Decorator’s Buttercream Icing

  • Serves: Makes 10 cups or enough to fill, frost and generously decorate three 9- x 2-inch round layers (2 1/2 quarts)
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Recipe by Sarah Phillips © 2007 Sarah Phillips

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I have adapted this recipe from Toba Garrett, famed cake decorator. I learned about it when I took numerous cake decorating classes from her over the years.
Toba says: "My decorator's staple remains an old reliable when all else fails. I use the recipe over and over again. It can be flavored and tinted in any color and flavor imaginable. My Decorator's Buttercream Icing even performs well in warm weather and pairs well with any butter cake recipe, plus I use it all the time when decorating cakes." Toba demos how to use the icing in our How To Section: Cakes - Frost Cake Layers Using a Piping Bag.


Question: Your recipe makes a lot of icing. I want to use it for other projects. What about long-term storage?
SARAH SAYS: If you desire long-term storage beyond a month, you can freeze my Decorator's Buttercream Icing in an airtight container for up to 3 months!

4 sticks (2 cups or 454 g) unsalted stick butter, softened (can use salted butter without reducing the salt in the recipe)
1 cup (230 g) vegetable or hi-ratio shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons pure lemon extract or pure vanilla or almond extract
11 1/4 cups (3 pounds or 1.36 kg) powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 fl oz or 135 ml) milk or water or clear liqueur
3 tablespoons meringue powder or pasteurized egg white powder
1 teaspoon salt

NOTES: Use a stand mixer with a capacity of 5 or 6 quarts

1. Cream shortening and butter with a paddle-whip mixer for 3 minutes on medium-high speed. Stop and scrap bowl. Add flavoring and salt and mix until combined. Gradually add sugar. Add meringue powder. (The mixture will appear dry).

2. Add liquid of choice and beat until light and fluffy (approximately 5 to 8 minutes).

NOTE: Keep the bowl covered at all times with a damp cloth or plastic wrap when in use. Otherwise, it will form a thin, dry sugar crust on the top of the icing when it dries that will ruin the whole batch if not removed before using.

Store icing in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. The icing does not need refrigeration as the sugar in it acts as a preservative. It will become stiff. Stir well before using.

Posted with permission from Toba Garrett