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How to Make Frosting Without Milk (Delicious Adjustments to Try)

How to Make Frosting Without Milk (Delicious Adjustments to Try)

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A cake or cupcake is always better with a thick, fluffy layer of buttercream frosting. Most buttercream frosting consists of butter, confectioner’s sugar, flavoring, and milk.

But what if you’re ready to ice your cake and you don’t have any milk? How do you make frosting without it?

To make frosting without milk, you can use an alternative dairy liquid, like cream, half and half, or evaporated milk. For a neutral-tasting frosting, use water. Use orange or lemon juice, fruit puree, coffee, melted chocolate, cocoa, caramel, or liqueur to make flavored frostings without milk.

It’s easy enough to open a tub of frosting to coat the outside and slather between the layers of a cake, but homemade frosting always tastes so much better. Adding milk to buttercream makes the frosting more spreadable.

But having no milk doesn’t mean you can’t make frosting from scratch – here’s how to make frosting without milk.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting Without Milk

Mixing Pink Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream is the standard frosting most home bakers will use to frost cupcakes and birthday cakes. As you can tell from the name “buttercream”, the main ingredient of this frosting is butter, which you whip with confectioner’s sugar (also called powdered sugar or icing sugar) until it is light and creamy. If butter is the main ingredient, where does the milk come in?

Why Does Buttercream Frosting Need Milk?

Most buttercream recipes include some liquid to help dissolve the sugar, loosen up the butter, and make the frosting more spreadable. This liquid is usually milk as it has a fairly neutral flavor.

How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Without Milk

The good news is that you can make buttercream frosting without milk. Here’s a recipe to help you make buttercream frosting by replacing the milk with the same quantity of another liquid, such as:

  • Water
  • Cream
  • Half and half
  • Evaporated milk

The buttercream recipe below makes enough frosting to cover and fill one cake or six cupcakes.


  • 1/3 cup butter, softened (or a combination of butter, margarine, and shortening)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Food coloring gel or powder (optional)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons liquid of your choice


  1. Beat the butter until soft – this is done most easily with an electric mixer.
  2. Add half of the sugar. Beat the mixture until smooth.
  3. Add the rest of the sugar, the vanilla extract, and a tablespoon of liquid.
  4. Add food coloring as required and stir until mixed.
  5. If necessary, 1dd the additional tablespoon of liquid to get a spreadable or pipeable consistency.

How to Make Orange Buttercream Frosting with Juice

Fresh Orange Juice

Orange juice is also a good substitute for milk in buttercream. However, the frosting will not be pure white. Use the recipe above, making the following changes:

  • Omit the vanilla extract.
  • Use two to three tablespoons of orange juice as the liquid.
  • Add the zest of an orange.
  • Use pale orange food coloring.

How to Make Lemon Buttercream Frosting with Juice

Lemon buttercream is fresh and delightful for spring and summer cakes. Use the recipe above, making the following changes:

  • Omit the vanilla extract.
  • Replace the liquid with three tablespoons of lemon juice, adding it to the butter when beating it.
  • Combine the zest of a lemon with the sugar, butter, and lemon mixture.
  • Use pale yellow food coloring.

How to Make Strawberry Buttercream Frosting with Puree

Strawberry buttercream frosting tastes like summer on a plate and is especially pretty with a bit of pink food coloring. Use the recipe above, making the following changes:

  • Use ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon strawberry extract.
  • Add ¼ cup of fresh strawberry puree to the butter-powdered sugar mixture and beat well, along with the two extracts.
  • Use pale pink food coloring.
  • Raspberry puree also works well for berry frosting.

How to Make Mocha Buttercream Frosting with Coffee

Ground Coffee

If you’ve made a mocha or coffee-flavored cake, you need a delicious coffee frosting to go with it – and it’s easy to make one without using milk. Use the recipe above, making the following changes:

  • Omit the vanilla extract.
  • Mix one tablespoon of strong, instant coffee (e.g., espresso powder) with two tablespoons of boiling water.
  • Add the coffee to the frosting as the liquid. Beat thoroughly.
  • For a decadent frosting, add a tablespoon of heavy cream.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting with Chocolate

You can even make a rich chocolate buttercream frosting without milk. Use the recipe above, but make the following changes:

  • Melt 2 ½ oz of dark or milk chocolate. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Add 1 oz of sifted cocoa to the butter when you add the powdered sugar. Beat to combine.
  • Add the cooled, melted chocolate to the sugar-butter mixture instead of another liquid.
  • For an adult version, replace the melted chocolate with a tablespoon of heavy cream and a tablespoon of chocolate liqueur.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting with Cocoa

For a less rich chocolate buttercream frosting, which goes down well with children, use the recipe above but make the following changes:

  • Omit the vanilla extract.
  • Blend ¼ cup cocoa powder with two tablespoons of warm water or enough to make a smooth paste.
  • Add the cocoa mixture to the sugar-butter mixture, beating until smooth.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting with Caramel

Melted Caramel

You can make caramel buttercream icing using brown sugar, but the easiest and quickest caramel buttercream frosting uses the recipe above with the following changes:

  • Add ¼ cup caramel to the powdered sugar-butter mixture and beat thoroughly.
  • Add a pinch of salt.

How to Make Boozy Buttercream Frosting with Liqueur

It’s fun to make boozy frosting when the cake’s intended for adults only – this is perfect for a festive occasion. Use the recipe above, making the following changes:

  • Use two tablespoons of your favorite liqueur, such as Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua, as the liquid.

Final Thoughts

Although most recipes for buttercream icing require some milk to make the sugar dissolve and the frosting spreadable, there are many milk substitutes you can use. Use another dairy, like cream or evaporated milk, or even replace the milk with water.

For flavored frosting, replace the milk with a flavored liquid of your choice, such as fruit juice or puree, coffee, chocolate, caramel, or even liqueur.

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