It’s your little one’s first birthday, and you want the celebration to be really special. The whole extended family will be there, and they are always criticizing your cooking and baking, so the birthday cake has to be absolutely perfect. But… your buttercream icing always turns out too runny and ruins the cake. So how do you thicken it? Can you add gelatin to buttercream?
Best ways to thicken
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Buttercream is a type of frosting or icing, that can be used either as a filling to sandwich two layers of cake together or as a coating over the sides and top of the cake. It is also lovely for decorating cakes using a piping bag, or other specialty cake decorating tools and will make your cake look quite spectacular if done correctly.
There are lots of different types of frosting for that perfect cake, but my favorite is buttercream. I simply adore that melt-in-the-mouth, creamy, smooth consistency that swirls around your mouth, sending you into cake heaven.
Buttercream is fairly simple to make, but getting the consistency just right can be a little tricky. The secret is to add your icing sugar (sometimes also called powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar – they are all the same thing) very gradually, mixing slowly so that the buttercream doesn’t get too thick and stiff, but is not all runny and messy. It’s also important to use good quality butter that is nice and creamy.
How Do You Make Buttercream?
I have a wonderful recipe with simple, basic ingredients, but actually even more important than the ingredients – the method. My grandma was known to be a wonderful baker. People absolutely loved her cakes and tarts. As a little girl, I always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with her, sometimes just standing quietly at her side, watching her every move. I was so lucky to have learned from the best.
My grandma’s buttercream icing is one of my favorite flop-proof recipes. Many people like to keep their best recipes a secret, refusing to share them with anyone. I, on the other hand, always feel flattered when someone asks me for one of my recipes. I think it is one of the greatest compliments that you can pay a chef or baker. I have shared this recipe with all my friends and family, and now I am honored to share it with you.
Grandma’s Buttercream Icing
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2-3 drops food coloring – if required (Watch out for my special secret tip for adding color to your buttercream icing, later in this article )
Leave the butter out to get to room temperature. Cream the butter with a mixer or spatula until light, soft and smooth. Very slowly add the icing sugar and continue beating for a few seconds. Add the vanilla extract and beat for another few seconds. Pour in the milk gradually, and beat for 3-4 minutes. If you are using food coloring, now is the time to add it, very carefully, one drop at a time, until you get just the right depth of color that you want.
One thing that I always find difficult with frosting is knowing exactly how much the recipe will yield. This recipe should give you between 2-2 ½ cups of perfect buttercream. But what do you do if it comes out too runny? How do you get the consistency just right? There are various ways to thicken your buttercream if the consistency is too much like a liquid.
Can You Add Gelatin to Buttercream?
Yes! One way to thicken your buttercream is to add a little gelatin. But you have to be very careful about how you do it. Add 1-2 tablespoons of gelatin to half a tablespoon of cold water and mix until completely smooth. Gently stir it into your buttercream frosting. Place in the fridge for half an hour to thicken fully.
Can You Add Jello to Buttercream Icing?
Well, here is that special secret tip that I promised you earlier, though I suppose now it is no longer such a secret. If you want to give your buttercream frosting a light, pale color with just a hint of a slightly different flavor, you can add a little Jello powder.
Mix 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite flavored Jello powder with a few drops of water, and gently fold into your buttercream. It will give it a slightly firmer consistency, so you can use a little less milk in the mixture. You will now have a frosting with a soft color and interesting flavor.
Are There Other Ways to Thicken Buttercream That is Too Runny?
Not only can you add gelatin to the buttercream, but you can also add either cornflour or icing sugar. You can simply add a little more icing sugar, slowly mixing it in until you get the right consistency.
Sometimes, of course, you may find yourself in that annoying situation where you have used your very last grain of icing sugar, the frosting is still too loose, and your trusty go-to neighbor – the one who always has the best-stocked pantry – has also run out of icing sugar!
In this case, it’s cornflour (also known as cornstarch) to the rescue. Add about half a teaspoon at a time, beating lightly as you sprinkle it in until the buttercream thickens. This is also useful if your icing is already very sweet and you need to thicken it, but don’t want to add more icing sugar.
Another Useful, but Somewhat Unknown Tip
To end off, I will share with you another clever little trick to make your buttercream firmer, creamier, and even more delectable. You can add one or two tablespoons of vanilla instant pudding powder. This secret ingredient will give your buttercream frosting the most perfect texture and consistency. Simply add the powder and beat gently for a few seconds. You are now ready to ice your cake like a pro.