I've previously asked about converting a family recipe for a cocoa frosting to a coffee frosting instead, and got a pretty good answer, but it's all very theoretical and "try this" and "try that", and I just don't have the time or, to tell the truth, the patience, to experiment like that. I think what I want is an established recipe, or rather, a way to search for an established recipe. Problem is, if you search for "coffee frosting", you get various types of buttercreams, all of which involve copious quantities of powdered sugar.

If I could instead search for "coffee [insert type of frosting here]", I might have better luck. Problem is, haven't the faintest idea what this frosting method/technique is called (assuming it has a name).

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients: 2 heaping tableserving spoons Dutch-processed cocoa (the original recipe just calls for 2 big spoonfuls, but in family practice, this has morphed to a whole lot more cocoa than that), 3 to 5 tablespoons granulated sugar (depending on how heavy-handed you were with the cocoa), 5 tablespoons water, 8 egg yolks, 2 sticks unsalted butter.

Method: combine everything except the butter in the top of a double boiler. Cook slowly, stirring pretty much constantly, until very thick and sticky. (It'll take a while, and your arms will get pretty tired.) Let cool. Meanwhile, whip the butter until light and fluffy. Combine the completely cooled chocolate mixture and the butter.

Does anyone recognize this type or method of making frosting? Does it have a name?

Looks like I need to edit to make it clear that it's the method that I'm after, not a vague resemblance of the ingredients.

So, the method, in more detail: combine starch (cocoa powder, in this case), sugar, a relatively large quantity of egg yolks, and a relatively tiny quantity of water. Cook in a double boiler, stirring constantly. If you find yourself scraping thickened mixture off the bottom of the pot while the rest of the mixture isn't as thick, immediately remove from the heat and stir like crazy until smooth. Rinse and repeat, until your arms are screaming, and the mixture is so thick that when you lift the whisk, the cream slowly falls off in clumps, rather than in a solid stream. Let cool completely. When cooled, the mixture is about the same texture as butter, just stickier. Thus, you can simply dump the entire cooked mixture into the butter (or the butter into the mixture, makes no difference), without worrying about curdling or separating, and whip away until no streaks remain.

As you can see, there's no cooking of sugar syrup, there's no hoping-the-sugar-will-cook-the-yolks-without-curdling-them, there's no dropping-the-butter-into-the-cream-in-small-cubes-and-praying-it-incorporates, and there is starch, so it is absolutely, positively NOT a French buttercream. The relatively tiny quantity of liquid means that this doesn't really resemble a German buttercream or a "flour buttercream", either, though a German buttercream made creme mousseline style (i.e. with pastry cream instead of custard) gets tantalizingly close...

  • If you were using alcohol instead of water, it might be a Zabaglione ... but that also doesn't have the butter in it.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 21:38

3 Answers 3


It sounds like a German buttercream which is an egg yolk custard that is blended into whipped butter.

  • Hmm, this is getting closer to the right track, especially if made with a stiff pastry cream instead of a softish custard... Next time I make "my" frosting, I'll have to remember to take a picture of the cooked mixture. It gets really thick and sticky: even when still hot, it falls off the whisk in big clumps rather than a stream, and when it's cooled, it's about the same consistency as the butter. There's no issues with curdling or separating with "my" frosting. ("My" because it's really not mine, it's my great-grandfather's recipe.)
    – Marti
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 6:48
  • @Marti Yeah, I meant "custard" in the sense of "sweet goop thickened with eggs" as opposed to "sweet goop thickened with starch" (pudding). The link mentions using thicker custard for a thicker buttercream.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 7:33
  • I've been reading up on German buttercreams online, and it does sound like the family recipe is basically a version of it, with a particularly stiff pudding/custard/pastry cream/whatchacallit.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 23:19

Looks like the term you want is "French buttercream".

American buttercream is, as you say, full of sugar but rarely has eggs, relying on powdered sugar and butter with a bit of wet in the form of a dash of milk, cream, or alcohol.

French buttercream is based on egg yolks and contains relatively little sugar and is cooked over a double boiler.

French buttercream is made by heating a sugar syrup until it reaches soft ball stage and then whipping it into beaten egg yolks and soft butter. This is the shiny, rich frosting of your dreams.

Italian Buttercream is similar but uses egg whites rather than yolks, so it's more of a meringue.

It's similar to French buttercream in that you use a boiling syrup of sugar and water and cook it to soft-ball stage but then you pour it over beaten egg whites to create a meringue. As the meringue cools, you slowly add butter and mix like your life depended on it.

  • 3
    The ingredients are similar, but the technique is vastly different: French buttercream involves a stage of candy-making, plus you have to worry about getting the proportions and temperatures just right so that the hot syrup safely cooks the yolks. The recipe being asked about skips all of that: you combine everything but the butter and cook it until thick, then add it to the butter once it's cold.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 0:35
  • I don't see how French buttercream comes even remotely close: it contains no starch (and one thing I learned from the last go-around is that cocoa contains a fairly significant proportion of starch), and the method doesn't resemble my recipe in any way.
    – Marti
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 3:49
  • Why do people keep upvoting this? It's completely the wrong answer!
    – Marti
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 6:52

I don't know what this method is called, but if you want to make a coffee cream frosting, then that's what your search for. I get three excellent results for "coffee cream cheese icing".

  • I don't think cream cheese would go well with a hazelnut torte, so no, I don't want a coffee cream cheese icing. (Also, I'm puzzled: what part of my question gave you the idea that I want a cream cheese frosting?)
    – Marti
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 19:19
  • It was your reference to wanting a coffee frosting. I didn't see anything about this being a hazelnut tort.
    – Escoce
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 19:30

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