What is the Difference Between Wilton Buttercream and Classic Buttercream?
Buttercream icing is said to be the most versatile and best icing for decorating cakes, but everyone’s opinion on buttercream icing is different. There are those that claim the only recipe is the classic buttercream from which renowned chefs and bakeries never vary. Then there are those that swear by the Wilton Buttercream recipe that is now common place in almost every out-of-home cake business in the country. So, what is the difference? There is one and it is BIG.
Which Icing Do You Use?
Wilton is the leading company for cake, candy, cookie, wedding, and bakeware products today. The company started in 1929 when Dewey McKinley Wilton opened cake decorating classes in his home in Chicago Illinois. As a youth, Wilton worked in a candy factory where he learned and specialized in sugar pulling. You could almost call him a real life Willy Wonka. Eventually he started trading his sugar pulling knowledge with German and French pastry chefs who in turn taught him to decorate cakes. Wilton then began to make cakes for high-end hotels and caterers around the Chicago area. It was then that he began teaching classes out of his house. At first he charged $25 dollars a lesson (quite a bit of money for the late Twenties and early Thirties).
The Wilton recipe is wonderful because of its simplicity. It basically consists of shortening, butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. By adding more powered sugar you can stiffen the mixture for higher consistency piping such as figures, intricate borders, and upright flowers. On the other hand, adding more milk to the recipe creates a slightly smoother (or medium) icing consistency for piping borders, stars, and flowers with flat petals. Also, by adding 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup per cup, the icing becomes more flexible for techniques like writing, vines, and string work.
The Wilton recipe is the icing recipe that I like to use. It’s easy and most people seem to really enjoy it. In addition to the standard recipe, adding a few drops of assorted flavorings can give your icing more diversity.
How to make the Wilton buttercream.
For a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, my mother found a book I had been trying to hunt down for months, The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. In the book she gives a similar recipe for icing, and then she boldly declares that icings made with these ingredients should only be used for practice and should never be eaten. She claims that recipes including shortening are not real buttercreams at all. The recipe she chooses to use is the Classic Buttercream recipe, but what is her expertise?
Rose Levy Beranbaum received her M.A. in Food Science and Culinary Arts. Since then she has published nine books and continues to write articles for The Los Angeles Times. Not only that, she has written more than fifty cover stories for various women’s magazines and U.S. newspapers. Now, the Classic Buttercream recipe that she swears by is made by beating egg yolks and then adding sugar syrup (a simple syrup made by boiling sugar and water until the soft-ball stage is reached). After beating the sugar mixture into the eggs a small amount at a time, the ingredients are left to cool to room temperature. Next, the butter and optional flavorings are whipped in to complete the icing.
This is the classic buttercream recipe that many high-end bakeries and culinary schools use. As you can see, it is very different from the one that Wilton has used for decades. Beranbaum says,
“This ultimate buttercream is so silky smooth, creamy, and buttery, it complements just about any cake. “
This is Rose making her Neo-Classic Buttercream recipe. An easier version of the classic buttercream
Ms. Beranbaum’s book has so much more than just a great, classic buttercream recipe. When I made a cake that required chocolate roses, I was told by my favorite local bakery and cake supply store (The All in One Bakeshop) that The Cake Bible was what I needed to buy. There are tons of reasons I love this book and only one reason I hesitate to recommend it. The recipes can be a little tricky; and besides, I am a cake mix kind of person. I felt vindicated when Elton Brown from the Food Network proclaimed a good cake mix is moister and longer-lasting than any made from scratch. The preservatives make it so, and I prefer the taste hands down, anyway. However, for those who prefer to bake from scratch, this would be the book for you. There are many detailed recipes that sound fabulous; such as Golden Luxury Butter Cake, White Spice Pound Cake, and Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Cake to name a VERY few. She even recommends icings and glazes from her Complementary Adornments recipe section for each cake. Unlike your typical Betty Crocker cookbook, Beranbaum lists the ingredients by volume, pounds/ounces, and grams. The major reasons I love this book, are found in the latter chapters. There is a huge section of detailed instructions for every decorating technique imaginable. After that, it gets even better as she gives detailed descriptions of the ingredients and equipment she prefers while baking and decorating. I love to reference these sections over and over again as I bake and decorate.
As you can tell, there is quite a difference between the Wilton buttercream recipe and the Classic. For now I continue to use the Wilton as I experiment on the more difficult, yet more refined recipe. As a mother of three young children I find that simplicity is a must. However, I look forward to the day I will be standing in my pristine, full updated kitchen (complete with double oven) mixing up the perfect buttercream for all to admire!
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Lillian aston on June 17, 2016:
Is it necessary yo use dowels to stabilize a 2 teared ,half sheet cake????
MissE (author) from Texas on September 17, 2011:
I think I just said eggs, but maybe I'm looking at something different? I'm not going to print the actual recipes because I don't have permission. I do highly recommend her book though!
anon on September 17, 2011:
Is it me or did it state that you beat sugar syrup into the egg yolks? It is supposed to be the egg whites not the egg yolks
keira7 on November 09, 2009:
Hi MissE so sorry for the delay, very nice hub, good enough to eat:) thanks, see you soon my friend. God Bless.
MissE (author) from Texas on November 03, 2009:
Good idea. Ganache is so fun and easy!!!
vee on November 02, 2009:
I am looking forward to your chocolate ganache hub. So yummy!!
MissE (author) from Texas on November 02, 2009:
Thanks for the comments! I'll probably do a chocolate buttercream hub in the future. :)
Melissa Simmons from upstate NY on November 02, 2009:
I make my own icing a lot of the time and normally I use butter, milk, powdered sugar and vanilla. It always comes out wonderfully, but I never measure :( I just toss it all in there til it looks right. I've tried making a chocolate version, that however, never fails to infuriate me in some way..I'm still learning :) Great hub, MissE!
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on November 02, 2009:
So that's how you make icing!
I'll try it sometime.