The Frosting on the Cake – Base Frosting Recipe

We’ve all been there. The finishing touches. Our hard work is sitting on the counter cooling while we dream of sprinkles and cake toppers but in my opinion, the frosting is where it’s at. 

Light fluffy sponges draped in whipped cream, dense pound cake covered in light, refreshing glazes, moist chocolate layers smothered in buttercream; I could go on forever, but I digress. 

Once upon a time, I was intimidated by the idea of beating butter until light and fluffy, who even has time for that!? And room temperature butter? I always get a kick out of recipes that imply room temperature is about 10 degrees warmer than my overnight temperature (Hello BC Hydro, I’m looking at you!) Regardless, we all know that nothing compares to homemade frosting. This recipe splits into 2 days if you’re thinking ahead, so you don’t feel rushed on decorating day.

I will always choose Ermine frosting over standard American Buttercream. Sure it takes a little extra planning, but it has the same fluffy, buttercream mouthfeel without the heavy sugar content of standard Buttercream. Of course that’s a matter of preference, and for those who prefer something even lighter and much faster, I’ve added notes at the bottom of this post for a simple whipped frosting. Bookmark this base frosting recipe for future events and flavour choices!

Ermine Frosting – Base Frosting Recipe

Ermine frosting, also known as Boiled Milk Frosting, is made by cooking flour, sugar and milk into a sweet pudding, which is then whipped into softened butter. Note the temperatures mentioned in the recipe, these are your keys to success. This frosting can be made Gluten free by subbing your favourite GF Flour Blend for AP Flour.


  • 8 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Other flavouring – see notes below


  1. In a saucepan, whisk together your flour, sugar and salt. 
  2. Add milk and vanilla, stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture boils. Continue cooking while stirring for 1-2 more minutes, until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency. Remove from heat. 
  3. Pour your mixture into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on top to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature*
  4. Using a stand, or hand mixer, beat the room temperature butter on high until light and fluffy. 
  5. Add the room temperature pudding 1 tbsp at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Continue beating 2-3 more minutes until smooth and fluffy.

*You can speed up the cooling process by placing your pudding in the fridge, but allow it to warm up to room temperature before incorporating.

I like to make my pudding the night before so that my decorating day doesn’t feel rushed! Simply remove the pudding 1 hour prior to use.

Storage Tips

Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 1 week or freeze up to 3 months. Allow buttercream to come to room temperature and re-whip before use. This recipe makes 6 cups, or enough to frost and decorate a 2 layer 8” cake or a 3 layer 6” cake.

Flavouring your base frosting recipe

Add your favourite flour to the milk mixture before cooking, or to the buttercream at the end!

  • ¼ cup Freeze dried berry powder
  • ¼ cup  PB2 Powder
  • 2tbsp instant espresso powder
  • ¼ Cocoa Powder
  • Soak your favourite sugary cereal in your milk for cereal infused frosting!

Add to buttercream at the end, please note these will soften your frosting

  • 6oz Melted Chocolate 
  • 1/4cup of your favourite curd or jam
  • ¼ Caramel or dulce de leche
  • 2tsbp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1tsp hot water

For a citrusy kick, add 1-2 tbsp of your favourite citrus zest to the butter 🙂

St Patty’s Day 2021 – What is a Guinness Cake without Baileys frosting?

I wanted that delicious Baileys taste, without adding too much more sugar and here’s how I did it:

  • Simply sub 1.5 cups of the milk for 1.5 cups Baileys 
  • Decrease the sugar to 2tbsp. 

This will cook much, much faster than it would with just milk so cook on medium low heat; the Baileys will caramelize adding an extra dimension to your frosting

Hello Caramel Baileys, where have you been all my life?

After adding the pudding to the butter, drizzle in 2tbsp fresh Baileys, whip until light and fluffy and give yourself a little taste test, you deserve it 😉 

Whipped Dessert Topping

If buttercream isn’t your jam or you’re watching your calories, this chocolate Guinness cake pairs beautifully with whipped Baileys Topping. 

Simply whip 1 ½ cup Whipping Cream with ½ cup Baileys and pile high on the top of your cake, emulating the head on a pint of Guinness.

Notes and troubleshooting for Frosting

My frosting looks curdled, or broken. In most cases this is because either your butter or your pudding mixture was too cold. Keep whipping and it should come together but to hurry the process along, dunk the bottom of your mixing bowl into a bowl of hot water, and stir away while the butter on the bottom melts. Remove the heat and continue whipping. Repeat as necessary

My frosting is too sweet/not sweet enough. My favourite part of this frosting is that you can add as much or little sugar as possible. This recipe calls for 2cups but personally, I only use ¾ and sometimes even that is too much! Try adding less sugar, and a little extra salt to counter the sweetness. If you’re after more sweetness, you can add powdered sugar at the end to suit your tastebuds. Once you’ve made this a time or two you will find the amount that works for you and your preferences. 

My frosting is too soft!  This will happen if your butter or flour mixture is still too warm. Simply pop your frosting in the fridge for 10-20 minutes and re-whip. You may need a couple of sessions in the fridge