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Vanilla German Buttercream Without Powdered Sugar

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Built on a creamy custard base, German buttercream is super luscious and not overly sweet. It is perfect for piping, lovely for spreading and tempting to eat right off the spatula!

swirl of creamy vanilla german buttercream frosting.

   
         If you are looking for a super creamy and sumptuous frosting, you have come to the right place. German buttercream involves making a thick custard base and whipping in butter to make it fluffy and delicious. This vanilla version is just the tip of the iceberg of flavor possibilities.

        German buttercream has a few steps to the process, but don’t let that scare you off. It is really pretty simple and the custard base can be made days in advance, so there’s not a ton to do the day of.

        I have been curious about German buttercream ever since I saw Kelsey from the Itsy Bitsy Kitchen make it for her Danube Waves cake.  The idea of a custardy buttercream drew me in.

       A buttercream variety I haven’t tried yet always piques my curiosity. Especially one that has roots in my heavily German heritage.

Hand holding mixer beater full of custardy german buttercream, ready to use.

      I did a fair amount of research into recipes.  As these things go there are several different methods you can use.

       There were also several different ratios of ingredients. I ended up sort of forging my own path through the middle of all of the recipes I read.

         The results were so good.  Like you may expect it tastes like a really silky pudding, but can definitely do things pudding can’t.

         I spread this batch over a yummy chocolate and cherry cake and spread dark chocolate ganache over it to make a Black forest style sheet cake. I’m looking for an excuse to make it again soon!

Fork piercing through ganache on top of vanilla buttercream coated chocolate and cherry black forest cake.

         Don’t worry, I’ll share the recipe on Friday. I think this creamy vanilla goodness would also be fabulous on a layer cake with fruity fillings.

Let your imagination be your guide and then show me pictures so I can copy you! 💕

Step by Step Explanation for Making German Buttercream With Pictures

Small bowl of granulated sugar and cornstarch being whisked together for custard base.

First mix together half of the granulated sugar and the cornstarch in a heat resistant bowl.

eggs beaten into sugar and cornstarch mixture in small bowl.

Next beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth.  Now set the bowl by the stove and get the milk mixture ready.

In a large sauce pot or saucier, stir together the milk and the remaining granulated sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Small bowl with egg mixture tempered with warm milk.

Once the mixture is simmering, take about 1/3 of a cup or a small ladle full of the hot mixture and add it to the egg mixture while stirring to temper it. Mix it in well.

Slowly drizzle the tempered egg mixture into the simmering milk while beating vigorously.  There are no pictures of this stage as it took all of my hands to drizzle and mix!

Continue to cook and stir over medium-low heat until the mixture starts to thicken.  It may get a little lumpy at this stage and that’s ok.

Slightly lumpy custard mixture in pan with whisk, ready to be beaten smooth.

Just be sure to keep stirring and keep it from scorching.  It shouldn’t take very long at all.

Once the mixture is thickened to about the consistency of a tight pudding, turn the heat to low and really beat the mixture to get the lumps out.

Beating a little bit of butter into custard mixture.

Remove from heat and stir in two Tablespoons of butter.   The mixture should be pretty thick, but still soft.

Warm, smooth, thick custard mixture on whisk, ready to be chilled.

It was able to hold on to the whisk for a few seconds like this before it started to fall.  The consistency should be that of a thick pudding while warm.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the custard with the wrap touching the top to avoid forming a skin. Now refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour.

Once it is chilled it should be really thick, almost more of a smooth cookie dough consistency.  Set it on the counter along with your butter when you pull the butter out to soften. They will mix together better if they are at the same temperature.

Once the butter is softened, beat it until it is smooth and creamy.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl along the way.

Whipped butter in mixer bowl next to bowl of thick dough like chilled custard, ready to be incorporated into buttercream.

Now add a Tablespoon or two of custard and a time, beating well between each addition.  Once it is all added, beat well until the mixture is really fluffy.

Add vanilla and beat a little more.  Now your frosting is ready to go on your cake!

Uses and Limitations of German Buttercream

This frosting is perfect for spreading over sheet cakes, using as a filling for layer cakes or piping on top of cupcakes.

If you want super white frosting, this recipe isn’t the one. The egg yolks in the custard are going to give a creamy yellow hue no matter how long you whip it.

Mine might be a bit more yellow than most because I used eggs from my parents farm and their yolks are super yellow and rich.  If you want a pure white frosting, maybe you should check out Italian meringue buttercream instead.

I haven’t tested the longevity in heat, but I wouldn’t pick it as a first choice if I knew my cake would be subjected to a long stretch of warmth.

There is no powdered sugar to help with stability. The other trick to helping a crusting buttercream hold up is to replace some of the butter with shortening.

Shortening’s higher melting point helps keep it in place longer. With the dairy forward flavor of this custardy German frosting, I don’t think I’d recommend a shortening swap.

Lifting first slice of cake out of pan, showing moist chocolate cake with cherries, creamy vanilla layer and rich chocolate topping.

You could steep any number of flavors into the milk before you make the custard.  Use tea bags, vanilla beans or whole spices to impart flavor then use the flavored milk to make fabulous frosting.

If your frosting is too soft, your butter was likely over softened. Try putting the frosting in the fridge for a bit to set up.  If that doesn’t work, the custard might have been too loose. Try beating in a cup of powdered sugar to thicken it up.

Yield: 18 Servings

Vanilla German Buttercream

swirls of creamy golden custard based german buttercream

Built on a creamy custard base, German buttercream is super luscious and not overly sweet. It is perfect for piping, lovely for spreading and tempting to eat right off the spatula!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Mix together half of the granulated sugar and the cornstarch in a heat resistant bowl.
  2. Beat the eggs into the sugar and cornstarch mixture until the mixture is smooth. Set the bowl by the stove and get the milk mixture ready.
  3. In a large sauce pot or saucier, stir together the milk and the remaining granulated sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Once the mixture is simmering, take about 1/3 of a cup or a small ladle full of the hot mixture and add it to the egg mixture while stirring to temper it. Mix it in well.
  5. Slowly drizzle the tempered egg mixture into the simmering milk while beating vigorously.
  6. Continue to cook and stir over medium-low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. It may get a little lumpy at this stage and that’s ok.
  7. Once the mixture is thickened to about the consistency of a tight pudding, turn the heat to low and really beat the mixture to get the lumps out.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in two Tablespoons of butter. The mixture should be pretty thick, but still soft.
  9. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the custard with the wrap touching the top to avoid forming a skin. Now refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour.
  10. Once it is chilled it should be really thick, almost more of a smooth cookie dough consistency. Set it on the counter along with your butter when you pull the butter out to soften. They will mix together better if they are at the same temperature.
  11. Once the butter is softened, beat it until it is smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl along the way.
  12. Now add a Tablespoon or two of custard and a time, beating well between each addition. Once it is all added, beat well until the mixture is really fluffy.
  13. Add vanilla and salt and beat a little more. Now your frosting is ready to go on your cake!

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

18

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 148Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 113mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 1g

All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to see it! Share a picture on Instagram or Pinterest and tag me @carleecooks to let me know how it went!

Built on a creamy custard base, German buttercream is super luscious and not overly sweet. It is perfect for piping, lovely for spreading and tempting to eat right off the spatula!

Share with your friends!

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