I am in the mood to tackle some FAQ on Korean Buttercream Flower today. FYI, these questions are in relation to this post – Glossy Korean Buttercream Flower Recipe.
(UPDATE 31/7/2017: Added photos for Question 1)
Please take note that if you want to ask/share anything, kindly do so in the comment section – don’t send comment or private message on Instagram or email. The idea is so that everyone will have access to your question and hopefully benefit from it. Capisce?
Also, I will take some photos for this post especially for Question 1. I hope I can put your mind at ease when you see the amount of water there is in my mixing bowl every time I make buttercream. I’ll try to post the photos soon when (and if) I make a flower cake.
I don’t want to keep this post in my draft inbox anymore just because I couldn’t get the photos ready. I know how much it will benefit you self-taught buttercream flower enthusiasts out there, so here it is!
Disclaimer: All the answers provided are merely SUGGESTIONS based on my personal experience. What works for me may work differently for you and vice versa.
1. Why after I add butter to the meringue my mixture is watery/milky/lumpy/curdled?
First of all, I clearly state in the method of the recipe that ‘watery, soupy, lumpy and curdled mixture’ is part of the process and you need to keep calm and whisk until it becomes buttercream. I wonder how long exactly you’d wait during the process before panicking. Hmmm….
Anyway, I am writing this under the assumption that you’ve followed the method in the recipe accurately. This is going to be a lengthy explanation, please bear with me.
Let’s talk a little science. The act of adding butter to meringue is similar to an act of adding oil to water. Oil and water do not mix, just as butter and meringue do not mix. BUT, it is possible to mix them together by shaking/whisking the mixture vigorously<—- that’s the keyword!!!
I am going to use olive oil and lemon juice salad dressing as an example. Most chefs will use a food processor to help mix these two components together because the swift movement of the blades in the food processor is fast enough to emulsify the mixture and create salad dressing. Now, can chefs achieve the same result if they manually whisk olive oil and lemon juice? Yes, they can but only if they whisk fast/vigorously enough but it will take longer time. My point is, in the case of butter and meringue, if you’re already whisking vigorously, it’s a matter of time your butter and meringue mixture will turn into buttercream. The faster you whisk, the faster it’ll turn into buttercream.
Nevertheless, I do have some suggestions I hope that might help speed up the process, I won’t guarantee anything though since I never have to adopt these methods. So ermmm…try at your own risk?
- Make half of the recipe
If you’re cautious, have a go using half of the recipe and see how it turns out for you. It should take shorter time to create buttercream considering they are in smaller quantities.
- Use powerful tool
I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer, it’s about a year old. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes at medium speed, sometimes it takes 15 minutes at the highest speed for my mixture to form buttercream. So you see, there’s no telling how long it’ll take. You have to be patience, keep whisking. Different brand of stand mixer has different power and speed. Based on my experience, even the fastest speed on a Kenwood stand mixer is not as fast as Kitchenaid. When I used a Kenwood Chef in one of my buttercream flower class, it takes longer to whip up the meringue and also to create buttercream. I hope with this information you can manage your expectation accordingly. For all I know, yours might take half, double or triple the time it took me.
A baker friend who went to GG Cakcraft class told me it took her Kitchenaid 45 minutes to mix the meringue and butter together when she’s making GG’s recipe at home. Crazy, right? It didn’t occur to me to ask her about it then but I assume she must be making a big batch. I never have to go any longer than 15 minutes when I use the recipe and method I shared on this blog.
- Smaller chunks of butter
I cut my butter into 1″ cubes or smaller. The smaller the butter, the larger the total surface area, the faster it gets broken into even smaller pieces, the easier it is to be incorporated into meringue and form buttercream.
- Use slightly soften cold butter
You can try using slightly soft cold butter – like when you press it with a finger, it’ll leave a dent on the surface. I keep my 1″ cubes of butter refrigerated until it’s time to add them to the meringue because the moment I take them out of the fridge, they’ll start to soften up very quickly due to warm weather we have in Singapore. (Average temperature in Singapore is 33ºC, by the way ).
- Add one cube of butter at a time
Instead of whisking all the butter in at once, add the butter one cube at a time. Wait for it to get mixed for 10-15 seconds before adding another one. Wait longer if the size of the butter cube is bigger.
There you go, folks! That’s all I have to say in addressing your concern on watery/curdled mixture – IT IS PART OF THE PROCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!
For your information, my mixture will ‘let out’ more or less a cup of milky white water for each batch of the recipe. Since I have to whisk it at high speed, I’ll cover my Kitchenaid with a piece of cloth to avoid the water from splashing all over the place. This is also the case if I am using thawed buttercream – the only difference is the water from thawed buttercream is clear instead of milky white.
Again, I can’t say this enough – just keep whisking. Patience is a virtue.
If you’re still having trouble, I am going to be frank and say I don’t know how else to help you – please don’t contact me. Hahaha! (I’m serious).
2. I live in X and my country temperature is YºC. Will this buttercream withstand the YºC temperature in my country? Will this buttercream melt?
I never make buttercream flower outside Malaysia or Singapore so I don’t know how well it’ll withstand in other countries. For the record, in Malaysia and Singapore, where the average temperature is about 33ºC, we always keep buttercream cakes in the fridge until it’s time to serve.
The buttercream will get soft eventually if you leave it out at room temperature, just as any buttercream would. Will it melt? Assuming by ‘melt’ you mean ‘turning into liquid’, first, you have to ask yourself – does butter melt (i.e. turn into liquid) if you leave it at your country’s room temperature like on your kitchen counter or in the dining room? If it does, then the answer is unfortunately, yes, it will melt. If it doesn’t, it will typically get soft but don’t worry, the buttercream flowers will keep their shape.
Use common sense and treat it like you would with any other buttercream.
3. What if I substitute butter with shortening or margarine? Wouldn’t it be able to withstand heat better?
I don’t know, never tried. Do share with us the outcome if you have. Thanks!
4. How to get glossy finish on my buttercream?
Using the recipe and method I shared, you should get glossy buttercream. Cold buttercream looks matte. As it sits in room temperature it will gradually get glossier. I don’t know what causes it to turn ‘glossy’ so I can’t pinpoint what you should do if yours turns out matte – sorry!
Here are some pictures by sirse on Cake Central forum. She tried my recipe and it was a success!
5. What brand of butter do you use?
Always use high quality butter. I like Flechard because it’s affordable – 1kg for about S$11.00. Other brands I commonly see in Korean buttercream flower courses are Elle & Vire and Anchor (I am happy with Flechard so I never bother to try other brands). However, please be warned DO NOT use SCS butter!!! It melts seconds after I hold it in the piping bag – it literally dripped out of my piping bag like water!!! Hence, I don’t recommend SCS. In Lucia’s class we used Flechard but she also said sometimes she uses Elle & Vire. Nana Cake and Mari use Anchor.
6. Why the edge of my petals are ‘broken’/’jagged’?
This is a difficult question. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered if you want smooth edge petals and they must work in harmony with one another. To keep it simple, I categorise them into 3 main groups:
- Consistency of your buttercream. It has to be firm enough to produce stable flower but not too firm. Buttercream flowers like roses, peonies, ranunculus, just to name a few, are not very forgiving when piped with soft buttercream – based on my experience that is. It gets even more unforgiving if you’re using korean piping tips (those with thin opening like #124k) to pipe your flowers. However, if your buttercream is too firm (i.e. too cold), you’ll pipe broken petals too. So yeah…it has to be firm but not too firm. Does that make sense? It’ll only make sense once you have a go at piping buttercream flower. So get piping, fellas!
- Pressure when you squeeze your piping bag. How much pressure depends on the consistency of your buttercream and the type of piping tip you’re using. General rule of thumb is, the firmer your buttercream, the harder you need to squeeze your piping bag. However, you can get away with lesser pressure if you’re using thin piping tip. Once the buttercream starts to soften up a bit, you need to use even lesser pressure to squeeze the buttercream out.
- Speed of flower nail rotation. This takes practice, practice and practice! I like to start rotating my nail slowly. At the same time, I will use low pressure to squeeze my piping bag and see how it goes. If the petal is broken, I’ll increase the pressure while maintaining the same rotational speed.
To be honest it all comes down to logic and practice. That’s the best way to get to know your buttercream and piping style. In Lucia’s class she emphasized the importance of using cold and firm buttercream every time we use tip #124K. Surprisingly, when I practice at home, I piped better with tip #124K when the buttercream is slightly softer than what I used in Lucia’s class. Everyone’s skill is different. Some may work better with firm, cold buttercream, some with slightly soft buttercream. You are the boss of you, who cares what works for others as long as it works for you, right?
7. How to repair split buttercream?
If you notice some water droplets coming out of the buttercream, that means your buttercream has split. You can fix it by whisking it again in your stand mixer. You’ll get ‘watery’ buttercream for awhile (refer to answer to Question 1) but keep whisking, you’ll get there, be patience.
8. How to get white buttercream? Would Wilton White White icing colour turn it to white?
In my post, I shared that adding a little brown colour can help tone down the yellowness of the buttercream. Never tried Wilton White White, don’t think I’ll bother.
9. Don’t you think paddle attachment is better than whisk when mixing meringue and butter?
No, I don’t because whisk does the job faster (I have done it with a paddle and it took forever) and I have less clean up to do. If you find paddle attachment works better for you, go ahead and use it instead.
10. What speed are you using?
When I taught buttercream flower class I find my students were quite fixated on which speed exactly they should use on the stand mixer. Don’t be!!!! There’s no secret, just use your common sense.
I use low speed when I add hot sugar syrup into my egg white to ensure it actually goes into the egg white, not splatting all over the mixing bowl or worse, me! Then, I’ll increase the speed to medium-high until it becomes thick, glossy meringue.
After I add chunks of cold, hard butter into the meringue, I always start at low speed because I do not want to break my whisk – common sense, right? After the butter and meringue starts to get incorporated, I’ll increase the speed to high and whisk, whisk and whisk until milky water starts to disappear and mixture is beginning to look like buttercream. Then I’ll turn the speed to medium-high because I don’t want to risk over-whisking my buttercream.
Remember my tip on buttercream recipe here? If you over-whisked i.e. incorporating too much air into the buttercream, it’ll get fluffy. Fluffy buttercream is perfect for frosting and layering your cakes but not suitable for piping buttercream flower. You want dense buttercream if you’re making flower!
Ten questions answered. Hope it helps, peeps! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss my updates.
Before I signed off, I’d like to remind you again if you want to ask or share anything, kindly do so in the comment section. I want to make all questions and information sharing accessible to this blog’s visitors so they would benefit from it too.
Thanks a bunch!