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Help! Need to thicken a frosting

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I'm in the middle of making a caramel cake with a homemade caramel frosting and the frosting right now is way too runny.

What can I add to thicken up the frosting that is NOT sugar? There is already a cup of dark brown sugar and 2 cups of confectioners, but I hate overly sweet frostings so for this and future cakes, how can I cut down on the multiple cups of confectioners while still getting the right spreadable consistency?

Already in this frosting is:
butter
dark brown sugar
milk
vanilla yogurt
vanilla
confectioners sugar
in various proportions.

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  1. Well, in the future, I guess you could add less liquid, or add it in smaller increments in case you don't need all of it, but that isn't going to help you right now. If you don't want to add sugar, I suppose you could fold in some whipped cream...still taste like caramel but be fluffier. Or you could melt some gelatin in heavy cream and add that, then chill until set and whip it. That might work - shouldn't change the texture too too much.

    Good luck!

    1. r
      Reared on Home Cookin

      It takes only the tiniest amount of water to dissolve a lot of sugar, so you need to follow icing recipes very closely on this point. Did your recipe call for yogurt? Different yogurts are bound to vary wildly with respect to how much water they contain, so that would vary how much milk you should add, and the recipe should point this out.

      Heating the icing during the cooking phase is when you get control over the water content. Depending on the particulars of the recipe, you may be able to reheat it and dry it out some, and perhaps this is what went wrong in the first place.

      Then, spreading temperature will also make a big difference. Is the icing truly down at room temperature? Too runny to spread, and too runny to stay in place are different things, and cooling the icing will harden it up a lot.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Reared on Home Cookin

        I followed the recipe pretty closely. The yogurt replaces cream and instead of heating the sugar stovetop to a boil, I microwaved. But other than that, I stayed pretty close to the recipe.

        Right now, it has the consistency of a glaze. Definitely too runny to spread.

        I was hoping maybe I can add an additional dry ingredient (except sugar) to thicken it up. In my mind, I was thinking corn starch or shortening, but I don't know either of these ingredients would affect the flavor.

        I've trolled through all of my cookbooks, but so far the only thing I could extract is to add more sugar! (The recipe I used only has 2 cups of confectioners, but others have up to 4 cups! I say no to the diabetic coma!)

        Right now, I can only serve the cake with a side of caramel gravy. Help!

        1. re: Pupster

          get it on the stovetop. reheat it gently, then simmer until it thickly coats a spoon. by the time it gets to room temperature, it should have set-up considerably.

          cream and yoghurt have very different water and fat proportions. when you substituted yoghurt, depending on the brand, you most likely increased the water while decreasing the fat. additionally, microwaves tend to hold water in, as they do not aid evaporation to dissipating as you would get in stove-top cooking.

          1. re: ab

            That's pretty much it right there:

            Changing cream for yogurt and the microwave.