For a long time I’ve made basic buttercream simply by beating powdered sugar and vanilla into unsalted butter, adjusting the ratios based on whether I want it to be rich and creamy (less sugar) or sweet and stiff (more sugar). When I wanted chocolate, I added some melted chocolate chips, again varying the amount as needed.
But while making a cake yesterday and today for someone special (
and I’m not revealing who just yet, but there’ll be another post either late this evening or early tomorrow that will feature some uber-nerdy cuteness plus a new how-to UPDATE: the post is here), I wanted a chocolate buttercream with more chocolate oomph than my usual recipe.
I Googled around for “dark chocolate buttercream” and mostly came up with variations on ganache, which I also love but didn’t want this time. Plus I didn’t have any heavy cream in the house, and ganache requires it.
Finally I found a Martha Stewart recipe that had promise, although I noticed that a commenter said it came out very thin, and I didn’t want that. I also didn’t want the full 5-cup quantity mentioned in that recipe’s yield, and I wanted something more whipped in order to maximize chocolate flavour but not have it as heavy as ganache. So I started out by calculating a halved recipe with less water, but then also realized that that would require me to cut a stick of unsalted butter. Since I typically only use unsalted butter in recipes that call for full sticks, it’s a pain for me to have a partial stick in the fridge, whereas with regular salted butter I use small amounts all the time. Thus, I made up a small amount of the difference with regular butter and lowered the overall added salt to compensate.
The result was a super-creamy, very decadent, delicious, sturdy-but-light chocolate buttercream that had me making all manner of inappropriate noises as I sampled it. It has also yielded some fantastic cake balls (more on that in the next post). The amount stated is enough to fill and cover one standard box-mix two-layer cake, but it can be increased or doubled.
For decorators: this buttercream spreads very easily when soft, but then comes to a nice firm-but-not-solid consistency when left at room temperature. This means it’ll support fondant well, but not be too hard to cut (which can tear through cake). Popped in the fridge, it becomes quite hard which is useful when sculpting cakes. It’s winter right now so I can’t test it in heat yet, but I would anticipate that a refrigerated cake would hold enough solidity in this buttercream to allow for relatively easy shipping and serving of a cake in summer temperatures compared to regular buttercream.
- ¾lb Semi-sweet or dark chocolate
- 2½ tablespoons water
- ¼ cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa (or dutch process for darker, or regular for lighter)
- 1 cup unsalted butter (two regular US sticks, room temperature)
- 2 tablespoons regular butter (room temperature)
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar (10x, powdered sugar)
- 1 pinch salt
- Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double-boiler until just melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool, but not solidify.
- Put the water into a microwaveable bowl and bring to a boil. Add the cocoa and mix into a paste, ensuring there are no dry lumps. It will be very thick. Note that if you wish this buttercream to be thinner, you could add extra water in this step. Set aside to cool.
- Place both butters in a mixer and beat enough to ensure that they are thoroughly softened and combined. Add confectioner's sugar and pinch of salt and beat at medium speed for about a minute until fluffy.
- Add the cocoa paste to the butter mix and beat on low speed until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and beaters if required.
- Add the melted chocolate and repeat the previous step.
- When everything is combined, beat for three to five minutes on medium or medium-high until the colour changes from dark to light. See photo for the difference between residual smears of the original colour on the beater against the fully beaten result.