I've looked all over for recipes for Italian or Swiss buttercream. All of them use tons of butter, from 2 sticks to 5 sticks. I'm trying to find a recipe that makes a reasonable amount (enough to frost and decorate a 2-layer 8" cake) with only 1 and a half sticks to 2 sticks (3/4 cups to 1 cup). I want to keep the texture, heat stability, sagging stability, and firmness/piping consistency, and flavor.

Should I

  • Simply reduce the butter level? I'm not willing to sub with shortening.
  • Or do any of you have any recipes I haven't found?

I'm trying to reduce fat levels (and just usage of butter in general. Although if there's a substitute with an oil(NOT coconut oil or shortening)) I might be willing to try. I just want a lower-fat, lower butter buttercream with all the qualities of a normal Swiss or Italian buttercream. (NOT American.)

Thank you

  • What are you trying to achieve? Lower fat? Lower cost?
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 21, 2018 at 13:32
  • 2
    Butter is lower in fat than many of the things you mention as potential substitutes so maybe you should be looking at a different type of icing altogether.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 21, 2018 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


If you are ok with a slightly less stable version (mainly an issue when piping fine details, swirls and such are no problem), and a more cream-ish color as opposed to the white meringue-based types, “German“ or custard-based buttercream could be your “low butter” alternative.

It’s made by combining butter and a pre-made and cooled (!) custard (or in a simpler version, starch-based pudding). Recipes and ratios vary and so does the type of custard or pudding. From experience, I can recommend the “whip butter first, then slowly add custard” method over the “whip butter into custard” method.

The flavor profile is less “buttery” and is influenced by the custard. But it complements cakes well and is pretty easy to make. The ratios are quite flexible, and I have in the past used as much as 2 cups of custard (starch-based) per cup of butter.

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