Why You Should Never Use A Butter Substitute In Buttercream Frosting

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to baking cookies. Some prefer using margarine, others use shortening, or even coconut oil, and of course, there's the standard — butter. There are subtle differences in the resulting flavor and texture, but overall, butter can be easily substituted in cookies, or in really any basic baked good for that matter.

Despite how foolproof substituting butter is for many recipes, The Kitchn points out that in others, namely buttercream frosting, it's definitely not the case. Buttercream frosting consists of only three main components: butter, powdered sugar, and milk (plus vanilla or another flavor extract depending on the recipe). Therefore, if you remove one component, you risk ruining your entire recipe.

Butter is crucial to buttercream, and it's right there in the name. After all, you wouldn't remove chocolate from a chocolate cake recipe, and expect it to taste exactly the same in the end. It just doesn't work.

There's a reason it's called buttercream frosting, not margarinecream

According to the Wilton blog, butter, margarine, and shortening are sometimes interchangeable because they're all fats. However, if their main function in a recipe is to provide structure and flavor, they are very different. While butter and margarine will create a similar tasting buttercream, only a butter-based one will hold up once it's piped or frosted.

As Wilton further explained, margarine, especially reduced fat margarine, has a higher water content than butter, so when you add it to a buttercream recipe, you're essentially adding more water too, and working with a watery buttercream doesn't bode well, particularly for cake decorating.

Shortening, on the other hand, does hold it's shape well in comparison, however the flavor isn't ideal for a frosting. Even if you were to use a butter-flavored shortening (the kind Crisco sells), The Kitchn reports it would have a different mouthfeel. Therefore, for a frosting that's both rich, creamy, and tastes good, always use butter.