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Jan 26, 2007 06:35 PM

Need a buttercream icing recipe that is simple and classic!

I just took a Wilton cake decorating class to find the joy that I had many years ago when I worked for an ice cream store. Unfortunately, the icing recipe they provide is pretty disheartening and could probably could be used to spackle a wall. Also, it can be shockingly sweet. Of course, I would like to find the ultimate buttercream recipe: easy, bakery-like, light (to the touch...I know it will in no way be good for me!) and hopefully not made w/a cup of Crisco.


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  1. I have this in my "recipes to try" folder in MasterCook. I haven't tried it yet, but it had some really good reviews and a few tips:

    1 Reply
    1. re: luv2bake

      Thanks so much! I'm sure it taste better and I like that it doesn't contain the mysterious "meringue powder" I had to buy from Wilton to add. I'll let you know how it goes!

    2. I just made this today and have been making it for years, the only vanilla frosting I ever make. It's a little unusual, but very, very good. I never make frosting with powdered sugar because I can taste the cornstarch in it and I dislike it intensely.

      I think my grandmother got this from a cake decorating class, probably in the 50s or 60s.

      Whisk together in a saucepan 5 Tbsp flour and a cup of milk. Cook over medium heat until starting to thicken and cook for a minute or two more-- don't let it get too thick or it will be too stiff when it cools. Turn into a flattish dish (like an old-fashioned soup plate) and let cool, stirring now and again. If the roux is lumpy when it cools, just press it through a fine sieve.

      Beat together a cup of unsalted butter and a cup of granulated sugar until light (you really need an electric hand mixer or stand mixer for this). Beat in the cooled roux about two tablespoons at a time. As you beat and add the roux, the frosting turns creamy instead of grainy from the sugar (I don't know how it does that! It's like a small, wonderful miracle.). Add 1-2 tsp vanilla and beat some more until it's light and creamy. Fantastic frosting. I filled and frosted a chocolate cake with it and put lots of coconut in the middle and all over the top and sides.

      42 Replies
      1. re: jdub1371

        Powdered sugar has cornstarch in it? not the one on my shelf. Anyway, granulated sugar in the blender makes powdered sugar in an instant.

        1. re: jackattack

          Yes, I think most powdered/10x sugar has 3% cornstarch in it to keep the sugar from caking. I've never been happy with frosting made from it. An older edition of JoC suggests letting it stand over hot water (in a double boiler) to cancel out the raw taste of the cornstarch, but the one time I tried this I ended up with a gritty mess of frosting.

          1. re: jackattack

            It never gets as fine as confectioner's sugar and makes a gritty frosting.

            1. re: jdub1371

              Wow, this is a great recipe! I'm a first-time frosting maker, and this is tastier than any I've ever bought or tasted!
              Thanks so much for the recipe.

              1. re: jdub1371

                I just made this recipe & it tastes Great, but it is too runny! :-/ Any ideas how to thicken?

                1. re: boreedken

                  my mom has been making this recipe forever... she got it from my grandmum, but she adds 3 extra tablespoons of flour. hope this helps!

                  1. re: boreedken

                    Thickening frosting is as simple as adding flour by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached.

                  2. re: jdub1371

                    Do you think I could use this recipe to frost a cake with by piping?

                    1. re: jdub1371

                      This was amazing! My 14 year old son made an "instant cupcake" that had been a gift and wanted icing for it. I have never made butter cream icing before, found this one (as all the others called for confectioners or powdered sugar). It was so easy (especially with a teenager who is not a cook helping). I think the secret is making sure not to scald the flour and milk, whisking very carefully, not to overcook. But it was simple. Then, we cooled in the fridge (teens are not patient) before combining with the butter/sugar combo.

                      Absolutely terrific! Thanks so much!

                      1. re: jdub1371

                        Jdud this recipe looks amazing. I have been looking for a recipe like this for a really long time. Thanks for being kind enough to share this!!!!

                        1. re: jdub1371

                          Will this frosting hold up well under marzipan or fondant? I've been looking for a not-so-sweet buttercream to compensate for the added sweetness of the marzipan.

                          1. re: jdub1371

                            omg..thank you!!! I found this recipe about 18 years ago in a Today's Parent magazine and used it several times, along with an incredibly delicious no fail cake scratch cake recipe...I absolutely LOVE this frosting/icing and so does/did everyone who tasted it..unfortunately, I lost the recipe, and now thanks to you, I found it again!! I am making a baptism cake this weekend, and you have saved me from making a boring sweet buttercream icing!! So glad I found this site!!
                            xoxo :)

                            1. re: jdub1371

                              I wanted a quick and easy frosting and gave this recipe a try. Loved it!


                              1. re: jdub1371

                                I just made this recipe and have to say Thank You for sharing it. This is very similar to the frostings my grandmother used to make, but even easier. I can't believe how simple and straight forward it is. The consistency is amazing! I have stopped looking for a vanilla frosting, because this one is it!!

                                Thanks again!

                                  1. re: Irish Foodie

                                    You're welcome. Hard to believe this thread is still going on after all this time!

                                  2. re: jdub1371

                                    jdub1371, (regarding your Jan 27, 2007 post) do you think I can use half and half instead of milk (would it help make an even smoother and silkier texture or would the frosting be too heavy)?

                                    Also, how many cupcakes does this recipe frost?

                                    Also, how long will this frosting hold up? I am making 60 cupcakes for an engagement party and the couple has requested to pick them up the evening before. This concerns me as I do not want the frosting to weep or run. If I used half butter and half shortening, would it hold up better?

                                    Thanks in advance for your help!


                                    1. re: sugarcube

                                      Anyone who can help me with my question above pls?
                                      Much appreciated!


                                      1. re: sugarcube

                                        This reply comes over a year late for sugarcube (sorry:( ) but might be helpful to someone else...
                                        The recipe will frost 32-36 cupcakes.
                                        To prepare the day before, I recommend frosting the cupcakes and then chilling in the fridge overnight. A couple of hours before eating, you can pull them from the fridge. The icing should not weep, but you will want to give it time to soften.
                                        I have also chilled this frosting overnight in a ziploc bag and frosted the cupcakes just before serving, after letting the frosting soften. Even though it was more convenient for fridge space, it was not ideal for consistency. not sure why.

                                    2. re: jdub1371

                                      Seriously, I have tasted so many buttercream icings in the past and I cannot believe that this is the best by far.... I tip my hat to you for sharing such a delieious recipie.. it will go in my all time fav recipies book and my daughters just tasted and want it added to theirs.. ou are a gem again thank you so much!!

                                      1. re: jdub1371

                                        I would love more info. Mine was a soupy disaster--it tasted amazing but wouldn't hold together. The frosting kept "melting"/coming apart on me. Roux???? I'm not sure what I did wrong, maybe I didn't cook the roux long enough, it was the consistency of honey. I only was able to add half the roux mixture, it started thinning on me if I added more. It was plenty cool when I added it. Any more directions for us?

                                        So sad, I'm making this the night before my son's 2nd bday and I think I have to bite it and send my husband out to just buy some frosting--ick. :( Would love to know where I went wrong.

                                        1. re: suruchigk

                                          Aww, didn't see this until now. You have to cook the roux until it gets to be a stiff paste. Bring it to a full boil and it happens quickly. Then cool it before proceeding - I put the pot in the kitchen sink in a couple of inches of cold water. Don't chill it in the fridge or it will be too hard to beat stuff into. .
                                          Happy birthday to your little one!

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            Oh man, that's totally where I went wrong. The orig directions said "cook until it starts become thick and then only 1-2 min more, don't make it too thick" so as soon as mine started to be slightly thicker than milk, I turned it off. It was def not stiff paste! :( Well, at least I know how to fix it next time because it sure did taste heavenly! Thanks for the bday wishes. To salvage the thin frosting (I had made a double batch, so it was a lot of butter to waste) I added some cornstarch (gasp!) and cream of tartar and whipped for literally 45 min. It tasted fine, just wasn't super fluffy! Thank so much for the clarification!

                                            1. re: suruchigk

                                              You're very welcome, I'm sure it'll work the next time. PS it has to boil for a lttle bit for the flour to cook and lose its starchy flavor.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                buttertart -- do you have a particular recipe that you follow for this icing? I'm thinking it's just the thing for a coconut cake I have to bake (using NM recipe, of course)

                                        2. re: jdub1371

                                          jdub1371 I love the fact you took the time to post such a seemingly rare recipe. I have been litterly pulling my hair out trying to find a recipe for cupcakes that would work for my kids, their classroom, that may taste good. After considerable time on the computer, in some books I have, etc. my attempts at making a frosting that tasted nicely seemed impossible. I hope your recipes works for us. Seems like it may......... Thanks so much for your posting.

                                          1. re: jdub1371

                                            I have had this page bookmarked forever and have just now made this icing. Wow! I am kind of kicking myself I waited so long to make it. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

                                            1. re: jdub1371

                                              I made this recipe last night and I dont know what I did wrong but it looked and tasted like butter. I cooked the flour and milk until it was a thick paste and then cooled it. Then I beat the butter and sgar until creamy. Then I added the flour mixture a little at a time and then added the vanilla. For some reason it just looked like butter, tasted like butter, and was way too runny for frosting my cake.

                                              1. re: ProudKyMama09

                                                PKM: Did you use the entire roux, adding it a little at a time? I had this problem when I made a batch and stopped adding the roux when the consistency of the frosting was smooth. I probably used about 2/3 of the roux. Since my texture was ok, I frosted the cake. But after chilling, when I took a bite, all I tasted was butter.
                                                I have made this recipe before, using the entire amount of milk and flour, with no problems.

                                              2. re: jdub1371

                                                If I don't use the roux right away, does it need to be refrigerated or will it keep out in room temp? I usually have to break things into steps because my 12 mth old doesn't like to give me long stretches of time to bake or cook.

                                                Btw, Thanks for the wonderful recipe, jdub1371! It really is a delicious frosting! :)

                                                1. re: SweetsMomma

                                                  I used this roux not only for frosting but also to make bread. I usually make in large batches, it can store up to a week (never had it longer than that actually). So long it does not turn grey, it's still good.

                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      Tangzhong. There are threads here that mention it. I didn't see the point when I tried it, but some say that it makes bread softer and stay fresh longer.

                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                        Interesting. I don't know how I've missed that. Did you notice a difference?

                                                        I guess it's not that different from pate a choux.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          Yeah, at least the first part of it is very much like pate a choux. I wonder if you could finish the pate a choux, eggs and all, and then continue on to make yeast bread from it - ???

                                                          I'm going to try the tangzhong bread again. Maybe I did something wrong when I tried it. There are a few people in my life who still crave the softest stuff possible.

                                                          Hm-mmm....I wonder, if it really works that is, if tangzhong would soften whole wheat bread for these folks?


                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                            I'll give it a try. It might work for whole wheat but if I'm putting all that cream/half and half/eggs in it, I'll forgo whatever potential health benefits there might be from whole grains! I'll enjoy it just as a splurge.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              Please report back! I did find this:


                                                              Don't know if you're a sourdough person or not, but this was interesting.

                                                2. re: jdub1371

                                                  I've been searching for a new icing alternative; I make a lot of decorated cakes & I'm over the usual cream cheese butter cream w/ pounds of powdered sugar and fats. Made this the minute I read it, couldn't be much faster or easier, or more delicious! It has the lightness of a swiss, but without all the work & mess. Thought I'd avoid lumps by sieving the roux mix before cooking, but it only took one minute of not stirring to get lumpy anyway, tho it whisked out smoothly in a flash. And to my surprise, the granulated sugar did become completely smooth; being a doubter, I was going to use powdered but I'm glad I decided to give it a go as posted. I added vanilla bean paste at the end & now it's got those beautiful little specks that say "I care enough to use the good stuff!". It appears to be capable of holding details for piping / decorating. The recipe makes about 2.5 cups, and has so much less sugar and fat, it's practically diet icing. Awesome stuff, thanks so much for sharing!

                                                  1. re: jdub1371

                                                    My first teaching job was at a school (suburb of Detroit) where the secretary made a cake for each month in which there were employee birthdays, and this was the recipe for icing that she always used. I loved it and got the recipe from her (1960-1961). Many moves have taken place since then, and I had lost the recipe. I am very happy to become reacquainted with it. I don't make many cakes anymore, but when I do this is the recipe I will use. So happy to have found it at this site. Thanks jdub1371!

                                                    1. re: jdub1371

                                                      Thanks for posting this recipe! I am from New Jersey and miss the real bakeries we have back there. Our family favorite, hands down, is Maple Walnut cake. Since your recipe calls for butter, and no offense, unless there is a pancake or waffle involved, I really don't want my butter and maple flavors together. So I followed the roux recipe precisely however changed the butter to Crisco, and shout out to all the people posting replies that buttercream doesn't involve Crisco, my father owned 2 pretty successful bakeries when I was little and Gunther, our baker used it, so call it real or not, there are some flavors of frosting that a butter flavored base just won't work with. The resulting maple frosting I made today, from your slightly tweaked recipe tastes EXACTLY what the maple frosting from the Wanaque bakery tasted like, absolutely delicious!! Thank you again! Happy Easter!

                                                      1. re: bg86409

                                                        Slightly off topic but I wonder if this is the same Gunther who went on to lead a rather successful dessert company in Exton, PA. I am getting my wedding cake from someone who worked with him, and I've encountered several other bakers along the way who worked for this Gunther as well.

                                                    2. I'm not sure if you want to decorate with this icing or not but I've only ever used it as icing to cover a cake but it always receives good comments.

                                                      Buttercream Icing

                                                      1 cup unsalted butter, softened
                                                      1.5 cups sifted icing sugar
                                                      .5 cup whipping cream
                                                      .5 cup boiling water

                                                      To make icing, cream together butter, icing sugar and whipping cream with an electric mixer until well blended.

                                                      Add boiling water, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating constantly until all water is incorporated and icing is light and fluffy.

                                                      I make this icing just before I'm going to use it. You can add a dash of vanilla if you like and sometimes I'll add a tiny pinch of salt in step one to take the sweetness down just a bit.

                                                      I hope you enjoy this icing...I always put it on a dark chocolate cake the big debate is whether the cake/icing tastes better at room temperature or out of the fridge.

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: Island Girl

                                                        Island girl..this is a really interesting recipe, since I've never seen a buttercream that uses boiling water before. I'm attracted to the recipe since it does use butter (which seems to yield a better taste than shortening) and not a huge amount of 10x sugar, but it doesn't involve any kind of meringue method (Italian or swiss buttercreams, etc) since I tend to find those too buttery. Can you give some insight regarding the consistency of this? Is it easy to spread and is it capable of being used for decorations that don't require an incredibly stiff icing, such as shell borders, etc,? Finally, how much does it yield, not necessarily in cups...does this recipe fill and frost a 3 layer, 9 inch cake? Thanks for your recipe!

                                                        1. re: Laura D.

                                                          Boiling water is THE secret to a good buttercream frosting. It kills the cornstarch taste and gives a chocolate buttercream the taste of real cooked fudge frosting. I always use butter, good vanilla, and a goodly pinch of salt (more or less depending on whether your butter is salted.

                                                          About 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) butter to a pound of confectioner's sugar (that's ~ 4 cups?), 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla. (this for a two layer cake.)

                                                          I've never decorated a cake, just frosted them; so I can't recommend this for anything but good eating. And I like my frosting firm but creamy, non-sticky to the touch.

                                                        2. re: Island Girl

                                                          Hi Islandgirl...

                                                          Thanks SOOO much for this variation of the standard bc recipe... I tried it and it was GREAT!!!! Leesa

                                                          1. re: Island Girl

                                                            What is icing sugar? Are you talking about Confectioners sugar?

                                                            1. re: iblievnanglz

                                                              Yes, icing sugar is what it's called in Canada. And you ice a cake with icing, not frost a cake with frosting. I'm still trying to figure out how a cup of liquid to 1 1/2 c icing/confectioner's sugar is supposed to make anything but sugar soup.

                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                I've been making this recipe for years. The thing that makes this recipe work is adding the boiling water in very small amounts and beating until it is fully incorporated. If you did add all the water at once it would turn to soup. The heavy cream is thick so it doesn't make the butter/icing sugar runny at all. I also think the amount of butter helps too and I blend those first three ingredients until perfectly smooth. The only thing I've noticed in the summer is when it is very humid sometimes I don't need to add all of the boiling water but judge it separately each time I make the icing. PhoebeB is correct that the boiling water smooths out the icing sugar and gets rid of the cornstarch taste.

                                                                1. re: Island Girl

                                                                  Sounds interesting, I'll give it a whirl.

                                                                2. re: buttertart

                                                                  Butter I believe this recipe is only understood if you take a course in Chemistry... :) Clearly this works by mainly molecules binding together in some incredibly interesting way as Alton would probably be able to explain. Can't wait to try this out....... drooling here folks.

                                                              2. re: Island Girl

                                                                I know this thread is a few years old, but I was looking for a less sweet buttercream too (I hate American buttercream and Italian/Swiss Meringue is too time consuming and too buttery/greasy in taste).

                                                                1. How long will this buttercream stay at room temperature?
                                                                2. Can I add chocolate to make it into a chocolate buttercream and if so, how much melted chocolate?


                                                                1. re: red dragon

                                                                  Here's a lot more, more recently, on the topic:

                                                                  I've only made the vanilla version but flavoring it is discussed in the other thread. It lasts very well at room temp. I would think 2-3 oz of melted and cooled chocolate could be added. To the finished buttercream.

                                                              3. SweettoothT, yes a good buttercream does exists. I am definitely partial to Italian buttercream since it is the most stable of all. Many high end bakeries use this method.

                                                                750 g. granulated sugar
                                                                1/4 liter of water
                                                                6 oz. egg whites
                                                                2 1/2 pounds of soft butter
                                                                2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

                                                                Bring sugar and water to 118 c. On a clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites until frothy.
                                                                Pour sugar syrup into whipped egg whites and whip until firm meringue. When cool,
                                                                add diced butter and continue whipping until light and fluffy, add vanilla.

                                                                Please look up more concise directions on making buttercreams since it can be somewhat
                                                                tricky sometimes, but the end product is well worth it, try it, you will not be disappointed.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: flipss

                                                                  hmm, this sounds tasty and appears simple enough. So this is italian buttercream?

                                                                  1. re: sweettoothT

                                                                    Yep. I love Italian meringue as well. Mmmm, buttercream.

                                                                  2. re: flipss

                                                                    Wow! half metric and half regular (what is the proper term?)
                                                                    You're as confused as I am...why does this country refuse to use metric? Let it be a 20 year project when both systems are used and then just phase over....!
                                                                    It's a Republican plot!!! No, it didn't happen during the Democratic years either...we need a new party

                                                                    "The American Centrist Party"...(!?) we in the middle want to enter the 21st Century!

                                                                    1. re: flipss

                                                                      This is the recipe I use and it's so delicious. I've always hated frostings due to the overly sweet taste, but this recipe gives the most delicious buttercream ever.

                                                                      I used something similar when baking a coconut cake - this is my go-to recipe for any type of buttercream. IMO, any cake recipe that uses that sugary crap is one I tend to ignore.

                                                                    2. Classic or neoclassic buttercream from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Cake Bible." Classic has egg yolks, sugar and water, and butter. Neoclassic replaces the water and some of the sugar with corn syrup, eliminating the need to use a candy thermometer. Of course, when you're done, you add flavoring too.

                                                                      "The Cake Bible" also has a recipe for buttercream using Italian meringue.