Monday, March 10, 2014

The Quickest and Easiest Way to Fix "Broken" American Buttercream

Broken buttercream is the bane of any cake decorator's existence. Many types of buttercreams can "break," but I'm talking about good ol' American buttercream, today. American buttercream is simply a mixture of powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and a liquid.

So, what exactly is broken buttercream?

Buttercream breaks when the fat and liquid in the recipe separate from each other. It gets chunky/beady and quite ugly. This is what it looks like (I darkened the picture quite a bit to make it easier to see):

Isn't that just ugly? Definitely not something you want to put on a cake.

When I had my first experience with broken buttercream, I turned to the internet to see if there was a way to fix it, or if I would just have to toss it. There were several options to try to fix it, but they weren't very quick or easy. Most of the options included beating the buttercream like crazy for a long time or messing with the temperature of the buttercream until it was just right. Getting the temperature just right involved either heating the buttercream or cooling it down with an ice pack...but if it went too far either way, you would have to keep messing with it. In other words, way too complicated!

So what is the quickest and easiest way to fix broken buttercream?

Add a tablespoon or two of shortening. 

That's it! Just add 1-2 tablespoons of shortening and beat for about 30 seconds. That's all it takes! The buttercream will magically come back together as the shortening recovers the balance of fat and liquid. Since it is such a small amount, the shortening does not alter the flavor of the buttercream.

Good luck!

Note: A perfectly good buttercream can also break when food coloring is added. To help prevent this from happening, stick to gel based icing colors instead of liquid based ones.


  1. You need a "like" button! Great tip!

  2. Emulsification is a good thing in cooking and baking! A little extra fat always seems to help with the process, doesn't it? This is a brilliant and well written post, Jenn! So helpful to new bakers. Thank you for sharing, my sweet friend. Meanwhile, I hope you're feeling much better and that you have a great rest of the week! :) Pinning!

    1. It is such a great thing! A little bit of extra fat sure does help. I was surprised by how little was needed! Thanks for your compliments, Stacy!
      The stomach bug has left me, so I am feeling much better. Thanks for the pin and thanks for your kind comment, as always!

  3. This is so helpful!! Totally pinning for when this (inevitably) happens to me. Thanks for the tip :)

    1. Thanks, Rachel! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the pin!

  4. This is a super helpful post! It's little tips like this that are nice to have filed away in case of emergency. Thanks so much for sharing, Jenn!

  5. This is great I never even paid attention to this before. Good to know!


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