If you’re looking for a lovely, soft, creamy buttercream that is not overly sweet to top your latest batch of cupcakes, look no further. Last week I shared my recipe for pastry cream and I hinted at a way it can be used to make buttercream, so today I’m back with that recipe – German Buttercream.

Closeup of swirls of buttercream.

I have so much love for this frosting and it’s my second favourite (after the ermine frosting that I so adore). In fact, German buttercream is very similar to ermine (aka flour frosting) in process and texture.

  • soft and creamy
  • not super sweet 
  • easy to make & pipeable
  • totally silky smooth
  • rich and buttery

What is German Buttercream?

German buttercream is a buttercream frosting made by beating together a pudding (creme patissiere / pastry cream) base and butter. You may also know it as custard buttercream or pudding buttercream for this reason. It is quite a stable buttercream due to the cornflour in the pudding offering extra structure.

This buttercream has a silky smooth texture and is lighter on the sweetness than a traditional buttercream or American buttercream. It takes a couple of extra steps to make but is very simple and worth every second of it.

German Buttercream vs Ermine Frosting

  • German buttercream: starts with a custard base, comprising of sugar, cornflour, egg yolks, milk and vanilla. These ingredients are cooked together to form a very thick custard that, once it cools to room temperature, is added to butter.
  • Ermine buttercream: starts with a pudding base made from milk, flour and sugar. It has the same amazing texture as German  and a very similar process.  Still my favourite, I’ll be adding a post in the near future with all the ins and outs to ermine.

How to make German Buttercream

  1. Make a simple custard base which is a combination of egg yolks, cornflour, sugar, milk and vanilla. See my post on How to make Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere) for all the steps.
Thick pastry cream in a saucepan with a whisk in it.
  1. Let the custard cool to room temperature with plastic wrap pressed right to the surface.
A glass bowl with pastry cream in it, covered with plastic wrap.
  1. Beat the butter and a little sugar until it’s whipped and creamy
A stand mixer with butter in it that has been whipped.
  1. Add the room temperature pastry cream one spoonful at a time, beating for a few seconds after each to make sure they’re incorporated.
A standmixer bowl filled with whipped buttercream.
  1. Mix through a touch of salt, then use a spatula to stir and press the frosting against the bowl.

Now you’ll have a super dreamy, creamy frosting that tastes absolutely diving and can be used on cupcakes or layer cakes at will.

Tips and tricks for perfect German buttercream

  • Don’t use powdered sugar – it must be either regular granulated sugar or caster (superfine) sugar. Don’t worry, it won’t be gritty at all.
  • Divide the sugar – I  use most of the sugar in the custard but reserve a little to help whip the butter. The friction helps the butter get nice and fluffy.
  • Cover the custard with plastic wrap – and it’s really important to make sure the plastic wrap is pressed right to the surface as it will stop a skin from forming.
  • Use the custard at room temperature – whether you’re waiting for it to cool after making it or taking it out of the fridge, make sure the custard is at room temperature before you use it. Too warm or too cold may cause the butter to melt or firm up which will in turn mean a split, greasy or lumpy buttercream.

Can German buttercream be frozen

While you can’t freeze the pastry cream on it’s own, the finished buttercream will freeze quite well for up to 2 months. It is, however, a little temperamental after being frozen so make sure to let it thaw in the fridge overnight and give it a good few hours to come to room temperature before you re-whip it.

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A row of cupcakes on a wire rack with frosting being piped on top.

If you’ve never tried making German buttercream, you really need to try this. It has a lovely flavour and it’s perfect for those who don’t like heavy, sweet frostings. It’s soft, light and creamy and is perfect for filling cream puffs, profiteroles or cream horns as well as for frosting cakes and cupcakes

To see this buttercream in action, check out these Vanilla Cupcakes with German Buttercream.

Want Egg Free Buttercream?

If you prefer an egg free buttercream, try one of these ermine frosting recipes:

You can also FOLLOW ME me on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for more great recipes and tips.
A row of cupcakes on a wire rack with frosting being piped on top

How to make German Buttercream

5 from 3 votes
With it's custard pudding base, German Buttercream is rich, silky-smooth and totally dreamy. With just a handful of everyday ingredients, this frosting recipe is also incredibly easy to make and not sickeningly sweet.

Ingredients

FOR THE PASTRY CREAM

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk 375ml
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 g caster superfine sugar (divided in half) (3/4 cup / 5.3oz)
  • 35 g cornflour cornstarch (1/4 cup / 1.2oz)
  • 2 egg yolks

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • 226 g unsalted butter room temperature (1 cup / 2 sticks)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Equipment

Instructions
 

FOR THE PASTRY CREAM

  • Pour 1 ¼ cups of milk into a heavy based saucepan, and add roughly half cup of sugar and the vanilla. Heat on low heat until steaming, stirring regularly. Remove from heat.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup milk, egg yolks and cornflour until smooth and fully combined.
  • While whisking, very slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture in a slow but steady stream. Don’t pour it too quickly or the heat will scramble the eggs.
  • Once everything is combined, return the mix to the saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring with a whisk constantly, until it gets very thick and no longer settles into itself when you move it around. This will happen quite quickly after about 5 minutes so it’s important to keep gently whisking increasing intensity as it gets very thick. Continue cooking while whisking for another minute. You will end up with lumpy custard if you don’t.
  • Swap to a silicone spatula and pass the custard through a strainer into a clean bowl, then press plastic wrap to the surface and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Pass the custard through a strainer into a clean bowl, the press plastic wrap to the surface and allow to cool to room temperature.

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • Use an electric butter, or a stand mixer with paddle attachment to whip the butter and remaining ¼ cup of sugar for about 5 minutes or until it looks very light and airy.
  • Add the custard, 1 spoonful at a time, beating for a few seconds to incorporate, before adding the next. Beat well for another minute or so.
  • Finally mix through the salt.
  • Use a silicone spatula and just spend a minute stirring and pressing the buttercream against the side of the bowl just to remove any big air bubbles that might make piping difficult.

Notes

  1. Sugar: you can swap the caster sugar in the buttercream for granulated white sugar but don’t use powdered or icing sugar.
  2. This recipe will top 12 cupcakes generously.
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