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How to Make Homemade Cake Frosting: Simple Recipes

I love trying out new dessert recipes and sharing my findings. Turns out many fancy sweets aren't nearly as hard to make as I once thought!


Types of Frosting to Make at Home

There are lots of different options for making frosting to decorate a cake. It's often tempting to buy pre-made products to save yourself time. As good as some of these products are, home-made frosting is even better. Once you have gotten the hang of the basic recipes, you can start to experiment with different flavors. There is an element of trial-and-error involved, as everyone has different taste buds, and some people have more of a sweet tooth than others. But the following frosting recipes are a great place to start.


Vanilla Buttercream

This should make enough frosting to cover a dozen small cupcakes.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Softened your butter.
  2. Put your softened butter into a bowl, and add the icing sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Blend together until smooth.
  4. Decorate cupcakes!

Salted Caramel Buttercream

This should be enough to decorate approximately 10-12 cupcakes. You'll find instructions to make the caramel sauce first, and then the actual caramel buttercream frosting after that.

Caramel Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Place sugar and water in a small pan, and bring to the boil gradually.
  2. Simmer until the liquid turns a dark caramel color—but don't let it go too dark.
  3. Take off the heat and add the cream and vanilla—take care as it may splutter a little—and stir until you have a smooth caramel.
  4. Leave to cool for 20 minutes.
  5. Alternatively, you could buy a ready made caramel sauce for this recipe. Just make sure it's of a pourable consistency.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting


  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups icing (powdered) sugar, sifted
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  1. Mix the butter and salt together, and add the icing sugar, little by little, ensuring that the mixer is on a slow speed.
  2. When this has come together, add in the caramel (cooled) and mix again. If the caramel is not cool enough, it will make the frosting runny. What you need to do if this is the case, is put the frosting into the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before use. This is a recipe you need to taste as you go along—the level of salt you want will depend on your individual taste and you may want to even it out by adding a little more sugar.

This frosting goes really well with chocolate cupcakes.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) is made by making Swiss meringue and then adding in butter and flavorings. It uses egg whites and the finished product is smooth, creamy, and delicious. A lot of people think it's complicated and more time consuming than some of the other recipes, but this type of buttercream is actually very simple to get right. If things appear to go wrong, it's usually just a case of continuing to beat the mixture until it comes back to being smooth, silky, and glossy. This recipe makes enough to fill and cover a 6-inch cake.


  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar (just ordinary granulated sugar)
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt.


  1. Create a double boiler by putting your mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water (water should not touch the bottom of the bowl).
  2. Put the sugar and egg whites into the mixing bowl over the double boiler and stir continuously until the temperature reaches 140 F / 60 C. If you don't have a sugar thermometer, you're looking for the point where the sugar has all dissolved. Test this by dipping a spoon into the mixture and running your finger over it to check for granules remaining.
  3. When the meringue mix has reached the correct temperature, take off the heat and whisk (using balloon whisk attachment) until the meringue is cooled and forms thick, silky peaks. This may take up to 10 minutes.
  4. Now add in the butter, a tablespoon or so at a time and mix well. There is a risk of the mixture appearing lumpy and curdled—if this happens don't despair, just keep mixing and it should come together okay.
  5. Once you have a glossy, smooth and creamy mix, add in the vanilla and pinch of salt. Mix this well. If the frosting is runny, put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes and then take out and mix again until smooth.
  6. Pipe onto your cake using the nozzle of your choice.

Swiss meringue frosting can be frozen; so if you want to make a larger batch and put some aside for another time, it should be fine for up to 8 weeks in the freezer.

Delicious chocolate frosting for cakes.

Delicious chocolate frosting for cakes.

Chocolate Frosting

This is an incredibly simple recipe for a chocolate frosting. It goes well on chocolate or vanilla cakes. To make enough frosting for 6 medium-sized cupcakes, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 3/4 cups confectioners' (icing) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • 1 tsp cold water


  1. Place the butter into a bowl and sift the icing sugar into it.
  2. Mix well until all the sugar is incorporated. It's easiest to do this using an electric mixer, but if you prefer, you can mix by hand.
  3. Add in the vanilla extract, sift the cocoa powder into the mixture, add the cold water, and mix everything together.
  4. Decorate your cupcakes!

The icing can be kept in the fridge overnight or used immediately. It has a really nice texture and holds up well if you want to pipe a swirl pattern on top of cupcakes. If you do refrigerate the frosting and find that it becomes a little stiff, add a teaspoon of water and mix thoroughly until the frosting loosens. Remember: always add liquid sparingly, as a little goes a long way.

Classic Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frostings are absolutely delicious—smooth and creamy and luxurious. A classic combination is red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. The frosting is really simple to make, and the key to getting it just right is to use good quality ingredients and to ensure that your frosting has a nice smooth texture. Some cream cheese can have a slightly grainy texture, and if this is the case, you'll need to ensure that it's mixed really well. This recipe makes enough for up to 10 cupcakes.


  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup softened butter (unsalted)
  • 3.5 cups of icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Mix together the cream cheese and softened butter in a large bowl until you have a smooth consistency.
  2. Sift the icing sugar into the cream cheese / butter mix, and put the mixer on at slow speed.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and combine thoroughly.
  4. Use immediately or pop into the refrigerator until needed.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

This goes really well with a classic vanilla cake and makes a wonderful summer treat. My recipe uses fresh strawberries. You should always use fresh fruit where possible to get the best natural flavor. This should make enough for about ten cupcakes.


  • 1/2 cup of softened butter (unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese (use full-fat)
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered (icing) sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries


  1. Mash the strawberries with a fork and use a paper towel to pat away some of the liquid.
  2. Now put the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and salt into a bowl and mix well—be careful to mix slowly at first or you'll get covered in powdered sugar.
  3. Once everything is well incorporated and smooth, add in the strawberries and mix well.
  4. If you find the frosting is a little runny, refrigerate if for 30 minutes before use.

Favorite Frostings

Mistakes to Watch Out For

  • Don't put powdered sugar into a mixer and turn the speed on to high—you'll get coated in the stuff.
  • If your icing looks a little runny, don't keep adding more sugar to it. Pop it in the refrigerator for half an hour, and it should come right.
  • Don't use butter that's too cold or you'll end up with chunks of it in your frosting.
  • If your Swiss meringue buttercream looks as though it's splitting or starts to look like scrambled eggs, don't throw it out and start again. Keep beating it, and it will eventually come right.
  • Don't put butter into the Swiss meringue while it's still warm—you'll end up with a gloopy mess.
  • If your frosting comes out of the refrigerator a little too hard, don't add a lot of water to loosen it. Try mixing it, and if need be, add a very small amount of water—one drop at a time—to thin it out.
  • When using egg whites, don't get any yolk in them, as you won't be able to form meringue. Also, ensure your bowl, utensils, etc are really clean.

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