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Throughout my years of baking, I’ve had my fair share of problems with my buttercream frosting being runny. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong to make the frosting runny but with proper experimentation, I have found the perfect method for achieving thick frosting consistency every time!
As a general rule, buttercream frosting is runny because of using an excess amount of milk or any other liquid ingredient. The more liquid you have, the runnier the frosting will become. Higher room temperatures can also lead to runny frosting.
If you have ever had a problem with your buttercream frosting being too runny, then you came to the right place. Learning how to fix and prevent runny buttercream frosting has saved me a lot of time when baking cakes. I will go over how to thicken up your buttercream frosting so that it is a perfect consistency.
Why is My Buttercream So Runny?
As a whole, using too many liquid ingredients, such as milk, is the most common cause of runny buttercream frosting. Excess liquid in the frosting will water down the buttercream and make it runny. Ensure that you use the right quantity of liquids to achieve the desired frosting consistency.
While I like to do my mixing by hand, I much rather prefer using a Stand Mixer instead. I recently wrote an article that talks about the 3 Best Stand Mixers that bakers can buy in each stage of their baking journey. After reviewing a few stand mixers, the Best Overall Mixer was the KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer. You can check out this stand mixer on Amazon!
You Used Too Much Milk
Using more milk (or any other liquid ingredient) than is necessary is among the top reasons why your buttercream frosting becomes runny.
Using too much liquid will water down your frosting causing it to remain in a liquid form without solidifying to the desired consistency.
The Temperature is Too High
Baking in a hot kitchen or when it’s hot outside can cause your buttercream frosting to become runny. Be sure to bring the temperature down before you start baking.
Some people live in a very humid and hot environment. When the temperature is hot and humid, it gives your buttercream frosting a higher chance to become runny.
You Used Buttercream That’s Too Warm
This is another common reason why your buttercream frosting becomes runny. I have had this happen on many occasions.
If you are not sure if your buttercream is too warm, feel the bottom of the bowl it’s in and see how much warmth is coming from it.
Make sure it’s at room temperature before using it
You Didn’t Follow the Recipe Instructions
One of the most important things when baking is to strictly follow the recipe instructions. If you do not, then the results will not be what is expected, and your buttercream frosting may become runny.
*Follow your recipe’s ratios of dry to liquid ingredients*
*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!
How to Prevent Runny Frosting?
To prevent runny frosting, do not use more milk than is necessary. Using an excessive amount of milk in the frosting will prevent it from solidifying. Make sure to follow the recipe liquid ratios precisely. Also, make sure your buttercream isn’t too warm and the room temperature is not too high.
Mix in More Shortening or Butter
This is a good way to prevent your buttercream frosting from becoming runny. To achieve a thicker consistency, you can add more shortening or butter to the recipe and mix well.
Since shortening and butter provide more solid fats, they can thicken your buttercream frosting!
*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!
Keeping your liquids such as milk cold will prevent them from watering down your buttercream frosting too much. I have noticed that keeping all the ingredients in the refrigerator before adding them to the frosting mix is also recommended.
*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!
Don’t Bake in Hot Temperatures
As noted earlier, baking in a hot kitchen or at temperatures that are too high can cause your buttercream frosting to become runny.
So I suggest making buttercream frosting during cooler times of the day and when it’s not so warm outside. I usually turn on the air conditioner in my house before making something as delicate as buttercream frosting.
Use the Right Quantity of Liquid Ingredients
This is perhaps the most important thing to do to prevent your buttercream frosting from becoming runny. Using the right amount of liquids will ensure that your buttercream is not watered down too much and stays thick enough to hold its shape.
Do Not Overbeat The Mixture
You want to mix your buttercream until it is thick and fluffy. When the buttercream becomes thicker, it’s more likely to retain its shape and not become runny.
However, overbeating the frosting can cause it to deflate while losing its thickness, so make sure you do not overbeat the mixture so that it doesn’t become runny.
*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!
How to Thicken Buttercream Frosting?
As a general rule, you can thicken your runny buttercream frosting by sprinkling some powdered sugar on it. The sugar will absorb some of the liquid in the frosting so that it thickens. You can also use cornstarch or meringue powder to absorb the excess liquids on the frosting.
*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!
Add Some More Powdered Sugar
I have found this to be among the easiest ways to thicken your buttercream frosting. Just add some more powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time and mix well after each addition until you achieve the desired consistency. However, you want to make sure you don’t sweeten the frosting too much.
Since buttercream frosting is supposed to be sweet, I didn’t find this to be much of an issue. Just make sure to taste the frosting with every spoon of powdered sugar added!
Add Some Cornstarch
When my frosting is already fairly sweet, cornstarch has always come to my rescue. Add about 0.5-1 tablespoon of cornstarch into your bowl with the buttercream frosting and mix well. However, be sure not to add too much cornstarch as it can give your frosting an unpleasant starchy flavor.
*By the way, you might also want to know If Baking Powder Can Replace Cornstarch. I recently wrote an article about Cornstarch Substitutes That Work. You can find this article here!
Chill the Frosting in the Fridge
This is another hack I have used to thicken my buttercream frosting. Just put the whisked buttercream bowl into the fridge for about 15 minutes or so and check on it every five minutes until you achieve the desired consistency.
Doing this will help stiffen up your buttercream frosting if you end up making it on a warm day.
*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!
Slightly Extend the Mixing Time
You may want to mix the frosting for some time to get a thicker consistency. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it works very well. Try mixing the mixture for about one minute or so longer than what is indicated in your recipe to achieve a thicker consistency.
Add Some Meringue Powder
Meringue powder has always worked for me when I didn’t want to use cornstarch or powdered sugar. The powder is made from sugar, egg white, and gum. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the powder into your bowl with the buttercream frosting and mix well to achieve a thicker consistency.
*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!
What Makes Different Frostings Runny?
Different frostings become runny due to a variety of reasons, including using too much cream, over-softening cream cheese, overbeating the mixture, or using more egg white than necessary.
Here is a list of different frosting types and why they could be runny:
|Different Frosting Types||Why It’s Runny|
|Whipped Cream Frosting||Whipped cream is too warm|
|Cream Cheese Frosting||The cream cheese is too soft|
|American Buttercream Frosting||Too many liquid ingredients|
|Vanilla Buttercream Frosting||Too many liquid ingredients|
|Meringue Buttercream Frosting||Not enough cornstarch|
|Royal Icing||Too much egg white|
Runny whipped cream frosting: You may have used whipping cream that’s too warm.
Cream cheese frosting: You over-softened your cream cheese.
Runny American buttercream frosting: This may be a result of using too many liquid ingredients, working in a hot kitchen, or overbeating the mixture.
Vanilla buttercream frosting: You may have added too many liquid ingredients or used a low-quality extract, which has high water content.
Meringue buttercream frosting: This can be caused by adding more sugar to the recipe than is needed and not enough cornstarch in your mixture.
Royal icing: You may have added too much egg white or not beaten it long enough to achieve a thick consistency.
*Side Note: I recently wrote an article that talks about Why Your Buttercream Frosting is So Grainy. This article talks about how to fix grainy frosting by making it smooth again. You can check out this article here!
How to Fix Frosting That is too Thick?
As a general rule, you can fix frosting that is too thick by adding some more liquid ingredients, such as milk. Adding in an ingredient that has a lower fat content will remove some of the frosting’s thickness. You may also use gelatin or melted chocolate to thin the buttercream frosting.
Add Some More Milk
Adding a little milk or cream to your frosting is a great way to thin it out. Just add one tablespoon at a time and mix well after each addition until you get the desired consistency.
Gelatin is another great option to thin out your buttercream frosting. Just add some gelatin one tablespoon at a time and mix well after each addition until you achieve the desired consistency. I have found this method works best if you are planning to use your frosting for cake pops or some other dry-baked good.
Use Some Melted Chocolate
Adding a few tablespoons of melted chocolate can help thin out your buttercream while adding an amazing flavor boost. Just be sure not to add too many liquid ingredients as it may completely ruin the consistency of your frosting.
Your buttercream frosting may be runny due to a number of reasons. Luckily, there is always a way to fix runny frosting. Adding some more powdered sugar, cornstarch, or even meringue powder may be a simple solution to your problem.
Getting the right consistency of frosting will give you the freedom to let your imagination run wild while decorating your cakes!