The Best Frosting

I am rarely left speechless {if you are my husband you are seriously nodding your head right about now}. I like to talk {husband still nodding}. To dissect the details of important matters, such as great toenail polish and food {husband falling asleep}. However, after taking a taste of this frosting, I was left completely speechless. No words. None. Just absolute, incredible tastebud bliss {husband shocked into silence himself}.

It is the best frosting I have ever tasted in my life.

You might have seen the phenomenon of this type of frosting swirling around. I tried the Tasty Kitchen version (highlighted by the Pioneer Woman) twice, and both times it was a disaster. I had given up on the so-called miracle of flour-based frostings until I saw and made this latest version.

It left me weak and trembling.

The Best Frosting

And do you know what tops it all? There is a chocolate version. Oh, heaven help me.

I slathered this frosting on the most decadent cake I’ve made to date (posting tomorrow!) and I can’t begin to describe the magical web of fluffy, creamy sweetness that is beholden in this frosting. I am a self-professed frosting hater, which makes my testimonial of this frosting all the stronger. I abhor the greasy, filmy, overly-sugary taste of traditional buttercream. Even the adventurous seven-minute/marshmallow frostings of the world leave me wanting.

But this frosting…well, it belongs in The Best Recipe section no doubt about that. My search for the perfect frosting is over. I’ll be honest, it is a little more work and requires a bit more planning than throwing butter and powdered sugar together in a mixer but I’m promising you here and now that the results are worth every minute. The real issue now becomes making sure any of this frosting actually makes it to the cake before being inhaled by my little lips.

The Best Frosting

One Year Ago: Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

The Best Frosting

Yield: Makes about 4 cups frosting (plenty for two 9-inch cake layers)

The Best Frosting

Note: this frosting takes a bit of advance planning since the frosting needs time to cool so plan ahead! Originally, I put a note on here that was included in the original recipe that the frosting keeps in the refrigerator and then can be rewhipped, but I had to delete that note because every time I have tried it, it has been a major bust. After I have refrigerated it and rewhipped, it separates and never becomes satiny and delicious again. You may find different results but in good faith I have to say that in my experience, this frosting is best made and used fresh. Finally, I pipe a lot of cakes for my kids’ birthdays (think: Spiderman covered in Wilton stars) and although I haven’t tried it, I highly suspect that an hour or so of chilling time will lend this frosting nicely to being piped. When I try it, because I will, I’ll update the recipe with my notes.

This frosting is so magically delicious, it would be perfect on everything from sugar cookies to pumpkin bars to cake. Options are endless!


  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1% with stellar results)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) butter, cut into 24 pieces and softened at room temperature


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Slowly whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium saucepan and pour the milk mixture through the strainer into the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils and is thick enough that it starts to become difficult to easily whisk. This could take anywhere between 5-10 minutes, depending on your stove, heat, etc. It should bubble quite a bit at the end (be careful of the splatters) and thicken considerably.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and cool to room temperature – this is extremely important! If it is even slightly warm, the frosting won’t beat up properly. I refrigerated my initial mixture overnight. If you do this, make sure to pull it out in time to let it warm back up to room temperature. If you try to proceed with the rest of the recipe and the mixture is too cold, the butter won’t absorb into the frosting like it should.
  3. Once the frosting is completely cooled to room temperature (it should have no hint of warmth at all!), beat the mixture with the vanilla on low speed until it is well combined, about 30 seconds (a stand mixer will work best for this). Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat the frosting until all the butter has been incorporated fully, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and let the mixer work it’s magic. Beat the frosting for five minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Let the frosting sit at room temperature until it is a bit more stiff, about 1 hour. I suspect if you chill it for an hour or so, it would be stiff enough to actually pipe with instead of frosting with a rubber spatula.


Chocolate Version: Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt mixture in the first step. Once the frosting has been mixed for five minutes and is light and fluffy, mix in 3 ounces of semisweet chocolate that has been melted and completely cooled to room temperature.

Note: I made the chocolate version a few days after I originally posted this recipe and it is delicious! The color wasn’t quite as dark as I was hoping for; it definitely made for a lighter-colored chocolate frosting but the chocolate flavor is deep and terrific. I increased the melted chocolate to 4 ounces when I made it and may even do 5 ounces next time.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Cook’s Country Oct/Nov 2010

566 Responses to The Best Frosting {a.k.a. Magical Frosting}

  1. I’ve been looking for a good frosting recipe to use on some black forest cupcakes instead of whipped cream, and I think this is the one!
    I’ve heard this type of frosting be called “mock whipped cream” before, does it taste a lot like whipped cream? Or should I sub some of the milk for heavy cream? I want to achieve a somewhat whipped cream taste, but want something more interesting than just a chantilly cream!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Michelle – this frosting definitely has a whipped, light, creamy taste and consistency. I’ve never subbed cream for the milk before – I think you’ll like it the way it is. Good luck!

  2. La Traviata says:

    Lovely! I want to make the chocolate version, but we love milk chocolate and dislike dark chocolate. I would have said we hate dark chocolate, but in this case it would have cake attached to it, so at least we’d like the cakey bits. Anyway, couldn’t one use milk chocolate instead of semisweet? Any suggestions for adjusting the recipe to make rich milk chocolate frosting?
    Thanks for this. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    • Mel says:

      Actually, the chocolate version is quite light and creamy. I’d still use the semisweet chocolate chips – it doesn’t lend an overly bittersweet chocolate taste to the frosting.

  3. suzanne says:

    hi, Can we dispense the flour or Is there an alternative to it?

  4. Christine says:

    Hi, if I made a cake used this frosting inside and covered in fondant on a Wednesday would the frosting keep ok if I didn’t cut the cake Saturday?

  5. Ben says:

    When beating the frosting, do you use the paddle or the whisk attachment?

  6. Paula says:

    Mel: does this frosting crust? Would it work on a wedding cake?

  7. Dianna says:

    I see there is caramel version of this frosting. Have you heard of it or know how to make it? Can’t wait to try it!



  9. Emily says:

    I don’t know if someone has already commented on this but I just used this recipe last night to make cupcakes in a slight panic because I didn’t have any frosting, with an hour to go and then realized it takes a lot of time to cool down/warm back up, etc. I would just like to note that instead of waiting for the frosting to cool down on its own, I put it in the fridge for 5 minutes and the freezer for probably about 30, and it turned out great (in my opinion). I will probably even do that next time even if I am not short on time.

  10. Amy says:

    Hi, I am making this frosting for my daughters birthday on Sunday. I would like to make it and frost the cake on Saturday. Will the frosting be ok to do that ahead? I see you say don’t make the frosting ahead then try to beat it back together, but if its already together and on the cake will that be ok?

    • Farah.F says:

      Hi Amy, from my experience yes it should stay fine in the refrigerator. I used this frosting on cupcakes for my son’s birthday. I made them a day ahead and they were all good the next day. The cold frosting even tasted better actually :)
      Good luck.

    • Mel says:

      Yes, Amy, that should work great! I’ve done that several times. I usually refrigerate the frosted cake and pull it out several hours before serving so the frosting can soften up a bit.

  11. Gina says:

    Hi Mel,love your page! I’m trying to make this frosting and my issue is i think i cooked the moisture out of it because it turned into crumbs-lol- i think thats a no-no! Please help.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Gina, not sure what happened, sorry! You’d have to cook it an awfully long time to cook out all the moisture – are you sure you added all the liquid called for in the recipe? Did it turn to crumbs while cooking on the stove or later when you mixed in the butter?

      • Gina says:

        i realized that i did not use enough milk lol-tried again and it came out perfect! Thanks Mel.I also made the chocolate cake last week-to die for! Keep the recipes coming they are fabulous.Merry Christmas

  12. Suzanne says:

    Hi! This is my all-time favorite frosting recipe, but I’m not an experienced enough baker to know how to correctly adjust recipes (I am, however, an expert at INcorrectly adjusting recipes). My soon-to-be six-year-old has requested a vanilla cake with strawberry frosting.

    Is there a way to add strawberry puree to this frosting without it becoming runny and/or off-putting??

    • Mel says:

      The key with this frosting, in my opinion, is to add any extra liquid to the beginning step (cooking the flour mixture). I haven’t tried it but I wonder if you could replace some of the liquid with strawberry puree at the beginning?

  13. Rachel says:

    I was wondering if I could substitute liquid stevia for the sugar? I wouldn’t normally question it but I’m not sure if the sugar does more than sweeten in this case (texture, bulking, etc.)

    • Mel says:

      That’s a good question, Rachel, but I’m afraid I don’t know the answer. You’d have to experiment to find out (or maybe someone on this thread could chime in if they’ve tried it).

  14. Kelley says:

    I’m scrolling through the comments, but haven’t come across the answer yet. Have you or do you know if anyone has had success subbing gluten free flour for the flour. I’m recently eating gluten free, but love this frosting.

  15. Yan Ling says:

    HI!! OMG can i hug you/ kill you? I have been looking for the perfect frosting since forever because i always try the American Buttercream but am always disappointed by the sweetness/grittiness. This cream is sweet and fluffy but the sweetness is not overpowering and makes one want to try more :D I am thinking of adding various flavors to this frosting, for example, some salted caramel. I will update you on the results later! Thanks!

  16. JK says:

    Hi, I looked through the comments for this, but I don’t have time to read all of them all the way back in time.
    I was hoping for a little more detail on the “difficult to easily whisk” step – I think “difficult” depends a bit on endurance levels and determination factor. :) How would you describe the consistency of the mixture at the point when it’s thick enough to take off the heat – chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, paste?

  17. Miriam says:

    I live in Israel and we don’t have the same butter sticks as you have in the States. do you know the exact weight/grams/ml for the butter needed (24 tablespoons (3 sticks) butter, cut into 24 pieces and softened at room temperature)?

  18. Kathleen Herman says:

    I will definitely have to give this a try. I am a HUGE fan of whipped icing, and I seriously cannot find a recipe that compares to an icing I tried several years ago made by someone who won’t give up the recipe. I HATE that. It was like whipped cream, but not whipped cream. I don’t think I will ever get it, but I definitely want to give this one a try.

  19. danni says:

    I love the idea of having a frosting that is not super thick or super sweet, like most of the buttercreams that I’ve made in the past. I like that this is light and fluffy. I did add some whipped cream cheese at the very last stage, because I thought it wasn’t actually sweet enough. I also added maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar at the end and let it all whip in together. It was delish! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Dorothy says:

    I’ve made the PW’s version several times and this is superior. Cooking the sugar with the milk instead of adding it later makes it smoother. I’ve also been recently diagnosed with wheat/gluten intolerance, so I used GF flour (Krusteaz Gluten-free AP Flour). It worked very well! Once it was ready, I also stirred some lemon curd into the portion used between the layers. Delish!

  21. Maryam says:

    Looks yum!
    Question! Will whole cream milk work in place of 1% milk?

    • Mel says:

      Yes, I think you could sub in 2% or whole milk with good results.

      • Gina says:

        I just made this frosting with mostly 2%milk. I put about 3 tbs of evaporated milk and the rest was 2%. (I thought it might need more fat?) It came out awesome! It’s going on my daughters birthday cupcakes. She said this frosting is what clouds would taste like. So light and creamy! great recipe.

  22. Tara says:

    Oh yum! What a great recipe! For years I’ve wanted an Icing recipe that isn’t sickly sweet and here it is! Absolutely divine! I didn’t have enough butter so I used margarine and still incredible and light. So I wonder how much better it would be with butter! Thank you for this. It will be used frequently in the future!

  23. CJ says:

    Hi Mel! I hate to say it, but this was the worst frosting I’ve ever made. It was for a birthday cake, and everyone commented on how it just tastes like butter. I made the chocolate version and it came together well, but the flavor was horrible. I’ve made the Pioneer Woman version, I think I’ll have to stick to that one in future. I was really disappointed, I wanted it to be great! Any ideas on why the flavor was off?

    • Mel says:

      Not sure, CJ. Sorry you didn’t like it – it must boil down to personal preference since this is a favorite for us. Did you whip it for the amount of time in the recipe? I’ve found the long whipping time helps balance the flavor.

  24. Lien says:

    I think the quality of butter and chocolate play a big part in this recipe. Having tried both the pioneer woman’s and this recipe, I can’t see why this one would taste more buttery as I do not like the PW recipe for that very reason.

  25. Michelle says:

    Can you pipe this frosting with a pasty bag or is it betsy used to spread on cakes?

  26. Kasey says:

    I’m making a birthday cake for my father-in-law for tomorrow afternoon. Can I use this between layers of a round cake, or is it not stiff enough to work there? I have four skinny layers (about half an inch) planned. Thoughts?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kasey – I use this between cake layers all the time! I hope this worked out for you.

      • Kasey says:

        It was perfect! I even added a little food coloring to two smaller batches and piped rosettes and a Happy Birthday message. No chilling of the frosting required! If I knew how to include a picture, I would. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

  27. Kristy says:

    Can this be made to be peanut butter. I have used this as is and love, love, LOVE it. Just didn’t know if it would work and if so what would I have to do to adapt it to make it PB.
    Thank you so much

    • Mel says:

      I’ve never tried a peanut butter version but maybe you could decrease the butter by a few tablespoons and mix in 1/2 cup peanut butter at the end while whipping the frosting?

  28. Sundus says:

    I reduced the amount of butter by a couple tablespoons and still had great results!

  29. Zahn says:

    Hi, just saw this recipe and wish to try it. Would like to know if you can leave the cake for a few days without it spoiling. Th cake is not for a special occasion, I just like to bake and I make large cakes. Thanks, I am sooo tired of confectioner cakes like WIlton,s recipe. I will have to try it at another time though as I want to finish tonight

  30. Diana says:

    Hi Mel,

    I LOOVE this frosting! I made it along with your unbelievable chocolate cake, and they were DELICIOUS. I am in no way an experienced baker, this is actually only my second time “baking” anything. My first time I baked a rainbow cake for my sons birthday and the frosting ended up being a total bust I just used cool whip as frosting ( lol). But I am so glad I found a frosting that is delicious, not too sweet, and overall amazing! It will be my go to. The process is not hard at all, a little time consuming but it’s worth it! Tastes better than any other frosting I’ve had (store bought) . Thanks for the recepie!

  31. Christina says:

    I would describe the taste as whipping cream mixed with white chocolate. It bountifully frosted 24 cupcakes.
    It was very good, but a few mouthfulls did leave me feeling sick (maybe it was more than a few?) I am already thinking about tweaking it with a cooked thick vanillia pudding replacing the flour & milk mixture. I think this will get rid of the “cookie dough” taste some were decribing.
    Thanks for a great recipe!

  32. Lien says:

    ^^sounds like a german buttercream.

  33. Heather says:

    Hi Mel,
    I’m wanting to use your frosting recipe on a birthday cake. Have you had luck piping this frosting?
    Thank you!

  34. Axel says:

    Mel, your frosting is perfect for me. Thnaks for this post. I will back.

  35. Reham says:

    Can i freeze this frosting?

  36. ruby says:

    Hey Mel, I’ve just finished cooking the milk and flour mixture. The consistency is as you described it should be, but the color is strangely dark! I’m a bit worried and am hoping it lightens up once I add the butter. Any ideas what may have gone wrong?

  37. Mae says:

    I DID! Thank you! You are right about how great it’ll turn out! only downside is it can’t hold shape too well.

  38. Melissa says:

    Hi Mel,

    I was wondering if I could pipe “happy birthday” on this kind of frosting since it does seems so light and airy…I am worried what ever I use may bleed into the white frosting? Can you suggest what to do? Should I frost the cake with this magical frosting and use another for the piping? Any suggestions are very much appreciated! Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Melissa – I pipe with this frosting all the time (it helps to chill it first like the recipe suggests). Once you frost the cake with white frosting, it helps to refrigerate to let that frosting harden before piping another color on top.

  39. Chelsey T says:

    A follow-up on making strawberry frosting: 6 dark strawberries mushed into milk and strained to yield 1.5 cups milk came out suuuper delish and very strawberry flavored. In all other ways like the original. However, the vanilla made the whole thing brownish, so I had to use 2 drops food coloring for pastel pink.

    Also, I tried to chill this for piping, left it in the fridge too long and had to rewhip it. It was a hot mess texture-wise after that. But still delish.

  40. Melissa says:

    Hi Mel,

    I think I have finally decided I am making this frosting and your chocolate cake for my daughter’s birthday! Will there be enough frosting from this recipe to ice a 13 x 9 sheet cake and to have some left over to add food colouring gel to pipe letters on the cake? Thank you.

    • Mel says:

      Are you frosting just the top of the 9X13 cake? If so, then yes, I think you would have enough to frost the top and do some piping.

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