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Filtering by Category: cakes

Russian Buttercream

Patricia Reitz

There are a number of popular buttercreams in the world. Swiss, Italian, French, and American are all fairly well known, but Russian buttercream is just starting to become known in the baking world. How does is differ from the others?

Each kind of buttercream can be flavored in various ways, but basically Italian, Swiss, and French buttercreams are made with a variety of cooked sugar syrups. They also require the use of a thermometer to ensure their respective sugar syrups reach the proper temperature (with the exception of French Buttercream, which doesn’t always require a thermometer - although it’s highly recommended for those under 5, over 80, or immune-impaired).

American Buttercream is by far my least favorite - truth be known, I don’t even think it should be called buttercream, but it’s popular with many because it’s so fast and easy to prepare, and does not require the use of a thermometer - you just dump confectioner’s sugar and butter in a bowl and mix them together.

And finally, Russian Buttercream. Russian Buttercream is as easy to make as American (actually easier), but it has the same silky smooth texture and depth of flavor as Italian, Swiss, and French. Great, great stuff. I hope you’ll give it a try.

To recap, here are the various buttercreams and how they differ:

  • Italian: made by combining a hot sugar syrup with beaten egg whites and softened butter (my personal favorite). It has a silky smooth texture, delicate flavor, and is very stable at room temperature for extended periods of time. You must use a thermometer when making Italian Meringue Buttercream.

  • Swiss: made by heating sugar and egg whites together before whipping, cooling, and adding softened butter. It has a silky smooth texture, delicate flavor, and is fairly stable at room temperature, but not quite as stable as Italian Meringue Buttercream. You must use a thermometer when making Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

  • French: made by combining a hot sugar syrup with beaten egg yolks and softened butter. It has a silky smooth texture and delicate flavor, but it’s is a little softer than Italian or Swiss Buttercream and is not very stable at room temperature. Not all recipes for French buttercream call for the use of a thermometer, but it’s recommended when feeding those under 5, over 80, or the immune-impaired.

  • American: made with softened butter and confectioner’s sugar. It’s texture is extremely gritty and the flavor is extremely sweet. It’s gross and disgusting and I cannot recommend you make it… ever.

  • Russian: made with just two ingredients… chilled sweetened condensed milk and butter. That’s it. There’s no need for a thermometer because sweetened condensed milk contains all the sugar you need and it’s already been cooked. The texture of Russian Buttercream is silky smooth. It’s pretty stable at room temperature too.


So today my Russian Buttercream is actually going to be a Russian-Mexican fusion because I’ll be using dulce de leche in place of traditional sweetened condensed milk.

For decades home cooks would make dulce de leche by simmering unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk for hours until the milk inside would caramelize. Most people did this successfully, but there were always stories of those who were not so successful. I don’t know about you, but the thought of a can of sticky, molten caramel exploding all over my kitchen kept me from ever trying. Thankfully, at some point, sweetened condensed milk manufacturers decided to assume the risk for us, and home cooks the world over rejoiced.

Ok, that might be a stretch, but yay!


Start with room temperature butter, about 70F.

A hand mixer works well when making a small batch of this buttercream, but you’ll want to use a stand mixer for larger batches.


Whip the butter for 2-3 minutes until it’s light and fluffy (the photo above is after about 1 minute).


Here we are after 3 full minutes - see how light the color of the butter is?


Time to add the chilled dulce de leche - be sure it’s well chilled to keep the butter from getting too warm.


Whip them together until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed. You’ll want to taste it carefully and add some fine table salt to taste - just enough to highlight the butter and caramel flavors.

If you’re a fan of salted caramel, sprinkle the finished buttercream with flaked or coarse salt just before serving. Yum!

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Well, that’s all there is to it. Super, super simple, don’t you think? Next up, I’ll be sharing a fun way to use this buttercream. Until then, have a great day.

Items used to make this recipe:

Russian Buttercream w/Dulce de Leche

makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes


  • 1/2 pound (226g) unsalted butter at room temperature (70F)

  • 1/2 pound (226g) canned dulce de leche, chilled

  • fine table salt to taste


  1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat room temperature butter using a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes, until light in color and very fluffy.

  2. Add chilled dulce de leche and continue beating with a hand mixer for 1 minute.

  3. Taste the mixture carefully and add just enough salt to highlight the butter and caramel flavors; continue whipping for another minute or two, scraping the bowl if needed.

Note: to make salted caramel variation, sprinkle flaked or coarse salt on top of buttercream when serving.

Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake

Patricia Reitz

So today is the first day of the new year and most food blogs will be posting lighter, healthier recipes, but not me... I give you CAKE! 

But wait a minute... if you think about it, this is a single layer cake made with greek yogurt and shredded zucchini, and the frosting is just a thin layer of ganache... so basically, this really is a lighter, healthier recipe!!  Glad to do my part - you're welcome.


Start with shredded zucchini (or half and half, shredded zucchini and shredded yellow squash).  Thankfully, good zucchini is available throughout the year.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and fine salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Note - sugar is usually considered a "wet" ingredients, but this is a casual cake that is easily mixed together by simply stirring, so no biggie.  You could even throw all the ingredients in one bowl and call it a day if you wanted to.

But I like to mix the wet and dry stuff separately and then combine them, but I digress.

Here are the wet ingredients - eggs, canola oil, greek yogurt, and pure vanilla extract.


Whisk to combine.


Pour the wet ingredients into the dry.


Stir to combine.

Lastly, stir in the shredded zucchini (and shredded squash if using).


Before you pour the cake batter in the pan, be sure to coat the pan with baking spray - the kind that contains flour and oil.  This stuff is the bomb and I never bake a cake without it - helps your cakes release from the pan every single time!!  Great stuff.

And here's another tip that's completely unnecessary, but wow does it make a difference.  Wrap your pan with insulated baking strips so they rise evenly and don't develop a hump in the middle while baking.  Seriously, I use them for every layer cake I bake.  From simple snack cakes to large wedding cakes.  I never have to trim the tops of my layer cakes.

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Items used to make this recipe:


makes one 8x8-inch cake (can be doubled and baked in a 9x13-inch pan)



  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder, sifted (darkest you can find, like this black cocoa)

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1 large egg

  • 6 tablespoons plain greek yogurt

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons hot brewed coffee (or hot water)

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (or substitute up to half yellow summer squash)


  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • 4 ounces heavy cream


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, spray metal cake pan with Baker's Joy, and wrap pan with insulated baking strips (optional, but they keep the cake from forming a hump in the middle).

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, greek yogurt, oil, coffee, and pure vanilla extract.

  4. Pour wet mixture into bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix well; add shredded zucchini and stir until combined.

  5. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

  6. Remove from oven and cool completely before topping with ganache.

To make the ganache:

  1. Place chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl; set aside.

  2. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, heat cream until just before it reaches the boiling point (small bubbles will form around the edges).

  3. Remove cream from heat and pour over chocolate.

  4. Let the chocolate and cream steep together for 2 minutes, then whisk gently until the two combine and become shiny, dark, and glossy.

  5. When cake is completely cool, pour ganache over cake; use an offset spatula to spread evenly.

  6. Chill cake until service. Store in an airtight container.