I first began designing cakes almost twenty years ago, and it was all about the buttercream. Fondant was popular in England and South America, but had not yet reached the U.S. Piped swags? Hell yeah. Tip 104 roses in garish concentrated shades of blue, pink, and green? All me.
When I was first introduced to fondant around 1999, I thought I’d never look back. I loved the silky smooth texture, the perfect silhouette, the feel of it in my hands. I was sold.
Well, they say that everything old is new again, and I guess it’s true. In the backlash against fondant, brides are beginning to request buttercream again. You’ve obviously seen the piped ruffle cakes and rustic, homespun-looking buttercream cakes all over the web. (And if my theory is correct, it won’t be long before we see the return of piped flowers.)
This summer, we did more buttercream cakes than ever before. We ice with Swiss Meringue buttercream, which yields the smoothest texture because the sugar is dissolved in egg whites, so there is no grit from powdered sugar. (We use our leftover egg yolks either for French buttercream, which we use to fill our cakes, or flan. Note that yolks, unlike whites, don’t freeze well. We either use them immediately or, if we’re using them for flan, combine them with evaporated and sweetened condensed milk and then freeze.) If you’ve never had Swiss Meringue Buttercream (or SMBC) you should try it. Although the process is more labor intensive, it’s worth it.
Because it contains butter, SMBC has a slightly yellowish tint, and is not pure white. (Fondant is our only white icing option.) For some brides, it’s a tradeoff: they like the look of fondant but not the taste, and prefer to have a cake that tastes as delicious as it looks. For others, they actually prefer the look of buttercream, arguing that fondant appears a bit unreal.
Here are a few of the buttercream cakes we made this summer. I’ll let you be the judge.