, fruit salads or fresh berries, scones, and more! You can add it to drinks like milkshakes, hot chocolates, Caffe Lattes, other espresso drinks, iced coffee drinks, and much more.
Here are some guidelines for making whipped cream:
- The cream should be at least one-day old before whipping. Cream that is quite fresh does not whip well.
- Cream and all equipment to be used must be chilled, particularly in hot weather. If the cream is warm, it will be difficult to whip and may curdle easily.
- If you will be using your hand, use a wire whisk. If you are using a hand mixer or stand mixer, use a wire whisk attachment and run at medium to high speed.
- If you wish to add sweeteners, use caster sugar (superfine) or confectioner’s sugar for the best result and stability.
- When adding sugar to whipped cream, you can add it before you begin whipping or during. Typically though, it is added once the cream has begun to form stiff peaks.
- Avoid overwhipping. Once you have reached the desired consistency stop beating. If the cream is whipped for an extended period of time, it first appears gritty before separating into butter and whey.
- Cream that will be folded with other ingredients should be slightly under-beaten. The process of folding will force it to whip more and could cause it to overbeat.
- If you wish to add flavoring, fold it in after the cream is whipped.
- If the cream is not consumed right away, place it in the refrigerator covered.
Whipped or Buttercream Frosting: The Verdict
As you have probably gathered, whipped cream and buttercream frosting are two completely different things. Yes, they are both used as cake fillings or as dessert toppings, but one is stable and decadent and very sweet and the other is light and airy.
Buttercream vs whipped icing, which one is better? In general, if you are icing a cake, filling it with flavor, and coating the outside, you would almost always use buttercream. The same goes for cupcakes. Buttercream and cupcakes are the perfect match.
If you are making a tart or a mousse, or even if you’re serving a fruit platter, whipped cream goes perfectly as it is light and compliments all these desserts. Ensure that the flavor of your frosting does not overpower your baked goods.