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5 Tasty Ways to Make Frosting Without Butter

5 Tasty Ways to Make Frosting Without Butter

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Butter is a prevalent ingredient in most forms of traditional baking. It provides richness and stiffness to the body of the involved dish. Not only that, but the fat provided by the butter helps these dishes form peaks and keep them there.

Buttercream icing or frosting is a traditional, popular topping for desserts. This decoration uses butter, some milk, and sugar; however, the butter is interchangeable with other solid fats that are spreadable in texture (think margarine).

But there have been some conflicting reports about butter regarding our health.

Some studies connected butter with both increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Others stated that there’s little evidence that butter can harm your heart. 

With the uncertainty surrounding whether or not butter is okay to implement into your cooking regularly, some people are looking for alternatives to this rich, salty ingredient.

There is also the option of Decorating a Cake without Frosting.

Thankfully, you can change a few ingredients and keep your dishes as tasty as ever. Here are five ways to make frosting without butter. 

1 – Margarine

Tub Of Margarine On A Cutting Board

As mentioned, margarine is a common substitute for butter since it’s similar in nature. Because of that similarity, you can swap it in a 1:1 ratio to the butter. That will ensure you achieve the same consistency you’d get with butter. 

Keep in mind that depending on what type of margarine you use, the richness of the flavor can be different. If you like using a low-fat margarine, consider adding a bit of meringue powder to provide a stiffening agent that will be lacking in the low-fat margarine.

That stiffness can be particularly important if you try to pipe your icing to make decorative flowers and borders. The decorating requires precision, and that’s why a loose frosting can make it difficult to reach the intended design. 

2 – Shortening Frosting

Bowl Of Vegetable Shortening On A Red Cloth

Despite being the most common replacement, some people may not like the taste and/or consistency that you get out of margarine. 

A suitable replacement in this case is using vegetable shortening. This is something such as Crisco that can be used at the same ratio that you would use butter (1:1).

Using vegetable shortening will provide a rich taste, but keep in mind that it may have a slight lack of flavor. You will still get the same pure, white color that you would get with either margarine or butter.

You can use shortening as you use margarine: add a bit of meringue powder to your frosting to allow it to hold up a bit better. It comes down to the kind of texture that you enjoy out of your frosting.

3 – Standard Icing

Mixer With White Royal Icing

Your basic buttercream will use something to the effect of a 1:5 ratio when it comes to your unsalted butter against your sugar content.

Additional ingredients in your frosting include a bit of milk and vanilla extract. This is to get the frosting to be the right consistency.

Sugar and milk will be your consistency controllers. When you use more sugar, you will get a thicker frosting. When you use more milk, you will get a runnier, thinner frosting. 

Make your frosting in advance of your baking for convenience. Just make sure that you store it at room temperature and cover it securely with plastic wrap until you are ready to use it.

Exposure to room air temperature can result in some of those ingredients breaking down and compromising the texture of your frosting. Cover your ingredients with a plastic wrap to minimize these occurrences. 

4 – Coconut Oil

Tablespoon Of Coconut Oil Next To Glass Jar

Did you know that coconut oil solidifies when it’s kept at a slightly below room temperature?

This makes it a great choice when making a frosting instead of using something such as margarine or a shortening agent. Typically, coconut oil is used in a 1:1 ratio.

Remember that using coconut oil will give it a coconut flavor, and a lighter consistency. Additionally, coconut oil is prone to separating if you don’t make it correctly or if you keep it stored at a temperature that’s too warm for the coconut oil.

To solidify your coconut oil, you will want to place it in the fridge. When it sets up, you can use it in place of the butter when it comes to your buttercream frosting.

Keep in mind that your frosting will also be sensitive to warmer temperatures. So, when your cake is done baking, give it time to cool down completely. If it is still warm, the icing will run and make for an uneven texture.

When you finally ice the cake, make sure that you cover it consistently and evenly throughout. The cake should always be in the fridge as long as it’s not being currently served to maintain the final consistency. 

It might seem tedious but using coconut oil can be a great alternative to butter and give you the same type of consistency that butter would while providing a little pop of coconut to your frosting.

5 – Cream Cheese

Knife In Bowl Of Cream Cheese

Substituting butter with cream cheese shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that there is a wide range of cream cheese frosting options that can be purchased ready to use at the grocery store.

They taste just as delicious and have the same type of consistency, making it a favorite for bakers everywhere.

In some instances, cream cheese can be used to replace some or even all of the butter content that would be used in a frosting. However, cream cheese will result in a different taste and texture than if you used butter.

You may also notice a considerable change in the overall color. When you use cream cheese in place of butter, the frosting will turn out to be completely white whereas a butter and cheese blend might look a little beige due to the butter that is implemented.

In general, if you are still using butter, you would want to use something like a 1:2:4 ratio. This is your cream cheese to butter to confectioner’s sugar ratio.

This is used to make cream cheese and butter frosting. Make sure that you blend it thoroughly until you get that smooth, creamy texture that a good frosting has.

If you plan to use no butter at all and go with a pure cream cheese option, you would want to go with a 1:1:2 ratio. This is cream cheese to whipped cream to confectioner’s sugar.

Note: This type of frosting will be lighter in texture than it would be with a cream cheese and butter blend. This is especially the case if you use something like a low- or nonfat cream cheese.

How to Make a Basic Cream Cheese Frosting Without Butter

Mixing Cream Cheese Frosting In Glass Mixing Bowl

Follow these steps to make cream chees frosting with no butter:

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

Start by gathering your ingredients. These are:

  • Your 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract or bean paste
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of cream or milk
  • A pinch of salt

Step 2: Start Mixing

Mix your cream cheese, vanilla, and cream into a mixing bowl until you get that smooth, velvety, creamy texture. Be careful not to overdo the ingredients because it could change the texture of your frosting substantially and make it sit on your cake in a way that you won’t want.

Step 3: Sift Your Sugar

Next, sift the sugar and measure out about three cups or so, gradually adding the sugar to your cream cheese mixture. You would also want to add in your salt at this point and then beat your mixture together until it becomes both smooth and fluffy in texture.

Step 4: Adjust the Consistency if Needed

If the consistency of your mixture isn’t quite where you want it to be, you can try to add a bit more milk or cream to your mixture for spreading purposes. If you plan to pipe your frosting out, you will want to get a thicker consistency so that you can pipe it out exactly as you would want.

Final Thoughts

That’s all there is to making a quality frosting. You can then use it on anything from cakes to cupcakes and make some of the most luscious, delicious desserts that you have ever had.

Don’t have all the ingredients to make it? See my article on How to Make Frosting Without Key Ingredients.

It might seem to be a difficult endeavor but creating a quality frosting just takes a little bit of time and effort to create and you can store it for later use.

Whether you go with a butter-based frosting or decide to use an alternative to butter, creating the perfect frosting is something that anyone can do in short order with maximum flavor involved. If you find that you don’t like your frosting too sweet, try these simple tips for making it less sweet.

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Thursday 6th of January 2022

I make a whipped cream & cream cheese frosting and I add a light bit of melted unflavored gelatin at the end to not only help stabilize the frosting in any temperature but it also allows me to use very little sugar. This makes a wonderfully light and tasty frosting for any cake. It is really good on lighter cakes like sponges where a heavy frosting can overwhelm the taste of the cake. I have also used a flavored gelatin to add an extra little flavor zing to the frosting.

Icing cookies Shortbread

Wednesday 15th of December 2021

Can you use marg instead of butter for Icing cookies

Kimberly Schaus

Sunday 19th of December 2021

@Icing cookies Shortbread, yes! But I think the butter is an important flavor component of icing. So, really it's a matter of personal preference.


Monday 9th of August 2021

What happens if you use half the butter in a italian meringue buttercream?