Have you spent a day in the kitchen, baked a cake then knocked together a batch of buttercream only to taste it and find it’s gritty? Then perhaps you need to ask yourself: Why is my buttercream grainy? And how can I fix it?
Your buttercream can become grainy for a number of reasons. You may have undermixed the buttercream and not given it time to emulsify. You may have also tried to mix it at a temperature that is either too hot or too cold.
What Causes Grainy Buttercream?
If you’ve made a batch of buttercream icing but have found the texture grainy or gritty then it’s a good idea to know what has caused that in the first place.
- No Enough Mixing – The first cause is simply not mixing the buttercream icing for long enough. It will usually take 4 to 5 minutes to mix together properly but it can take longer if your bowl is cold or the ingredients are hard.
- Hard Butter – Not allowing your butter to soften and come to room temperature is another simple mistake that is made when making buttercream which can ultimately lead to grainy icing.
- Unsifted Icing Sugar – As you can imagine, if you tip lumpy icing sugar into your mixer to make your icing then you’re already fighting a losing battle. If you fail to sift the icing sugar, you’ll probably get lumpy, grainy buttercream.
How to Fix Grainy Buttercream
If you have made buttercream that’s grainy then don’t worry, it can be fixed, so don’t throw it out yet. Give these options a quick try:
- Continue Mixing – If it’s grainy, then don’t hold back on mixing it further. Although overmixing it can be the cause of the graininess, if you’ve already got grainy buttercream, then it’s worth a try. Use a spatula or a paddle to mix.
- Leave it Overnight – Leaving the buttercream overnight to settle can help some of the sugar crystals to dissolve, resulting in a smoother icing.
- Add Liquid – Add a small drop of melted butter to the buttercream and give it another beat. Be careful not to add too much, however, as if you make it too runny then it’ll be ruined.
- Hide it With Chocolate – Another trick you can pull out of your hat is to turn your plain buttercream into chocolate buttercream. By mixing in warm, melted chocolate, some of the gritty sugar crystals will melt and will mask any minor graininess that has been left behind.
How to Avoid Grainy Buttercream
If you don’t want to make the same mistake again, follow these 6 tips for making silky smooth, perfect buttercream every time and make sure you have a reliable buttercream recipe you can stick to:
- Consider Sugar Quantities – When making buttercream, try 2 parts icing sugar to 1 part butter. It will be a little harder work but it will also be far less likely to become grainy (or over-sweetened).
- Use Room Temperature Butter – Breaking down rock-solid butter is hard and trying to get the sugar to incorporate is going to be a challenge. So make sure you use softened, room temperature butter before getting started.
- Avoid Low-Fat Butters – Butters that are low-fat often have a higher water content and therefore are more prone to splitting when beat to make the buttercream. In this case, fat is good!
- Mix Consistently – Don’t use a rapid speed then a slow speed then turn it off and beat by hand then return it to the mixer… You need consistency. Turn your mixer onto a medium speed and let it work its magic.
- Sift the Sugar – Although unlikely, you can get some lumps in icing sugar which remain when you beat the butter in. Sieve the sugar to ensure all lumps are broken up. When doing so, it’s also important to keep any liquids away from the sugar which can cause it to crystalise and clump together.
- Use the Right Attachments – If using a mixer then attach a paddle instead of a whisk as this will do a better job of beating and combining the sugar and butter versus a whisk which will incorporate too much air into the icing.
Our Easy, Simple Buttercream Recipe
You need to use 1 part softened butter to 2 parts icing sugar. Beat the butter with half the sugar until smooth. Then add the remaining sugar with a splash of milk and a drop of vanilla extract and continue to beat until creamy and smooth.
Grainy Buttercream FAQs
If you’ve still got more questions about grainy buttercream, then these additional FAQs might help you out:
As long as you use softened butter, you should only need to mix buttercream for around 4 minutes to get the required consistency and to ensure all the ingredients are well combined. If you find it needs further mixing then do so on a high speed for 30 seconds.
A runny buttercream is caused, simply, by too much liquid in your mix. You, therefore, need to add more solids to the mix. Sift in a tablespoon of icing sugar, beat again and repeat if it is still too runny.
Of course! A small drop of melted butter into the grainy buttercream can be one of the easiest hacks for fixing grainy and gritty buttercream icing.
One of the biggest causes of grainy icing is not sifting the icing sugar. Sifting the icing sugar will ensure it is a fine powder which will then result in a lump, free and smooth final icing.
Lewis is the founder and editor of Let’s Foodie alongside other food-related platforms including FreezeIt and SubstituteIt. He launched Let’s Foodie to provide aspiring cooks with one place to get the answers to some of the most commonly asked cooking questions.