The Best Coffee Buttercream For Cookies Without Instant Espresso
Quite a few of us can come together on two things: coffee is delicious and buttercream is delicious. Take it a step further and marry the two together, heavenly.
This coffee buttercream does not contain instant coffee or instant espresso. For those unfamiliar with typical coffee buttercream recipes, they tend to be white-ish tan in color with specs of coffee granules in it. This is because these recipes will stir some of the instant coffee into the mixed buttercream straight from the container.
Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely lovely on cupcakes, cakes, and even sugar cookies if just blobbed on the top. The problem is when we want to decorate sugar cookies with this frosting.
For example, let’s say you’re decorating some thanks-a-latte themed sugar cookies. Having a coffee flavored buttercream would really go the extra mile. That being said, with traditional coffee buttercream, bits of coffee granules would be in the frosting. This can lead to a messy piping job & odd texture for decorated sugar cookies.
Avoiding instant espresso/coffee in our coffee buttercream will keep our frosting smooth and pipeable.
So, I have come up with the BEST coffee buttercream frosting for cookies that:
- forms a crust,
- doesn’t have distracting coffee granules in it,
- tastes like a vanilla flavored coffee,
- is smooth & easily pipeable, and
- leaves people grabbing a second cookie.
I played around with this recipe for a while to make sure that it can hold up to these statements. Enjoy!
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The Experiment Behind Finding the Best Coffee Buttercream Frosting for Cookies
As mentioned above, avoiding instant espresso or instant coffee granules is preferred for texture purposes. The next thing we want to consider is it’s crusting ability.
In order for a buttercream frosting to be considered a crusting buttercream, there needs to be a high ratio of sugar to fat. In other words, lots of powdered sugar and just a “regular” amount of butter or shortening.
The other factor to crusting buttercream is that it cannot have too much liquid. Certainly, we could add a half cup of cold brew coffee into our buttercream & have it taste like coffee. Unfortunately for cookie and cake decorators, this would be far too runny and would not form a crust.
I’ve experimented with making this coffee buttercream by mixing in just cold brew coffee to see if I could taste coffee buttercream. While I could smell the lovely coffee scent, the taste was only mildly there. So mild, that my husband who detests coffee, thought it tasted good. So that was a fail in my mind.
I tried adding more cold brew to the coffee and it started to taste more like coffee but was losing it’s consistency. Another failed attempt.
My third and winning experiment was using LorAnn Oils – Coffee Flavor. This is considered a “super strength” flavoring oil. A little goes a long way which is exactly what is needed when it comes to adding fluid to buttercream.
As an FYI, just like vanilla extract, these oils do contain alcohol. The coffee flavor we will use in our buttercream has a brown appearance, again, similar to vanilla extract. So, if you want a pure white frosting, make sure to combat this with white food dye.
Crusting Coffee Buttercream Recipe
For this what-dreams-are-made-of coffee buttercream, we will start with the buttercream basics: butter, powdered sugar, and milk.
To make our buttercream vanilla coffee flavored, we will add in vanilla extract and LorAnn Oils – Coffee Flavor. To kick up the coffee flavor and add a bit of caffeine, you can swap out the milk for cold brew coffee.
First, cream one cup of room temperature unsalted butter in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. If you are against unsalted butter (it’s not unheard of) you can use salted. Stop mixing once the butter is completely smooth and appears creamier. The longer you cream the butter, the whiter it gets. This can be helpful to combat the brown vanilla extract, coffee oil, and optional addition of cold brew coffee.
Next, add in four cups of powdered sugar into the mixer. I like to use my rubber spatula to mix the powered sugar into the butter a bit before turning on the mixer to avoid a mess. Also, throwing a clean towel over the top of the mixer helps, too.
Mix the powered sugar in a bit – it may still be lumpy. Add in 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract and a half teaspoon of LorAnn coffee flavored oil. Turn the mixer on until combined.
At this point, you want to assess both the consistency and flavor of your buttercream. Take a small sample and see how thick it is – I most often go for creamy peanut butter consistency for piping. Take a bite of the frosting and see if it has enough coffee flavor for you.
If you want more coffee flavor, use cold brew coffee. If you like the amount, use milk. You will use 1-2 tablespoons of milk and/or cold brew coffee, depending on the consistency you want. It is best to add the milk and cold brew at room temperature. You can warm the milk and/or coffee up in the microwave for just a few seconds to help it reach a warmer temperature.
By the way, you can use regular coffee or espresso rather than cold brew. I just like that cold brew is less acidic tasting. If you don’t have a cold brew maker, I suggest this cold brew mason jar coffee maker. Mine has lasted three years now and has been my daily source of coffee. I highly recommend!
Once all of the liquids have been added, use the mixer to mix on low until smooth. It should not take very long to do this. Mixing too long will create air bubbles.
Remember, like a good stew, it will take a bit of time for the flavors to pull together. If you think there’s enough coffee flavoring during the taste tests, there is.
Go ahead and place the coffee buttercream into individual bowls to color with desired shades of gel food coloring. Then, place the coffee buttercream into icing bags and decorate some delicious sugar cookies!
By the way, this coffee buttercream would be AMAZING with my chocolate sugar cookies! Mocha for the win.
The Best Coffee Buttercream for Decorating Sugar Cookies
- Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment
- Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Rubber Spatula
- Towel to Cover Stand Mixer optional
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. LorAnn Super Strength Coffee Oil see section above for where to find this
- 1-2 tbsp. cold brew coffee or milk room temperature, see section above for deciding which to use
- Add the room temperature butter to the stand mixer and mix until lighter in color and completely smooth.
- Add in four cups of powdered sugar. Use the rubber spatula to mix the powdered sugar into the creamed butter, then cover with a towel and mix with the stand mixer.
- Add one and a half teaspoons of vanilla extract and one half teaspoon of LorAnn Super Strength Coffee Oil into the mixer and mix until incorporated.
- Sample the buttercream at this point to check consistency and flavor.
- If the coffee flavor is just right or too strong, add in 1-2 tablespoons of room temperature milk. The amount of milk will depend on how much thinner you would like the buttercream consistency to be while piping.If the coffee flavor could be a bit stronger, add in 1-2 tablespoons of room temperature cold brew coffee (or regular brew or espresso). The amount of coffee will again depend on your preferred buttercream consistency.
- Mix all of the liquids into the buttercream, scraping the sides of the bowl to bring it all together.
- If using gel food coloring, add the color into the buttercream. Otherwise, add the coffee buttercream into prepared icing bags and decorate your cookies.
Other Variations of this Coffee Buttercream
If you prefer, you can replace the unsalted butter for salted butter. You can also replace the butter entirely with shortening, such as Crisco or Sweetex.
If you want to do a mix of butter and shortening, which is what I often do during the hot summer months, simply cream together a half cup of butter with a half cup of shortening. The total will be one cup of fat still, so the recipe ratios will remain the same.
You may use regular brewed coffee, espresso, cold brew, instant coffee/espresso, or decaf versions of all of these options for coffee buttercream. Just remember, if using instant coffee or instant espresso, make the coffee as directed on the package and then add 1-2 tablespoons of this into the buttercream. Also remember to add the liquid at room temperature, not piping hot or from the refrigerator.
If you don’t want to use as much sugar, reduce the sugar to three cups. Keep in mind, the buttercream will no longer be considered a crusting buttercream.
FAQ About Coffee Buttercream
Do I need to refrigerate this coffee buttercream?
If using right away and then piping onto sugar cookies, then no. The high sugar content in this buttercream will help this buttercream remain shelf stable. I allow the cookies to crust overnight in an airtight container (lid askew to allow for air flow but to prevent dust) and then store them with the lid on the counter.
Cookies stored on the counter in an airtight container will remain good for several days. However, it’s unlikely these cookies will take longer than several days to eat.
If you are preparing the buttercream in advance, maybe to allow deeper colors to develop, then yes. You can store the coffee buttercream in the refrigerator for about a week in an airtight container.
Can coffee buttercream be frozen?
I recommend decorating the cookies before storing in the freezer. Freezing buttercream and then bringing to room temperature and then decorating cookies can possibly risk the chance of consistency issues. Plan to use the buttercream within a week and just store in the refrigerator. That being said, if you do need to use frozen buttercream, allow it to come to room temperature and then re-whip in the mixer.
How do I store buttercream?
You can store decorated sugar cookies in the freezer in an airtight container for a month or two. Do not store decorated sugar cookies in the refrigerator, as it will likely dry out.
You can also store crusting buttercream recipes such as this coffee buttercream in airtight containers on the counter for several days. This is due to the high sugar to fat ratio which helps make the buttercream room stable, despite the dairy.
What’s the difference between a crusting buttercream and regular buttercream?
Crusting buttercream, like this coffee buttercream, has a 1:4 ratio of fat to sugar. In other words, one part fat to four parts sugar. A crusting buttercream recipe typically needs at least a 1:3.5 ratio of fat to sugar.
This ratio of fat to sugar helps the buttercream form a crust on the outer layer of the frosting. This is especially important when decorating sugar cookies, as it makes your design less fragile.
How do I transport or package this crusting coffee buttercream?
I have a whole post dedicated with all my tips & tricks for packing/storing buttercream sugar cookies. It is possible and tends to be easier than you may think.
Save the Recipe for The BEST Coffee Buttercream for Later
Make sure to save this perfectly pipeable, crusting coffee buttercream recipe for your next set of cookies. You can pin the image below to your Pinterest account or use the social sharing icons on the page.
Never tried coffee oil and I am intrigued by your recipe. I will definitely give it a try as it looks amazing. Thank you
I love coffee infused recipes. This frosting was perfect!
It looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it.
what beautiful buttercream recipe. it wasn’t too sweet either
Such a fantastic coffee buttercream recipe! I love coffee flavour in my desserts, thanks!
Oh man I have to try this combination this weekend it looks amazing. I can just picture it with some chocolate cake and a nice hot cup of coffee on the side and this awesome coffee buttercream. Delicious.
Amazing buttercream frosting! Definitely making again soon!