The Best Make-Ahead Buttercream If You're Frosting A Cake The Next Day

Frosting your cake is arguably one of the most crucial steps of the whole cake-making process. It's the final touch that brings everything together (or, in some cases, keeps everything together). It's that last layer of creamy, fluffy, or whipped sweetness that rounds out the flavors of the masterpiece you worked so hard to create. And it's obviously key for a beautiful presentation and overall droolworthiness.

So it's important to do it right: to choose the right kind of frosting for your cake, to construct it correctly (don't skip that crumb coat, folks), and to lather it on at just the right time. We know that, like most things, the fresher the frosting the better it'll taste on the cake, right? But sometimes, whether it's timing or logistics or something else entirely, day-of frosting just isn't an option.

If you find that you must make your frosting a day or so ahead of time, there are some that just won't work. For example, a whipped cream-based frosting won't stabilize and it will wilt by the time you need to use it. But when it comes to make-ahead frosting, buttercream is your friend — and one type of buttercream in particular is the best one for the job.

Italian buttercream to save the day (tomorrow)

Italian buttercream is your best bet for a make-ahead frosting. So what is it, exactly, and how is it different from traditional American buttercream? What sets Italian buttercream apart is that it's meringue-based: it's made by adding hot sugar syrup to whipped egg whites and sugar to make a stiff meringue, then creaming the mixture together with soft butter to make a silky, not-to-sweet frosting.

Why is this the best choice if you need to frost your cake the next day? Well, first of all, it's more stable than other buttercreams thanks to that sugar syrup that slowly sets the proteins in the egg whites and cooks the meringue. This type of buttercream holds up better at room temp because it stands up to heat well, and it lasts around a week in the fridge and several months in the freezer — so it's an ideal option for making ahead of time. The trick to using a pre-made Italian buttercream is to bring the frosting to room temperature and re-whip it to get that silky smooth texture back.

More perks to choosing Italian buttercream: it's smooth, light, airy, rich, and buttery all at once, providing the perfect texture to finish off your cake. And since it's not too sweet on its own, it can be flavored wonderfully with anything from vanilla and chocolate to citrus and fruit reductions. It also pipes very easily, so you can make that cake as pretty as can be.

Tips for making Italian buttercream

Making an Italian buttercream frosting requires some time and involves more steps than a quick American buttercream, but it's worth the extra effort. Luckily, pro baker Claire Saffitz has some tips to make sure your Italian buttercream comes out beautifully.

The trickiest part about making this frosting is that you'll need to heat the sugar water and whip your meringue concurrently so that the timing is just right when you drizzle the hot syrup into the whipped egg whites. Saffitz tells Bon Appétit that the most important thing is to make sure you drizzle the syrup carefully without anything hitting the moving whisk — she recommends slowly pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl so it doesn't splatter.

Also, a thermometer is crucial to this recipe. You'll need to cook your sugar syrup to around 245 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's also helpful to check the temperature of your meringue and butter before you mix them together (according to King Arthur Baking, the cooled meringue should be at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and your butter at 70 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid a frosting that's either too soupy or too lumpy). Keep these tips in mind, and that make-ahead frosting will be perfection!