to expect my buttercream not to curdle

(83 Posts)

I'm trying to cut costs by using marj instead of ridiculously expensive butter, but the icing just turns to a wet curdled mess and looks utterly gross and unusable. My sister says she has never made butter icing with butter and always uses marj. Why won't it work? I've tried the soft stuff, and also the hard baking fat stuff, but both failed. Yuck. Any advice?

squeakytoy Thu 16-May-13 13:33:38

How are you mixing it? And in what proportions? And what type of sugar are you using?

SanityClause Thu 16-May-13 13:35:42

Very interested in this, as two of my DC are dairy intollerant. I never seem to manage to get butter cream right. It tastes good, but doesn't look amazing.

Half fat to icing sugar so 2oz of fat, 4oz of sugar. Just normal icing sugar. I use a stand mixer. When I use butter it works just fine. Apparently butter is going up by 30p soon! Help.

Apparently you can use Trex but that sounds a bit gross. I tried Tesco baking fat (hard block like butter) and baking spread (in a tub like ice cream). Both failed sad

squeakytoy Thu 16-May-13 13:39:06

baking fat is for pastry, as is trex... you cant use it to make buttercream..

the clue is in the name.. BUTTERcream.

awkwardsis Thu 16-May-13 13:39:17

Butter icing made with marg is never going to be nice. You can but basic stuff from somewhere like aldi for about a pound. I believe you can freeze it if you have any left over too. I never use butter to make the cake though, I use vitalite as I too have dc with dairy issues.

But it will taste horrible with margarine! And butter is only 90 cents where I live and the UK is cheaper for food. Surely you can get butter for about 80p?

squeakytoy Thu 16-May-13 13:40:12

A pack of butter is about £1.50 here Baroness.

I've frozen buttercream and it's always been fine. Just defrost and give it a good beat before you use it.

Surely someone out there has had success with marj? How come my sister has managed for 30 years and I can't? Weird. Hm, I was a butter purist too but it's just so expensive so I thought I'd experiment.

I too thought the Trex thing sounded gross. Apparently people use it for wedding cakes as the icing ends up whaiter then whaite. Yuck.

LaraCroftInDisguise Thu 16-May-13 13:43:15

I use Tesco Value butter for mine. It tastes just as yummy and costs less than a quid.

Kasterborous Thu 16-May-13 13:43:24

I use stork margarine for my butter icing and it's nice. You just need to use loads of icing sugar. You know it's right when the buttercream starts to go quite stiff.

Kasterborous Thu 16-May-13 13:43:49

I beat it by hand, it's a good workout.

98p is the cheapest. Tesco value. I rang Dairy Crest (thought I'd try and get it from the source) and they offered it to me for 95p, but said it's going to go up very soon.

Forgetfulmog Thu 16-May-13 13:44:30

Lidl sell unsalted butter for about 80p. I use the following recipe - enough for about 24 cupcakes so you might want to fiddle with the quantities:

200g butter softened
200g full fat cream cheese
500g icing sugar

Beat sugar & butter together until fluffy.

Beat cheese separately & then gradually add to sugar & butter, beating all the time.

If you don't want to use butter then you could try the Pure dairy free spreads, but you would still have the issue of using cheese though...

squeakytoy Thu 16-May-13 13:44:47

You could try using Stork, as that comes in blocks almost the same texture as butter.

The problem with margarine is possibly that it is too soft.. could you add more sugar perhaps?

I would also be put off by the fact that margarines contain transfats and would rather pay the extra for decent butter or do without.

Do you use the Stork that comes in a tub Kasterborous?

Ooh Lidl for 80p sounds promising.

Smellslikecatspee Thu 16-May-13 13:45:43

I'm all for saving money but thats a step too far for me. .

Saying that I would guess that you need a higher ratio of sugar if using marg and the marg is softer already, maybe?

Kasterborous Thu 16-May-13 13:49:33

Yes I use the one that comes in a tub. It's useful because I can use it in the cake mixture then also use it for buttercream.

I soften it a bit in a bowl first just using a spoon then keep putting icing sugar in until it goes stiff. It does need quite a lot of icing sugar but I put a bit in at a time.

mintyneb Thu 16-May-13 13:51:34

Have you tried the stork in the gold foil wrapper? (Think its already been mentioned by someone else). It costs 69p a packet

gordyslovesheep Thu 16-May-13 13:52:05

Butter cream is the crown on the cake - you don't scrimp on it - ever grin

yes mintyneb I tried the gold packet one. It curdled. I think I am just unlucky. Maybe it was something to do with the temperature.

Gubbins Thu 16-May-13 13:59:51

I use sunflower margarine for buttercream because my daughter has a dairy allergy. It's never curdled on me, but food colouring separates out with it, which is annoying.

This thread should be illegal.

Gubbins, how do you mix it? A lot? A little? Fast? Slow? With a machine?

Is it making you want cake wannabe?

Yes. sad


sweetkitty Thu 16-May-13 14:20:19

Oh I agree buttercream must be made with butter never marg.

I got 2 blocks for £1 each in Asda today you can usually get it on offer I bet value is cheaper and Aldi/Lidl too. I would rather scrimp on quantity than not use butter.

sweetkitty Thu 16-May-13 14:21:22

And you must lick it off the mixer paddles it's the law grin (or is that just me)

nextphase Thu 16-May-13 14:24:57

Tesco value butter is marked down in .. well, you guess where... atm I was pleasently suprised with the price.
y,y,y to freezing it when on offer.
n,n,n to marg in BUTTER icing, yes to marg in sponge cake, no in biscuits.

Forgetfulmog Thu 16-May-13 14:25:07

No sweetkitty I do the same. I always leave a little bit extra on the paddles for precisely this purpose

You can make butter yourself with a stand mixer...using only cream!

KitchenAid Butter

nextphase Thu 16-May-13 14:25:42

SweetKitty - both my bys know to lick the mixer paddles after cake or icing. They are 2 and 4. So I get the bowl ;)

nextphase Thu 16-May-13 14:25:58


I always make my buttercream with Stork and it's always fine and tastes lovely!

I just put a dob of Stork in a bowl and then put a lot of icing sugar in and beat the hell out of it. I use a little bit of boiled water as well which helps it set a bit.

gordyslovesheep Thu 16-May-13 14:31:48

Gubbins Gel colours stop that happening

piprabbit Thu 16-May-13 14:35:15

I've used marg on and off for years and never had it curdle.
I make it by hand, as taught by my DMum, starting with a walnut size blob of marg and then sifting in icing sugar and beating like hell. If I need more icing I add milk to slacken the mix and then keep adding icing sugar.

stealthsquiggle Thu 16-May-13 14:50:30

Economising on buttercream means using less, not using marg.

Having a good stand mixer has completely changed my buttercream, though - it is now light and airy and a lot more creamy than buttery - and it goes further too.

thistlelicker Thu 16-May-13 14:53:06

My dh bought our pack today 1.69 !!!! From telco

thistlelicker Thu 16-May-13 14:53:17


Also, Americans seem to use half sold fat half butter sometimes to get a whiter buttercream (according to Pinterest anyway!)

Bunch of butter snobs you lot!

ShatnersBassoon Thu 16-May-13 14:59:15

Ugh, I get flashbacks to gagging on butterfly buns at kids' parties in the early 80s when people mention margarinecream sad

For the love of all that is holy use butter, or go for a completely different type of icing.

stealthsquiggle Thu 16-May-13 15:03:52

Jackie if it tasted ok I wouldn't care all that much what was in it- after all, I use the cheapest butter I can possibly find, but no one can convince me about marg in cakes or icing any more than they can about soya mince [bleugh]

jacks365 Thu 16-May-13 15:09:13

Use more sugar than you would normally do. Use a soft tub margarine any will do but do not do anything to soften it more. Add sugar till very stiff then relax consistency with a bit of milk. You may be over mixing it and that will over warm it causing the margarine to separate.

DoodleAlley Thu 16-May-13 15:11:02

Buttercream is wrong.

I implore MNHQ to delete this thread on the basis of the wrongness of buttercream and/or margarinecream....

Ah, may have added a teenie bit of hot water to loosen it which may have made it separate. Is that where I went wrong. I'll try again without the water. I am a butter snob myself but am desperate!

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 16-May-13 15:31:28

I'm vegan so no butter...

I use Pure brand margarine with a smidge of almond extract, and a teeny bit of non-dairy milk. Tastes good to me :-)

IsaacCox Thu 16-May-13 15:54:22

Holly Bell of Great British Bake Off fame, says that buttercream needs 3 ingredients: butter, icing sugar and air. She says to whisk it for 7 minutes with an electric whisk (she uses a KitchenAid). I do this all the time now and it is perfect, light and delicious.

piprabbit Thu 16-May-13 15:59:08

farewell - yes I think the hot water might be the problem. Try milk cold from the fridge instead.

SkinnybitchWannabe Thu 16-May-13 16:14:29

I use any marg, stork or shops own and it's always as good as 'bought' buttercream.
It doesn't have to be butter at all.

KobayashiMaru Thu 16-May-13 18:10:28

It does have to be butter, otherwise its not buttercream.It's margerine-cream, which is disgusting beyond words. If you can't afford butter for buttercream, use icing sugar instead. Anyone who doesn't think marg-cream is vile has no tastebuds.

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 18:31:11

A lot of misinformation on this thread:

1) Buttercream should be made from butter. The clue is in the name - unless you are dairy intolerant
2) Adding water to margarine will make it curdle
3) If you use an electric mixer and beat the buttercream for 5 minutes the extra air beaten into it will make it appear almost white
4) Margarine isn't significantly cheaper than butter if you shop carefully - I always use value butter and just buy whatever is cheapest

I have just checked butter and margarine prices. 250g of the cheapest butter is 99p, 250g of block Stork is 69p. For the amount you would need to ice 12 fairy buns (I'm not talking about those over-iced confections known as cupcakes with far too much icing BTW) or a 7" sandwich cake you would make a saving of approximately 10 - 15p. Is the sacrifice in taste worth 10 - 15p?

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 18:32:07

"I use any marg, stork or shops own and it's always as good as 'bought' buttercream. It doesn't have to be butter at all."

Bought buttercream is vile because it hasn't been near a cow.

sweetkitty Thu 16-May-13 18:59:47

Totally agree bunbaker grin

soverylucky Thu 16-May-13 19:12:30

I always make buttercream that tastes lovely and this is my method.

2 0z of stork from a tub
40z of sifted icing sugar

In a bowl. mix with electric mixer. at one point it goes into little breadcrumbs and you think this is never going to work but keep going and all of a sudden it turns into buttercream

I can't afford to use butter, have never used butter, neither did my mother or grandmother.

soverylucky Thu 16-May-13 19:14:05

I am not saying btw that it tastes bad made with butter but imo it tastes no different. sorry if that makes me tastebud less.

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 19:16:18

Butter isn't hugely more expensive than margarine if you buy value butter. Cake topping made with margarine is desperately disappointing.

KobayashiMaru Thu 16-May-13 19:20:25

It doesn't taste lovely if you use stork. Stork is revolting, and I'd be surreptiously be spitting your cake into a napkin. Sorry. I'm sure I'd tell you it was lovely though!

Water won't mix with marg, so will curdle. I also wouldn't be suprised if using hot caused problems as the marg could well seperate as it melts.

If it had to be marg, I would either just use marg and icing sugar, or use a little bit of cold milk to loosen it if you must.

As far as buying butter goes, I just stock up with whatever is on offer and freeze it. I don't even use marg for sandwiches, can't stand the taste. sad

Sokmonsta Thu 16-May-13 19:25:47

I always used stork in a tub as that's what I grew up using. Cut up stork and put in with appropriate amount of icing sugar and vanilla and mix until creamed with a hand blender - mines a £5 job from Tesco. Tasted just fine and never had a problem with it curdling, just followed the quantities on the back of the icing sugar pack.

It's only recently I've converted to butter as I can get it cheap enough in places like heron foods and I'm using it straight away. Otherwise it sits in the fridge forever and a day.

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 19:27:25

"and I'd be surreptiously be spitting your cake into a napkin"

grin. I ended up nearly doing that at a school Christmas fair. I had taken a big bite of a beautifully decorated fairy cake and was horrified to find a mouth full of sweetened margarine shock

Sorry, but I am a purist.

As for shortbread not containing butter - don't even go there.

phantomnamechanger Thu 16-May-13 19:36:50

I make margecream because have dairy intolerant child and DH
I use slightly higher ratio of sugar to fat, so its not too soft/runny - and my technique....use a potato masher

how do all you who use electric mixer avoid the clouds of choking icing sugar that go everywhere?

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 19:40:33

My food mixer has a lid to prevent this. If I were you I would start mixing slowly by hand, adding the icing sugar slowly and when it is all incorporated you can use the mixer to get the light fluffiness effect.

I also have a spatter guard. Ignore the customer review as I thought it was brilliant. The reviewer must have been rather inept.

AnneEyhtMeyer Thu 16-May-13 19:45:21

I very rarely eat cakes outside of the home because I have found many people seem to think margarine is a butter substitute.

I think some people are brought up with margarine and so to them it is normal, but it is vile if you know what you should be tasting.

I look at butter prices every time I go to the shops and buy when I see a good deal. I never pay more than a pound per 250g. My freezer currently has a pile of packs of Lurpak as a few weeks ago Tesco had 2 packs for £2.

Butter is not significantly more expensive than margarine and it is vastly superior in taste.

Katnisscupcake Thu 16-May-13 19:48:31

Don't knock trex until you've tried it...

I have attended a cake course with an award winning cake maker/decorator who uses trex in her buttercream. It tastes really lovely and is better for you than using butter. Plus you can colour it easier because it is white and also adding flavour for it is easier because you don't get the buttery taste.

Having said all that, I still use butter because I am not fussed about buttercream anyway and tend to eat my cakes before I decorate them...

phantomnamechanger Thu 16-May-13 19:53:31

thanks for replying bunbaker smile

OK I'm going to try marj without adding any water. Wish me luck. I'm making up to 3 kilos of it a week which is why it's working out so expensive (various cake making commitments!). 2 kilos of butter = £8 whereas a 2 kilos of marj = £2! I will make a little bit to try first though and if it tastes gross I'll have to go back to butter. Can't have people spitting into napkins. Yuck!

I might try trex as well! Oh the horror!

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Thu 16-May-13 20:03:04

Wow, I can't believe how cheap butter is in the UK...! shock

It is usually around $5 (c £2.50) for 500g here, sometime $6 (£3)-$7 (£3.50).

I beat my butter (sometimes with a bit of creamcheese added, depending on the cake) until it is soft and pale, and then gradually add the icing suar. Milk - if needed at all - to loosen. It is definitely all in the beating.

Just no to margarine. For the difference in price, it has to be butter. And think of us in the Colonies, paying way over your odds for butter - hopefully that will make you feel a bit better.

Forgetfulmog Thu 16-May-13 20:04:54

Phantom - you can also drape a tea-towel over the mixer to contain the clouds of icing sugar

phantomnamechanger Thu 16-May-13 20:11:53

yeah, we do the draping tea towel - following The Major Cloud Of Icing Sugar Incident grin

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 20:39:38

2 kilos of margarine for £2! What kind of marge is it?

Baking marj from Sainsburys. There's a similar one in Tescos and Asda as well but not quite so cheap. They are fine in baking... victoria sponges etc. Mary Berry uses marj in sponges. You get better rise! I'd never use it in brownies or flapjacks though. Yuck.

EggsMichelle Thu 16-May-13 20:58:19

HaHa, I read that as But Cream, and wondered if haemorrhoid cream went out of date and curdled!!!

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 21:08:48

I always use margarine for sponge cakes, but not for icing.

AnneEyhtMeyer Thu 16-May-13 21:13:37

Oh God, margarine is bad enough, but £2 for 2 kilos? Yuck. Better make sure you get the napkins ready.

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Thu 16-May-13 21:18:53

Don't spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar, etc...

Just use butter, and let people enjoy the cakes.

Cakebitch Thu 16-May-13 21:21:00

Ever heard the saying...'good cake isnt cheap and cheap cake isnt good'? margarine is only fit for one thing..the bin.

Bunbaker Thu 16-May-13 21:31:17

Never heard that before, but I agree with you.

Fakebook Thu 16-May-13 21:35:19

I never use marg for buttercream icing ever since I used clover once and it tasted like shit. I've tried stork in the past too and the icing doesn't set hard like it does with butter.

I made cupcakes for a friend's son's birthday party on Sunday and followed the buttercream icing recipe from here. 2 sticks of butter is about 225g of butter (yum) I used salted butter. 6-8 cups is a whole 500g pack of icing sugar. Instead of milk, I used double cream and then added splashes of milk to soften it to my liking. It came out much better than usual.

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