This is it—the star of the show, the main event, the most important part of our cupcakes—buttercream! As this is French buttercream, this is tres, tres serious. You will pay attention, follow along and execute these directions! C’est Sérieux!
Recipe courtesy of ROBICELLI’S: A Love Story, with Cupcakes (Viking Studio) (The buttercream can be seen on the cupcake on the cover, above.) Image: Eric Isaac.
Robicelli's French Buttercream Frosting
Author: Matt & Allison Robicelli
- You need:
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- ⅛ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 ½ lb cold butter—preferably European
- Now let’s do this! Oeil du tigre, bítchés!
- In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, add water, then add sugar, corn syrup and cream of tartar. The last two help keep the sugar from crystallizing. (Candy thermometer is non-negotiable!)
- Put the pot on high heat. It’s going to be there for a while. Be patient and keep your eye on it. Don’t go walking away and watching TV or something.
- Put yolks and eggs in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn to high. (WEEE!!!) Just let it go! Eggs will triple in volume and go to “ribbons stage.” You can’t overwhip!
- Wait on the sugar—looking for 235˚, a.k.a. “soft ball.” When it happens, be ready to move quickly. Turn off the mixer and add xanthan gum, turn to medium. Remove the thermometer from hot sugar. Lift with two hands.
- Rest the lip of the saucepan on the edge of the mixer bowl. Slowly tilt and pour sugar in a sloooow steady stream down the side of the bowl. Don’t go too fast! If you do, there will be chunks of scrambled eggs in your buttercream.
- Once sugar is all in, turn the mixer to high. (WEEE!!! [AGAIN!]) Beat ‘til cool. Gauge this by putting the inside of your wrist to the outside of the bowl. It’s more accurate than your hands.
- Switch out the whisk for the paddle. Next. we’re adding the butter. It’s too heavy for the whisk and you’ll end up breaking your stand mixer if you stay with the whisk.
- Start cutting the butter into thin pieces—you could shave it with a cheese slicer if you’d like. Add butter piece by piece—pain in the derriere, yes, but we’re making an emulsion.
- See, if you dump all the butter in at once, the butter and eggs will never combine properly and you’ll have a “broken” buttercream. You’ll be able to identify this easily—it’ll be a chunky, watery, hot mess.
- If your buttercream does break, you can fix it! Turn to medium-high, then add a little more butter, piece by piece, ‘til fixed. Or try adding a little guar gum! This is very strong, so add a pinch and beat for a minute, then check.
- Once your butter is added, turn the mixer to medium/high to add some air—10, 20 seconds at most. Quelle Magnifique! It should be fluffy and make you want to eat it with your fingers.
- Once you have your base, there’s so many ways to flavor it! Coffee powder! Vanilla beans! Dutch cocoa! Peanut butter! Caramel! Ham! *Ok, maybe not ham. Party pooper.
- Congratulations! You did it! You made French buttercream! You are a god amongst men!
I have a question about the 2 cups of guar in the recipe. I don’t see it added in the directions (and 2 cups of guar gum would not make any sense). Am I correct to assume that was a typo?
That would be 2 cups of sugar! Funny thing is that the typo had been corrected and mysteriously reappeared! Thank you for pointing that out.
What is xanthan gum? And where could I find it ?
Hi Ivette. Xanthan gum is used for a variety of reasons, often as a thickener and binder. Here, it helps stabilize the buttercream, which means it will help keep the frosting from losing volume or becoming watery. You can find it at Whole Foods.
What does it mean when it talk about the eggs being at ribbon stage and to look for the sugar to be soft ball?
Ribbon stage is one of the phases your eggs will go through when whipping. Check out our Tips article for more detailed info on the proper technique. Soft ball stage simply means that at that stage (around 235 to 240 degrees), you’ll be able to form the sugar into a soft ball when you drop a little bit into cold water to cool it down.
Thank you so much for this recipe, i’ve been looking everywhere for a decent one and they are hard to find!
Would I be able to leave out the xanthan gum?
Classic French Frosting does not include xanthan so I would give it a try. That said, this recipe came to us via the Robicelli’s and they include it. My guess is that it helps stabilize the buttercream when it is hanging around on top of the cupcakes for a while, but this is conjecture on my part. Although I always say make a recipe as is, because French buttercream is standard without it, I would attempt a version sans xanthan – as long as you know it might not work quite as planned. Let us know if you experiment!
What kinds of things can you add to this frosting? I’d love to do white chocolate. Could I melt it and pour it in? When would I do so? Also how / when could I add raspberry syrup without making it runny? THANKS!
Hi Gina! I am very familiar with white chocolate and raspberry variations for our Bakepedia IMBC, but this recipe did not originate in our kitchens.I would apply the same approach though, so acquaint yourself with the IMBC variations and try them on this buttercream and then let us know! I can tell you that when you add chocolate, it will thin these buttercreams out a bit at first, but as they sit and chill they will firm up. As far as a raspberry flavor, I like to use strained raspberry puree. Add as much as you like until the buttercream can’t take anymore. You will be able to ‘see” that it is not going to absorb anymore.
Thank you so much for your reply! I can’t wait to try the puree – sounds delicious. I love Italian Buttercream, but I was scared to add anything to it because the meringue seems fussy. When I saw this one I thought it would better incorporate other ingredients. YUM!