Frosting. The swooping, sweet, fluffy, creamy topping is one of life’s most simple pleasures, and nearly impossible to resist. While I, and probably many of you, grew up on store-bought frosting, it pales in comparison to the real thing. I’m not denying there’s a time and a place for the packaged stuff, but the very best frosting recipes are always, always homemade.
This post was hard to write and not just because it made me want to eat cake ALL. DAY. LONG. (Rough job, I know!) It was difficult because there are a gazillion frosting recipes out there and it was nearly impossible to choose the best. As you can see, I couldn’t pick just one, or two, or three… So, whether you’re a chocolate lover, buttercream fiend, meringue maniac, or you simply don’t discriminate, this is the only list of frosting recipes you’ll ever need.
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Best frosting recipes: Vanilla
A bit of heavy cream lifts the Vanilla Frosting at Sally’s Baking Addiction to an ethereal level of creaminess, and two teaspoons of vanilla ensure a rich vanilla flavor. I love this recipe if you are new to making buttercream frosting from scratch. Sally’s recipes and notes are always so helpful, and this popular recipe is no exception. Plus, it’s her favorite!
Runner up: The key to the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting at Sweetapolita is this: whip it, whip it good. Sweet and creamy, but not too thick, this ultra-spreadable dream is perfect for kid cupcakes or as Rosie presents, a classic vanilla cake. The addition of fresh vanilla bean makes this frosting truly special.
Related: Helpful tips for baking with kids, and 6 recipes to get you started.
Best frosting recipes: Chocolate
Every year, for every birthday in my house, I make a chocolate sprinkle cake adorned with Ruth Reichl’s Chocolate Frosting found at Oprah. (It’s also in Reichl’s newest cookbook, My Kitchen Year.) Unsweetened chocolate is beaten with whipped cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar for chocolate-y softness that melts in your mouth—think more creamy than icing-like. This amount works well for a two-layer 9-inch cake, but take note: If you don’t frost the cake right away, the frosting may become difficult to spread. I’ve had luck microwaving it in small portions and beating it again until spreadable.
Runner Up: Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting at Add A Pinch may be perfect indeed. Plenty of unsweetened cocoa melds with butter, sugar, and just a pinch of espresso for a chocolate flavor like no other. This heavenly recipe yields a lot of frosting, enough to cover 3 dozen cupcakes (2 dozen for the classroom, 1 dozen for me!).
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Best frosting recipe: Meringue – it’s a tie!
Originally from the culinary idols at Gourmet, the throwback Devil Dog Cake at The Beach House Kitchen (above & very top) is covered with the fluffiest looking frosting. It’s reminiscent of the creamy confectionary filling of our youth, but ohhh so much better. Note that you’ll need 2 tablespoons of water for the frosting: the amount is listed in the instructions, but water isn’t typically included in the ingredients section.
Light, billowy, marshmallowy… however you want to describe it, the Easy 7 Minute Vanilla Frosting at She Wears Many Hats is a classic that you need to treat your cakes to at least once in your baking life. The timeless method of whipping egg whites into sugar produces an addictive icing that’s as pretty as it is delicious. Use the frosting immediately for the easiest spreading.
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Best frosting recipes: Whipped Cream
Chocolate Whipped Cream | Beyond Frosting
When I first saw the image of Chocolate Whipped Cream that we found at Beyond Frosting, I almost licked the computer screen. Can you blame me? A cross between a mousse and a delicate frosting, the rich-tasting yet airy topping will fulfill all of your chocolate desires.
Runner Up: If you’re not a true frosting fan (I can’t believe you’re still reading this), don’t give up hope yet. The Whipped Cream in a Jar at Saveur is an unconventional whipped topping that’s light and luscious, but not too sweet. Your teeth don’t have to sink through an inch of butter before hitting cake, and no mixers to clean! You make it entirely in a mason jar–a mini bicep workout is needed, but worth it when you see the finished product.
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Best frosting recipes: Ganache (Glaze)
The Luscious Chocolate Icing at Bon Appetit has a few things going for it: it has three simple ingredients, it can be made up to three days ahead, and it’s deliciously decadent. A touch of coffee enhances the rich chocolate flavor, but there isn’t so much added that it will taste like coffee—just a richer, deeper chocolate taste. Bonus: The topping can also be served over ice cream if you have a non-cake eater (yes, I’ve heard they exist).
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Best frosting recipes: Prettiest
Berry Buttercream Frosting at My Name is Yeh is gorgeous, and just as notably, not complicated. There is an extra step of blending and straining raspberries and blackberries, but this produces the loveliest looking–and tasting–results. Don’t skim too quickly over the olive oil cupcake recipe either. You should be able to have your frosting, and eat your cake, too.