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My Secret, Less-Sweet Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

My Secret, Less-Sweet Fluffy Vanilla Frosting


My Secret, Less-Sweet Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Piping Fluffy Vanilla Frosting onto Vanilla Cupcakes

Unlike traditional buttercream, this Fluffy Vanilla Frosting is silky smooth, much fluffier and far less sweet. The texture is slightly denser than whipped cream, but unlike whipped cream that deflates within hours, this Frosting is stable for days. It pipes like a dream, and is straightforward to make.

It’s actually an old fashioned frosting called “Ermine Frosting”. If you’ve never heard of it before, the ingredients and method will intrigue you!

Piping Fluffy Vanilla Frosting onto Vanilla Cupcakes

My secret Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

I call this my “secret” Vanilla Frosting because it’s not a widely known type of frosting and people are always flabbergasted when I tell them how it’s made. It’s my best all-rounder that’s a hit with everyone. Take a classic buttercream, in all its rich, sweet glory, and a lightly sweetened whipped cream, and this Vanilla Frosting sits squarely in the middle.

Unlike buttercream, it’s 100% silky smooth. It pipes like a dream into tall swirls, roses, or anything your heart desires. And unlike whipped cream which deflates within hours, this Vanilla Frosting will hold its piped shape for days and days.

This looks and pipes like buttercream, but it’s WAY less sweet and rich!

This frosting is actually an old fashioned frosting called Ermine Frosting. Also known as boiled-milk frosting and roux frosting, none of these names sound particularly flash nor do they capture the magic of this frosting that has a cult following that some declare is the best frosting in the world!

Showing the inside of moist Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla cupcake frosting

About this Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Though the proper name of this frosting is Ermine Frosting, I’m going to continue to call it Fluffy Vanilla Frosting because that’s exactly what it is – and it sounds a lot more flattering than the real name!😂

The method by which it is made will sound highly unusual: hot milk and sugar is thickened into a thick custard texture which is then cooled into a thoroughly unappetising looking bowl of gluey-jelly which is then whipped into butter.

Making Fluffy Vanilla Frosting - Ermine Frosting

And this is when the ugly duckling transforms into a beautiful swan. Because suddenly, you’re staring into a bowl of what looks like whipped cream. Except.. you haven’t used cream at all. You touch it and know that it’s firm enough to pipe into sky-high swirls. You taste it, and it’s silky smooth. A cross between buttercream and whipped cream!

Bowl of whipped Fluffy Vanilla Frosting - Ermine Frosting

What you need for this Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

All you need is butter, flour, milk, sugar and vanilla. Flour?? I hear you query. YES. That is what thickens this into a frosting texture. I promise you will not detect even the faintest bit of flour once finished – not in texture and certainly not taste.

Ingredients in Fluffy Vanilla Frosting - Ermine Frosting

How to make my secret Less-Sweet Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Here’s how it’s made:


  1. Milk, sugar, flour – Stir the sugar and flour in a dry saucepan over medium heat – this just toasts the sugar lightly to bring out some flavour. Then slowly pour the warm milk in as you whisk (this avoids lumps)
  2. Cook over medium heat until it thickens in a thick dolloping custard. The range of thickness possible is actually quite broad – I’ve made it way thicker and it still worked perfectly. Just don’t take it off when it’s still watery. 
  3. Scrape it into a bowl (“it” being a roux);
  4. Cover roux with cling wrap, pressing onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming (or use paper if you’re plastic adverse) then very important, allow to fully cool. I usually cool on counter for 20 minutes then refrigerate for 90 minutes to speed things up. You can also leave it overnight. It will become like a thick, pasty, thoroughly unappetising jelly and at this stage you will start doubting me. Have faith!
  5. Beat butter until creamy – just like any other frosting;
  6. Add dollops of the flour-milk roux, beating as you go. Take about 1 minute to add all the roux in;
  7. Beat, beat, beat – Add vanilla and a pinch of salt for flavour, then beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, just like your whipping up a big bowl of cream; and
  8. Voila! Your Fluffy Vanilla Frosting is done!

Vanilla cupcakes with buttercream vanilla cupcake frosting

How to use this Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Spreading and piping

Spread it onto cakes (like in this Vanilla Cake) and cupcakes (like these). Or transfer to a piping bag and pipe sky-high swirls.

Flavours and colouring

Treat it like your everyday buttercream – this frosting can be tinted and flavoured with concentrated flavouring. Note: I haven’t tried using fresh citrus like lemon, lime and orange to ensure it doesn’t split.


The butter in this frosting is that requires refrigeration, but only if it’s warm enough for the butter to start softening too much while causes the frosting to droop. I find that up to about 23°/73°F, this frosting is fine out on the counter.

If you are forced to refrigerate, make sure you take cupcakes out 30 minutes prior to serving to bring to room temperature. Nobody likes cold cupcakes!


So, now you know my secret frosting recipe. 🙂 I’ve been making it for years, relishing in how people who ordinarily shy-away from sky high mounds of frosting have dived into it after I assured them that it’s way less sweet and rich than typical frostings.

Tell me what you think if you try it! – Nagi x

Watch how to make it

Piping Fluffy Vanilla Frosting onto Vanilla Cupcakes


My Secret Less-Sweet, Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Recipe video above. This is actually an old fashioned frosting called Ermine Frosting that I think is a hidden gem – let’s keep it a secret between us! It is less sweet and lighter in texture than buttercream, it’s 100% silky smooth and pipes like a dream. It’s got a texture like whipped cream but slightly more dense – the texture is similar to Swiss Meringue Buttercream. But unlike whipped cream, this doesn’t deflate in the fridge, it will hold it’s shape for days!

Don’t be turned off by the flour – you absolutely cannot taste it at all.

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes generously with tall swirls (pictured), or 24 cupcakes swirled on with a knife, or a two or three layer 20 – 23cm/8-9″ cake.

Course Frosting, Icing, Sweet
Cuisine Western
Keyword Boiled Milk Frosting, Ermine Frosting, Fluffy Vanilla Frosting, Smooth Frosting
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 224kcal
Author Nagi


  • 5 tbsp flour , plain/all purpose
  • 1 cup white sugar , regular/granulated (can reduce to 1/2 cup, Note 1)
  • 1 cup milk, warmed using any method , full fat best (but even 0% fat works)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 225g / 1 cup unsalted butter , softened


  • Thickening roux:
  • Place flour and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
  • While whisking constantly, slowly pour the milk in (this ensure it’s lump free).
  • As the milk gets hotter, it will start to thicken – stir constantly so the base doesn’t catch.
  • Cook until the mixture thickens in a thick, dolloping custard – see video for texture. TIP: Thicker texture = thicker frosting texture but will won’t make the frosting dense.
  • Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl. Cover with cling wrap, pressing down onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
  • Cool completely (I leave on counter for 20 min or so then refrigerate to speed up). You can leave in fridge overnight.
  • Making the Fluffy Frosting:
  • Place butter in a bowl and use either a handheld beater or stand mixer (with whisk attachment) to beat for 3 minutes until it’s smooth and changes from yellow to very pale yellow, almost white.
  • Now start whipping in the Thickening Roux. On speed 5 (medium), start adding the thick roux one heaped tablespoon at a time. Take about 1 minute to add it all.
  • Once all added, add vanilla and salt, then whip for 2 to 3 minutes until you can see that it is still enough to hold peaks.
  • Frosting cakes and cupcakes:
  • Use it like any other frosting on cakes and cupcakes – either spread it on with a knife or put in a piping bag. You can pipe sky-high mounds and it will hold its form!
  • Storage: On cooler days (22C/71F or so), it can stay out on the counter. On warmer days, it will need to be refrigerated – the butter is what will make the frosting droop.


1. Sugar – caster/superfine ok too. 1 cup sugar yields a sweet frosting but not overly sweet like buttercream which uses about 2.5 – 3 cups equivalent. Can reduce to as little as 1/2 cup – then this really does taste like a lightly sweetened whipped cream!

2. Frosting colour – it will depend on the colour of your butter. Economical butter tends to be more yellow so the frosting will have an off white colour. European butters are paler so will yield a near pure white frosting. The butter whipping stage will lighten the colour of the butter.

Frosting can also be tinted – it’s like a really fluffy buttercream, so anything you can do to colour / flavour buttercream, you can do with this frosting!

3. Nutrition assuming 12 servings (as pictured in post – tall swirls!). Frosting only.


Calories: 224kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 11mg | Potassium: 35mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 502IU | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

Life of Dozer

When he literally DIVES in to inhale a cupcake and gets a big splodge of frosting on his nose that is JUST out of licking range….

Dozer Fluffy Vanilla Frosting on nose

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