A rich, creamy buttercream frosting is the perfect topping for your cakes and sweet treats. It’s versatile, tastes amazing, and can be made into some pretty impressive designs if you know what you’re doing. We’ve all felt the panic that sets in when something doesn’t go quite right in the kitchen. All that hard work, those expensive ingredients, and your excitement at making delicious baked goods can seem like it’s gone to waste.
The last thing you want is to bake and decorate a beautiful cake, just to take a bite and discover that your buttercream frosting is grainy.
The good news: There’s almost always a solution to grainy buttercream.
If you’re here to figure out why your frosting looks grainy and how to fix grainy buttercream icing, you’ve come to the right place.
To avoid grainy buttercream and learn how to fix your icing in no time, keep reading below for the best tips, tricks, and methods to get your tasty treats as sweet and creamy as you could ever want!
Why Is My Buttercream Grainy?
So, you’ve been whipping your buttercream for what feels like hours. Your arms are tired, and you’re ready to give up – yet somehow, your buttercream frosting looks grainy!
We’ve all been there, and there are a few good explanations as to why you can’t quite get your buttercream right.
Your Butter Is Too Cold
Cold butter won’t mix in with your sugar properly. The butter needs to be at exactly the right temperature and consistency to blend into the creamy icing we all know and love.
We don’t want our butter to be too solid or too soft as no amount of mixing will fix gritty buttercream even if you’re using an appliance. If your butter is too cold, you need to let it come to room temperature to avoid grainy buttercream.
It’s recommended that you leave your butter out of the fridge overnight in a cool place so it comes to room temperature. If you are having a last minute baking emergency you can microwave it a little bit to soften it.
Be mindful of how long you microwave butter though. Make sure to microwave the butter in short 10 second increments, and check in between each time. If you end up melting the butter into liquid form, you won’t be able to make buttercream. Melted butter is a liquid and it will not provide the structure you need to make buttercream frosting.
You Used Margarine
Margarine is a great alternative to butter in a lot of baking recipes. While it’s lower in fat, it’s also important to know that the composition is different, which may create different results.
If you’re going to use margarine as a substitute for butter in your buttercream icing, just be aware it won’t be as creamy as regular buttercream due to the lesser fat content.
For the best possible taste and texture it’s not recommended that you use margarine for buttercream. So, if you can, try to stick to the real thing!
You Did Not Sift the Powdered Sugar
In order to get a smooth buttercream, you need to sift the powdered sugar to make sure it’s all finely textured.
You want to make sure to sift out any clumps that may have formed, as even small lumps can affect the consistency of your buttercream frosting.
If you don’t sift your powdered sugar correctly, you will get lumpy buttercream, and those lumps will make it gritty and grainy. This definitely isn’t what you want if the end goal is a beautifully decorated cake.
How To Fix Grainy Buttercream
Whatever you do, don’t throw away your buttercream! There might still be a way to achieve the buttercream of your dreams.
Here are a few methods to fixing broken buttercream:
Mix it Again Thoroughly
The good news is that you may just need to mix your buttercream a little bit more thoroughly once the butter has warmed up, if that was the original issue.
The other good news is that you’re going to get a great arm workout if you don’t have a stand mixer or other mixing appliance!
Add Some Milk
Adding in a little bit of milk will help to soften the sugar and butter together while you’re mixing, getting rid of any graininess.
A bonus is that the milk will make it milky smooth. You’ll find that most buttercream frosting recipes will add milk anyway.
If the milk or other liquid has helped but there’s still some granulation, keep adding in small amounts until you get the desired consistency for your icing.
Don’t overdo it, though; stick to a tablespoon at a time, not cups – and make sure you’re mixing vigorously after eat addition.
Add Melted Chocolate
The warmth of melted chocolate will help the sugar and butter to fuse together, blending into a creamy, chocolate buttercream icing.
Be sure to add in a tablespoon at a time so you don’t soften the butter too much.
Let it Rest
Good things come to those who wait – and in the world of baking and buttercream, this is certainly true as well.
It may be that all your grainy buttercream needs is a little bit of time to rest so the sugar can dissolve into the butter.
If you don’t need your icing urgently, try putting it into the refrigerator for a few hours.
When you come back to it, it should be ready to be whipped up into soft, smooth, and perfectly spreadable buttercream.
Use the Paddle Attachment
I definitely recommend you use a stand mixer from the get-go to make buttercream frosting. The paddle attachment will make it easier to get the perfect consistency and prevent grainy buttercream.
The Best Tips and Tricks to Avoid Grainy Buttercream
As with many other things, prevention is the best cure!
Avoid the stress of having to find a fix for your buttercream by following these tips and tricks for any future baking you’ll do.
The best ways to avoid grainy buttercream are:
Use Room Temperature Butter
Butter can be frustratingly temperamental and delicate. It can’t be too cold, but it can’t be too warm, either.
So, how do we get the right consistency?
Well, there’s one way we can check.
Simply touch the butter lightly with your finger; it should be slightly chilled, around 70ºF. Push the butter gently, and if it leaves an indent but no grease on your finger, your butter should be perfect for whipping. The perfect butter should be malleable and squeezably soft.
Avoid Using Margarine
If you can, use butter every time you want to make buttercream icing.
Not only is it absolutely delicious, you’re going to get a better result than if you were to use margarine. If you want to make the best buttercream for decorating and piping, use a combination of butter and shortening.
Sift the Sugar
This should be one of the first things you do when making buttercream icing, and most recipes will instruct you to do so.
It gets rid of any clumps you might miss, and it’ll save you time in the long run.
Use a Stand Mixer
We’ve already taken a look at why using a stand mixer is so beneficial. Not only will your arms thank you for it, but your cake will too!
Using a stand mixer for your buttercream makes the whole process easier, and reduces the likelihood it’ll become grainy.
Make sure you use a medium to high speed so you get the creamiest, silkiest buttercream without any unwanted graininess.
Other Buttercream Problems
Grainy buttercream isn’t the only issue you may run into. Here are some things that may happen when making buttercream icing:
The key to perfect buttercream is how much you whip it for. Incorporating air makes buttercream really light, soft and creamy. Too much air though will create large air pockets, which is not ideal, especially when you want to pipe out intricate designs.
Whip the butter on a medium to high speed for around 5 minutes until it’s pale and fluffy. Add your sifted sugar a bit at a time, whipping for 3 or so minutes in between. The whole process should take you around 10 minutes. Anything longer than that, and you’ll be adding too much air into youe buttercream.
Check out how to make the best buttercream!
Separated buttercream that looks like its curdled has happened to all of us, and it’s not a pretty sight. Buttercream curdles when the butter is too cold. As mentioned above, when butter is cold, it won’t whip up properly. If this happens, let the butter soften up for longer by leaving it on your kitchen countertop or by putting it in the microwave. Once your butter is at the right softness, pop it back into your stand mixer to whip up.
The Bottom Line
Buttercream is arguably the best frosting out there; it looks and tastes great, when it’s done right.
It’s easy to make but it’s also pretty easy to fix buttercream that’s gone wrong. So don’t fret, even if your buttercream frosting looks grainy there is a chance you can salvage it.
Keep your butter at room temperature, sift your powdered sugar, and use a stand mixer when possible and you won’t go wrong.