Food 101: How to Make Basic Frosting

I am very particular about frosting.  I find a lot of frostings to be too sweet and often times are piled on too thick on cakes.  Then there’s also the frostings (generally I’ve encountered them on store bought cakes) that don’t have much flavor at all but are weirdly artificial and greasy in texture.  No thank you.  This means that I pretty much have to make my own frosting if I want it to be to my tastes.  Fortunately basic frosting is really easy to make at home.  We’ve covered basic icing on the blog before, but while some people using “icing” and “frosting” interchangeably to me they are different things.  Icing is more thin and glaze-like, whereas frosting is more thick and fluffy.  This is primarily due to the addition of fat in the form of butter.  Icing is mostly just sugar and milk, while frosting has sugar, milk, and butter.

This is a good place to mention why making your own frosting is better than using the kind that comes out of a can.  While flavor-wise store-bought can frosting isn’t terrible, its ingredients aren’t really great.  In order to be shelf-stable it tends to be full of things like hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors.  Even if you’re someone who is anti-butter I would think one ingredient you don’t like is better than a whole list of potentially sketchy ingredients.

While obviously making frosting from scratch is going to take a little longer than just opening a can, it really doesn’t take very long.  You should be able to finish it in 5 minutes or less.  This recipe should make enough to frost a standard sized cake.  But you can easily double it if you need more.

Basic Vanilla Frosting:

  • ¼ cup butter, softened (half of a stick)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup milk

Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl mix the butter, salt, vanilla and 1 cup of the sugar.

It'll look mostly like this, though preferably a little smoother.  My butter probably could have been a bit softer...

It’ll look mostly like this, though preferably a little smoother. My butter probably could have been a bit softer…

After that alternate between adding the milk and the remaining sugar until all of both has been thoroughly mixed in.

After everything has been added.

After everything has been added.

If the frosting is too thick add a little more milk until it reaches the desired consistency.

I usually have to add at least another tablespoon of milk to get it to the thickness I want, but different applications call for different consistencies, so you really need to just get a feel for what will work best for your current frosting situation.

Here's your finished frosting.  Enjoy!

Here’s your finished frosting. Enjoy!

This is a good basic vanilla frosting and can definitely be used as is.  But you can also use it as a base recipe and add other flavors in as you like.  Just some things to keep in mind: if you’re adding flavors in the form of liquid extracts or juices you may need to add extra sugar if the added liquid thins the frosting too much.  Alternately if the flavor you’re adding is in dry form you may need to up the amount of milk.


Posted on June 9, 2015, in Food 101 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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