Why Does Vegan Buttercream Split? 4 Reasons Why
Having trouble with your vegan buttercream splitting? Whether it’s happened for the first time or your frosting regularly curdles, this post will give you some tips to help prevent it.
Have you ever prepared a batch of dairy-free buttercream, ready to decorate your cake, only to find that it splits and ends up curdled? I’m sure most vegan bakers have Googled “why did my vegan buttercream split” at some point. It’s super frustrating but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Reasons why vegan buttercream splits
There are a few things to consider when it comes to creating a soft, fluffy buttercream. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your dairy-free buttercream might be curdling.
1. You used the wrong type of fat
Most dairy-free buttercream recipes will call for vegan ‘butter’ but you have to ensure that you’re using the correct type.
There is vegan margarine and then there’s vegan butter. But it can be confusing because most people refer to them both as vegan butter. Vegan margarine is soft and spreadable with a lower fat and higher water content, and vegan butter is hard and blocky, higher in fat with a lower water content.
For vegan butter, I like to use Stork baking block and for margarine I use Vitalite. You can find more options in my post about the best vegan butter for baking.
You can use both types of fat to make a buttercream but the other ingredients have to be in balance too. Make sure to follow the recipe closely. If you use a spreadable vegan margarine when the recipe creator used a blocky vegan butter, you’ll probably end up with a buttercream that’s too soft and will be more prone to splitting.
2. Your ingredients were too cold or too hot
This is one of the most common reasons that vegan buttercream splits. I know this happened to me the first time I made dairy-free buttercream and MANY times when I was learning how to make vegan cream cheese frosting.
If you use vegan butter straight from the fridge, you might end up with small lumps of it throughout your buttercream. This can also happen if you add cold (vegan) milk at the end. Similarly, adding fat or milk that is too warm can cause buttercream to curdle.
To ensure you end up with smooth, fluffy buttercream, always use room-temperature ingredients. The only exception to this would be vegan margarine, which is best used straight from the fridge because it’s already soft.
3. You overmixed
Mixing too much can cause your vegan buttercream to split. This is especially the case with cream cheese frosting, which is a little more fragile than regular buttercream.
To prevent this from happening, always mix your buttercream with a wooden spoon until just combined. I would not recommend using an electric whisk or stand mixer as this can contribute to overmixing.
4. You added too much liquid
Adding too much liquid in the form of vegan milk or food colouring can also cause splitting.
If you’re adding plant-based milk to your buttercream, make sure to add it in a little bit at a time and mix gently. You may not need to use it all and you may need to use a different amount each time, depending on the temperature of the room.
For food colourings, I’d recommend using a powder or gel colouring instead of liquid. This way, you only need to add a small amount to get a vibrant colour.
Flavour extracts such as vanilla extract should be fine to use in liquid form, because you’ll only usually use around 1 teaspoon. If you need to use a large amount for some reason, you can use something like vanilla pod or freeze-dried fruit powders.
Vegan buttercream recipes
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