Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting

Ermine frosting, aka boiled milk frosting or flour buttercream, is a less sweet buttercream frosting that’s light and fluffy. It’s great for frosting cakes and cupcakes, offering a smooth, creamy icing that’s not cloyingly sweet.

whipped jar of buttercream

What is Ermine Frosting?

Ermine frosting is a delightful alternative to traditional buttercream without the high sugar content. This all-purpose frosting offers a unique balance of sweetness and creaminess with a fluffy texture. Its history lies with the classic red velvet cake, traditionally used before cream cheese frosting became popular. Ermine frosting uses a cooked flour, milk, and sugar base, similar to custard. Once this is cooled, it’s whipped into butter. 

It’s a perfect frosting for decorating cakes, filling cake layers, piping on cupcakes, and more. I use it on these almond cupcakes.

iced cupcakes.

Ingredients

You’ll need the following simple ingredients to whip up this fluffy vanilla frosting.

  • Granulated sugar – You could also use soft brown sugar to bring a hint of rich molasses flavor. You can add less sugar if you prefer a less sweet flavor or more if you want a sweeter frosting.
  • Flour – Regular all-purpose flour. You can make a gluten-free version with a gluten-free all-purpose blend.
  • Milk – I use regular whole milk, but you could use half and half or low fat too. 
  • Room temperature butter – You can also use salted or unsalted butter. If using salted butter, cut back on how much salt is added according to taste.
  • Vanilla extract – Or other flavorings depending on the flavor frosting you’re making.
  • A pinch of salt

Method

Here are the simple steps to make this less sweet buttercream frosting.

Whisk the flour and granulated sugar in a saucepan to remove any lumps. Whisk in the cold milk.

flour roux.

Place the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens into a custard-like consistency.

flour mixture.

Stir through the vanilla paste or extract. Set it aside and let it cool completely. 

whipped butter.

With the whisk attachment, beat the room-temperature butter in your stand mixer at medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, and lightened in color. Around 4-5 minutes.

paste being added to butter.

Once your butter is fluffy, reduce the speed to low and slowly add your cooled flour paste to the beaten butter, a spoonful at a time. Ensure it is cool before adding.

whipped ermine buttercream

Add a pinch of salt and continue beating on high speed until your frosting is light and airy. 

If you want to remove the air bubbles from the frosting, switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 5-10 minutes, or smooth them out by stirring the frosting with a spatula.

Your frosting is now ready to be used or stored in an airtight container if you plan on using it later.

Variations

There are several different flavors and variations you can try with this frosting recipe:

  1. Chocolate Ermine Frosting: Add cooled melted chocolate or cocoa powder to your frosting at the last mixing stage to create a chocolate frosting.
  2. Peanut Butter Ermine Frosting: Add smooth peanut butter to the mix for a unique take on this classic frosting. It’s delicious on vanilla or chocolate cupcakes.
  3. German Buttercream: Replace the flour and milk with pastry cream for a German buttercream (aka creme mousseline.)
whipped jar of buttercream

Trouble shooting

Ermine frosting is typically smooth and creamy, but sometimes it can curdle, or become soupy. Don’t worry! There are a few things you can do to fix it.

  • Beat It More: Sometimes, curdling is just a sign that your frosting hasn’t been mixed enough. Continue to beat the frosting on high speed using your stand mixer or hand mixer with the whisk attachment for a few more minutes. This could help the ingredients to combine more fully and smooth out the texture.
  • Heat It Up: If beating it more doesn’t help, your frosting might be too cold. This is particularly common if you’re using cold butter. You can fix this by gently heating your frosting. To do this, place your mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler method) and stir continuously until the frosting along the sides begins to melt. Remove from heat and beat it on high speed again until it’s light and fluffy.
  • Chill It: Sometimes, ermine frosting can become very greasy or even soupy if the butter is too soft or has melted during the mixing process. If your frosting seems runny or really greasy, try putting it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, then whip it again using your stand or hand mixer. The cold can help firm up the butter, returning your frosting to the desired consistency.

Remember, ensuring that your butter is at room temperature before you begin is critical, as cold butter is a common cause of curdling. And don’t forget to cool your milk and flour mixture before adding it to the beaten butter and sugar to avoid it becoming too warm.

Storing

Storing ermine buttercream can be tricky compared to other types of frosting. Here are a few general tips for storing it:

  • Refrigeration: If you have leftover buttercream or made it in advance, store it in the refrigerator. Place it in an airtight container. It lasts up to one week. Do note that you can’t use it straight out of the refrigerator. You must let it reach room temperature and re-whip it before use to restore its original creamy and smooth consistency.
  • Freezing: Ermine buttercream also freezes well for longer storage, up to three months. You can store it in an airtight container or a freezer bag. Again, when you’re ready to use it, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then let it come to room temperature and re-whip it before use.
  • Room Temperature: If you plan to use the buttercream within a day or two, leave it in an airtight container at room temperature. But if your room temperature is very warm, or if you’re in a humid environment, it’s best to refrigerate it to maintain its stability and avoid any risk of spoilage.

Ermine buttercream is stable at room temperature, ideally below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). If the temperature rises above this, especially towards 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) and above, the frosting will melt or become overly soft.

piped frosting.

Related recipes

whipped jar of buttercream.

Not Too Sweet Buttercream

Yield: 4 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Cooling time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Ermine frosting is a less sweet buttercream frosting that's light and fluffy. It's great for frosting cakes and cupcakes. It makes enough to cover a three-layer 8-inch cake, two-layer 9-inch cake, or 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 50g (6 1/2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
  • 200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 300g (1 1/4 cup) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
  • 280g (1 1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened but not melting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour and granulated sugar in a saucepan to remove lumps. Whisk in the cold milk. Place the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until it thickens into a custard-like consistency. Whisk through the vanilla, and pour it into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap on top to stop a skin from forming, and let it cool completely. 
  2. When the mixture has cooled, with the whisk attachment, beat the softened butter in your stand mixer at medium speed until it's light, fluffy, and lightened in color. It takes around 4-5 minutes.
  3. Once your butter is fluffy, reduce the speed to low and slowly add your cooled flour paste to the beaten butter, a spoonful at a time. Ensure it is cool before adding, or the butter will get too soft. 
  4. Add the vanilla extract and the pinch of salt. Continue beating on high speed until your frosting is light and airy. 
  5. If you want to remove the air bubbles from the frosting, switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 10 minutes, or smooth them out by stirring the frosting with a spatula.
  6. Your frosting is ready to be used or stored in an airtight container if you plan to use it later.

Notes

Storing

  • Refrigeration: If you have leftover buttercream or made it in advance, store it in the refrigerator. Place it in an airtight container. It lasts up to one week. Do note that you can't use it straight out of the refrigerator. You must let it reach room temperature and re-whip it before use to restore its original creamy and smooth consistency.
  • Freezing: Ermine buttercream also freezes well for longer storage, up to three months. You can store it in an airtight container or a freezer bag. Again, when you're ready to use it, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then let it come to room temperature and re-whip it before use.

See the post for tips on how to re-whip the buttercream

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 195Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 44mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 1g

This is an informational estimate only. I am not a certified Dietitian or Nutritionist

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