Food & Drink

Buttercream Icing

Makes about 3 cups

Icing is the key to the cake, whether it's a three-tier wedding masterpiece or cupcakes for kids. And homemade is best. While it's possible to do basic stars and drop flowers from canned grocery store icing, it simply won't look as nice.

This recipe is from Wilton.


½ cup solid vegetable shortening

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

4 cups sifted confectioners sugar (about 1 pound)

2 tablespoons milk or water


In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored two weeks. Rewhip before using.

Notes: While using butter makes a tastier frosting, it's often too soft to use for decorating. Use all shortening for more reliable results. Also, using milk sometimes creates odd results when you color the icing, particularly with blue or purple. Water works best. For thin consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk. Corn syrup works best. Thin icing is used to ice the cake or for writing and string work. For strings or writing, add a small amount of piping gel (available at cake supply stores) so the lines of icing won't break. Thin consistency icing looks like a melted chocolate chip when piped.

Medium consistency is used for most border, drop flowers and stars. This recipe is for medium consistency, which produces a smooth ball with a slight peak when piped.

For stiff consistency, omit butter. Stiff icing is for complex flowers, such as roses. Stiff consistency icing comes to a peak when piped.