How to Thicken Frosting: Let Soppy Icing Go like Elsa

Having a bit of a soggy frosting emergency? Worry not for you have come to the right place! Frosting, also known as icing, can highly determine the overall end result of your cake.

After all, a cake is not really a cake without its final embellishment at the top. Without its thick, spreadable, and smooth consistency, you might not get your desired appearance.

Your cake will not look as great with icing that won’t stay firm at top. As a result, runny frosting will make your cake look sloppy and spiritless.

Fortunately, there are numerous tips and ways, depending exactly on your specific needs, on how to solve this problem.

How to Thicken with Additional Ingredients

1. For Thickening With Sugar

What You Will Need?

  • Sugar – This is the most common ingredient used in thickening frosting. This is also best for cream cheese frosting, simple buttercream frosting,
  • Bowl - This is where you will be placing your ingredients Try to find a bowl with depth as this will be needed when mixing your ingredients.
  • Electronic mixer - This is a electronic device that will highly help you in beating your mixture. Numerous types are available in stores and online.
  • Spatula - In case your mixer is not available, you may use a spatula as an alternative instead. These are the ones with a broad and flat blade. Often used to mix and spread.

Step-by-Step Procedure

1. Place your usual ingredients for a basic frosting recipe such as confectioners’ sugar, milk, cream cheese, butter, meringue powder in a bowl.


2. After placing it in a bowl, mix all the ingredients together with an electric mixer or a spatula. Do this until it becomes smooth.


3. One tablespoon at a time, continue to add confectioners’ sugar while mixing. This will help thicken your runny frosting. Do this until your frosting reaches your desired consistency.

Note and Tips

Oftentimes, people are looking for other alternatives to sugar. As adding sugar can ruin and alternate the taste, making it sweeter than intended. Below are various ingredients you can use to thicken your frosting instead of sugar.


2. For Thickening With Cornstarch

What You Will Need?

  • Cornstarch – Probably an uncommon way to thicken frosting is to do so with cornstarch.

However, if you look at it, powdered sugar which can be found in ingredients of several frosting recipes already contains cornstarch. The cornstarch in it helps the frosting not end up lumping.

This means that adding more will also just help in firming up the liquids present such as the water that is inherently found in butter (Best for: simple buttercream, whipped cream frosting)

  • Beater - Beater is the one attached to the mixer. For this one however, you will just be needing a beater to do some mixing. These can be bought in stores and online.

Step-by-Step Procedure

1. Stir cornstarch into 1 or 2 tablespoon of milk and mix it with the finished icing.


2. Beat it with the icing until cornstarch is integrated with the mixture well.


3. Leave it along for a few minutes and let it rest. Observe after. Your frosting should now be firmer and more robust. It should also hold its form better.

Note and Tips

If you know from the start that your frosting has a risk of ending up soppy and runny, you can already begin by adding a few amount of cornstarch to your mixture.

Just begin with a half teaspoon of cornstarch (increase if necessary) per cup of sugar in your recipe. Adding more may result into the cornstarch being visible in taste.

Moreover, cooking cornstarch is proven to provide some added benefits. The starchy flavor it gives and grainy texture drop out of sight, making your icing more pleasant to eat.

It also transforms your icing to a more translucent look, resulting into less influence on the appearance of your icing.

It is also important to take note that recipes which use cooked cornstarch directs for it to be melted first in cold milk, water or cream. Once you heat and whirl the cornstarch mixture, it thickens to an unpleasant sticky and stuffy texture.

When you integrate the thickened but cooled down mixture with the buttercream, it helps your frosting achieve your desired thick but smooth and spreadable viscosity.


3. For Thickening With Meringue Powder

What You Will Need?

  • Meringue Powder – This actually go hand in hand with your powdered sugar. It contains dried egg whites, gum and some sugar. 

In addition, the sugar actually absorbs some of the liquid while on the other hand, the gum is inherently a thickening substance.

Thus, meringue powder is the perfect fit for your sugar especially if your palate is looking for some less sweetness.

This succeeds in thickening your frosting without contributing any sweetness that sugar naturally contains. (Best for: royal icing)

Step-by-Step Procedure

1. If you are going to add sugar to thicken your mixture, more than a half cup, to be precise


2. The rule of thumb is you should also add one to two teaspoon of meringue powder along with your sugar. This is especially true for a royal icing recipe.

Note and Tips

If used in excess, this can result into an overly thick consistency and you might end up with a frosting that is too heavy for your liking.


4. For Thickening With Flour

What You Will Need?

  • Flour – This is only applicable for the ones trying to thicken a warm frosting. Flour has a distinct and a fairly unpleasant taste. This can only be removed by cooking it out.

Make sure that you cook your flour along with your frosting mixture during the main heating process of your frosting, itself.

Step-by-Step Procedure

1. Sprinkle around one teaspoon to one tablespoon of flour into your frosting and whisk over low heat on the stovetop. Do this until it reaches a thick consistency.


2. Remove the icing from heat as soon as it begins to thicken.

Note and Tips

You must remove frosting from heat as soon as thick consistency is achieved because leaving it for too long will overcook your flour and may cause your frosting to become soggy again.

Moreover, this is not meant for the ones trying to thicken icing that require no heating process, whatsoever.

How to Thicken without Additional Ingredients

5. For Thickening With Refrigerator

What You Will Need?

  • Refrigerator - Just a simple step! All you’ll be needing is a device that will cool your icing.

Step-by-Step Procedure

1. Make sure the frosting is set at room temperature.


2. Refrigerate the frosting. Let it cool inside for about 30 to 90 minutes.


3. You may now take it out and observe if your frosting has reached your desired consistency.


4. Put it back for another 10 minutes or so, if desired consistency has not yet been achieved.

Note and Tips

There has been multiple times in which the frosting seems thin only because it needs some more time to set. This will usually do the trick best for warm frostings that have been cooked.

Or for those with a butter base or whipped cream containing frosting as they are more sensitive to heat. Storing them in a refrigerator will firm them up.

Final Thoughts

The exact consistency that you desire will depend on the type of frosting you’re going for. But unfortunately more often than not, it still ends up less thick than what we want them to be.

Take the aforementioned tips and follow them accordingly to what your plans are. Whether you’re going for royal icing, whipped cream, or just simple American buttercream, there’s one that’s fit for your needs!

Hope the aforesaid tips are helpful! If you have some more questions or clarifications, please do not hesitate to leave them down below. Share it with your friends and family, as well. We’ll never know who else is having a bit of a frosting emergency!

Emily Mathews
 

Hi, I am Emily Mathews. I grew up in a small town in Tennessee, where I learned how to cook fabulous local dishes from my Mother. I have 3 children and they enable me to cook from my heart every day. I am also passionately interested in creating globally inspired food with locally grown ingredients.

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