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Classic French Buttercream

Classic French Buttercream is light, fluffy and not too sweet. This frosting is a dream to work with and will take on any flavor you’d like.

Ooh la la, let’s make some French Buttercream. This frosting is rich, yet light as a feather.

If you love Italian Meringue and Swiss Meringue buttercream, I think you’ll love their French cousin. The process for making French Buttercream is exactly like making Italian Meringue Buttercream, but we use egg yolks as the base for the frosting rather than egg whites.

The difference is subtle, but the slightly yellow color and rich flavor make this a lovely filling and frosting for any cake where the frosting is the star. This recipe is pairs perfectly with Vanilla Butter Cake, Vanilla Genoise, Vanilla Chiffon Cake or Old Fashioned Buttermilk Cake.

Scroll through the step by step photos to see how to make French Buttercream

two photos showing how to whip egg yolks to make french buttercream
1. Combine the yolks and sugar. 2. Whip until the yolks are “ribboned”.
showing sugar syrup boiled to soft ball stage for french buttercream
Meanwhile, boil the sugar syrup to the soft ball stage.
two photos showing adding butter to egg yolks for french buttercream and how it will look
1. Add the butter to the whipped egg yolks. 2. The mixture may look a little curdled, keep whipping until it becomes light and fluffy.

How to fix French 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
1. Place chilled buttercream into the mixing bowl. 2. Use a propane torch or a bowl of warm water to warm the buttercream as it whips. 3. The buttercream will curdle a bit, keep whipping. 4. The buttercream becomes light and fluffy again.

FAQs for making Classic French Buttercream:

What is the correct temperature for the sugar syrup in French Buttercream?

The sugar syrup should be boiled to 235°F, soft ball stage. If you don’t boil the sugar long enough the buttercream will be runny, if you over-cook the syrup the buttercream will be too firm.

Can I tint French Buttercream?

Yes, this buttercream takes color 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. Keep in the mind that the buttercream is naturally yellow from the yolks and butter, so this will affect the color of the tinted frosting.

Is French Buttercream shelf stable?

No, after 4-5 hours the buttercream should be refrigerated or frozen.

How much French Buttercream do I need for an 8″ cake?

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

Can I fix French Buttercream that is curdled or cracking?

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

If you love this buttercream, but you want something even lighter in color and flavor try making either Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Italian Meringue Buttercream. They’re both very similar to French Buttercream, except they’re made with egg whites instead of egg yolks.

Now that you’ve made this recipe what should you do with all the extra egg whites? Check out this collection of recipes that use extra whites for some great ideas.

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

Classic French Buttercream

Classic French Buttercream

Yield: Enough to fill & frost an 8" cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Classic French Buttercream is light, fluffy and not too sweet. This frosting is a dream to work with and will take on any flavor you'd like.


  • 1/4 cup (2 oz, 60 ml) water
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 226g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks (4 oz, 112g) at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound unsalted butter (448g) room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • Other flavorings to taste


  1. Combine the water with 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Cook the sugar syrup on medium high heat, stirring until the sugar is melted. Once the syrup begins to boil do not stir the syrup. Allow it to cook to 235°-240°F (soft ball stage).
  2. While the syrup is boiling, whip the yolks on medium with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt. Increase the speed to medium high and whip until the yolks are aerated and pale yellow.
  3. As soon as the syrup is at the correct temperature, remove the pan from the heat. With the mixer running on medium low, pour the hot syrup in a steady stream between the edge of the bowl and the whisk. Increase the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the yolks are cooled to about 80°F.
  4. When the yolks have cooled, with the mixer running on medium, add the butter one piece at a time. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium high and whip until the buttercream comes together.
  5. Store at room temperature for 4 hours, refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Bring the buttercream back to room temperature and rewhip before using.

Did you make this recipe?

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Tuesday 20th of September 2022

Can we bain marie the yolks and sugar and then beat it till pale before adding the butter cubes , kind of swiss method ?


Friday 24th of March 2023

@Cecilia, Hi, you can’t. Using Bain-Marie the Mixture doesn’t get 118C useful for crème au berre (in French). Otherwise if You use your alternative you will produce a Crème anglaise (English cream)!

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 20th of September 2022

Hmmm, I haven't tried it but it might work. You'd have to be careful not to scramble the yolks. Take it slowly and make sure to get the temp up to at least 160 to make sure the eggs are in the safe zone. If you try it and it works let us know.

Johanna Shave

Monday 15th of November 2021

I absolutely loved this buttercream. I flavoured it with unsweetened raspberry puree and the resulting cake was a dream. I chose this buttercream because it used the yolks leftover from the cake recipe. My husband and I both love the taste of butter, we didn't find it too buttery at all. It was rich, creamy, smooth and not too sweet. I used organic butter and I think it was worth it. So thank you! I'm looking forward to trying one of your meringue buttercreams next!


Sunday 20th of June 2021

Hi! Is it just the lighting on the photo or does it turn as white as you have in the photo? I need a French buttercream recipe in its palest yellow shade. Thank you.

Eileen Gray

Monday 21st of June 2021

It is a pale yellow shade.


Sunday 16th of May 2021

Everybody complained that it tasted way too much like butter. Like pure whipped butter. Was a pound of butter in your recipe an accident? My mom said either that or that maybe 1 cup of sugar wasn’t enough for 4 whole sticks of butter. Let me know please

Eileen Gray

Sunday 16th of May 2021

French Buttercream is very buttery. If you generally use American Buttercream, this recipe will taste much less sweet and more buttery. You can try making Ermine Frosting for something that is less buttery but not too sweet. Also, Meringue Buttercream is less rich than French Buttercream.

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