Learn how to make flour buttercream (or ermine icing as it is also called) with step by step photo instructions. This flour buttercream, or boiled milk icing or ermine icing as it is known is the traditional buttercream served with red velvet cake!
The first time I ever had flour buttercream (or ermine icing) was at Magnolia Bakery in NYC. Now I didn’t know it at the time that I was enjoying it. But I knew it was different than all the other buttercreams I had enjoyed in my life up to that point.
It was creamier. Silkier. And definitely not as sweet as traditional american buttercream.
I was hooked.
What Is Flour Buttercream (Ermine Icing)?
Before we go any further, I wanted to tell you this recipe is sneak peak to my Buttercream Basics Guide that will have you mastering buttercream in no time- you can check out the guide here!
This frosting has a lot names folks. Flour frosting. Ermine buttercream. Boiled milk icing. Cooked frosting. It’s all the same. And as the first name suggest it is made with flour.
This is a cooked frosting actually, which might sound weird. But it’s actually the traditional buttercream to adorn red velvet cake. Not cream cheese frosting! Huh, all these years. I’ve been eating it wrong.
Now the first time I learned how this was made, I was skeptical. A buttercream made with flour?! Kinda sounded gross to me.
But basically if you have ever made a gravy before, then this buttercream is not that much different. You make essentially a roux (milk and flour mixture) that gets mixed into the butter. You heat the milk and flour together to create a thick paste that will then thicken your buttercream.
Now I’ve seen ermine icing made two ways. One way is where the sugar is added into the buttercream at the end. The other way (the one I am going to show you) the sugar is added to the milk and flour step, which gives the sugar a chance to dissolve. This means a smoother buttercream.
If you wait and add your sugar later, you can end up with a grainier buttercream. And frankly, that’s not just not good buttercream if you ask me.
Like American Buttercreams it uses a creamed butter method and a sweetened base is mixed in. Now for American Buttercream that means confectioner’s sugar. For flour buttercream it is the flour mixture you made earlier.
Here is the breakdown of flour buttercream:
Taste: Less sweet than American buttercream
Texture: Light and soft. If the sugar is added to the milk and flour step it can be smooth. If it’s added separately to the butter it can be a bit grainy.
Difficulty Level: Fairly Easy. A bit more time than American Buttercream, but still fairly easy to make.
Pros: Doesn’t involve the use of a candy thermometer or eggs.
Cons: Uses flour, so not gluten free. Can be very soft, and doesn’t hold up well to piping decorations, and heat.
How To Make Flour Buttercream (Ermine Icing)
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- Kitchen-aid Mixer – A stand mixer is something I think every baker needs. You will use it ALL the time and it will SAVE you time. However, a quality hand mixer works as well (as you can see in the photos I took, I was able to get the job done. I used a hand mixer in the photos so you could see what was happening, but it did take me more time to get the job done.
- Whisk- This whisk is my new favorite thing. I mean a a 2 in 1 whisk and bowl scraper. Genius.
- Heavy duty saucepan
- Measuring cups and spoons
For this recipe, I thought step by step photos would help you out a ton. So let’s get to making some flour buttercream. I mean ermine icing. I mean, oh whatever, let’s just make some.
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
For this ermine frosting, you are going to need room temperature unsalted butter (if you need a fast way to soften your butter here are 3 quick ways), all purpose flour, granulated sugar, pure vanilla extract, salt and milk. (salt is not pictured below!)
Step 2: Heat your sugar, milk, and flour
Do this in a medium saucepan until it simmers. Be sure to whisk this constantly until it becomes thick (almost like a pudding). This step took me about 10-15 minutes, so be ready for an arm workout.
Step 3: Whisk in your vanilla and salt.
Once the mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and add in your vanilla extract and salt.
Step 4: Chill your flour mixture.
This step is super important! You want to transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Be sure the plastic wrap actually sticks to the top of the flour mixture, so a skin doesn’t form on top. Then chill it for about 2 hours until it’s completely cooled. Don’t rush this step!
Step 5: Cream Your Butter
You want to cream your butter in your stand mixer (or you can use a hand mixer, will just take a few extra minutes) until smooth and creamy. Again, be sure to use unsalted quality butter. Cheap no-name butter actually is made with more water and air so it means less flavor! (My favorite brand is Cabot Butter).
Step 6: Add the flour mixture.
Now it’s time to add in your cooled flour mixture. You want to do this just a few tablespoons at a time, mixing in between, and scraping down with a sturdy silicone spatula to make sure it’s all incorporated.
Step 7: Cream Until Smooth.
Now just let your mixer go! Or if you are using a hand mixer. Get that workout in now.
Step 8: Go ahead, frost, and enjoy 🙂
You can use this buttercream immediately or keep it in an airtight container for up to 5 days in your refrigerator. If you don’t plan to use it before that, then go ahead and freeze it. You will just need to let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then re-whip again in your stand mixture until it’s the correct consistency.
What Do I Frost Ermine Icing With?
Tips On Making Ermine Icing
- This buttercream is fairly soft, so if you do frost a cake or cupcakes with it do not keep outside in warm conditions.
- Use softened buttter to make this icing (or really any icing). You want softened butter to get a smooth buttercream.
- Make sure your flour paste is completely cool before using it. You can make this a day ahead to save yourself some time!
To learn how to frost cupcakes like a pro check out this post. I included a video tutorial for you as well so your cupcakes look like they came from a bakery! And if you need more help, check out my 15 tips for perfect cupcakes.
And if you liked this tutorial, then be sure to get my Buttercream Basics Guide To Mastering Buttercream and learn to make buttercreams like the pros.
Until next time, happy baking!
And if you want to switch it up from vanilla, here is my buttercream cheatsheet for you. 13 ideas on how to go from boring old vanilla to wow!
- 4 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup (227 grams) whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup (227 grams, 2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup (198 grams) granulated sugar
Over medium heat, whisk flour, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Stir frequently until it becomes very thick (almost like pudding).
Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl to allow it to cool completely. Put plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming.
Use a mixer to cream butter until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes.
With the mixer on medium, add the cooled flour mixture a little bit at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. The buttercream will resemble whipped cream.
- This frosting is slightly soft, so do not plan on using this for any occasions where your cake or cupcakes will be kept outside for a long time!
- You can make this ahead of time for up to 5 days (just store in the refrigerator) or even freeze for up to 3 months. Just be sure to allow to thaw in the fridge overnight, and re-whip back to original consistency.
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