The type of frosting you choose will determine how you will go about making it. This page will go over how to make the main styles of frosting used on cakes and cupcakes.
how to make frosting
Learning how to make frosting in a variety of fashions will allow you to really bring out the best of your cakes and cupcakes!
Buttercream frosting is regularly used for cakes and cupcakes. It’s a very versatile frosting, you can add a variety of different flavors to make it fit with whatever style cake you’re making.
This recipe is a chocolate buttercream frosting, however you can make it plain just by leaving out the cocoa and slightly reducing the cream.
Simple Buttercream Frosting
The simple buttercream frosting recipe is probably the easiest and most common in North America, it’s based on sifted powdered sugar and butter. Pasteurized eggs, cream and other flavors/colors can be added as well, the eggs and cream adding to the richness. However, since this buttercream frosting is not cooked you must make sure to use pasteurized eggs for safety concerns.
- 1 c. butter, softened
- 3 1/2 – 4 c. powdered sugar, sifted (important)
- 1 egg (optional), pasteurized (important)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp. salt (optional)
- Cream butter and salt, if using, in a large bowl, use a paddle attachment if you have one.
- Beat in the egg, if using, then gradually beat in the sugar, scraping the sides regularly.
- Add the vanilla and continue beating until light and smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
Italian Buttercream Frosting Recipe
Italian buttercream frosting also called a ‘meringue buttercream’, this cake frosting is based on whipped egg whites and hot sugar syrup. This frosting is extremely light and soft and works especially well on multi-layered cakes.
- 5 egg whites
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- water, as needed, around 1/3 c.
- 2 c. lightly salted butter, softened
- Extracts or liqueurs as desired for flavor
- Food coloring as desired for color
- 1 instant-read thermometer (optional but very helpful)
- Bring all ingredients up to room temperature.
- Place the egg whites in a large bowl and set aside about 1/3 c. sugar.
- Place remaining sugar in a heavy saucepan and add just enough water to moisten it all. Bring to a boil over high heat, regularly scrape the sides down with a wet, heat-resistant spatula to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.
- As the sugar temperature reaches 240°F (soft ball stage) begin whipping the egg whites. Be sure to keep the sugar from exceeding 240°F.
- When the egg whites form soft peaks, add the 1/3 c. sugar you set aside, reduce mixture speed to medium and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.
- When the sugar has reached the soft ball stage, immediately pour it into the egg whites. Keep the beater going and stream the sugar into the bowl between the wall and the beaters, be sure the sugar doesn’t pour onto the moving beaters or it will spray and clump. Continue beating until the mixture has completely cooled, at this point you have what’s known as an Italian meringue.
- Slowly add the softened butter, once the butter is fully incorporated you can add your flavorings and colorings if using.
French Buttercream Frosting Recipe
Probably the most difficult buttercream cake frosting to perfect, but also the richest and most full of flavor. The French-style is similar to the Italian frosting but exchanging the egg whites for egg yolks and making slight adjustments to the procedure. Often an Italian meringue (steps 1-6 of the Italian buttercream frosting recipe below) is folded in for additional body.
Italian Meringue (optional but recommended)
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 c. sugar
- water, as needed
- 1.5 sticks lightly salted butter
- 3 1/3 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. water
- 8 egg yolks
- 3 c. lightly salted butter
- 2-4 Tbsp. extract; vanilla, lemon or any other flavor
- Prepare the Italian meringue, if using, following steps 1-6 of the Italian buttercream frosting recipe.
- Place the egg yolks in a large bowl.
- Using the buttercream ingredients, combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring up to the soft ball stage (240°F), be sure to use a wet, heat-resistant spatula to scrape down the sides to avoid crystallization.
- While the sugar is heating, beat the egg yolks on low speed. Once the syrup reaches 240°F, gradually pour it into the yolks, slowly increase the whipping speed while adding the syrup. Continue to beat on medium-high until the mixture is stiff, very pale and fully cooled, about 10 minutes.
- Gradually beat in the softened butter, be sure to scrape the sides regularly.
- Using a spatula, fold in the Italian meringue, if using, then fold in the extracts, fold only until flavorings are just mixed, don’t over fold.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream cheese frosting is another very common frosting for cakes, cheesecakes and cupcakes; it’s light, airy and mild in flavor. Once prepared, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge up to a week or in the freezer for 2-3 months.
- 8 oz. cream cheese (1 block), still somewhat chilled
- 1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick)
- 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted (sifting helps create a light frosting)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 3 Tbsp. milk or cream, just to help the spreading consistency
- 1/4 c. to 3/4 c. cocoa powder (optional, you may need to add another Tbsp. cream to compensate for the added powder.)
- Beat cream cheese and butter on low.
- Slowly beat in the sugar, salt and vanilla, plus the cocoa powder if using.
- Beat in enough cream to arrive at the right spreading consistency; don’t over beat or you’ll end up with a grainy frosting.
White frosting is a simple, yet versatile, vanilla-flavored frosting for cakes, cupcakes and more. White cake frosting cake be used as the base for a number of other flavors such as mint, almond, chocolate and just about any other flavor you could think of, just add the extract of your choice!
This white frosting recipe is delicious, easy to make and won’t take up much of your time.
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 c. whole milk
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c. unsalted butter
- Cook milk and flour over medium heat until very thick, stirring constantly.
- Once thickened, allow to cool completely.
- Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy, beat in vanilla.
- Combine butter mixture with flour mixture and beat on high speed until very fluffy.
Powdered Sugar Frosting
A great frosting for sugar cookies, cakes and cupcakes.
- 2 c. confectioners sugar
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Combine half the milk and all the sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until combined, add milk, 1tsp. at a time, until desired consistancy is reached.
- Add at least an extra Tbsp. milk to make a glaze that’s great for doughnuts.
- Add a drop of food coloring to breathe some new life into your desserts.
- Replace the vanilla with your choice of extracts, such as mint, almond or anything else. Just keep in mind some extracts are very potent and will require less, so start with 1/4 tsp. and move up from there.
Learn how to make frosting in the many styles described on this page and you will have a number of new options for your desserts.