Sometimes cupcake frosting can go wrong. It can turn runny, go lumpy or split (gulp!). Luckily, with a little know-how you can turn your frosting nightmare into a dream.
Frosting mixing times:
Buttercream frosting – beat for five minutes or more, the more you whip the fluffier it gets (too much might trap air bubbles though)
Cream cheese frosting – beat for ideally around five minutes, but no more or it can go too runny or split
Frosting is too runny.
This could be because the butter was too soft or you added too much milk if it is buttercream frosting or it could be that you have overbeaten it if you’re making cream cheese frosting.
Also, a hot kitchen can make frostings go runny, so be mindful of the temperature. Cream cheese should always be full fat and should be used cold from the fridge. Always use full fat ingredients such as butter, milk and cream cheese as lower fat/margarine versions have a much higher water content which can make the frosting runnier.
Frosting is sliding off the cupcakes.
If you’re happy with the frosting itself but it is slipping off the cupcakes when you apply it, it could be that your sponges haven’t cooled sufficiently. Cooling your sponges completely before frosting is very important.
Scrape the frosting off and allow the frosting to cool in the fridge and the sponges to cool at room temperature before decorating again.
Frosting is too stiff.
If the butter is too cold the frosting will seize up and if it is too warm it will be too soft. Take your butter out of the fridge for a few hours before baking and it will be much easier to work with. It’s also worth asking if you put too much icing sugar in there. Adding a splash of extra milk will loosen it up.
Frosting has split.
This is often a temperature issue. If your buttercream frosting has split that will be due to it being too hot or too cold. The same goes for your cream cheese frosting, except cream cheese frosting will split much quicker if overbeaten.
If it is too hot or too cool you can help matters by cooling or warming the mixture gently. Some bakers use ice underneath the bowl to cool and a hairdryer on the underside of the bowl to warm it! Changing the temperature can help to bring the mixture back together.
Frosting is lumpy.
This could be because the icing sugar is lumpy or it just hasn’t been beaten for long enough.
Always use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the ingredients are incorporated and no lumps of butter or sugar are left in the bowl when mixing.
Sifting the icing sugar will help you to avoid obvious lumps of sugar in your frosting. It also helps to bring your butter to room temperature before use so that you don’t get cold lumps of butter in the frosting. To rescue it simply whip for a bit longer.
I want to make frosting in advance.
Just seal your buttercream or cream cheese frosting in a plastic tub and allow to defrost in the fridge before using. Use the frosting within three months. Once defrosted, you can add a spoonful of icing sugar and rewhip for a few seconds until fluffy and spreadable.
You can also freeze cupcakes and layer cakes as they are and eat within three months, however, we always prefer the fresh baked taste. We don’t recommend making cream-based frostings in advance as these should be made fresh.
Frosting is too sweet.
In our American recipes our cupcake frostings are unapologetically sweet. If you fancy something a little less sweet, you can experiment with adding less icing sugar to the butter (bearing in mind, this will affect the final volume of frosting produced) or you can try cupcake recipes with a custard or mascarpone frosting which are naturally less sweet.
A tip to remember when making custard frosting is that it needs a lot of vigorous whisking to get it smooth, so don’t give up!
Frosting has air bubbles.
Too much whipping can leave air bubbles in your buttercream frosting. It’s a minor problem and won’t ruin the flavour or texture, but it may not look as pretty when it comes to decorating.
Don’t leave your buttercream frosting whipping forever and ever if you don’t want air bubbles. Mix for just over five minutes and then switch your mixer off.
Top frosting tips:
- All your ingredients should be at room temperature.
- Measure all your liquids out carefully as runny frosting is very difficult to work with.
- Frosting needs time to come together, so don’t under-beat it. At least 3 minutes should do the trick. Stand mixers can often do a better job than electric hand mixers, simply because you can switch them on and leave them to mix without getting bored!
- Chop your butter into around 1cm cubes before allowing to come to room temperature, this makes it so much easier to mix smoothly.
- If you’ve made a mistake while trying to decorate with frosting, don’t be afraid to scrape the frosting back into the bowl and try again.