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Old Fashioned Vanilla Frosting

Updated on October 21, 2017
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Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over twenty years, and has cooked on multiple television stations, including Food Network.

Old Fashioned Vanilla Frosting

Slightly less super sweet than regular buttercream, this simple old fashioned frosting has a depth of flavor that can't be beat!
Slightly less super sweet than regular buttercream, this simple old fashioned frosting has a depth of flavor that can't be beat!

This Frosting Really Takes the Cake

I love frosting of all kinds, and this one takes the cake, so to speak. This is a little less sweet than the buttercream frosting that is everywhere, but it has a gorgeous, subtle, and complex flavor that most frostings just don't have.

Boiled milk frostings were popular for decades, and the use of flour helped give these frostings a structure that was later supplanted by buttercreams. I think it's time to pull these back to the forefront. The flavor of this frosting is perfect for cakes that shine on their own with distinct flavors and textures, making it perfect for complex cakes like red velvet or a simple chocolate fudge cake.

This frosting allows the red velvet cake flavors to shine through, without overwhelming or taking center stage, which is just perfect in my book. Try this beautiful frosting for your next cake, and you'll add it to your go-to recipes, I promise!

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, cold
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt - a pinch
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup regular sugar

Directions

  1. Place milk in a small saucepan, and whisk in flour. Turn heat to medium, and heat to the boiling point, whisking constantly. Bring mixture just to a simmer, with bubbles forming, and cook for at least one minute, until the mixture is thickened, like pudding. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir salt and vanilla extract into the milk mixture. Transfer to a bowl, and cover. Allow mixture to cool completely. It can help to put plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Alternately, you can simply stir it every few minutes to facilitate cooling, and this also keeps a skin from forming.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you work.
  4. Working in batches, spoon milk mixture into the butter mixture, beating constantly, and continuing to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue adding the milk mixture until it's all fully incorporated, and the frosting obtains a smooth, fluffy consistency.

Start with Cooking the Milk and Flour

Heating the milk and flour to boiling cooks off the raw flour taste, and brings out the thickening power of the flour. It should get a pudding like consistency.
Heating the milk and flour to boiling cooks off the raw flour taste, and brings out the thickening power of the flour. It should get a pudding like consistency.

Add Flour to the Cold Milk

Whisk the flour into the milk while it's still cold, If the milk is warm or hot, the flour will lump and you'll never really get it smooth. Whisking well while the milk is still cold ensures a smooth final result.
Whisk the flour into the milk while it's still cold, If the milk is warm or hot, the flour will lump and you'll never really get it smooth. Whisking well while the milk is still cold ensures a smooth final result.

A Tiny Pinch of Salt

Just a pinch of salt is all that is needed for this frosting. A tiny bit of salt really wakes up the flavors and actually enhances the sweetness of the frosting and rich, complex flavors.
Just a pinch of salt is all that is needed for this frosting. A tiny bit of salt really wakes up the flavors and actually enhances the sweetness of the frosting and rich, complex flavors.

One Teaspoon Real Vanilla Extract

Real vanilla extract is the key to the subtle, complex flavors of this beautiful old fashioned frosting.
Real vanilla extract is the key to the subtle, complex flavors of this beautiful old fashioned frosting.

Beat Butter and Sugar Until Fluffy

Beat together a cup of regular sugar and a cup of butter until light and fluffy. This forms the basis of the structure for the frosting.
Beat together a cup of regular sugar and a cup of butter until light and fluffy. This forms the basis of the structure for the frosting.

Begin Beating in Milk and Flour Mixture

Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, begin slowly working in the milk/flour mixture. Work by dropping in large spoonfuls, and beat well between each addition.
Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, begin slowly working in the milk/flour mixture. Work by dropping in large spoonfuls, and beat well between each addition.

Beat in All the Milk Mixture Until Smooth and Creamy

Keep working in the milk/flour mixture until it's all incorporated, and the frosting has a smooth, creamy consistency.
Keep working in the milk/flour mixture until it's all incorporated, and the frosting has a smooth, creamy consistency.

Ready to Use

The frosting is ready to use at this point - it's perfect for a classic red velvet cake, or just as fabulous on an old fashioned chocolate cake.
The frosting is ready to use at this point - it's perfect for a classic red velvet cake, or just as fabulous on an old fashioned chocolate cake.

Perfect Frosting for Red Velvet Cake

This frosting is the original BFF for classic red velvet cake, popular before cream cheese frosting was even thought of. It's still our favorite go-to for this classic dessert.
This frosting is the original BFF for classic red velvet cake, popular before cream cheese frosting was even thought of. It's still our favorite go-to for this classic dessert.

Check out the Quick Tutorial!

How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

© 2017 Jan Charles

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    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 4 weeks ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Yum, in some cases the best part of the cake.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'm always looking for a good homemade frosting to use and I think I've just found it right here. Thanks so much!