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This perfect ermine frosting recipe uses a cooked flour base, which makes it light and airy like whipped cream but with the stability of Swiss meringue buttercream!

light fluffy ermine frosting on vanilla cupcake.

As a pastry chef, I’m typically pretty cool, calm & collected in the kitchen. It takes a lot to get me in a tizzy (some previous co-workers might disagree hehe). But this ermine frosting got me all kinds of worked up! It’s rare for me to find something truly new, and when I do, I dive right in.

I checked all my vintage cookbooks and only found 2 recipes that were for a boiled frosting thickened with flour. They were both in Southern Living Cookbook Desserts 1968 edition. The one I made below is adapted from Mrs. Elsie Ramey of Winchester, Virginia and it is called “Dreamy Frosting” in the book. I don’t know the origins of “Ermine” but I think “Dreamy” is more accurate!

Let’s just have one more quick mo’ about this frosting! It is light, fluffy, airy and not too sweet. I used 1 cup of sugar and it was sweeter than my Swiss meringue buttercream but you can reduce it to ½ cup for a very lightly sweetened and airy frosting. I was truly blown away by this frosting.

Why You Will Love Ermine Frosting

  • Light, fluffy, whipped cream-like texture. My recipe notes say, “Dang. This is amazing.” I’ve been baking professionally for over 10 years and I was wowed.
  • But with the stability of Italian meringue buttercream! It set firm and solid in the refrigerator and, in my opinion, was more pleasant to eat cold than IMB or SMB because there is less butter. Unlike those two, it is egg-free!  
  • A less sweet frosting that is perfect for cakes or cupcakes! It is less sweet than American buttercream but less buttery than IMB or SMB. I used it on my vanilla cupcakes, but it would also be delightful on this moist vanilla cake or even a red velvet cake! It actually was the original frosting on the OG red velvet cake in the 1800’s.
light fluffy ermine frosting in mixing bowl with whisk.
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What does ermine frosting taste like?

Ermine frosting tastes like a less sweet American buttercream frosting, but it has a light, airy texture similar to whipped cream. It also tastes similar to a sweetened whipped cream because of the cooked milk and butter.

Professional Tips for Making Cooked Flour Frosting

  • Cool but pliable butter. Use butter that is cool to the touch but will indent when pressed with your finger. If yours is too warm then it will make a soft frosting that will not hold its shape when piped. The best time to chill it is BEFORE you mix in the flour.
  • The flour is cooked but it is not a roux. The former savory cook in me feels the need to correct the internet. The base of this frosting is not a roux. A roux is a fat (like butter) cooked with flour and then milk is slowly added to create a thickened milky base for sauces like gravy or dishes like white cheddar mac and cheese!
  • Cook until it plops off your spoon. It is tough to know when to stop cooking the flour milk mixture. Take a breath because there is a range of thicknesses that will yield a pipeable frosting. You will notice that there is a point when the mixture stops flowing off the spoon or spatula and, instead, plops off in pieces. This is ideal.

Ingredients & Substitutions

ermine frosting ingredients on marble.
  • All-Purpose Flour: The only drawback of ermine frosting is that it does rely on the thickening powers of all-purpose flour. You could use a gluten-free all-purpose flour, but the rice flour will make it grainy. If you must have a gluten-free frosting, I would recommend going with American buttercream frosting or Swiss meringue buttercream instead.
  • Whole Milk: I have not tried any alternative milks, but I think they will work well. They will alter the flavor of your frosting, so you might consider coconut milk over almond milk.
  • Granulated Sugar: I used the full cup of granulated sugar, which put the sweetness right between American buttercream and Italian Meringue buttercream. You can reduced the sugar down to ½ cup (or anywhere in between) for a very lightly sweetened frosting.
  • Vanilla Extract: Vanilla is a large part of the flavor, so choose a vanilla extract that you enjoy like Nielson Massey vanilla extract.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Unsalted Butter: There is less butter than IMB and SMB but still a substantial quantity. I would not recommend using salted butter.  

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations

  • Changing the flavor with extracts and oils: You can use lemon extract, coffee extract or even peppermint extract to change the flavor. You could also use flavor oils to make topping cupcakes extra fun! Try any of these LorAnn fruit flavors!
  • Make it chocolate: Add ¼ cup cocoa powder in after you add the flour mixture for a chocolate variation.
  • Color ermine frosting: Ermine frosting takes color well. Use a gel food coloring as you would IMB or royal icing for a rich, saturated color. Liquid food coloring will work for pastels. I have not tried powdered food coloring in this frosting, but I imagine it would work well.
piped ermine frosting with star tip.

How to Make Ermine Frosting

Use these instructions to make the perfect cooked flour frosting every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Make the flour base:

Step 1: In a large saucepan combine the flour, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Toast over medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Step 2: Slowly whisk in the milk, adding just a little at a time making sure it is completely incorporated before adding more. This will keep the frosting lump free just like with a roux.

Step 3: Switch from the whisk to a silicone spatula and stir constantly over medium heat.

I like to use a zig-zag pattern across the pot and then around the edges. I repeat this same pattern to ensure that I am scraping the whole bottom and none will burn. It is the same technique that I use for vanilla pudding, crème anglaise or lemon curd!

Step 4: Continue cooking until the flour mixture has thickened and will drop off a spoon in clumps rather than pour off in a stream. You can also tell when it will hold a line on the bottom of the pot without running back in. You can see this in the photo for this step.

toasting dry ingredients for cooked flour frosting.
perfectly cooked flour base for frosting.

This thickness will determine the consistency of your final frosting. A thicker base will make a pipeable frosting that holds beautiful lines and details even in high heat and humidity.

Step 5: Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Scrape into a bowl with the spatula. Cover the top with plastic wrap that is touching the surface, and allow to cool at room temperature until it is no longer warm to the touch. You can speed this up by cooling it in 20 minute intervals in the refrigerator, stirring and repeating until it is body temperature.

cooking flour base for frosting not thick enough.
adding vanilla to cooked flour base for frosting.
cooling flour base for frosting.

Make the frosting:

Step 6: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and almost white in color.
Step 7: With the mixer running, add a spoonful of the flour mixture and allow it to beat in fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer to scrape in the last of the flour mixture and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Step 8: Add the vanilla extract and continue to whisk on high until it holds stiff peaks.

Step 9: Transfer to a piping bag or spread on cakes.

whipped butter for ermine frosting.
light fluffy ermine frosting.
ermine frosting whipped to stiff peaks.

How to use Ermine Frosting

FAQs & Troubleshooting

How to store ermine frosting?

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Ermine frosting is best used at the time it is made but you can rewhip it from the refrigerator if you want to make it in advance. You can also make the flour base in advance and allow it to come to room temperature before adding it to softened butter.

Does ermine frosting harden in the fridge?

Ermine frosting hardens beautifully in the refrigerator! It sets strong due to the butter and the cooked starches (flour) in the base. Even though it sets hard in the fridge it retains its light texture even when cold.

Is ermine buttercream less sweet?

Ermine buttercream is less sweet than American buttercream frosting as written. You can also reduce the sugar down to ½ cup and then it will also be much less sweet than Swiss meringue buttercream and Italian meringue buttercream.

Why did my ermine frosting break?

If your ermine frosting looks curdled or grainy, most likely the butter was too cold when added to the cooked flour mixture. Try to continue beating it and it should come together.

Why is my ermine frosting runny?

There are three reasons ermine frosting can be runny. The first is that that flour mixture was not cooked long enough to thicken it properly. The second is that the flour mixture wasn’t cooled enough when added to the butter, so it melted it. Lastly, the third reason ermine frosting can be runny is when the butter is too soft. The butter should be cool but pliable not room temperature. In all cases, try to chill the butter or the frosting in 20 minute intervals to try to fix it.

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

airy ermine frosting on cupcake split in half.
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Ermine Frosting (Boiled Milk Frosting)

This perfect ermine frosting recipe uses a cooked flour base, which makes it light and airy like whipped cream but with the stability of Swiss meringue buttercream!
Prep: 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 12 Cupcakes

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • In a large saucepan combine the flour, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Toast over medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk, adding just a little at a time making sure it is completely incorporated before adding more. This will keep the frosting lump free just like with a roux.
  • Switch from the whisk to a silicone spatula and stir constantly over medium heat. I like to use a zig-zag pattern across the pot and then around the edges. I repeat this same pattern to ensure that I am scraping the whole bottom and none will burn. It is the same technique that I use for vanilla pudding or lemon curd!
  • Continue cooking until the flour mixture has thickened and will drop off a spoon in clumps rather than pour off in a stream. This thickness will determine the consistency of your final frosting. A thicker base will make a pipeable frosting that holds beautiful lines and details even in high heat and humidity.
  • Remove from the heat and scrape into a bowl with the spatula. Cover the top with plastic wrap that is touching the surface, and allow to cool at room temperature until it is no longer warm to the touch. You can speed this up by cooling it in 20 minute intervals in the refrigerator, stirring and repeating until it is body temperature.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and almost white in color.
  • With the mixer running, add a spoonful of the flour mixture and allow it to beat in fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer to scrape in the last of the flour mixture and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add the vanilla extract and continue to whisk on high until it holds stiff peaks.
  • Transfer to a piping bag or spread on cakes.

Notes

Yield – Enough frosting to frost 12 cupcakes generously or 1, 2-layer 8 or 9-inch cake.
Presentation – For a whiter frosting be sure to properly whip up the butter and use clear vanilla extract.
Variations – Add cocoa powder at the end for a chocolate variation or use various extracts to flavor.
Storage – Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 2 months. It is best used at the time it is made but you can rewhip it from the refrigerator if you want to make it in advance.
Origins –The recipe is adapted from Mrs. Elsie Ramey of Winchester, Virginia via the Southern Living Cookbook Desserts 1968 edition. The method is from Recipe Tin Eats. Her recipe, which she attributes to The New York Times is pretty much identical.

Nutrition

Calories: 224kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 34mg | Potassium: 39mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 506IU | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 0.2mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 224
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Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. Check out our other frostings & buttercreams recipes, or jump into all our cake recipes and cupcake recipes to use with this perfect fluffy frosting!

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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