Ermine Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Ermine Icing

I’ve been bombarded with requests – and rightly so! – for this ermine frosting since posting it in stories last night. Honestly, my world has forever changed. I’m what you might call a frosting fanatic – the one who seeks out the corner piece with the most flowers it can structurally tolerate – and yet it can be altogether too much sweet. Enter Ermine: an old-school frosting that was apparently the original frosting paired with red velvet cakes—the somewhat unorthodox method of boiling milk and flour into a thick, pasty pudding and then spooning congealed blobs into whipped butter and sugar miraculously produces an over-the-top smooth and fluffy, not-too sweet frosting that’s a dream to work with. I know, it doesn’t sound delicious. But it is.

I used a ratio I found in the New York Times as a starting point, and added cocoa from there to make it chocolate. As with other frostings, you could play around with flavoured extracts, instant coffee or citrus zest to create different flavours.

Honestly, look at this! It holds up well, and was just as soft this morning, without splitting or going greasy or weird in any way. Try not to think about it, because it doesn’t make sense that boiled flour + milk + butter + sugar should turn into this. It just does.

Ermine Frosting


Ermine frosting

5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar (yes-regular granulated sugar)
1/4–1/3 cup cocoa (if you want chocolate frosting)


In a medium saucepan, whisk the flour and milk over medium-high heat until it bubbles and thickens—it will resemble thick, pasty pudding. Stir in the vanilla, scrape it into a bowl and set it aside to cool, with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent it from getting a skin.


In a large bowl (a stand mixer works well here), beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the cooled milk mixture in spoonfuls, whipping for a good 5 minutes or so, until the mixture resembles whipped cream. (If the sugar is still a bit grainy, keep on whipping until it isn’t.) If you want chocolate frosting, add the cocoa and whip until it’s well-incorporated.



 5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
 1 cup milk
 1 tsp vanilla
 1 cup butter, at room temperature
 1 cup sugar (yes-regular granulated sugar)
 1/4–1/3 cup cocoa (if you want chocolate frosting)



In a medium saucepan, whisk the flour and milk over medium-high heat until it bubbles and thickens—it will resemble thick, pasty pudding. Stir in the vanilla, scrape it into a bowl and set it aside to cool, with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent it from getting a skin.


In a large bowl (a stand mixer works well here), beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the cooled milk mixture in spoonfuls, whipping for a good 5 minutes or so, until the mixture resembles whipped cream. (If the sugar is still a bit grainy, keep on whipping until it isn’t.) If you want chocolate frosting, add the cocoa and whip until it’s well-incorporated.

Ermine Frosting

About Julie

55 comments on “Ermine Frosting

  1. Penny Wolf
    March 19, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    I have adored this frosting since the 70’s when I learned of it. Guess what? There are cream cheese versions that are to die for too.
    Everything old is new again LOL!

    • Julie
      March 22, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Oh yes, I’ve seen some cream cheese versions floating around!

  2. Carol S-B
    March 19, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    ZOMG, I remember using a similar recipe, published in The Calgary Herald as a frosting from Jeannie’s bakery in YWG. I am so glad you gave us this one, Julie! The one I lost used icing sugar instead of butter, and I like this so much better.
    This, THIS is what my kitchenaid was made for. Thank you! So many birthday cakes will be their best selves.

    • Julie
      March 22, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Icing sugar instead of butter! not with butter? how did it work?

      • Carol S-B
        March 27, 2019 at 4:47 pm

        Ahhh, that was a I.D. 10-T keyboard interface error… meant to say, “Icing sugar instead of granulated”.

      • Julie
        March 29, 2019 at 10:39 am

        Sorry I can’t see what comment you’re referring to? But to confirm, this is made with regular granulated sugar, not icing sugar!

  3. Debbie Mccarrick
    March 19, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    When do you add the vanilla?

    • Julie
      March 22, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Oh sorry! whenever! 🙂

  4. Mar
    March 20, 2019 at 4:51 am

    My mom has a carrot cake recipe with this frosting which she got in the early 60’s! I am now 60 and make that recipe often. Best frosting ever!

    • Julie
      March 22, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Ooh yes, that sounds about right!

  5. Joanna L
    March 20, 2019 at 8:06 am

    A word from the wise – this frosting is really stable, especially if you are going somewhere warm. It won’t melt in the sun like other frostings, because of the flour mix. However, it’s not indestructible. I made it to cover my wedding cake (a frosted fruitcake, not a big elaborate typical chocolate or carrot thing), and mixed up a batch the day before. The plan was to transport the cake, frosting and decorative flowers separate, and frost it on site. When I went to stir the frosting, which had been sitting in the fridge for a day, it separated! I couldn’t get it to come back together. One quick trip the the grocery store later and that’s how my wedding cake was frosted with Duncan Hines french vanilla frosting. So, don’t leave the frosting to sit.

    • Julie
      March 22, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Ha! what a great story! and thanks for the advice!

    • Oven Giggles
      August 6, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      So this has happened to me before. What I found was that once the frosting hits room temperature, you have to rewhip it to get the texture back to smooth. If you just stir it, it will look like it curdled. I hope this helped anyone for the future.

  6. Wendy
    March 21, 2019 at 6:00 am

    My mother made a similar frosting to frost her German tortes, (what I wouldn’t give for another slice of her tortes) she used butter, icing sugar and Dr. Oetker pudding, no flour. She made the pudding the day before, on the thicker side, and covered it with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form. Let it sit in the fridge and then the next day, mix it all together.

    • Julie
      March 22, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Whoah, sounds fascinating!

  7. Ian
    March 27, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Hi Julie , I feel silly asking this question , but here it goes . So many recipes that contain milk just say milk. I only buy skim and on occasion 1% . I have a feeling this recipe would benefit from a higher fat content milk or would it still work with skim. Thanks for all the great content on this blog.

    • Julie
      March 29, 2019 at 10:38 am

      Ha – great question. I’d think it would still work, as it’s simmered into a sort of a pudding with the flour. I still forget that skim milk exists!

    • Judy L
      November 25, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      I use 2% and it doesn’t affect the roux. As for the finished product, the butter more than makes up for the milk’s lower fat content 🙂

      • Julie
        November 26, 2019 at 7:45 pm

        Good to know!

  8. Jen S
    March 28, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Hi Julie,
    My mom has made this icing for my birthday cake for most of my life. I am about to turn 40. It will be made once again! Love it. Thanks!!
    P.S. you did a great job at the word fest event this week!! What an awesome event!

    • Julie
      March 29, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Amazing, I can’t believe I’ve never tried it! And thanks – it was such a fun event!

  9. geometry dash
    March 31, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    This looks like something my kids would love!

  10. Louise
    April 10, 2019 at 9:55 am

    This icing is an absolute MUST for angel food cakes!

    • Julie
      April 13, 2019 at 11:31 am

      Oh yes, it would be so light and perfect!

  11. Marilyn Noble
    April 21, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Finally tried a batch on a small chocolate cake today for Easter dinner. Fantastic! The icing was almost better than the cake! I made it yesterday, frosted the cake and left it in the fridge until today with no problems. Only downside – my cake icing/decorating needs work!

    • Julie
      April 21, 2019 at 9:04 pm

      Ooh, good to know! thanks!!

  12. JoAnne Ronning
    May 11, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Does this cover a single or layered cake?

    • Julie
      May 11, 2019 at 8:29 pm

      Should be enough for a double!

  13. Jenna
    May 15, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Can you freeze this and use it if you just rewhip before you frost?

    • Julie
      May 16, 2019 at 12:21 pm

      I don’t know – I suspect it would go funny!

      • Anonymous
        May 23, 2019 at 4:00 pm

        I tried freezing and it definitely made it look and feel funny ?

      • Julie
        May 29, 2019 at 10:43 am

        Oh yes, I imagine it would!

  14. Vivian
    June 6, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Years ago Edmonton had a great little café called the “Europa” on 118th
    Ave. I asked the chef what made his torte frosting so good, creamy and not so sugary sweet. He said it was made with pudding! He was Swiss-trained, so could this maybe also be known as Swiss Buttercream?

    • Lyn
      October 3, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      No. This is what’s known as cooked flour frosting. Swiss buttercream, like Italian and French buttercream, is meringue based.

  15. Trysh
    July 17, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    I’ve found many yummy icing/ frosting recipes that I’m going to try , this one being at the top. Sounds delicious !! But I actually came across this while looking for an icing my grandmother used to make. I don’t remember the icing but, my mother and her siblings do. They get excited every time they see a homemade cake and ask “ is that’s Mom’s sticky icing?” I’m not sure of anything else other than they all wants “Mom’s homemade sticky icing “. Can you point me in the right direction?

  16. Carol
    September 23, 2019 at 9:33 am

    This is my favorite icing. It’s the icing my Mama always used for her red velvet cakes, and so have I. Cream cheese frosting belongs on carrot cakes; Ermine belongs on red velvet

    But I never thought about putting chocolate into it. What a wonderful idea!

    • Julie
      September 30, 2019 at 7:45 pm

      Yes, it’s so delicious! So glad to have stumbled upon it!

  17. Lyn
    October 3, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    The trick to a really smooth cooked flour (Ermine) frosting is to dissolve the sugar in the milk/flour mixture just as it starts to get warm but before it starts to thicken. This eliminates any chance of the graininess that can come from using cane sugar.

  18. Kristy
    October 5, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    Can I use melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder?

    • Julie
      October 8, 2019 at 11:37 am

      Melted chocolate has a different texture, so it may work, but may change the finished texture somewhat..

  19. Nancy
    November 8, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    I have had success cooking the sugar with the milk and flour. There is a lot of room to play with this recipe – I have added raspberry juice to the custard and made an amazing topping for chocolate cupcakes! Also used coconut milk in place of regular milk, added a few drops of coconut flavouring while beating in the butter, and put that topping on some lime cupcakes! Virtually any flavour and/or colour can be added – the sky’s the limit! Oh – almost forgot – peanut butter too!

  20. Julie M
    November 21, 2019 at 9:00 am

    One of the things I really love about this frosting is that it is by far the most customizable buttercream. You can directly infuse any flavours you want without having to rely on extracts while making the pudding. The additional liquid content doesn’t really affect the final product as it is incorporated into the pudding anyways.

    This icing doesn’t really rely on the sugar for leavening either. You can absolutely use alternative sweeteners for this. I made a version with xylitol for my dad who has diabetes.

    Imagine that! Sugar free buttercream!

    • Julie
      November 22, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      Wow, great to know!

  21. Dana
    December 8, 2019 at 3:39 am

    Will reducing the sugar affect the stability of the frosting?

    • ara
      January 7, 2020 at 10:17 am

      If you can replace the sugar with xylitol, I don’t think reducing the sugar will affect it’s stability. Ermine recipes aren’t sweet though. More buttery than sweet.

  22. Debbie
    January 27, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    Any suggestions on how to make this a brown sugar/cinnamon flavor?

    • Julie
      January 28, 2020 at 3:45 pm

      Hmm… I’ve never tried it, so wouldn’t want to advise without knowing if it will work!

  23. Julee Miller
    April 2, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Yes, brown sugar Ermine is an absolute delight. It tastes almost like caramel whipped cream that you wouldn’t get sick of eating. Sub the same amount of brown sugar for the white.

    A blend of pastry cream (pudding) and butter is German Buttercream! Also delicious.

  24. Kandy
    April 3, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    Has anyone tried using melted chocolate in place of the cocao power to make the chocolate version? Wondering if that would make the frosting too greasy or wet with the extra moisture/fat content.

  25. Anonymous
    May 19, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    Is this dutched cocoa or natural cocoa?

  26. Karen
    June 20, 2020 at 6:43 am

    I am going to frost my cake the day before, do I need to refrigerate the frosted cake overnight?

    • Julie
      July 8, 2020 at 4:19 pm

      I’m not sure, to be honest.. I’ve never stored it overnight, but I’d refrigerate it if I was going to!

  27. Brenda
    June 28, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    The vanilla version of this is in your Gatherings cookbook, but the recipe comes from Jan Scott. She uses almost the same amounts, but with 2 cups of icing sugar. It is the best icing ever and I have had to adapt it to dairy free. I use dairy free margarine and soymilk, if you can believe it. I am sure the original version tastes a bit better but it is nice that it can be adapted to suit vegans or people who are allergic to dairy. I was trying to find a chocolate version and stumbled across this one here! So funny because I was confused that you hadn’t tried it, even though it was in your cookbook. Then I realized it was a recipe from a section that Jan had written. A while ago, I made this icing, had a brain-fart and forgot to refrigerate the roux before adding the rest of the ingredients in. It was very soupy and could not be saved. I will now, always remember to refrigerate before continuing with the recipe! Sorry to ramble!

    • Julie
      July 8, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      Ha funny! Yes we did separate recipes! and she’s in Toronto so we didn’t get to try each other’s!

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