Ina Garten's Secret To Irresistible Chocolate Buttercream

If you're looking for chocolate cake inspiration, look no further than everyone's favorite kitchen goddess, Ina Garten. The celebrity chef is beloved by many because her recipes tend to be simple, but with one twist that makes them really special. You can spot this across her sweet and savory recipes, like how she adds instant coffee to cookies for depth of flavor. Her recipes are precise and easy to follow, with that little something extra to impress party guests or family members.

In the case of Garten's chocolate cake recipe, she's taken a simple buttercream to the next level with the help of the humble egg. While most buttercream recipes consist of butter and sugar, the simple addition of one egg yolk changes the whole thing. While adding an egg yolk to buttercream might have some scratching their heads, it ups the richness and creaminess and creates a texture that you simply cannot get by following a typical recipe.

Why this works

Adding eggs to buttercream isn't entirely unheard of; many European buttercreams are stabilized with egg whites. In these recipes, the frosting begins with a meringue made from egg whites and sugar, then the butter is incorporated. For this reason, European buttercreams last longer than recipes that are made simply from butter and powdered sugar. Using an egg yolk helps to stabilize the frosting in a similar way, but it also affects the texture differently. 

Eggs increase the fat in the recipe and add a richness and velvety texture. When you think about the way a runny egg tastes and feels texture-wise, imagine adding that silkiness to an already silky buttercream frosting. Eggs actually have emulsifying properties that aid in evenly distributing both fats and liquids throughout a mixture. There's little reason why you wouldn't take advantage of these properties if you're goal is to create an extra rich and satiny buttercream frosting. 

With that said it might be a high-risk, high rewards situation. Because cooking with raw egg yolks always bears a slight health risk, it's recommended that you use high-quality eggs for this kind of recipe. Making a rich buttercream with an egg yolk might be better suited for an adult party, rather than one with dozens of small children.

Eggless frosting options

If you'd like to use egg yolks but are nervous about the risk of salmonella, try using high-quality eggs, or in-shell eggs that have been pasteurized. In Ina Garten's recipe, the egg yolks are slightly tempered using the warm coffee, but you can always use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature. Egg yolks are generally safe to consume at 144 degrees Fahrenheit, per Egg Safety Center. Alternatively, you can make a French buttercream where egg yolks are tempered by hot sugar syrup.

Other options include using a pre-packaged egg white product. Most commercial egg white products have been pasteurized, which reduces bacterial exposure, according to Healthline. They will help stabilize the frosting using the European buttercream technique. There are also other ways you can up-level the texture of the frosting without using eggs at all. If you're looking to stabilize buttercream, you can actually just add pudding mix to it. This will help the buttercream to last longer and hold its texture in warmer temperatures. It can also amplify the flavor; if you want to make a chocolate buttercream, try using a chocolate pudding mix to help stabilize the frosting. At the end of the day, cake frosting is meant to make you happy, not nervous, so do what feels most comfortable to you.