How to Make Perfect Frosting

What would carrot cake be without cream cheese frosting? A birthday cake without sweet buttercream?

Whether it's a warm glaze drizzled over a bundt cake, a fluffy frosting topping festive cupcakes, or a tinted royal icing on cut-out cookies, that sweet swirl of sugar, milk, butter, and flavorings gives desserts a perfect sweet finish. And for kids, the frosting is often the best part!

Start with these basic tips:

  • Always use cane sugar, especially for cooked frostings. Check the label on the sugar package; if it doesn’t say “pure cane,” it is probably beet sugar.
  • For richer flavor, use butter instead of margarine or shortening. Use an unsalted grade A butter at room temperature.
  • For safety, frostings containing raw eggs should be heated to kill any bacteria.
  • Frostings containing egg whites should be whipped in an oil-free environment. Any oil on utensils or in the mixing bowl will prevent the egg whites from whipping into peaks.
  • You must refrigerate a cake prepared with perishable frosting.
  • Cakes with frostings are best stored in airtight containers such as cake domes.

What equipment will you need to get started?

  • Stand mixer with paddle or whisk attachment or electric mixer
  • Candy thermometer (for cooked frostings)
  • Double boiler (for cooked frostings)
  • Metal icing spatula
  • Pastry bag for piping or a heavy plastic food-storage bag (Snip off a tiny corner. Make a larger hole in bag if you want a thicker drizzle.)
  • Lazy Susan, cake turntable, or inverted bowl (makes frosting cake easier)
  • Cake round or strong round cardboard

Click on the links below for more information on Frostings, Icings and Glazes!