Chantilly Icing vs. Buttercream: What’s the Difference?

Chantilly icing and buttercream are two great options when it’s about frosting cakes or cupcakes. It’s quite easy to understand whenever you hear about buttercream, but what comes to your mind when you listen to “Chantilly icing?”

Confusion…! 

Right?

Stop worrying now!

In this article, we’ll explore all the key differences between Chantilly icing and Buttercream, including their ingredients, preparation methods, and best uses. 

Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting out, this guide will help you understand each type of frosting and make an informed decision for your next baking project.

Key Takeaways

Chantilly icing is a lightly sweet, airy, and fluffy frosting made with heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. It’s suitable for lighter desserts, topping, filling, and accompaniment

Buttercream is a sweeter, denser, creamier frosting made with butter, powdered sugar, and flavorings. It works best for frosting, filling, piping, creating intricate designs

Interchangeable use is not advisable.

Chantilly Icing vs. Buttercream: What Are Both Icings, in Fact?

Before comparing two icing types, one must know what they are. So, here we’ll get into details.

What’s Chantilly Icing, and its Variations?

Chantilly icing, also known as Chantilly cream or crème Chantilly, is a sweet and creamy whipped topping made from heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. The word Chantilly means “sweet whipped cream,” in French.

But, unlike traditional buttercream icing, Chantilly icing is light, airy, and fluffy. It’s why it’s perfect for use as a filling or topping for various desserts like cakes, cupcakes, pastries, and fruit.

The origin of the Chantilly cream can be traced back to France, specifically to a historic “castle” located in the town of Chantilly, north of Paris. In the 17th century, François Vatel, a renowned royal chef, invented or popularized the use of Chantilly cream. 

Chantilly cream has several but less popular variations made by adding or altering the ingredients. Some common variations are as follows: 

  • Sweetened Chantilly cream is the classic version of Chantilly cream, made by whipping heavy cream with sugar or sweetener and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.
  • Unsweetened Chantilly cream is made without sugar and can be used as a topping for savory dishes or as a base for other creamy sauces. 
  • Flavored Chantilly cream is made by adding flavorings such as cocoa powder, fruit purees, or liqueurs to the basic recipe.
  • Hawain-style Chantilly icing combines evaporated milk, egg yolks, salted butter, sugar, and vanilla extract. 
  • The Stabilized Chantilly version is made with the addition of gelatin or another stabilizing ingredient to prevent the cream from breaking down and becoming runny.
  • Whipped Cream Cheese Chantilly combines heavy cream and cream cheese to create a tangy, spreadable topping that is perfect for cakes and cupcakes.
  • Dairy-free Chantilly Cream Frosting is made by whipping coconut cream with sugar and vanilla extract. It’s a great alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.

What is Butter Cream and its Variations?

Buttercream is the most common type of icing or filling used in cake and pastry decorating. It’s made by creaming butter and powdered sugar together until it reaches a light and fluffy consistency. 

Flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate, or other extracts can be added to customize the taste/. Besides this, a small amount of liquid (like milk, cream, or flavored syrup) helps to adjust the consistency as needed.

Buttercream has several variations, each with slightly different ingredients and techniques. Some of the most popular types include:

  • American Buttercream is the simplest type of buttercream with a crumbly texture. It’s made with butter, powdered sugar, a liquid (usually milk or cream), and flavorings like vanilla or cocoa powder.
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a unique variation of buttercream made of egg whites and granulated sugar over a double boiler until the sugar dissolves. Then the mixture is whipped into a meringue. Then the softened butter and the flavorings go into the mixture to produce a smooth and silky buttercream.
  • Italian Meringue Buttercream is pretty similar to Swiss meringue buttercream. Yet, instead of heating the egg whites and sugar together, hot sugar syrup is drizzled into the egg whites while whipping the mixture. Softened butter and flavorings ultimately jump into the mixture to form a smooth cream for icing.
  • French Buttercream is another renowned custard-like icing variation of buttercream. It’s made by combining egg yolks with hot sugar syrup, then whipping the mixture until it cools. Softened butter and flavorings are added, creating a silky and decadent frosting.

Thus, buttercream has several variations that make it perfect for joining a bakery item or dessert. 

Chantilly Cream vs. Butter Cream: Detailed Comparison

Chantilly cream and buttercream are both used in desserts and cake decorating, but they have distinct differences in taste and texture.

Taste

Our sweetened Chantilly cream has a light, mildly sweet taste with a hint of vanilla flavor. Its sweetness is subtle compared to buttercream, which allows it to complement rather than overpower other dessert flavors.

Buttercream is significantly sweeter than Chantilly cream, as it contains a large amount of powdered sugar. The butter in the mixture adds a rich, buttery flavor. The overall taste of buttercream can be customized by adding various flavorings, such as vanilla, chocolate, or fruit extracts.

Texture

Chantilly cream has a light and airy texture because of the whipping process, which incorporates air into the cream. This results in a fluffy, delicate consistency that is soft and smooth on the palate. It’s unstable and tends to lose volume over time, making it unsuitable for intricate cake decorating or piping.

In comparison, Buttercream has a denser, creamier texture than Chantilly cream. Depending on the type of buttercream and the specific recipe, it can range from slightly crumbly (American buttercream) to silky and smooth (Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream). 

It’s more stable and holds its shape well. That’s why it’s ideal for frosting cakes, piping decorations, and creating more elaborate designs, which must spend significant time in the stores’ refrigerators.

Applications and versatility

Chantilly cream and buttercream have different applications and versatility in dessert making and cake decorating because of their unique textures, flavors, and ingredients.

Chantilly Cream

  • Chantilly cream is versatile in its applications, as you can use it as a topping, filling, or accompaniment to various desserts, such as fruits, pies, and cakes. Yet, it’s not a great option to decorate cakes or other baker items that have to spend significant time on shelves.
  • It’s particularly suitable for lighter and less-sweet desserts, where it can complement rather than overpower other flavors. 
  • Chantilly cream is customizable with various flavorings, such as vanilla, cinnamon, or chocolate, to add depth to its taste.

Buttercream

  • Buttercream has many applications, from frosting cakes and cupcakes to piping decorations and creating intricate designs.
  • Its various types, such as American, Swiss, Italian, or French buttercream, offer different textures and tastes, allowing bakers to choose the most suitable option for their specific dessert.
  • Buttercream can be colored with food coloring gels or pastes to create a wide range of shades and hues, making it an excellent choice for creative and colorful cake designs.
  • Since buttercream can be paired with a dozen flavorings, e.g. vanilla, almond, or citrus, or mixed with cocoa powder, nut butter, or fruit puree, it surpasses Chantilly cream in this regard.

Hence, Chantilly cream is versatile in its simplicity, complementing various desserts, while buttercream has a fantastic range of versatility owing to its tastes, textures, colors, and designs.

Storage

When it comes to storing Chantilly cream and buttercream, both require refrigeration because of their dairy content. Yet, their shelf life and storage requirements differ significantly.

Chantilly Cream

  • Chantilly cream is more perishable than buttercream because of its lighter, whipped texture and higher dairy content. It can only last up to 2 days if refrigerated in an airtight container. The reason is it loses its volume and texture over time. So, use it as soon as possible after it’s made.
  • Similarly, when using Chantilly cream on a dessert, it’s advisable to serve it shortly after applying it to maintain its freshness and texture.
  • Sadly, you can’t freeze Chantilly icing after thawing, and it’ll lose its entire texture.

Buttercream

  • Buttercreams, especially those with a higher sugar-to-dairy ratio (like American buttercream), are more stable and have a longer shelf life, unlike Chantilly cream. 
  • You can refrigerate buttercream in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. Before using it, bring it to room temperature and re-whip if necessary to restore its consistency.
  • You can freeze buttercream for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before bringing it to room temperature and re-whipping it for use.
  • In the same way, you can also leave buttercream-frosted cakes or desserts at room temperature for a few hours (or even a day, depending on the specific recipe and environmental factors) without significant loss of quality.

In short, Chantilly cream is more perishable and requires more careful storage, while buttercream is more stable.

How can You make Chantilly Cream (Gluten-free)?

To make Chantilly icing, follow this simple process.

Ingredients

  • 600ml pure or heavy whipping cream (with a minimum of 35% of fat)
  • 80 grams of icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod seeds

Instructions

  • Chill a mixing bowl and beaters (or whisk attachment for a stand mixer) in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to whip up the cream better.
  • Pour the heavy cream into the chilled bowl and add sugar. Keep whipping at a slow speed until the sugar has dissolved fully.
  • Then increase the speed gradually from slow to medium. Keep whipping until you see the ribbon-like texture forming in the icing.
  • When spotting the ribbon-like texture, stop the machine, remove the bowl, and add vanilla extract.
  • Do the rest of the 10% mixing by hand. You’ll have perfectly smooth Chantilly cream.

Once you have prepared the Chantilly icing, use it immediately or refrigerate it for only a few hours.

How Can You Make Butter Cream at Home?

Here’s an American buttercream icing recipe for 24 cupcakes or two layers of 8 or 9-inch cake.

Ingredients

  • 250g / 1 cup butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 375g 3 cups icing sugar/powdered sugar
  • 30ml / 2 tablespoons milk
  • A pinch of salt (if you’re using unsalted butter)

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, whip the room temperature softened butter on medium speed until it becomes smooth and creamy for about 2-3 minutes, and its yellow color almost fades.
  • Gradually add the sugar, ⅓ quantity each time. Keep mixing on low speed to incorporate it into the butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure even mixing.
  • Once all the powdered sugar has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt (if using). Mix until everything is well combined.
  • Add milk cream or milk to adjust the consistency. If it’s too thick, add a small amount of milk or cream (a teaspoon at a time). And, if it’s too thin, you can add more sifted powdered sugar (a tablespoon at a time). Mix until you achieve the desired consistency.
  • Use it to fill, frost, or pipe decorations onto your cakes or cupcakes. You can also add a few drops of food color at this stage.

Remember that this is a basic recipe for American buttercream icing. You can also try other types of buttercream we’ve discussed in this article.

FAQs

Can you use Chantilly cream as a buttercream alternative?

Chantilly cream and buttercream have different textures and consistencies. So, It’s best not to use them interchangeably in every recipe. 

However, you can experiment with substituting buttercream with Chantilly cream in certain desserts and applications.

You can use it as a frosting or filling for cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts that don’t require intricate piping or decorating. It can also decorate your desserts that require a lighter touch, such as sponge cakes, angel food cakes, or fruit tarts.

However, Chantilly cream is less stable and less suitable for intricate cake decorations or piping, as it soon loses its volume and texture. It’s also more perishable than buttercream and needs to be stored in the refrigerator and used within a day or two. 

Also, beware that Chantilly cream has a different taste than buttercream, being less sweet and with a more subtle flavor, which can affect the overall taste of the dessert. So, adjust the Chantilly cream thickness and sweetness before using it as a buttercream alternative.

Can you use buttercream as a Chantilly cream alternative?

As stated previously, buttercream and Chantilly cream cannot be used interchangeably in every recipe despite sharing similarities.

Buttercream is denser and creamier than Chantilly cream, making it a better choice for frosting, filling, or piping decoration for cakes and cupcakes.

However, if you’re in a pinch, you can use it as a Chantilly cream alternative by making it a buttercream version. To do so:

  1. Whip the buttercream on high speed with an electric mixer until it becomes light and fluffy, similar to the texture of whipped cream.
  2. Add a small amount of heavy cream, milk, or another liquid to thin out the buttercream and give it a lighter texture.
  3. Add a splash of vanilla extract, or another flavoring, to taste.
  4. Continue whipping the mixture until it reaches a pillowy, airy consistency, similar to Chantilly cream.

This substitution is imperfect because the resulting texture and taste will still differ from traditional Chantilly cream. However, it can be a quick and easy alternative to whipped cream or Chantilly cream.

Is Chantilly cream gluten-free?

Chantilly cream (whipped cream) is typically gluten-free. It has no gluten because it has heavy cream, pure sugar, and vanilla extract as primary ingredients. 

However, it is always a good idea to check the label of any additional ingredients that may have been added to the whipped cream, as some commercial brands may use stabilizers or thickeners that contain gluten. 

Is buttercream gluten-free?

Buttercream frosting is typically gluten-free. Buttercream frosting is made from butter, powdered sugar, and milk or cream, all of which are gluten-free ingredients. 

However, if you’re adding other ingredients to create a variation, please check the label for any additional ingredients for gluten information. 

Conclusion

Chantilly icing and Buttercream are two popular frosting options but are distinctive. So, before using them, you must know everything about them.

We hope this article has covered the difference between both frostings very well.

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Saba Akbar
Saba Akbar

Hello, I'm a culinary explorer and food writer with 25 years of home kitchen expertise. This blog is a treasure trove of my insights on global cuisine, cooking tips, and expert knowledge of kitchen tools.
Besides this, as a GERD survivor, I've transformed my passion for food into a quest for food's GERD-friendliness and healthiness. I believe what you eat shapes your internal environment—join me on this lifelong journey of taste and healthiness!

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