DIY Cake Tips: Making Butter Cream in Warm Weather

DIY Cake Buttercream Fail

Homemade Chocolate Cake with Nutella Buttercream

As many of you know, I made my own wedding cake. A handcrafted, four-tier, traditional white cake with homemade lemon curd and fresh raspberry filling. But the real crowning achievement was mastering the Swiss meringue buttercream I found on Smitten Kitchen. Needless to say, the Wilton recipes for mixing butter or shortening with confectioners sugar were disgusting–waaaay too sweet. If I wanted my cake to taste like that, I'd go to the supermarket. But I digress.

So I made my own wedding cake and now, of course, I fancy myself a cake diva, I offer to make cakes every chance I get. Recently, I offered to make a birthday cake for a neighbor's son. A 8" round chocolate cake with Nutella buttercream I found on Confessions of a Tart. The Nutella buttercream is tricky under the best conditions, but add nearly 90 degree heat and the stifling humidity of a southern heat wave and you have a disaster.

{I have to warn you. I was so freaking pissed off at my failed attempts that I did not have the where-for-all to take pictures of the process.}


I had a disaster. The egg whites barely whipped up. When I added the butter (which was way too soft) I had a too-soft, somewhat soupy mess. By the time I added the Nutella, I had a full-blown soupy mess. I was completely freaked out. There's nothing quite like ruining a 10 year-old's birthday by promising a fantastic homemade cake and coming with some janky-assed supermarket confection. Actually, for a 10 year old, maybe it doesn't matter. Clearly I'm projecting here.

Anyway, I quickly got online and searched for ruined buttercream and buttercream in warm weather. I found precious little other than a solution for reviving Italian Meringue Buttercream. Oh, and a whole bunch of articles warning against making Swiss Buttercream in the midst of a summer heat wave. Great!

To make a short story tediously long, I ended up putting the soupy buttercream in the fridge to cool down and firm up before whipping it back up. This sufficed in getting it to a decent enough consistency to crumb-coat the cake. The following morning I got up early to make a new (and perfect!) batch of Nutella buttercream. Here are some of the secrets to my success.

Tips for making Swiss Meringue buttercream in warm weather:

  1. Make your buttercream in the morning when it's cool. In the summer, this may entail waking up in the wee hours of the morning. DO NOT try to make it after you've heated up the kitchen baking the cakes. Either make it before hand or the next morning.
  2. Use butter that is slightly cool and cut into 1tbsp chunks. Most recipes for Swiss meringue buttercream call for butter to be at room temperature. But if your room is 95 degrees your butter will be too soft. I like to take my butter out in the evening and let it sit overnight (see tip #1) Then, when I wake up in the morning, if it feels too soft, I pop it in the fridge for an hour or so while I drink my coffee. This seemed to give it the perfect consistency for incorporating it into your egg whites.
  3. Make sure your eggs whites are cool before adding butter. It sounds simple enough, but it is even more important to make sure your egg whites are completely cool before adding the buttercream. Feel the sides of the mixing bowl, if they are warm to the touch, hold off on adding the butter.
  4. Cool down further before adding Nutella. If you find your butter is a bit too soft and you still end up with a soupy mess, refrigerate and firm up BEFORE adding the Nutella. Once you've added the Nutella, it's hard to revive.