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How to Fix a Broken Buttercream

Joy says: I made an Italian Meringue Buttercream  last Saturday. I refrigerated it and used again today. I noticed while I was pressing the decorating bag while making a flower that the water was coming out. It looks like the water was not mixed well in my IMBC. What should I do?

Just want to let you know when I made my IMBC, I messed up. I did not use the right stand mixer, but I used my electric hand mixer. I noticed it was too hard when I made it so I added some more water to it. But on the other hand, I was able to use it to ice my cake last week.  Could it be that the butter that I used was not yet in room temperature? Please help…thanks!

Baking S.O.S. says: This question is a little bit trickier to answer because I’m not certain if my idea of Italian Meringue Buttercream is the same as the recipe that you used to make your IMBC.  But I will try!

First, regardless of which type of buttercream you make, it should always be used at room temperature when decorating.  It is fine to store a buttercream in the refrigerator–or even the freezer for longer storage–but you need to allow it to warm up to room temperature before trying to use it.  I typically pull my buttercream out of the frige at least 2 hours before I am ready to use it.  That alone may be the solution to your problem.

Another common problem with buttercreams is–as you mentioned–the temperature of the butter when you are mixing the buttercream.  Typically, the butter should be soft but not melting: around 65 degrees is ideal.

If the base meringue mixture is too warm and the butter is too cold, then the buttercream will “break”–this means it will separate and, yes, it may seems a little “watery.”

My experience with Italian Meringue is this: You make a caramelized sugar syrup by cooking sugar and water together  until a candy thermometer registers 245 degrees.  Then you pour the sugar syrup slowly into the meringue to cook the egg whites, making them safe to consume.  Finally, you gradually beat in the cool but soft butter until the buttercream comes together.

If the buttercream breaks because it is too cold, you can place a bowl of warm water under your mixing bowl to warm it up slowly, making the buttercream come together nicely.

If the buttercream breaks because it is too warm, do the opposite: place a bowl of ice under the mixing bowl to chill it down.

I would not suggest adding additional water to your IMBC in order to get it to the desired consistency, but that is only because I do not know what procedure you are using.  If you are using a ready-made mix that simply calls for water, then you could be completely fine.

Just for the record: I don’t typically like to make Italian Meringue Buttercream because it requires a fair amount of experience and practice in order to get it right!  I would recommend starting with a Simple Buttercream or even a Swiss Meringue Buttercream until you get more comfortable with the techniques.

Good luck!

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