11 Secret Tricks Grandma Never Skipped When Making Frosting

Want fluffy frosting for a homemade cake? Try Grandma's timeless techniques that've been passed down generations.

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butter on brown napkin
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Soften your butter

A delicious buttercream frosting always uses—you guessed it—butter as its base. But you certainly can’t pop a stick of butter straight out of the fridge and into your bowl. Grandma always seems to know when she’s going to bake a cake for dessert, and she pulls the butter out to soften ahead of time.

Make sure you’re following the same practice. Leave your butter out on the counter to come to room temperature so it’ll be perfectly soft when you’re ready.

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Midsection Of Woman Preparing Food
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Use shortening

Ever wonder how grandma’s frosting is fluffy, yet holds up to room temperature? The secret is shortening. We don’t seem to use shortening in baked goods as much as we used to, but there’s a way to make it work.

Using a 1-1 ratio of butter to shortening will give your frosting incredible texture, along with keeping it more stable. Shortening can withstand higher heat, so it won’t spread or lose its shape.

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Add heavy cream

When grandma makes frosting for a cake, it’s ridiculously delicious. One of her secrets? Heavy cream. While most frosting recipes call for milk, which is perfectly fine to use, heavy cream adds a richness that can’t be beat.

Don’t have heavy cream on hand? Try out a heavy cream substitute.

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Sweet Organaic Confectioners Powdered Sugar
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Sift your sugar

This is a step grandma never skips. While you can certainly make frosting without sifting your confectioners’ sugar, it’s best not to forgo this step if you want a lovely, smooth consistency. Sifting your sugar before adding it to your creamed butter is a surefire way to avoid any clumps.

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Whisking Cream
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Find the perfect ratio

Ever notice that grandma doesn’t exactly follow recipes to a T? A pinch here, a pinch there…somehow she just knows! Making the perfect frosting is all about finding the ideal ratio. Use a recipe as your base, but be ready to tweak your ingredients to find the perfect match. If your frosting is too thick, add more heavy cream or milk. If it’s too thin, add a bit more confectioners’ sugar to create the ideal consistency.

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Whipped Cream Hanging On Electric Mixer Whip
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Beat frosting until fluffy

Don’t forget to add a bit of air! Once your butter and sugar are combined, you’ll have a decent frosting formed. But don’t stop there. Crank the speed up on your mixer and whip your frosting for another few minutes to incorporate more air into the mix.

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Voraciously One Bowl: Sour Cream Maple Cake With Maple Buttercream Frosting Recipe
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Use a hand mixer

Once you have the right ingredients and a great recipe as your base, making frosting is pretty simple. While you can certainly use a stand mixer, there’s really no need. Grandma always mixes her frosting with a hand mixer to keep things simple. And as a bonus? You’ll have much more control over the movement of the beaters and bowl.

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Use cocoa powder for chocolate frosting

Of course, a rich, moist chocolate cake is always delicious with chocolate frosting. And luckily, grandma has taught us there’s no need to be finicky with the recipe. Keep things simple by mixing up your frosting, and then add cocoa powder to the mix. Incorporate the cocoa powder until you’ve reached the desired flavor.

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Switch up the flavor with cream cheese

To change the flavor of a simple frosting recipe, use a 1-1 ratio of block of cream cheese to stick of butter. Of course, don’t forget to allow both your butter and your cream cheese to soften ahead of time. You can make cream cheese frosting in less than 10 minutes.

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Layers And Layers Of Chocolatey Goodness
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Frost with a spatula

Chances are, grandma isn’t spending a ton of time using piping bags and piping tips to put together a dessert for Sunday dinner. It’s all about tradition and keeping it simple. Use a spatula to frost your cake just like she would. Using a spatula will give you that textured, wispy look grandma always pulled off so effortlessly!

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Making Buttercream
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Save the leftovers

Once you’ve made your frosting and frosted your cake, you certainly wouldn’t throw away all of that leftover frosting, would you? Grandma definitely wouldn’t. Luckily, homemade frosting can be stored for use on your next cake. Store your frosting in an airtight container for up to one week in the fridge, or you can tuck it away in the freezer to use within a month. Learn more about what to do with leftover frosting.

Molly Allen
Molly Allen is a previous bakery owner and former event planner. Now, a freelance writer and editor focused on food and beverage, lifestyle, travel and parties, she brings her years of experience and industry knowledge to readers across a variety of platforms.