Let's talk buttercream.
How many types of buttercream recipes are there? Five.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
American Buttercream is a popular recipe because it's quick, easy, and cheapest. Most bakeries use a version of this type of icing. While the home recipe calls for using real butter mixed with powdered sugar, most commercial bakeries replace butter with high ratio shortening (Crisco). It's very sweet and oftentimes has a waxy texture. An unacceptable version of this is when granulated sugar is used and it ends up being a very grainy icing. This is our least favorite.
Italian Buttercream and Swiss Buttercream end up being exactly the same, but the process is what distinguishes them. Italian Buttercream requires heating (melting) sugar in a saucepan and drizzle it into fluffy, whipped egg whites and whip in the room temperature butter. Swiss Meringue requires egg whites to be heated with sugar to 160 degrees and then whipped to meringue, add butter, and continue whipping to fluffy delicious buttercream. They end up tasting the same--delicious!
***The benefit of the meringue is adding lightness to the butter, giving this buttercream the fluffy texture and taste that is superior. This is our goto buttercream.
French Buttercream is....well, amazing. This is the elite buttercream for pastries. It's rare to find genuine French Buttercream in any commercial bakery in the US, even in so called "French Bakeries" because it's more expensive and time consuming to make. When you incorporate egg yolks to the process of making anything, you are adding one of nature's best fat, giving the buttercream an extra rich flavor and a velvety texture. We are now making French Buttercream to fill our layer cakes and specialty pastries (bombolinis). This is also our goto buttercream.
German Buttercream is made by whipping pastry cream (custard) with butter. Yes, it's delicious and also time-consuming to make. We make French Pastry Cream to use as fillings in some of our pastries, but we don't go one step further to whip it into a custard type buttercream. It's good...but we don't make it.
Soon we will have a Podcast and Video on the different Buttercreams. We'll let you know when it's out.