Ermine Frosting

Ermine Frosting is an old-fashioned buttercream, often called “boiled milk frosting” or “flour frosting”, that’s made with sugar, flour, milk and butter! No need for powdered sugar here, making it a great frosting alternative for those who don’t like things too sweet!

two frosted cupcakes and jar of frosting on white background

It’s no secret that American-style buttercream, which is what I use most often around here, is quite sweet. It’s full of powdered sugar, which is necessary for adding volume and structure. But one of the questions I’m asked most often is if the amount of powdered sugar can be reduced. For many it’s just too sweet.

Enter ermine buttercream. While it takes a little more time and prep work, it uses no powdered sugar and far less regular granulated sugar. It also works great for piping and can be colored just like any other buttercream.

Another great thing about ermine frosting is that it doesn’t use eggs like meringue frostings. So for those who can’t have eggs but want a less sweet buttercream, this is a great option.

ermine frosting in glass bowl on white background

What is Ermine Frosting?

It’s an old fashioned buttercream recipe that’s known for the use of flour and “boiled milk”. You create a roux by cooking sugar, flour and milk over the stove to a pudding-like consistency, then let it cool and add it to your butter. It’s a very simple recipe, but does take some prep.

Ermine frosting has traditionally been used for Red Velvet Cake, but these days cream cheese frosting is more popular.

What Does Ermine Frosting Taste Like?

Despite seeming very odd and maybe even off-putting, ermine buttercream is silky smooth and quite light. It reminds be a lot of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It doesn’t taste at all like flour and has nice vanilla flavor. It really is quite tasty and makes a great alternative to sweet American buttercreams.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Sugar: Use granulated sugar here, not the typical powdered sugar.
  • Flour: All purpose flour. It thickens the milk when cooked on the stove. Gluten free flour should work just fine here too.
  • Salt: For flavor.
  • Milk: I used 2%, but whole would work fine too.
  • Butter: I use unsalted butter and add my own salt. You want the butter to be room temperature.
  • Vanilla Extract: For flavor. Feel free to substitute for other flavors.
ermine frosting ingredients

How to make Ermine Frosting

  1. Combine Ingredients in Saucepan: Combine sugar, flour, and salt in a medium saucepan and whisk until well combined. Add milk and whisk together until mixture is well combined.
  2. Cook Roux Mixture: Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and pudding-like. Do not heat over high heat or the mixture will cook too quickly and the sugar won’t properly dissolve. Remove from heat.
  3. Cool To Room Temperature: Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on top to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool completely to room temperature or refrigerate for a day or two before using. If refrigerating ahead of time, bring back to room temperature before proceeding.
  4. Beat Butter: Once cooled, add the butter to a mixing bowl and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add Cooled Flour Mixture: Add the flour mixture (at room temperature) one tablespoon at a time, mixing on medium speed until well combined before adding the next.
  6. Add Flavoring: Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  7. Whip Until Fluffy: Whip the frosting on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
  8. Use or Store For Later: Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months. Allow buttercream to come back to room temperature before using.
ermine frosting in mixing bowl

Troubleshooting

Your frosting is too soft: There are a few possible reasons. One is that the roux wasn’t cooked properly and is too thin. You want to be sure to truly thick and pudding-like. Cook it on medium heat and a little slower, rather than turning it up to high heat.

Another possibility is that the roux wasn’t completely cool. Heat is not a friend to buttercream. Butter melts. So adding a roux that’s too warm will soften your butter even further, leading it to not whip as well and be softer than intended.

If your frosting is too soft, try placing it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up a bit and see if that helps.

Your buttercream is too hard: This should only be the case after refrigerating it. It will be hard when you take it out of the fridge. Bring it back to room temperature and re-whip it, if needed.

Your buttercream looks curdled: This can happen if the butter or flour mixture is too cold. Keep whipping and letting it come to room temperature and it should come together.

ermine frosting piped into glass jar with two frosted cupcakes in the background

Does Ermine Frosting need to be Refrigerated?

Ermine frosting will be fine at room temperature for up to 24 hours. After that, it should be refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before using and rewhip it, if needed.

Print
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two frosted cupcakes and jar of frosting on white background
Recipe

Ermine Frosting

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cooling Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1/2 cups
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Ermine Frosting is an old-fashioned buttercream, often called “boiled milk frosting” or “flour frosting”, that’s made with sugar, flour, milk and butter. No need for powdered sugar here, making it a great frosting alternative for those who don’t like things too sweet.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (207g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (33g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 cup (224g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Instructions

  1. Combine sugar, flour, and salt in a medium saucepan and whisk until well combined.
  2. Add milk and whisk together until mixture is well combined.
  3. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and pudding-like. Do not heat over high heat or the mixture will cook too quickly and the sugar won’t properly dissolve. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on top to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool completely to room temperature or refrigerate for a day or two before using. If refrigerating ahead of time, bring back to room temperature before proceeding.
  5. Once cooled, add the butter to a mixing bowl and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the flour mixture (at room temperature) one tablespoon at a time, mixing on medium speed until well combined before adding the next.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  8. Whip the frosting on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
  9. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months. Allow buttercream to come back to room temperature before using.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 2611
  • Sugar: 212.8 g
  • Sodium: 712.2 mg
  • Fat: 184.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 236.6 g
  • Protein: 13.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 493 mg

Keywords: ermine frosting

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Recipe rating

9 Comments
  1. Sarah Simpson

    We always called this Ivory Butter Frosting. It was the only frosting we put on Red Velvet Cake. It’s so good you’ll be licking the bowl.

  2. Eileen

    Hi Lindsay,
    How can I make this version chocolate??

    I have never made a frosting using this method….but my family is all about chocolate frosting!

    TIA!

    1. Lindsay

      Add about half a cup of cocoa powder or 6 ounces or so of melted chocolate. Keep in mind the melted chocolate might thin it out a bit.

  3. Jean Lewis

    I always used this frosting for Red Velvet Cake, which came from my mother. I had never heard of cream cheese frosting for Red Velvet, but didn’t know that this frosting had a name. I don’t like really sweet frosting and I dislike working with powdered sugar. I’m glad to finally put a name to this frosting!

    1. Lindsay

      So interesting! I’ve always had cream cheese frosting with red velvet cake. But this frosting is definitely a great one to have and I’m glad you now have a name for it. 🙂

  4. Lola

    Will this recipe make enough to cover a layer cake? This looks like a keeper recipe!! I don’t like icing that’s super sweet so I’m excited to try! Thanks!

    1. Lindsay

      It depends on how much frosting you like to use, but I would probably double it for a cake. It would be enough for about a dozen cupcakes though.

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12