German Buttercream and American Buttercream

Flower Cupcakes

Flower Cupcakes finished with American Buttercream

The German buttercream is based on pastry cream into which butter is beaten after it is cold. Truthfully, I have never made this so it was interesting for me to learn something new.  For this recipe, we are going to use my pastry cream but change the amounts of several of the ingredients slightly.  Maybe it was because I used my pastry cream, which is firm so it can accept whipped cream folded in and still hold up, but I found this to be really, really heavy.  Also, maybe because I am used to very light butter creams that are full of flavor, I found this to be a strange combination where I could still taste the pasty cream but with a lot of butter in it.  Personally, I will stay with the Italian, Swiss or French buttercreams.  I will say that when I started, I couldn’t imagine it working, but it did. While interesting, It just isn’t my favorite.

The American buttercream is the simplest of all.  For me to call this a buttercream it has to contain all butter.  It is basically butter, powdered sugar and flavoring – sometimes a bit of milk and cream to smooth it out.  You just put everything in bowl and beat it until it is light and fluffy.  We never used this for wedding cakes but we did use it for cupcakes, mainly because they had to sit at room temperature for a long time. I also used it for the cakes we sent in to restaurants.   One of our most popular cakes, the Espresso Fudge Cake uses a great Mocha buttercream and the Spirited Marble Cake which I posted recently is a great example of American Buttercream.

Pastry Cream
This is based on my pastry cream with a few changes.  Please note there is no whipping cream in this recipe.   So use these ingredients and follow the how to photographs at

1 teaspoon granulated gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces)
3 tablespoons flour (28 grams or 1 scant ounce)
1 1/3 cups milk, hot
2 teaspoon vanilla

Dissolve the gelatin in the water.  Stir to moisten all of it.  Set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks in a medium size saucepan along with the sugar.  Whisk in the flour. Make sure you scrape the bottom edges of the pan.  It will be very thick.  Whisk in a little of the hot milk.  Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking constantly.

Place over medium heat and, whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cook for about 30 to 45 seconds until really thick.  Remove from the heat.  Tear the gelatin in pieces and add to the pastry cream along with the vanilla.  Whisk until the gelatin is dissolved and the vanilla is whisked in.  Strain into another bowl.   Cover directly with film, cool, then refrigerate overnight.

Yield 2 cups or approximately 454 grams or 1 pound

German ButtercreamGerman Buttercream ingredientsPastry Cream
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened  (225 grams or 8 ounces)
Additional flavoring of your choice,  optional

Place the pastry in a mixing bowl.  Pastry Cream in mixing bowlWith the whisk attachment, beat until smooth. Pastry Cream beatenAdd the butter about 2 tablespoons at a time. Butter going in Add additional flavoring if using and beat until light.Finished in mixing bowl

Finished buttercream in bowl

Yield:  800 grams or 1 3/4 pounds or 4 cupes

American ButtercreamAmerican Buttercream ingredients
1 stick butter, softened (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1 3/4 cups unsifted powdered sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cream or milk

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer.  Ingredients in bowlBeat on low to combine.   Combined in bowlRaise to medium and beat until smooth and lighter.

Beaten in mixer bowl

Yield:  1 1/2 cups or 300 grams or 10 ounces.

Regular Cupcakes

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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6 thoughts on “German Buttercream and American Buttercream

  1. Stacy

    When sealed with fondant– as in a tiered wedding assembly — how will the German BC hold up at room temp? I think it would make a great tiered filling and will take flavor exceptionally well.


    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Stacy: I honestly don’t know how the German would hold up as I never used it. I only did it for the article on buttercreams. I used Italian buttercream for the filings of most of my wedding cakes and we coated the outside of the layers so the fondant would stick to the cake. The only thing you need to be careful about is not to put too much on the cake when sealing it as the fondant is so heavy. If you put too much buttercream on, it will ooze out at the bottom.

  2. Bill Doyle

    Exactly how does one “tear” granulated gelatin?
    Sorry, Just being a smart-aleck! Was it supposed to be made with sheet or granulated?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Bill – Smart alecks are welcome!! I did mention granulated gelatin in the ingredient list to avoid confusion. At the bakery we worked with granulated, when I taught they used sheet gelatin and I still favor granulated because it is easier for me. Thanks so much for reading Bill.

  3. Mary@SiftingFocus

    Helen, writing about German buttercream took me way back. One of my first boyfriend’s mother was German. She frequently made cakes that were filled with German buttercream. Being American, I was use to the sweeter confectioners sugar buttercream. It took me quite a while to acquire a taste for her cakes. They were much less sweet than the typical “American” layer cake. She also spread a thin layer of jam on the cake layers before spreading on the buttercream. I eventually grew to love her cakes and have thought of them from time to time over the years. I think I might try to re-create one on my blog. By the way, I have really enjoyed all your posts on buttercream recipes. Thanks for sharing!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thanks Mary. I absolutely agree that German and many European pastries are less sweet and sometimes take getting used to. My parents were from Europe and I grew up with those pastries. My mother was a great baker and as much as I tried not to pay attention since I was such a tomboy her baking was the basis for my love of it. The Germans make a great pastry, Murbteig, which I wrote about in my book, The New Pastry Cook. It makes the most wonderful cookies and pastry. I’ll blog about it at some point.

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