The “Best” Vanilla Frosting

The “Best” Vanilla Frosting, made with a cooked flour base. Soft & velvet smooth – and less butter than you’d expect! more »

You know how you know it’s early January? Everyone is trying to eat like a caveman, and they’re packing them into gyms up to the rafters (except me – my ankle’s broken so cue the melancholy music, & no way I’m eating like a caveman since I was born in the 70’s which makes me more likely to eat in bellbottoms than in a loincloth). I keep trying to come up with a list of neatly packaged New Year’s Resolutions, since goodness knows I’ve got to get my house in order. But my thoughts are too messy and disorganized, going thisaway and thataway. And since messy & disorganized is my natural state of being, thought-wise, no use packaging a resolution around that one. I think I’ll just stick to baking. And anyway wait until you see the gluten-free bread I’ve been baking for Shoestring Book 3. That’s what I was doing all last week, while you were merry & bright without me. By the way, I totally missed you.

Now you know I don’t usually make much of a fuss about recipes for frosting and other naturally gluten-free things of that sort. Except this is not a naturally gluten-free frosting since it starts with a sugar and flour mixture. And anyway, a super sweet reader named Karlie (hi Karlie!) emailed me, like, every couple months and very respectfully asked would I please give her back this roux-based frosting. I had never even heard of such a thing, but I finally followed her lead &, well, see for yourself.

As Karlie pointed out, this recipe makes this super velvet-smooth, fluffy-light frosting. It’s almost like whipped cream frosting, but it’s naturally very stable at room temperature which is a really nice thing in a frosting. Go ahead and make it early, and either pipe it or spread it on your cake or cupcakes right away, or store it in an airtight container on the counter for a couple days before you’re ready to use it. It doesn’t separate. Unlike me, who’s coming apart at the seams. Just follow the recipe instructions carefully, study the step by step photos above, and trust the process.

Oh oh oh and the recipe can be doubled easily. As written, it works for 1 dozen cupcakes or a single layer cake.

So here goes nothing: I resolve … to bake for you in 2013. Just wait ’till you see the fun we’re going to have. Just. Wait.

Prep time: 10 minutes       Cook time: 4 minutes       Yield: About 2 cups (enough for 12 cupcakes)

1 1/2 tablespoons (12 g) cornstarch

2 tablespoons (18 g) basic xanthan gum-free gluten-free flour blend (12 g superfine white rice flour + 4 g potato starch + 2 g tapioca flour/starch)

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

dash (1/8 teaspoon) kosher salt

3/4 cup (6 fl. oz.) milk (any kind – just not nonfat)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

12 tablespoons (168 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature (it must be at room temperature)

  • Fill a large bowl about halfway with ice and set it aside. In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan, place the cornstarch, flour blend, sugar and salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the milk, and whisk until smooth. Cook over a medium-high flame, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and the whisk leaves behind a visible trail (see photo), about 4 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and scrape the mixture into a separate medium-sized bowl.

  • Place the medium-sized bowl on top of the bowl of ice to stop the cooking of the flour and sugar mixture. Whisk in the vanilla, and allow the mixture to cool until it reaches room temperature (temperature matters tremendously here).*

  • Place the cooled flour and sugar mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (a handheld mixer will work just fine here), and mix on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the butter in 3 parts. The mixture will seem almost curdled at first. Turn the mixer to high speed and mix for about 3 minutes or until the frosting turns white and becomes light and fluffy. Use immediately. The frosting will keep at room temperature for a couple days.

  • *The cooked flour and sugar mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days before being mixed with the room temperature butter. Simply allow it to come back to room temperature by sitting on the counter before mixing it.

    Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.



P.S. Don’t forget to get your copy of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy! You are the wind beneath my blog wings!

  • Linda Stoddard

    Yum! My favorite kind of vanilla frosting–I first saw a version of this on Pioneer Woman that she’d gotten years ago from a friend and was using it to frost a red velvet sheetcake for a church dish to pass thing–at first I thought–‘flour in frosting? Huh?’ But when I tried it I was sold—can’t wait to try your recipe here. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and it’s a good excuse to make cupcakes to nestle your frosting on. Again…yum! Hope you have a great New Year! xoLinda

    • gfshoestring

      Hi, Linda!! The reader who asked me to fiddle around to come up with a GF version of this recipe had mentioned a Pioneer Woman recipe, but it didn’t work for me very well. I adapted a different recipe – hope you like the results!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Donavan Kim

    OMG…I may have to kiss you.  A hug at the very least…thankyouthankyouthankyou!  You are…my hero.

    • gfshoestring

      Kiss me! I thought you’d never go for it, you fool. ;) I’d like both a kiss and a hug, please. 
      xoxo Nicole

  • Jené Jackson

    I was JUST lamenting how I missed this frosting, the proper one, for red velvet cake! Thank you so much!

    • gfshoestring

      Is this the proper frosting for red velvet, Jene? I always made red velvet with a cream cheese buttercream. Live & learn!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Bren

    OMG – I am SO excited that you developed and posted this!  My favorite frosting of all time was a cooked frosting like this one but because it contained flour I was always afraid to try to sub things out.  Now I can recreate it!  You’ve done it again, friend!

    • gfshoestring

      Happy to help, Bren!
      xoxo Nicole

  • guest

    Hi, Thanks for converting this frosting recipe! My grandchildren are now gf/cf and this is very helpful. My mother was a professional cake baker and decorator and this is almost the same type of frosting they always used, minus the gf. This type of frosting is a WONDERFUL frosting, works great for piping, decorating, keeps well in the fridge and at room temp when frosted. This is what she used to hand form her flowers, borders, any decorating before the days of gum paste and fondant for decorating cakes. Because she worked at a custom bakery there is a couple secret ingredients but this is pretty close and can’t wait to try this for my grand kids. 

  • Moe Moe

    Any chance for a sub for the cornstarch? I’m allergic to corn.

    • gfshoestring

      I haven’t tried this recipe with any substitutions, Moe Moe, but feel free to experiment! I’d try substituting tapioca starch gram for gram for the cornstarch – although that much tapioca starch can lend a metallic taste. But it should work chemistry-wise.

  • Melissa

    Is there anyway to do this diary free? I am gluten and diary free :(. Thanks, Melissa 

    • Candaceiw

      what about Spectrum palm oil shortening. I love butter, but made some cupcakes for the dairy-free group here at work, using my regular buttercream recipe, but sub’d the spectrum shortening…not my favorite, but it was a hit with everyone else!

  • Candaceiw

    As I just made three batches of cupcakes for a work function, here you are with a new frosting recipe…will have to try this with my daughter’s birthday cupcakes this weekend….Thanks Nicole!

    • gfshoestring

      Happy birthday to your daughter, Candace!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Beth

    Thanks for this! Btw, I got your 2nd cookbook over the holidays and it’s wonderful!! :)

    • gfshoestring

      Thanks, Beth!!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Karlie

    YAY!!!  Thank you SO MUCH@9cc196bea2478c7ebc2ac74b47d32f71:disqus   I’d already tried myself several times and had no success at all – it got all gummy and weird.  I’m excited that you like it too!  :D  I’m so going to go frost the doughnuts I just made (from your recipe, and a babycakes maker) with it!

    • gfshoestring

      It took me quite a while, but I finally focused on it, Karlie! Happy to help. Let me know how it turns out for you!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Mande

    why does it have to be a xantham gum free flour mix?  Any particular reason?

    • Jennifer S.

      Yea – what if I used some better batter here?  would it be a problem?

      • gfshoestring

        It most likely would come out gummy. Better Batter has quite a bit of xanthan gum. 

  • Leanne Vogel

    Wow, doesn’t separate, that’s awesome! I’ve never heard
    of this frosting either, but I think you’ve made me a believer! I’m the exact
    opposite, no thisaway or thataway, I’m sewn up tight as a button which can
    sometimes lead to missing out on loads of things because I’m so focused on the
    task at hand. I’ll trade you a bit of mine for a bit of yours?

    • gfshoestring

      I think we could do each other a bit of good, Leanne! Like the yin & the yang. I get stuff done, and rarely do I lose a thread of what I’m meant to do, but since it’s not my nature to be buttoned up, I’m always afraid of forgetting so I make lots of lists!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Charlottewmoore

    I have a recipe for a red velvet cake that the frosting is almost like this.  You cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy. You cook the milk and flour until thick. Let it cool add to the creamed mixture and beat well. Then add coconut and pecans. My oh my it is good. I don’t see why you  could not just switch the flour to GF and do all the steps the same. Curious!!!

  • Shawn

    I’ve never heard of anything like this.  But the title has been sold.  I’m going to try it this week. 

    • gfshoestring

      Let me know how it goes, Shawn!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Carole

    Recipe seems like the one I used to use for lady locks back in the old days.

  • Threadlady

    This sounds likw the frosting I usually make for DH’s birthday cake, EXCEPT the frosting was a larger batch and was divided into four separate bowls *before* the flavorings were added. Each bowl was a different flavor, lemon, chocolate, mint and almond and each was colored differently. The were used on a milk chocolate layer cake where each baked layer was split. There was not enough frosting to decorate the sides, so it was a lovely effect and the frosting was light and not TOO sweet. May have to try it before his birthday comes around again (Nov.).

    BTW I love your blog, have both of your books and am really looking forward to the Bread book. I used to bake all our breads and was trying Artisanal breads before we decided to go G-F (not a medical necessity, just a lifestyle choice).

    • gfshoestring

      Light and not too sweet is definitely how I would describe this frosting. That must be why it’s universally beloved. :)
      Thanks so much for your support of the cookbooks, and I really can’t wait to share these bread recipes with you. I promise not to disappoint!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Sallie

    I have been trying FOREVER to make this frosting Gluten Free and now you HAVE done it!!!! Many, many thanks.  I can always count on you!!! Happy New Year!

    • gfshoestring

      Oh, I failed before I succeeded a few times, for sure, Sallie. But that’s what I’m here for. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Jennifer S.

    Can you tell me what your preferred brand of piping bags/tips are?  Thanks sista’!

    • gfshoestring

      Hi, Jennifer!
      Sure can. I have a true preference for Ateco brand piping bags and tips. Really good quality stuff, and pretty readily available. 
      xoxo Nicole

  • Chris

    When the kids were small and decided to forgo the usual birthday pie request in lieu of cupcakes, the cooked frosting was the one I always made.  Haven’t thought about it in YEARS!  With a few birthdays coming up, I might just revisit this idea!  Thanks for the reminder!  I needed that little kick in the pants!!!

  • Sarawerner54

    Would this recipe work dairy free with dairy free butter and rice or almond or coconut milk?

    • gfshoestring

      I honestly don’t know, Sarawerner, since I haven’t tried the recipe with any substitutions, but I always prefer shortening to nondairy butter, so I’d start with that. The milk shouldn’t be a problem. Just steer away from nonfat dairy free milk.

  • Socalmama3

    Thank you for this recipe!  Looks amazing and my daughter can have all the ingredients! Yay!
    I have a question I’ve not been able to find the answer to in your blog or your book (which I got as a Christmas present from my son).  In your DIY Better Batter flour recipe, the link for the pectin is not working.  What brand of pectin do you use?  I bought Solgar apple pectin at the health food store.  Can I use that?  It’s less expensive than the pectin in the packets for jellies (I think the brand is Pomona).   Anxious to start baking your recipes.  Thanks in advance!

  • Lorraine

    Nicole, if I weren’t clogged up with a brand-new-for-the-New-Year cold, I would sing the praises of you and your cookbooks! I have both and I cannot praise them enough! I’m going to make this delicious frosting for this weekend’s Birthday Party for two old codgers …. a.k.a. dear old friends. One of them is gluten-free so he is gonna flip! I’m planning on making your Twinkie cupcakes as well.. YUM-O!

  • Nicole Reed

    What makes this better than a regular buttercream? Is it just because its light and fluffy instead of dense?

This recipe was brought to you by Nicole Hunn of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring:
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