Ermine Frosting

Ermine Frosting is the Goldilocks of buttercreams. It’s less sweet than American Buttercream and a little sweeter than Meringue Buttercream. This old-fashioned frosting is juuuust right!

beauty shot of cake

All About Ermine Frosting:

Ermine frosting is known by many names; boiled-milk frosting, roux frosting, Heritage frosting and flour frosting to name a few.

Whatever you call it, this is an old-fashioned frosting recipe that starts with a pudding base. Then you add the pudding to whipped butter to make a light, luscious and silky smooth cake frosting.

Because the sugar is cooked into the “pudding” base, there is no grittiness in this frosting. What you have is a creamy, airy buttercream with a lovely milky flavor.

Ermine is the traditional frosting for Red Velvet cake. I love to use it as the base for Malted Chocolate Frosting and to frost Malted Milk Blondies. Use coconut milk in the pudding to make Coconut Rum Frosting.


ingredients for ermine frosting in bowls
  • All Purpose Flour – The flour thickens the milk to create the pudding base.
  • Sugar – Sugar sweetens the frosting.
  • Milk – Is the base for the pudding mixture.
  • Vanilla/Salt – Together they balance the flavor of the frosting.
  • Butter – Use unsalted butter to control the amount of salt in the recipe.

How to make Ermine Frosting:

pudding base for ermine frosting before and after cooking
  • Cook the flour milk and sugar together over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  • Cook the flour mixture until it is thick like pudding.
butter base for ermine frosting before and after adding pudding
  • Whip the butter until it’s light and aerated
  • Add the pudding and mix it until combined.
ermine frosting before and after whipping
  • Switch to the whisk.
  • Whip until the frosting is light and fluffy like whipped cream.


  • For best results, Ermine Frosting should be used to fill and frost your cake as soon as it’s made.
  • If you do make the frosting ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to use. Bring the frosting back to room temperature then rewhip to aerate.
  • Because it’s made with milk, after 3-4 hours at room temperature a cake iced with Ermine frosting should be refrigerated.
  • Ermine frosting can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap in a double layer of plastic to prevent it from picking up off-flavors in the freezer. After defrosting, rewhip to revive the buttercream.

FAQs about Ermine Frosting:

Can Ermine Frosting be tinted?

Yes, add food coloring to the pudding base or to the whipped buttercream.

How long does Ermine Frosting keep?

The frosting will keep up to a week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

How do I thicken Ermine Frosting?

If your Ermine frosting is runny either the butter was too soft or the pudding was warm when added to the butter. Chill the frosting briefly and then re-whip.

Why is my Ermine Frosting curdled and runny?

The pudding was probably too warm when added to the butter. Chill the frosting briefly and then re-whip.

Is Ermine Frosting a crusting buttercream?

No, Ermine frosting will not form a crust. It will firm up a bit in the refrigerator. For a true crusting buttercream make American Buttercream.

a spatula dropping frosting onto a cake

If you’d like to try a slightly richer version of this frosting, here’s a recipe for German Buttercream. German Buttercream has an egg custard base instead of a pudding base.

An if you love chocolate, try this Malted Chocolate Frosting which is a version of Ermine Frosting.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

a spatula dropping ermine frosting onto a red velvet cake
Print Recipe
4.56 from 68 reviews

Ermine Frosting Recipe

Ermine Frosting is the Goldilocks of buttercream. It's less sweet than American Buttercream and a little sweeter than Meringue Buttercream. This old-fashioned frosting is just right! Because the sugar is cooked into the “pudding” base, there is no grittiness in this frosting.
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time5 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
16 servings
Save Recipe


  • 12 oz granulated sugar (1 ½ cups)
  • 2 ½ oz all purpose flour (½ cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 oz whole milk (1 ½ cups)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)


  • Combine 12 oz granulated sugar, 2 ½ oz all purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon salt in a saucepan, whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in 12 oz whole milk until smooth. Heat the mixture over medium low, whisking constantly, until it begins to boil.
  • Continue to cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until it thickens to a pudding-like texture. Immediately remove from the heat. Transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and cool to room temperature.
  • Cream 12 oz unsalted butter until light and fluffy. Add the pudding, a little at a time, until completely incorporated. Switch to the whisk attachment and whip the buttercream until it’s light and fluffy.
  • Use immediately to fill and frost your favorite cake.

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One batch of frosting is enough to fill and frost a 9" round cake.


Serving: 1each | Calories: 266kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 47mg | Potassium: 43mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 566IU | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 0.2mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!


  1. 5 stars
    I used this frosting on the buttermilk cake and it is delicious. this was my first time making this frosting and I will make it again and again. It tasted mousse like in texture and we really liked it. I frosted half the cake with the frosting, then added cocoa to give the second half a chocolate frosting.At first tasting, I didn’t think it was sweet enough but then I realized that was why I liked it – not overbearing but sweet enough to satisfy the need for frosting.
    Due to a severe thunderstorm booming, I didn’t give the frosting enough time to come to room temp before proceeding, but after putting cake in fridge, the frosting firmed a bit. Very good! Thanks for this easy and delicious recipe.

  2. Can I crumbcoat with ABC and frost and fill cake with Ermine??I am making 3 large cakes and hope to save time by crumbcoating with ABC so that I don’t have to make so much Ermine with all the cooking time.

  3. Just made this for the first time. AMAZING!! What a terrific icing. Like that it seems less sweet than regular icing.

  4. This is my favorite frosting. I first tasted it on a coconut cake and fell in love! I prefer it to cream cheese on a Red Velvet cake.

    I have a recipe for a version which uses 2/3 butter and 1/3 cream cheese but have not tried it yet.

  5. Dear Eileen,
    I live in Brazil. My region is so dry and hot. I made your Ermine and the result was won-der-ful. The vanilla taste made the difference. Please, if possible could you inform (in grams) the amount of cooked pudding resulted in this process?
    Thank You so much!!!

    1. I’m not sure what you are asking. Are you asking how much the pudding weighs? Just add the weight of the sugar flour and milk and that’s the weight of the pudding.

    2. @Eileen Gray,
      Sorry, this information is obviously. I would like to know the weight after cooking the

      1. I haven’t weighed the cooked pudding, but I’m sure it will be very close to the weight of the ingredients. I imagine the weight won’t be exactly the same every time depending how much evaporation happens. Just out of curiosity, why do you need to know the weight?

  6. I’m just wondering can you add alcohol for flavouring? I know Swiss butter cream hold up to a fair amount of alcohol cam ermine as well? If so how much do you think I could get away with?

    1. Well, I haven’t tried it. But I think it could take a couple tablespoons. I would add a tablespoon at a time until you get a flavor you like and keep an eye on the texture.

  7. Hi! I recently made ermine frosting using a different recipe and it worked great but started to crust and became slightly grainy as I used it to frost a cake. Does this recipe tend to crust and thicken up like this or change in texture soon after making it? Do you know if I might be doing something wrong that’s causing this? Thanks so much

    1. I have not had this recipe crust. Did the recipe you used have powdered sugar or corn starch in it? Those would cause crusting.

    2. @Eileen Gray, Thanks so much! I’ll give it a go for sure then. No the recipe didn’t have cornstarch or powdered sugar, but it was cold when I made it. Anyways, I’m excited to give this a second try!

  8. I have to make a 3 tiered cake and it will be frosted with your Italian Meringue Buttercream. Each tier is a different flavor which I plan to fill with different flavored fillings. My question is will Ermine frosting one flavored Mocha, one Strawbberry (freeze dried) and one will be Caramel hold up as a filling. It will be in an air conditioned room as I live in Florida. The cake is a 10”, 8” and 6” each being three layers so I will need to frost and decorate I would think 2 days before delivery?? Will Ermine filling break down? I really didn’t want to continue to use IMBC for the filling. Thank you for any advice!!!

    1. Yes, I think it should hold up. I would pipe a dam of IMB around each layer before filling in with the Ermine. Ermine is softer and having that dam of IMB should keep it in the cake.

  9. Hey, if I wish to make the frosting a little more firm, then what can I do? I’ve noticed that it becomes soft quite soon after I take it out of the refrigerator. And if I use any fondant accents, they just slide right off!
    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. Yes, this is a softer frosting. Maybe not the best for fondant decorations. I generally use a Meringue Buttercream when I’m working with fondant decorations. As far as making it firmer, you could try adding some powdered sugar but I’m not sure that would work since powdered sugar can just end up absorbing moisture and making the frosting runny.

  10. Hi Eileen.. Youve been such a wealth of knowledge for a homebaker like me! Thank you..

    Ive been going over your frosting recipes for a couple of days now in search of a stable sandwich cookie filling for our hot summer weather. It needs to be able to not crust, not melt and definitely take being out of the fridge for a 24-48 hours atleast. And I plan to blend some cardamom powder in with the sifted icing sugar or granulated sugar to get some cardamom flavour as well. Do you have one you recommend? I was thinking of trying cream cheese frosting but I worry it would spoil. ABC then? With water instead of milk? Thank you so much for all your content! XX

    1. If you want a frosting that can be left at warm temperature for 1-2 days I recommend making ABC with vegetable shortening rather than butter. ABC will crust though. What type of cookie is this and why does it need to be left out so long? Just asking about the situation so I can make other recommendations.

    1. I use ap flour. I’m not sure if what you refer to as cornflour is the same as cornstarch. If so, you’d get a very different result with cornstarch. The “pudding” in the Ermine frosting must be cooled before it’s whipped into the butter. A pudding made with ap flour is very stable and can be cooled and then whipped into the butter without breaking down. Cornstarch can be used to thicken the pudding, but, once the pudding is cooled if you stir or whip the pudding the cornstarch will release the liquid and the pudding will break down. So it’s not the best option for whipping into frosting.

  11. Looking through your frosting recipes, I found the Ermine & tried it & I love it but it’s a tad ‘soft’. Then just now I’m scrolling through the list of Buttercream frostings & I read this: “The process for making Ermine frosting starts with a “pudding” made from milk, sugar and cornstarch.”
    The recipe listed does NOT include corn starch, so I’m wondering if this is why mine turns out ‘soft’ (my last batch was so soft the top layer of cake slid off to the side in transport….)

    1. Adding to my comment above, I have read through the whole description and see where you say that the ‘pudding’ may have been too warm. What temperature should it read on a thermometer?

      1. I don’t check the actual temperature of the pudding, but it should be completely cool to the touch. What’s really important is the combined temperature of the butter and the pudding. If you’re working in a hot kitchen and the butter is quite soft and melty and you add pudding that isn’t completely cooled the frosting will be softer. You can chill the frosting briefly and then whip again. If you find your butter has gotten too soft you can lightly chill the pudding before adding it to the butter. I like to start with butter that is warm enough that’s it’s pliable, but it’s not at all melty and/or greasy.

    2. Hi Nancy, Sorry for the delayed response. I don’t always see the comments right away. That note about cornstarch was a typo. I’ve corrected it to say the pudding is made with milk and flour. The frosting was likely soft because the butter was too soft when combined with the pudding, or the pudding was still a little warm. Generally, if you chill the frosting a little and then whip again you can correct the texture.

  12. I’m looking at making my wedding cake (three tiers) in advance and freezing. I’ve seen a method where you layer each cake tier with its fillings back in the tin, double wrap and then freeze. Would this work do you think, as I see the note if you freeze it to whip again, but obviously if it’s inside a cake I can’t do this. Any ideas, or do I just need to test and see if it works? I’m making a semi naked cake, so would just take the cake out the freezer and tin and smooth round the outside once filling is soft enough. Thanks

    1. You can freeze an assembled and filled cake. No need really to put it back in the cake pan. I think that could mar the sides of the cake and it would be a pain to get it back out of the pan when it’s frozen. If you double wrap the cake in plastic wrap and then wrap in a layer of foil it should freeze very well.

    2. @Eileen Gray, Thank you for the reply, yes I may have to just wrap the cakes without the tin as I’ll be making more cakes than I have tins. I just liked the idea of a sturdy outer to protect the cakes as they’re not all going in my own freezer and the video showed an easy way (hot water bath) to get them out. Good to know the ermine frosting will survive then.

    1. @Eileen Gray, it makes a heavenly coconut cake!! Use a good white or vanilla cake recipe. For the filling, I take a portion of the frosting, and mix in a small can of crushed pineapple (which has been drained thoroughly and has all the juice squeezed out) and as much coconut as you wish. File the layers with this and frost the cake with the rest. Add coconut on the outside of the cake if you wish, or just on the top of the cake.

      We always had coconut cake with boiled custard and fresh fruit ambrosia at Christmas.

  13. Would I be able to ice a cake with this icing the day before and then leave the cake covered at room temperature overnight to eat the next day??

    1. Because there is milk in the frosting, I wouldn’t leave it at room temperature more than about 6-7 hours. I would refrigerate the cake then take it out a couple of hours before serving to allow it to soften.

  14. I am doing a 70th birthday day cake and would love to use the Ermine chocolate frosting. I do have to make it entirely chocolate from cake to buttercream. I plan on adding all kinds of Kit Kat bars, malted milk balls, espresso beans etc. on side of cake as well as top for decorating. My question is will the Ermine frosting hold the candy in place or do I have to worry about it falling off? I will have to make and freeze decorated cake in advance and when picked up it will be transported to destination almost 2 hours from here. It will be leaving in its frozen state and once it arrives it will go in the fridge to be served at room temperature the following day. I am a self-taught decorator so need your professional opinion.

    1. Let me see if I get this: You plan to bake and ice the cake ahead of time. Then you will freeze the cake before a 2 hour trip. Then refrigerate the cake until the next day for serving. Do you plan to add the candy before freezing the cake? What I would do is to ice the cake, freeze, transport, refrigerate, etc. Once you take the cake out to let it come to room temperature before serving you can add the candy as the icing softens. I just think that adding the candy before the freezing, etc would mess up the design no matter how careful you are.

      1. Yes I did plan to add the candy as the customer is picking up the completed and frozen cake to take back to her home for a party the next day. I thought it would transport better if it was frozen but then worried about candy falling off. If I used Italian Meringue Buttercream instead of Ermine would that work better? If not perhaps I need to come up withe a different decorating idea! Thank you. BTW. I have a load of your Vanilla cakes in my freezer waiting to be frosted for an upcoming wedding! I only use your recipe because the flavor and texture can’t be beat!!

        1. I think either IMB or Ermine would work. Both freeze well. My concern with adding the candy before freezing is that the candy might sweat as it is defrosting which might marr the surface of the candy.

          1. That’s what I was afraid of! I will just frost/decorate the day before it’s picked up and NOT freeze it so the candy should be fine I hope. I very much appreciate your help! Thank you.

    1. I ran your comment through a translator and I think you’re asking if this recipe will hold up in hot weather and if you can pipe flowers. You could probably pipe flowers with Ermine Frosting, but I wouldn’t leave it out in hot temperatures. It does have quite a bit of butter and will melt in a warm environment.

    1. Ermine frosting can be frozen. The “pudding” made from flour and water helps stabilize the frosting. It’s a real dream to work with and tastes fantasic.

      1. Thanks! Just need to make it tomorrow for Saturday and I want to stack the layers and freeze it before I decorate. I’d hate for it to get to the birthday girl and it fall apart.

        I’ve made it before I just wasn’t sure if I could freeze a stacked cake

  15. Hello!
    Can we pipe with this frosting? Or is it too soft to hold shapes? Really looking for a good frosting that it isn’t too sweet and gritty.

      1. Hi, I was searching for best buttercream to use which is less sweeter for my grandfather’s birthday and I came across your website. I think I will try this one and I’d like to know if this one is good as well for decorating? Thank u for sharing your recipe.

  16. I made the coconut cake with rum frosting for my Mother’s 90th birthday and she was lucky to get a second piece the next day. My family has been cutting back on sweets but not with this cake! Look forward to trying the new frosting recipe on my next cake!

  17. I have been looking for a frosting that is not as sweet as American Buttercream and now I have found it. can you add cocoa to make it a chocolate version? I am a vanilla lover and my son is a chocolate lover.

  18. This is probably my all time favourite frosting recipe. My grandmother got this from an A&P cookbook and used it on all of her cakes, My mother used it on all of her cakes too, and now it’s my go-to cake frosting. There’s nothing like it out there!

    1. I agree. I love Italian Meringue Buttercream, but Ermine frosting does have a special flavor that is irresistible.

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