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Buttercream frosting is great for decorating cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. However, if you are not careful with the buttercream frosting recipe, then it may turn out grainy or hard. If this happens to your icing, I am going to provide some tips that can help fix it.
As a general rule, buttercream frosting will become grainy if you use unsifted powdered sugar. This type of sugar contains cornstarch which absorbs the liquids inside the mixture if it’s not thoroughly ground. Once the liquids get absorbed, they will form small clumps that will make the icing grainy.
I have also had my buttercream frosting turn out grainy and hard, so I understand how frustrating it can be. Learning how to fix and prevent grainy buttercream frosting enabled me to create a smooth frosting that works on almost every one of my cakes!
Why is My Buttercream Not Smooth?
Your buttercream is not smooth because you have used unsifted powdered sugar, or your butter wasn’t softened. Unsifted powdered sugar will have clumps while hard butter will attract the powdered sugar to create large chunks within the mixture.
These are the two major reasons why your buttercream frosting will turn out hard or grainy
*By the way, I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting is So Runny. This article talks about how to fix runny frosting by making it thicker. You can check out this article here!
Let’s explore some more reasons for grainy buttercream frosting…
You Used Unsifted Powdered Sugar
In my experience, the most common reason for grainy buttercream frosting is that you used unsifted powdered sugar or did not sift it thoroughly enough. This will cause your icing to have air bubbles and become lumpy.
I always recommend using a fine mesh sifter, which helps make sure there are no clumps of sugar in your powdered sugar when mixing with the butter.
*By the way, if you’re looking for a great Sifter to break down the clumps in your dry ingredients, I found the perfect Baking Sieve Cup Stainless Steel Sifter. This sifter is great because it can sift through large amounts of dry ingredients at a much faster rate than regular handheld sifters. You can check out this Sifter Sieve Cup on Amazon!
You Used Low-Fat Butter or Margarine with an Extended Shelf Life
I have had grainy buttercream frosting before because of ingredients that were not stored in proper conditions. When using unsalted sweet cream butter, you need to keep it cold at all times, and when storing your powdered sugar, make sure that it is in a cool dark place.
Make sure to soften your butter before using it for frosting since hard butter can create big clumps within the mixture.
Butter with extended shelf life or margarine does not perform as well for buttercream frosting because it has more water and less fat in the ingredients, which means your icing will be softer when you add it to your buttercream recipe.
You Used Icing That is Too Soft
Icing that is too soft can also cause air bubbles and a grainy texture to your buttercream frosting. This will make the mixture harder with small lumps.
If you have this problem, then I recommend putting the icing in the fridge for 15 minutes before using or adding more sugar if needed.
Your Butter Wasn’t Softened
This is another major reason for grainy or lumpy buttercream frosting. When you are mixing your icing, the cold chunks of butter need to be able to blend together with the powdered sugar and liquid ingredients, which is where a stand mixer comes in handy because it can help fix this problem as well as mix everything properly.
*By the way, I wouldn’t be able to fix my runny buttercream frosting if I didn’t have the right type of mixer. For this situation, I used a 5-Speed Electric Hand Mixer which can get the job done! You can check out the Hand Mixer I use on Amazon!
Can You Fix Grainy Buttercream?
As a general rule, you can fix grainy buttercream by mixing it for 2 minutes more in a stand mixer. This will help dissolve the clumps to make the frosting smooth and creamy. Another option would be to add more liquid ingredients like milk or cream, especially if your buttercream is too grainy.
*Side Note: I recently wrote an article about How To Properly Store Leftover Buttercream Frosting. This article talks about the right ways to store and freeze buttercream frosting to make it last. You can check out this article here!
Mix The Frosting More
Besides the reasons mentioned above, clumps often occur when you stop mixing too early. If you stop too early, the ingredients will not thoroughly combine.
You may want to mix your buttercream frosting until it is smooth. To do this, I recommend using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer on high speed for about two minutes! Check the frosting again and continue if needed.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting Became Curdled. This article breaks down how to fix and prevent your buttercream frosting from becoming curdled. You can check out this article here!
Add Some Milk
Milk always does it for me. If your frosting is lumpy or grainy, then add some milk to it, one tablespoon at a time, until the consistency becomes smooth.
I would start with two tablespoons and see how that turns out before adding more if needed.
Put Your Buttercream In The Fridge Before Using It
Putting your frosting in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes can also help fix grainy icing because it will cool down everything and give you some time to whip up anything that is lumpy.
At this point, I recommend only mixing at medium speed when your butter is cold. You can also consider mixing the cold frosting by hand!
*By the way, you might also want to know How To Mix Batter Without a Mixer. I recently wrote an article talking about The Right Ways of Mixing Batter By Hand, which you can check out here!
Give It Time To Rest
If you used unsifted powdered sugar in your frosting, you can leave it overnight to give the powdered sugar crystals to melt. You will then whip it some more at a slow speed to get it smooth.
This option is for bakers that are particularly not in a big hurry
How Do You Make Buttercream Icing Smooth?
As a general rule, you can make buttercream icing smooth by using softened butter and well-sifted powdered sugar. This will prevent big chunky clumps in your buttercream mixture by keeping it smooth. Also, be sure to whip your buttercream properly.
Check out this video for fixing grainy frosting:
*Side Note: I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting is So Shiny. This article talks about how to fix shiny frosting by making it less greasy. You can check out this article here!
Use Softened Butter
I have learned that the key to having smooth buttercream frosting is using softened or room temperature unsalted sweet cream butter.
If your butter is cold and hard, then it will not mix properly and could cause the icing to become grainy.
Make Sure You Use Sifted Powdered Sugar
Sifting ensures that there are no clumps of powdered sugar in your mixture, which will help create smooth buttercream frosting.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article about Fixing Separated Buttercream Frosting. This article talks about why your buttercream frosting gets separated as well as why the color added into the frosting sometimes gets separated. You can check out this article here!
Make Sure You Use Fresh Ingredients
Not using fresh ingredients can cause your buttercream frosting to become lumpy, which is why I always recommend replacing all of the liquid ingredients every six months.
If there are any solids that have gone bad, then this will also affect how smooth it comes out when making your icing. For instance, if there is any liquid that has gone bad, then it will change the texture of the frosting which will make it look lumpy or not smooth at all.
Add A Little Bit of Shortening
Shortening helps with making your buttercream frosting smooth. To do this, I recommend adding a tablespoon at a time until it is the consistency you want to achieve.
Whip In An Electric Mixer Until Smooth
You want to whip slowly at first and gradually increase your speed until it is smooth. Monitor the mixture closely and stop before it gets too thin.
I recently wrote an article that talks about Does Wattage Matter In A Stand Mixer where I explain all you need to know about wattage in stand mixers. You can check this article here!
How Long Should I Beat My Buttercream?
As a general rule, 3-4 minutes is a good amount of time to beat your buttercream to create the smooth and creamy frosting. If the buttercream is still grainy, you can mix the frosting for an additional 2 minutes on high speed to thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
Properly beaten buttercream should melt on your tongue when you give it a taste. It shouldn’t feel dense or heavy in any way. To achieve this, you want to beat it for about 3-4 minutes after adding the butter or shortening.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article about Fixing Lumpy Buttercream Frosting. This article breaks down why your frosting might have lumps in it as well as how to fix and prevent lumpy frosting. You can check out this article here!
How to fix grainy American buttercream?
As a whole, you can fix grainy American buttercream by adding more liquid to melt the sugar. Adding more liquid will help the grainy buttercream dissolve and become smooth. Make sure to use correct ratios of liquid to dry ingredients by following the recipe precisely.
How to dissolve granulated sugar in frosting?
As a general rule, you can dissolve granulated sugar in frosting by adding more liquid and allowing it to melt. Adding more liquids will help dissolve the sugar to make the frosting smooth. Leave the frosting to rest for an hour or so before using the buttercream again.
Why is my icing gritty?
As a whole, icing will become gritty if it’s not properly mixed. Mix the icing for at least 3-4 minutes to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Make sure to use correct ratios of liquid to dry ingredients by following the recipe precisely.
How to fix grainy cream cheese frosting?
As a general rule, you can fix grainy cream cheese frosting by adding 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Whip the mixture again for 2 minutes on high speed and let it rest for a while. This will help the heavy cream incorporate itself with the rest of the ingredients.
How to fix gritty swiss meringue buttercream?
As a whole, you can fix gritty swiss meringue buttercream by adding more liquid ingredients. Adding more liquid will help the gritty meringue dissolve and become smooth. Make sure to give the buttercream some time to rest to fully combine all ingredients.
Frosting can potentially be added to almost any dessert and will give them great flavor and taste. Perfecting your buttercream frosting is any baker’s dream and will require lots of practice to master.
Fixing and preventing grainy buttercream frosting is one of the first lessons I’ve learned in perfecting my frosting. It has saved me countless hours of remaking frosting from scratch. I hope that with the details provided above, you too will be able to perfect your frosting!