Buttercream Blues

It’s been a high-output week here at the Pastry household. One of the things I didn’t mention is that it was little Joan Pastry’s birthday a few days ago. A good time was had by all, though I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the cake. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted great (it was a yellow butter cake with a caramel buttercream frosting), but I was disappointed with the frosting’s texture. It came out a little, well…blotchy (as you can see). And I can’t figure out why.

Buttercreams are notoriously fussy things. However I generally leave it to Rose Levy Berenbaum to see me through the process. This is in fact an attempt at her “Silk Meringue Buttercream” which is composed of a crème anglaise combined with soft butter, to which an Italian meringue added. In other words, an emuslion (custard) inside an emulsion (butter) inside a foam (meringue). It takes quite a few steps to complete it, so when something comes out less than perfect, it’s hard to troubleshoot exactly where you went wrong.

My feeling is that it was a temperature problem, since it looks, well…curdled (which it couldn’t actually be, since the buttercream isn’t “cooked” in any way). Rose’s instruction when that happens is to simply beat it until it’s smooth. I hesitated to beat it too much lest I pop all the bubbles in the foam, but I probably should have kept going. Another minute or two and this frosting might have been smooth. That or I might have wanted to beat the crème anglaise and butter together for a bit longer before adding the meringue, to both to lighten the texture and equalize the temperatures. The butter was a little cool now that I think about it. Hmm…

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