This retro frosting makes for a lighter and less sweet substitute for buttercream frosting. It is super fluffy and pillowy, but still holds its shape perfectly for intricate piping and decorating! This frosting achieves its signature airiness and flavor by using a combination of a custard-like milk base gradually mixed into softened butter.
What is ermine frosting?
Ermine frosting (sometimes called boiled milk frosting) is like a wonderful blend between whipped cream and buttercream. It has the same light and fluffy texture of whipped cream with the structure of buttercream.
It’s MUCH less sweet than buttercream because – unlike buttercream – ermine frosting doesn’t need a ton of sugar for structure. It gets its structure from a cooked flour base.
What makes this frosting unique is in the fact that it involves cooking a flour/milk base on your stove top until thickened and custard like. The base is then cooled and gradually incorporated into whipped butter.
The only downside to this frosting is the fact that you do need a few hours for cooling the milk base. It’s not as quick and instant as buttercream. But if you have the spare time to wait, it’s SOOOO worth it!
Ermine frosting ingredients:
• sugar: granulated sugar for this frosting!
• flour: don’t worry – it’s cooked! This is what builds the main structure for the frosting
• salt: to balance the sweetness
• milk: for richness and to create the custard base
• butter: also for richness as well as creaminess and fluffiness!
• vanilla: for flavor! You can use clear vanilla if you want a whiter frosting or just pure vanilla extract. Vanilla bean paste or vanilla beans can also be used if you want lovely little speckles of seeds throughout!
How to make ermine frosting:
1. Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt in a saucepot. This is to help prevent clumps.
2. Gradually whisk in milk. Slowly drizzle the milk into the flour/sugar mix, whisking well as you do to prevent clumps.
3. Cook base until thickened. Cook low and slow until the sugar and flour are dissolved, the mixture boils and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. It should be about the consistency of pudding.
4. Cool base completely to room temperature before using. Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the base to prevent a skin, and set aside to cool on your countertop. If the base is even slightly warm it could melt the butter and turn into a mess!
5. Cream butter until light and fluffy. This takes about 2 to 3 minutes with an electric mixer set to medium speed.
6. Gradually incorporate the cooled base into the butter. Add about 2 tablespoons of the milk base into the butter, and beat well until combined before adding in the next addition. Continue this process until all of the milk base is incorporated into the butter.
7. Add vanilla. Beat until the vanilla is incorporated and you’re left with a light and fluffy frosting. It should be pale in color and over double the volume of the butter.
Ermine frosting storage:
Keep ermine frosting stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It’ll keep for about 1 to 2 weeks. Before using, take the frosting out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature for at least 1 hour, or until soft enough to spread/pipe.
This frosting is quite delicate, so I’m not a huge fan of freezing it.
Is ermine frosting stable in hot weather?
Ermine frosting is basically the exact same as buttercream frosting in terms of stability. They both do NOT like the heat because the butter turns into a puddled mess.
Ermine frosting is best served at room temperature, sitting at or around a cool 70°F. But it firms up just like buttercream once it’s chilled, so it’s perfectly fine served cold as well.
What to use ermine frosting on:
A little fact for you: this frosting is actually what was traditionally paired with red velvet desserts. Nowadays you see cream cheese frosting paired with red velvet – but this frosting used to be all the rage!
As for when to use ermine frosting: you can really use it anywhere you like! I like to use it on vanilla cupcakes, funfetti cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, gingerbread cupcakes, and cranberry white cake. It goes with pretty much any cake, cupcake, or frosted dessert because it’s flavor is quite mild and subtle.
Check out these other recipes!
Ermine Frosting Recipe (Less Sweet Buttercream)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In a medium saucepot, pour in sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Gradually pour the milk into the flour/sugar mix, whisking well as you do to prevent clumps, until fully incorporated and smooth.
- Place your pot over a stove burner set to medium-low heat. Cook the milk mixture, whisking constantly, until the flour and sugar are fully dissolved, the mixture boils and it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. It should be about the consistency of pudding, but it will firm up more as it cools. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Pour your cooked milk base into a medium sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the milk base to prevent a skin. Set aside to cool completely to room temperature before using.
- In a large bowl, cream butter until lightened in color and fluffy. This takes about 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed with an electric mixer fitted with the beater attachment.
- Gradually add the cooled milk base to the creamed butter. Add about 2 tablespoons of milk base to the butter at a time, beat well to incorporate before adding in another addition. Repeat until all of the milk base is incorporated into the butter.
- Add your vanilla to the frosting, and beat until fully combined and you're left with a light and fluffy mixture. It should be pale in color and about double the volume of the butter. Frost away!