German Buttercream

German Buttercream is less sweet than American Buttercream and a little easier to make than Italian Meringue Buttercream or Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s rich thanks to the custard base of the frosting.

Why is this rich and creamy frosting called German Buttercream? Is this the national frosting of Germany?

Honestly, I have no idea if this style of buttercream was invented in Germany, or if it’s their national frosting. But I originally learned to make this style of buttercream from an Austrian pastry chef.

Whatever the reason for the name, I love this style of buttercream because it’s not very sweet, it’s really quite easy to make and it has the most amazing “vanilla ice cream” flavor thanks to the custard base. It’s so good.

Ingredients

ingredients for german buttercream

How to make German Buttercream

two photos showing how to make custard for german buttercream
  • Whisk together the eggs and cornstarch.
  • “Liason” the eggs into the hot milk.
two photos showing how to cook custard for german meringue buttercream
  • Cook the custard, stirring constantly. Keep a bowl with a sieve near the stove.
  • The custard will thicken enough to coat the spatula.
  • Strain the custard.
one photo showing how to store cooked custard and another photo showing how to add custard to buttercream
  • Cover the warm custard with wax paper and cool to room temperature.
  • Add the cooled custard to the softened butter.
two photos showing german buttercream before and after whipping
  • Once all the custard is added, switch to the whisk.
  • Whip until light and fluffy.

How to fix German Buttercream:

  • If you’re working in a warm kitchen and your buttercream is just a little too soft you can refrigerate it briefly and then re-whip it until it’s light and fluffy.
  • If your buttercream is a little too cold (my kitchen is fairly cool in the winter and I often have this problem) you can warm the bowl and then whip it until it’s light and fluffy.
  • I use a propane torch to warm up the buttercream, which is fun, but you can also place a small bowl of warm water under the mixing bowl to warm the buttercream.
  • If you do have a propane torch and want to use it, here’s what you do: With the mixer running, wave the torch back and forth across the outside surface of the bowl to warm the buttercream. Keep it moving at all times to avoid burning the buttercream. You’ll see the edges melt a bit and then mix in. This works fast, so be careful.
  • If you have refrigerated or frozen your buttercream, bring it back to room temperature then follow the instructions above for rewhipping.
four photos showing how to fix buttercream problems
  • Place chilled buttercream into the mixing bowl.
  • Use a propane torch or a bowl of warm water to warm the buttercream as it whips.
  • The buttercream will curdle a bit, keep whipping.
  • The buttercream becomes light and fluffy again.

FAQs about German Buttercream

What does German Buttercream taste like?

Because of the custard base, German Buttercream has a rich, ice-creamy flavor.

Can I tint German Buttercream?

Yes, this buttercream takes color very well. I prefer to use a gel color, but you can use any food coloring to tint the buttercream. Add the food color right after you finish making the buttercream.

How can I flavor German Buttercream?

You can add melted chocolate to make Chocolate German Buttercream. Add raspberry puree or other fruit purees for fruit flavor. Liquors such as Limoncello, rum or Kahlua can flavor German Buttercream.

Can I make German Buttercream in advance?

Yes, German buttercream can be stored at room temperature for the better part of a day, refrigerated for several days or frozen for up to 3 months. Bring the buttercream back to room a temperature and re-whip before using.

Is German Buttercream shelf stable?

No, after 6-8 hours the buttercream should be refrigerated or frozen.

How much German Buttercream do I need for an 8 inch cake?

This recipe makes enough buttercream to fill and frost an 8 inch cake or frost 24 cupcakes.

Can I fix German Buttercream that is curdled or cracking?

Yes, see the previous section explaining how to fix buttercream.

If you love this style of frosting, I think you should try making German Buttercream’s American cousin, Ermine Frosting.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

Print Recipe
4.45 from 18 reviews

German Buttercream Recipe

German Buttercream is less sweet than American Buttercream and a little easier to make than Italian Meringue Buttercream. It's rich thanks to the custard base of the frosting. This recipe makes enough buttercream to fill and frost an 8" cake.
Prep Time20 minutes
Bake Time5 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
16 servings
Save Recipe

Ingredients

  • 8 oz whole milk (1 cup)
  • 6 oz granulated sugar (⅔ cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ vanilla bean (split or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ oz corn starch (2 tablespoons)
  • 12 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)

Instructions

  • Place8 oz whole milk, 6 oz granulated sugar and¼ teaspoon table salt in a small sauce pan. Scrape the seeds from ½ vanilla bean and add the seeds and pod to the milk. Heat over medium high until scalding.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl use a hand whisk to combine 2 large eggs and ¾ oz corn starch until smooth.
  • Whisk the scalding milk into the egg mixture, then return the custard to the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil. You only need to see 1 or 2 bubbles.
  • Immediately strain the pastry cream back into the bowl. Place a sheet of wax paper on the surface and cool to room temperature. You can chill it in the refrigerator until the middle of the custard is completely cooled. The custard should be at room temperature, not chilled, when it's added to the butter.
  • Using the beater attachment, cream 12 oz unsalted butter until light and fluffy. Add the room temperature pastry cream, a little at a time, until completely incorporated. Switch to the whisk attachment and whip the buttercream until it’s light and fluffy.
  • Use immediately to fill and frost your favorite cake.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 215kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 52mg | Potassium: 34mg | Fiber: 0.01g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 584IU | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 0.1mg
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19 Comments

  1. 3 stars
    I made this to frost a small white layered cake with strawberry rhubarb filling between layers. I didn’t want to overpower the filling and thought this would be lovely.

    It is silky and gorgeous. It spread onto the cake nicely, but never set for a crumb coat. I elected not to do anything fancy with it using a piping bag. I used a comb on the side.

    In the end, I wanted a bit more flavor and sweetness. I wish I had added more vanilla and sugar. Or, almond flavor. Honestly, I may scrape the frosting off the cake in the morning and try a swiss meringue instead.

    I’ll keep this recipe. It’s so simple!

  2. Thank you so much for the detailed instructions. Made this for the first time and it was a huge success in our household.
    Just wondering if it’s possible to sweeten this a bit? Would it still be ok if i add 1 cup or 1.5 cup sugar? 🙂

  3. This looks delicious, thank you! I want to use this frosting for chocolate cupcakes that will have a lemon curd centre. If I add lemon rind and possibly lemon juice to this frosting , will it keep its stiff consistency? Does anyone have any experience in this, please? Thanks

    1. Yes, you can flavor this buttercream with lemon zest and I would use lemon extract rather than lemon juice. You’ll get more lemony flavor from the zest and extract than you do from the juice. Unless you want the tang from the juice.

  4. I have been practicing to make my own wedding cake. I have years of baking experience, but not at “wedding” level. Your posts have been my go to source outside of the Cake Bible for frosting and the science involved! I have followed so many different SMBC/IMBC frosting to a T, but I felt they all were too greasy, soft, and hard to work with. I love that this German Buttercream is an easy to work with texture that provides excellent coverage after just 1 layer without being too sweet or buttery. Thank you for all the details!!

    1. How many people is the wedding cake for? Remember for your wedding cake that a lot can be done ahead. Bake the cakes and freeze them for several weeks. Make the buttercream ahead. Defrost the cakes and trim them and split them while they’re cold so they’re easier to work with. This buttercream can be refrigerated or frozen. Bring the frosting back to room temp and rewhip when you’re ready to assemble the cake. The assembled cakes can be held in the refrigerator for a day or two. Let the cake come back to room temp before serving. Good luck with your cake. I’m happy to answer any other questions as you plan for your cake.

  5. Hi! How well does this buttercream hold intricate shapes and piping? Would it be suitable for piping borders on a layer cake or piping buttercream flowers? Thanks

  6. Hi, I love this recipe. I’ve only make the vanilla version. I would like to make this chocolate. I see that you say that melted chocolate can be added to do that. How much should be added and when? I’m concerned about it changing the firmness. Thank you!

    1. I usually add about 3-4 oz of melted chocolate to a batch of buttercream. You can add it slowly to get to the color and flavor you like. Just make sure the chocolate is not too warm or you could melt the butter. Because the chocolate will firm as it cools it doesn’t cause the buttercream to become runny.

  7. Hi I see you said that it was able to sit at room temp for a day and then also said it is not shelf stable and needs to be refrigerated after 4 hours could you clarify thank you !

    1. Sorry, I guess that could be confusing. By not shelf stable I mean that I wouldn’t leave the frosting or a frosted cake out for several days. But certainly you could leave it out for the better part of a day until you’re ready to ice and serve the cake. If I was going to serve the cake in the evening I would take it out early in the day to soften before serving. Then I would refrigerate any leftovers.

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