Making a cake is always fun, and let’s be real, who needs an excuse to make a cake?
But no matter whether you’re looking to experiment with frosting options, or make a delicious birthday cake for a friend or family member, it’s always good to learn more about your options when it comes to icing.
Getting the icing right is almost as important as the cake itself, as not only does it have an impact on the taste of the cake, but also the aesthetics of the cake too.
Buttercream and Whipped Cream are two of the most popular options when it comes to icing a cake, but the two are incredibly different, so the one you choose depends on the type of cake you’re looking to make.
If you’re unsure of the differences between these two icing options, then this guide is for you, as we’ll explain all there is to know about these two types of cream and the differences between them!
What Is Whipped Cream?
Light in both taste and structure, whipped cream is made by whipping heavy cream until it is thick enough to produce stiff peaks. It’s also typically flavored using powdered sugar, as well as things such as sugar and vanilla, cinnamon, and even peppermint.
As a result of its structure, whipping cream doesn’t tend to hold its shape particularly well, which means that it will need to be stored in the refrigerator to help stabilize it.
Whipped cream is used for more than just topping cakes, and naturally works well with things such as shortcakes, and fruit salads.
Of course, it can be used for frosting cakes too, but you’ll need to be sure to keep the cake cool or even refrigerated, as the whipped cream will likely end up melting otherwise.
Whipped cream can work well with a wide variety of different cakes, including ones that use strawberries, or even lots of chocolate.
If you’re going to be using whipped cream in conjunction with fruit on the top of your cake, you’ll need to make sure that the fruit is completely dry, otherwise, there might be a small amount of color bleeding onto your beautiful white whipped cream!
What Is Buttercream?
While whipped cream is sometimes used to frost cakes, the much more popular option comes in the form of buttercream.
Used on top of cupcakes, cookies, sponge cakes, and even to help design decorations on the top of cakes, this cream is extremely versatile and comes in four main different types: American, Swiss, Italian, and French.
Let’s take a look at the different types of buttercream, so you can get a better understanding of the intricacies of each one!
- American Buttercream: This version of buttercream is typically the easiest one to make, and if you’ve ever made buttercream at home before, then chances are you’ve made American buttercream.
By beating together softened butter until it is both smooth and light, then adding in plenty of powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt, as well as any of your desired flavorings, you’ll be able to create some delicious frosting in no time.
Compared to some of the other varieties of buttercream, American buttercream tends to be much stiffer, with its appearance being less silky too.
- Swiss Buttercream: Swiss Buttercream is made differently from American buttercream, and its method and ingredients are more comparable to making meringue.
This buttercream is made using egg whites and granulated sugar, where the two are then beaten together inside a double boiler until they can reach the required temperature.
The mixture is then placed in a stand mixer where it is beaten until it forms nice stiff peaks when the softened butter, salt, and flavoring are then added.
This version of buttercream is silky and especially smooth, making it great for piping and spreading.
- Italian Buttercream: Italian buttercream is extremely similar to Swiss buttercream, so it’s easy to get the two of them confused. They’re both meringue based, but the only difference is that the Italian variety involves you heating the sugar before it’s added to the beaten egg whites.
This makes the buttercream much easier to use and work with thanks to the added stability provided, as well as providing a super silky texture too!
- French Buttercream: French buttercream is distinctively different from the other varieties thanks to its yellow hue, as well as its incredibly thick and velvety texture. It’s made by whipping whole eggs as well as the egg yolks into the hot sugar, before being beaten together. Once this is done, the butter is then added to the mix slowly.
This is what helps to provide this buttercream with its rich taste and amazing coloring, but the inclusion of egg yolks also means that this buttercream is a lot less stable than the others, which means it needs to be refrigerated to maintain its structure.
So, now that you’re aware of what both whipped cream and butter cream are, it’s time for us to look at the differences between the two, and decide which one is better!
Are Whipped Cream And Buttercream The Same Thing?
Those who are new to baking, or don’t bake very often at least, might often confuse whipped cream and buttercream as the same thing. The reality is though, that these two cake topping options are completely different from each other.
Whipped cream tends to be lighter in texture, with only a mild amount of sweetness, while buttercream is usually thicker, and sweeter too.
What Are The Differences Between Whipped Cream And Buttercream?
Although people think these two cake frosting options are similar, there are a few differences between them that will allow you to distinguish between the two and will help you decide which one is going to be right for you and your cake.
Firstly, the rich, sweet, and buttery flavor provided by buttercream is incredibly different from the lightly sweetened and creamy taste of whipped cream.
When it comes to making your cake, it’s best to decide what sort of flavor you’re aiming for before you decide on your frosting choice.
In addition to this, buttercream is often used by people looking to pipe icing onto their cake, as its sturdier texture means that it won’t collapse in the way that whipped cream will.
When it comes to using whipped cream as a topping for cakes, the best idea is to use it on things such as sponges, or angel food cakes.
Another advantage of buttercream is that it can accept other ingredients easily, whether it’s things like chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, or even peppermint, you can add these additional ingredients into the fold and the texture of the buttercream itself will remain largely the same.
On the other hand, whipped cream is unable to handle the addition of too many ingredients into its mixture, which makes flavoring difficult.
Whipped cream needs to be refrigerated at all times to help maintain its structure, while buttercream can usually be left out with no negative effects.
When it comes to these two frosting options, one of the biggest differences between the two of them is the uses they have. Because of their different structures, they are often used for very different things.
Buttercream is used as both a filling and an icing product thanks to its sturdy structure and delicious taste. This is also because it can be left out for some days too, which makes the storage easier.
Whipped cream is more limited in what it can be used for, but works well as a dip for fruit and pastries, as well as serving alongside dessert options like pie.
While buttercream is made using softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and any other flavorings, whipped cream is simply made by whipping up heavy cream until it’s able to form stiffer peaks, with a small amount of powdered sugar added to taste.
Texture And Flavor
The addition of butter and powdered sugar to buttercream means that the icing has a creamy, smooth texture, and is incredibly rich in flavor too.
Plus, because it can have other flavorings added to it, such as cocoa powder, the flavor can be altered to your desire.
Meanwhile whipped cream is much lighter in texture, and the sweetness is much less pronounced when compared to buttercream.
Which Is Better, Whipped Cream Or Buttercream?
When it comes to deciding which of these frosting options is better, the answer is that it’s largely down to personal preference, as well as the context of the cake you’re trying to make.
If you’re looking to create an angel food cake that is perfectly light and delicious, or you’re planning on serving something along the lines of an icebox cake right out of the pan, then whipped cream is a more than appropriate choice of frosting.
But, if you’re looking to decorate your cake to its fullest potential, whether that includes adding sweets, fruit, or other decorations to the top of your cake, or if you want to create flavored frosting for your cake, then you’ll want to choose buttercream.
Hopefully, this guide to these two frosting options has been able to help you to decide which one is going to be best for you. Happy baking!
Frequently Asked Questions
There are often a lot of questions around these two frostings, so we’ve answered some of them here!
If you don’t manage to eat all of your cake straight away, then you’ll be able to keep your cake with whipped cream frosting in the refrigerator for between 2 to 3 days.
After this, the cream will begin to separate into the cake and fall off.
If you’re planning on using buttercream, but are unsure of what cakes it works with, then don’t worry, as it generally tends to work with all sorts of cakes.
We love the richness of a chocolate cake with buttercream icing, so try it out for yourself!