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Easy Ways to Make Frosting Without Key Ingredients

Easy Ways to Make Frosting Without Key Ingredients

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Have you ever made a batch of flawless cupcakes or a beautifully baked cake only to find that you are missing ingredients to make some perfect frosting to go with it?

We have all been there! You reach for the butter/sugar/flour etc. only to be let down. But you still need frosting to complete your baking project! What to do?!?

Well, of course one option is to run to the store and get the ingredients you need, but that seems time consuming and frustrating.

Instead, just refer to this guide as I am now going to show you how to make frosting when missing key ingredients. You will soon be on your way to icing those cupcakes!

But first, let’s take a quick look at different types of frosting.

Types of Frosting

American Buttercream

American buttercream is a very simple and standard frosting that many people are probably familiar with. This type of frosting is very sweet and found on a lot of commercial, grocery store cupcakes.

To make American buttercream, you cream butter with powdered sugar until it is very light and fluffy and as white as possible.

A little salt, a little vanilla, a splash of milk and the frosting is done.

Italian Buttercream

Italian buttercream is a little fancier and more difficult to make than American buttercream mainly because it involves cooking sugar to the soft ball stage and pouring it into whipping egg whites.

Italian buttercream is silky smooth and not as sweet as American buttercream. Made with granulated sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, vanilla and butter, it is a type of frosting that you may want to master.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting is a classic. While it is not as sweet as buttercream, it pairs perfectly with rich cakes like red velvet or carrot cake.

Made by creaming butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar together, it is easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients to pack a flavor punch.

Whipped Buttercream

This type of frosting is less common than the others and is kind of like a hybrid between American buttercream and Italian buttercream.

Flour and milk are whisked together and cooked to form a thick paste. You then cream butter and granulated sugar together, add your flour mix and beat until you have a whipped cream like frosting.

What If I’m Missing….

Powdered Sugar

Powdered Sugar

Don’t have any powdered sugar on hand, no problem! I can definitely tell you how to make frosting without powdered sugar.

Simply look for a recipe for Italian buttercream or whipped buttercream that uses granulated sugar rather than powdered sugar (granulated sugar in an American buttercream recipe will turn out grainy so don’t try to just substitute it!).

No Powdered sugar OR Milk

Simple! To make frosting with no milk or powdered sugar, again- go for an Italian buttercream recipe- you won’t need either of these ingredients!

Powdered Sugar of Flour

Making frosting with no powdered sugar or flour is easy especially since flour isn’t commonly used in frosting recipes. An Italian buttercream recipe will be your best friend in this case!

Powdered Sugar and Butter

How to make frosting without butter OR powdered sugar? Now it’s getting tricky! You have two great options though -first, you could make a whipped cream frosting.

Whisk some heavy cream, granulated sugar and a little vanilla together and voila, frosting! Throw in some cream cheese or mascarpone to make the whipped cream even creamier.

You can also make a nice meringue to use as frosting. Find an Italian buttercream recipe and follow it completely, except just don’t add the butter. The result will be a nice fluffy meringue that you can ice anything with!

Making the Frosting Perfect

Maybe you have a recipe you love but you want to change it a little bit. A little thicker, a little softer…I can show you the way!

Less Sweet

How to make frosting less sweet is a very common question with several great answers.

First, I always recommend using a cream cheese frosting as a less sweet option. It is tangy and delicious but won’t make your teeth hurt from too much sugar.

Creamy Italian buttercream is another less sweet option you can try.

Add citric acid or a tiny bit of lemon juice and zest to your frosting to cut the sugary taste. The acidic contrast will definitely aid an overly sweet frosting.



If you want a nice thick frosting, there are a few ways to go about this. If you are trying to avoid adding more sugar, you may want to know how to make frosting thicker without powdered sugar first.

Adding extra butter, softened cream cheese and heavy cream are great options to thicken any buttercream. These are also great choices when you are trying to thicken frosting without flour or cornstarch.

If you don’t mind making frosting thicker with flour or cornstarch, those ingredients can easily be used!

To thicken frosting with cornstarch, mix a little cornstarch straight into the frosting in 1 tablespoon increments until it is the consistency you’d like.

To use flour, mix about 1/4 cup flour into 1 cup boiling milk and whisk to form a paste. Slowly add this mix to your frosting until it is nice and thick.

All of these methods work well for buttercream recipes but if you are looking for information on how to thicken cream cheese frosting, here’s what to do.

In a clean mixing bowl, cream some cold butter and powdered sugar until it is light and fluffy. Then, add your cream cheese frosting slowly into the creamed butter.

The butter will help stiffen the frosting and the cold temperature will also help cool cream cheese that may have become too warm and runny.


Is your frosting too stiff? Well this is an easy one to fix!

The simplest way to thin frosting is to add milk. Mix in a tiny bit of milk at a time until your frosting is the texture that you would like.

Adding milk will not only make your frosting thinner but it will also add a nice smooth flavor.

Now, you are ready to troubleshoot any frosting problems you may have. You have so many easy, practical solutions in your frosting arsenal that you are ready to take on any challenge!

So, get out your mixer and get ready to make delicious, perfect frosting to go with whatever you may have baking in the oven.

Make sure your cake is as perfect as your frosting with these essential cake baking tips for beginners.

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Tuesday 2nd of June 2020

It all sounds wonderful and your pictures look yummy and inspiring! I look forward to making them when I have more of the ingredients required and you certainly have given people lots of options here! thanks! Cindy

Sarah | Baking Kneads

Tuesday 2nd of June 2020

Hi, Cindy!!

So glad I could help! Good luck!


Wednesday 17th of April 2019

Hi Sarah! I’ve been asked to make a gluten free white cake and the frosting without powdered sugar or flour or cornstarch as the lady is allergic to all corn products. Do you have any suggestions? I am open to any guidance. Thanks so much!

Sarah | Baking Kneads

Wednesday 17th of April 2019

Hi Kathy! What a great challenge! You can make most cakes gluten-free by using a gluten-free flour and xanthan gum. The xanthan gum acts like a binder, which is what the gluten does in your average cake flour. It usually takes about 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum per cup of GF flour. Gluten-free flour tends to need a bit more moisture, as well, so if you want to try your hand at converting a recipe, I would add an additional egg. A great alternative to creating your own GF flour and xanthan gum mixture would be a pre-mixed flour available at most stores. The King Arthur Flour Measure-for-Measure Flour is a great option.

If you're looking to follow a recipe, try out the Best Gluten Free White Cake Recipe at Barefeet In The Kitchen. Lots of great reviews, and the pictures look DELICIOUS!

As for a good flour, cornstarch, and powdered sugar free frosting, you have a few options. Two of those options would be a cooked frosting and a cream cheese frosting. Between those two, it is really a preference of how thick and solid you want your frosting to be. If you are looking for a fluffier, softer frosting, follow this recipe. If you are looking for a thicker, denser frosting, try this one. Both look like a great finish to a yummy cake!

I hope this helps! Good luck!