Buttercreams – What are the Differences?

Buttercreams – What are the differences?


As pastry chefs and cake decorators, we may use several different buttercreams during our careers. Personally, I have made more Swiss and Italian Buttercreams than any other. In many cases, it’s simply a preference to which one you prefer.


Let’s take a look at the different buttercreams:


1 – Italian Buttercream

Italian Buttercream is made using butter, granulated sugar, egg whites and water. Of course, you would add flavoring in there as well but those are the basics. To make Italian Buttercream, you would cook 2/3 of your sugar with the water to create a sugar syrup. While that is cooking, you would begin to whip the egg whites with the remaining sugar. Once the sugar syrup reaches 240F, you slowly stream it into the whipping whites. You have just made an Italian Meringue. You would continue to whip the meringue until its cool enough to add your room temperature butter to make the buttercream.



2 – Swiss Buttercream

Swiss Buttercream is made using the same ingredients as Italian Buttercream. Tehis difference is how we cook it. For the Swiss, you combine the whites and sugar. You cook that mixture over a bain marie until it reaches 120F. You should make sure you are whisking that mixture as it heats up so you don’t cook the eggs. Once that mixture reaches the temperature, you whip creating a swiss meringue and continue until its cool enough to add the room temperature butter to make the buttercream.




3 – French Buttercream

French Buttercream is made using a pate a bombe. This is  same technique as the Italian Buttercream except a pate a bombe uses egg yolks/whole eggs instead of whites.  You follow the same methods using 240F as the temperature as well. This buttercream definitely has a more egg flavor.


4 – German Buttercream

German Buttercream is made by mixing pastry cream, butter, and powdered sugar together. Yes, there are certain ratios  of each to add to each other.


5 – American Buttercream

American Buttercream is a mixture of Powdered Sugar, Fat (Shortening, Butter, or a combination of both), and milk or water.





  • French or German Buttercreams or mainly used as fillings as their structure is not conducive to decorating with.


  • American Buttercream is what most Americans grew up eating and have become most familiar with. It is very sweet and can withstand a longer shelf life. Being made with shortening, a melting point of 120F-135F, it doesn’t melt nicely in your mouth and can leave a waxy feel.


  • Italian and Swiss Buttercreams are now very popular for wedding cakes. Using butter, the melting point is around 80F-90F. It leaves a nice mouthfeel as it melts in your mouth. It won’t hold up to hotter temperatures like American Buttercream but definitely makes up for it in flavor. Of these two, Italian is more stable because of the sugar syrup being heated to 240F.


Hope this helps……Additional questions? Just email me