Although buttercream and cream cheese frosting are often used interchangeably, you might want to put some more thought into which frosting you choose for your baked goods. These two popular frostings both turn plain bakery into mouthwatering desserts, but they differ in flavor, ingredients, texture, and how long they can be unrefrigerated. In addition to your taste preferences, the best choice of frosting also depends on what you are baking. For instance, carrot cake, red velvet cake, and other moist cakes are commonly made with cream cheese frosting. Its tangy flavor is a perfect addition to spiced cakes, cupcakes, and breads, but it's less versatile than buttercream, which offers a sweeter flavor that pairs with just about any dessert you bake.
Buttercream and cream cheese frosting have some ingredients in common -- powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and butter -- but buttercream is also made with heavy cream or milk while cream cheese frosting contains, obviously, cream cheese. Skip the pre-made stuff -- you can easily make your own traditional American buttercream frosting at home or a tasty cream cheese frosting for your cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and brownies. But first, it's best to have some knowledge of what type of frosting is easiest to work with in terms of texture and storage.
Buttercream Is Ideal For Cakes And Cupcakes
For a frosting that's super versatile and easy to work with, choose buttercream for your cakes and cupcakes. Buttercream is the go-to frosting for professional bakers due to its creamy texture and thick consistency which makes it perfect for piping, spreading, and filling. Also, if you choose the right type of buttercream, it will be highly stable and won't melt quickly in warm temperatures, making your cake super easy to transport and serve at parties. Cakes made with most types of buttercream can remain unrefrigerated for a couple of days. You can also store your extra buttercream in the refrigerator for a minimum of one week, or in the freezer for up to four months before the quality decreases.
There are several different types of buttercream. American buttercream is great for beginners and involves a simple process of blending butter, confectioner's (or powdered) sugar, and milk or cream. This frosting is sweeter and denser than other types of buttercream and can also crust or harden slightly after sitting, making it perfect for frosting/decorating cakes and cupcake piping. Swiss and Italian buttercreams are more difficult to make -- both require making a meringue with egg whites and sugar before adding the butter -- but hold up well in warm weather and are perfect for piping decorations like flowers onto cakes. Swiss buttercream is often used by professional bakers to create a glossy smooth finish on cakes.
Cream Cheese Frosting Is Perfect For Spiced Cakes And Breads
Some people prefer the tangier, less sweet taste of cream cheese frosting which can be used as a frosting or filling for a variety of baked goods. It's commonly used on cakes and desserts that are less sweet than typical birthday cakes, such as carrot cake, pumpkin bars, banana bread, zucchini bread, apple spice cake, and other baked goods with similar spices. It's also, of course, the perfect frosting and filling for your red velvet cupcakes and cakes.
However, its softer consistency can make it less stable and more difficult to work with when it comes to piping. A useful tip for thickening your cream cheese frosting to make it more pipable is to fill your pastry bag with the frosting immediately after making it and put it in the refrigerator to cool for several minutes before piping. Baked goods with cream cheese frosting should always be refrigerated or they can spoil after just a couple of hours. It'll also stay good in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or frozen for three months.
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