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If you have ever made buttercream frosting, then you know that it is a delicate process. One mistake can lead to a separated frosting. This can be frustrating and cause your beautiful frosting to look like a disaster! In this blog post, I will discuss the causes of buttercream separation and how to fix it.
As a general rule, your buttercream will separate if it is too cold or too hot. Temperature, along with overbeating, is the greatest cause of buttercream separation. Cold or hot butter can cause separation so using softened butter that is at room temperature and beaten slowly can avoid separation.
If your buttercream has already separated, don’t panic! There are a few things you can do to fix it. Read on to discover four methods for fixing a separated buttercream that has saved me time and time again.
Why Is My Buttercream Frosting Separating?
While I like to do my mixing by hand, I much rather prefer using a Stand Mixer instead. I recently wrote an article that talks about the 3 Best Stand Mixers that bakers can buy in each stage of their baking journey. After reviewing a few stand mixers, the Best Overall Mixer was the KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer. You can check out this stand mixer on Amazon!
The butter you used is too cold
This is among the major reasons for the buttercream to separate. When the butter is cold, it will start to solidify and form clumps. This will make it difficult for the other ingredients to blend in, which will lead to a separated frosting.
Softened butter is the perfect way to ensure that your buttercream doesn’t separate. If you’re in a rush and only have cold butter available, I learned a neat trick to get softened butter in minutes!
Take a bowl, heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds, and place it on top of your cold butter (like a cover). The heat from the bowl will gradually soften the butter without melting it. Check the consistency of the butter after 10 minutes. If it’s still too hard and cold, repeat the process.
*Side Note: I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting is So Grainy. This article talks about how to fix grainy frosting by making it smooth again. You can check out this article here!
You overheat the mixture
Overheating the mixture can also cause the buttercream to separate. When the butter is overheated, it will start to melt and form liquid droplets. These liquid droplets will eventually rise to the surface and form a separated frosting.
Temperature is the most important aspect of buttercream!
As butter has high-fat content, too much heating of the butter will cause it to melt. As a result, pockets of fat are going to emerge and cause the buttercream to separate.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting is So Runny. This article talks about how to fix runny frosting by making it thicker. You can check out this article here!
You Didn’t use softened butter
If you don’t use softened butter in your recipe, it can also lead to a separated frosting. When you add cold butter to a hot mixture, it will start to solidify and form clumps. This will make it difficult for the other ingredients to blend in, which will lead to a separated frosting.
If you’re in a hurry, there’s a quick and easy way I learned how to soften butter. Heat a bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds and place it over your cold butter like a dome. The heat will allow the butter to slowly come to temperature without melting it.
*Side Note: I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting is So Shiny. This article talks about how to fix shiny frosting by making it less greasy. You can check out this article here!
You overbeat The Batter
Overbeating is another common mistake that can lead to a separated buttercream. When you overbeat, the butter will start to incorporate too much air into the mixture.
This will cause it to rise and form bubbles. These bubbles will eventually burst and release the liquid droplets. These liquid droplets will rise to the surface and form a separated frosting.
How Do You Fix Separated Buttercream Frosting?
As a whole, you can fix separated buttercream frosting by gently heating it in a warm water bath or cooling it in the fridge. This depends entirely on why your buttercream separated. If the butter was too cold, you lightly heat it, if the butter was too warm, you gently cool it.
As you can tell, buttercream frosting is quite finicky. As buttercream frosting can result in separation from both cold and hot butter, there are two different ways to fix it.
For cold butter, lightly heat the frosting in a gentle water bath. Once the frosting starts melting again, put it back in the mixer and whisk slowly until it is smooth.
You can also fix a separated buttercream by adding more liquid to the mixture. Add one tablespoon of milk at a time and whisk until the frosting is smooth.
For frosting that was too warm to work with, place your bowl into the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Gently scrape all the frosting from the edges of the bowl.
Now you can gently whip your buttercream frosting to its required consistency.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting Became Curdled. This article breaks down how to fix and prevent your buttercream frosting from becoming curdled. You can check out this article here!
How Do You Keep Buttercream Frosting From Separating?
As a general rule, buttercream separates as a result of using the wrong temperature. To prevent buttercream from separating, make sure your butter is at room temperature before you start. Cold butter and warm butter are the biggest culprits in buttercream separation.
If you know you will be making buttercream frosting in advance, make sure to leave your butter out at room temperature for at least 6 hours. This gives the butter enough time to come to the correct temperature and consistency.
If you do not have the time and are in a rush, heat a bowl in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Then, place the bowl over your cold butter.
Leave it on for 10-15 minutes; if the butter is still too cold to work with, repeat the process.
Also, make sure to beat the frosting slowly. If it starts to look like it’s about to separate, stop beating and whisk until it is smooth. Finally, don’t overheat the mixture or add too much air by overbeating.
*Side Note: I recently wrote an article about How To Properly Store Leftover Buttercream Frosting. This article talks about the right ways to store and freeze buttercream frosting to make it last. You can check out this article here!
Why Is My Buttercream Frosting Color Separating?
Generally speaking, the main reason for buttercream color separation is the difference in temperature between the butter and the other ingredients. When these two ingredients are at different temperatures, it will cause the color to separate because of the consistency of the butter.
Buttercream frosting is a fun way to decorate your desserts. However, when there is a drastic change in temperature, it can cause the frosting to separate.
You can prevent this from happening by making sure your butter is at room temperature before you start. You should also mix all of the ingredients together before adding any color.
How long should I beat my buttercream frosting?
As a general rule, buttercream frosting should be beaten for about 4-5 minutes at medium speed. The physical indication of the correct consistency is the color of the buttercream. Once the buttercream becomes a light, pale color, it is ready. Make sure not to overbeat or the frosting will separate.
Can you overbeat buttercream Frosting?
Generally speaking, it is possible to overbeat buttercream frosting. Overmixing causes the addition of bubbles which ruins the texture of the buttercream. As a result, the frosting will separate and break. Beat the buttercream at a medium speed for about 4-5 minutes until pale in color.
When I was young, I believed that there was no such thing as overbeating buttercream, that the more you mix, the fluffier it gets. This is completely wrong. You definitely can overbeat buttercream.
When you’re mixing buttercream, you are introducing a lot of air to make it nice and fluffy. However, adding too much air introduces bubbles which ruin the texture.
It becomes extremely tough and as a result, separates.
Make sure to only beat your buttercream for about 4-5 minutes or until the color goes from yellow butter to a pale, light one.
*By the way, I wouldn’t be able to fix my runny buttercream frosting if I didn’t have the right type of mixer. For this situation, I used a 5-Speed Electric Hand Mixer which can get the job done! You can check out the Hand Mixer I use on Amazon!
What does broken buttercream Frosting look like?
As a whole, broken buttercream can have two appearances. When using cold butter, broken buttercream looks curdled and tough with clumps of butter. When using butter that was too hot, the buttercream will split and look extremely greasy. To prevent this, make sure to use room temperature butter.
Getting the texture of buttercream frosting is so important for both the flavor and texture. When you are using butter that was too cold, it is poorly incorporated.
As a result, the buttercream will have a curdled appearance and have clumps of butter throughout.
Separated Frosting Almost Looks Like It Is Curdled!
When using butter that was too hot, almost melted, you will visually see a distinct separation of the buttercream and the appearance will be very greasy.
To help avoid either of these problems, make sure to use room temperature butter. The easiest way is to leave your butter out on your counter at room temperature for at least 6 hours before use.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article about Fixing Lumpy Buttercream Frosting. This article breaks down why your frosting might have lumps in it as well as how to fix and prevent lumpy frosting. You can check out this article here!
Buttercream frosting is an elite form of frosting. It’s super flavorful, extremely fluffy, and can be customized to any color!
Make sure you’re making the perfect buttercream by preventing separation from occurring with all the tips you saw here today. Happy baking!