How To Thicken Frosting in 5 Simple Ways

I am up for baking cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday. I have made frosting for some birthday cakes before, but this time I want it to be a bit fancier. My little one loves cupcakes with swirling colorful frosting on top. Hence, I need to make a denser frosting to make it easy for me to think of a design.

Do you know how to thicken frosting? I have five simple ways to do it and solve the problem of runny or soggy frosting. I bet you are now thinking on how to make cupcakes fun for the kids, and the kids at heart!

Five Simple Ways to Thicken Frosting

You do not need to be an expert in decorating cupcakes to do the frosting. How was your first try of making these sweet and yummy delights? Mine was a little soggy at first, but as I learned the tricks on how to make it firm, there is no limit on what I would like to create. As soon as I have managed to perfect my frostings consistency, making it is indeed a piece of cake!

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1. Thicken your frosting with cornstarch

As my kids would say, “Cupcakes aren’t real without frosting!” Therefore, I tried hard to come up with a smooth, thick, and spreadable kind of icing (another term for frosting). Do you know that powdered sugar often used for frosting already has cornstarch with it? When your frosting is too thin, you can thicken it with the use of additional cornstarch.

What you will need:

  • Cornstarch
  • Electric Grinder
  • Teaspoon
  • Whisk or Mixer

What to do?

  • Pour 2 teaspoons of cornstarch into your electric grinder and pulse to grind until it appears like soft powder.
  • When it is ready, scoop a ½ teaspoon of the cornstarch to your runny frosting, before whisking it. Using an electric mixer is convenient too.
  • While mixing, you can add ½ teaspoon gradually until all the cornstarch dissolves. 

Two teaspoons of cornstarch is a good start. As long as you mix it gradually to your frosting, it will be fine. However, the amount of cornstarch will depend on how much frosting you made. If you made plenty, two spoons of cornstarch might not be enough.

Make sure to add cornstarch slowly, ½ tsp. at a time, until you reach the frosting consistency, you desire.

Read more: How to choose the best wooden spoon


2. Thicken your frosting with sugar

A cake with a runny frosting is never appealing. In fact, it is lifeless. Cake decorators can suggest different ways to fix it. Adding sugar to thicken a naughty frosting is one of them. I usually do this either with a mixer or just a bowl and spatula.

What you will need:

  • Sugar
  • Bowl
  • Electronic Mixer
  • Spatula

What to do?

  • Using a mixer is the quickest way to fix a soggy frosting. Just put all the frosting inside the mixer and add in the sugar. I suggest adding it in gradually, pulsing the mixer every after each addition. Do the same step until it reaches the consistency you need. This method is suitable when you are in a hurry, and you have made a huge batch of soggy frosting.
  • Since I started using frosting for our daily cake cravings, I only make a batch good enough for the day’s consumption. Hence, a bowl and spatula are practical. Just put the frosting inside the bowl and add the sugar bit by bit while mixing it well using the spatula. Do the same until you observe the frosting beginning to look firm.


3. Thicken your frosting with heavy cream

Since frosting is already sweet, adding sugar may be effective to thicken the frosting. However, for the health conscious who controls sugar intake for kids, and for those that are at risk of high sugar level, they look for other alternatives. Therefore, I suggest using heavy whipping cream instead.

What you will need:

  • Heavy cream
  • Measuring spoon
  • Mixer
  • Whisk

What to do?

  • Pour your frosting inside a mixer.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of heavy cream and whip it until it appears thick and frothy. If needed, you may add the heavy cream one tbsp. at a time for easier monitoring of consistency. 

Using a whisk is much easier for me though (for a small amount of frosting), and I believe that it is more effective considering that I can closely monitor the consistency than using a mixer. Just beat by hand, until it is thicker than before. Do you know that the heavy whipping cream will not only thicken the frosting but also makes it lighter, softer, and fluffier?

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4. Thicken your frosting with gelatin

Do you know that gelatin is a thickening agent? You can find it inside marshmallows and jelly sweets you buy at the stores. They are usually in packs with different flavors and may come instant or needs boiling. I suggest using the clear (or plain) gelatin so that it will not affect the color of your frosting.

If you have not tried making gelatins, here is a video showing you how.

What you will need:

  • Newly mixed gelatin (make sure it hasn’t set yet) still in a liquid state

What to do?

  • After making the gelatin (as the video shows), pour it into the frosting that you made. Stir it well until both are thoroughly mixed.
  • Chill the frosting into the fridge to thicken.

Using instant gelatin (the type that only needs cold water) is a lot easier. You can mix a small amount with cold water bit by bit, and gradually mix it with the frosting. This way, you can see the change of the consistency closely. I advise doing this quick before the rest of your gelatin solidify.

5. Thicken your frosting with shredded coconut

Take note that this method is only applicable if your frosting is coconut flavor. Otherwise, the coconut taste and aroma will conflict with your existing flavor.

What you will need:

  • A pack of shredded coconut

What to do?

  • Just add a tablespoon of shredded coconut to your bowl of frosting, gradually. Make sure to mix well every after addition. Do this until the frosting thickens.

Here is a video about how to make cooked flour frosting:

The different types of frosting:

You have learned different ways on how to thicken the frosting. At least, next time you make your frosting runny, there is no need to worry. The frosting is fine to be thin when all you have to do is glazing.

Nevertheless, cakes and cupcakes are more tempting when looking colorful and fancy. That is why thick frosting is necessary. Therefore, the consistency of your frosting will depend on the type of frosting you mean to make. The weather and the ingredients are the common reasons why frosting comes out runny.

Here are the different types of frosting that you may make for every occasion.

  • Cream Cheese Frosting: The method of adding sugar to thicken is applicable. You may have over-softened your cream cheese resulting in the runny frosting.
  • Whipped Cream Frosting: Adding cornstarch to thicken it would work. Ensure to chill the whipping cream before you whip it.
  • American Buttercream Frosting: The usual cause of a runny buttercream frosting is too much milk. Add sugar to thicken it.
  • Royal Icing: Do you find your royal icing too thin? The trick is to add sugar to make it thick. You may want to add more meringue powder if you do not like the frosting to become very sweet.

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Some points to remember:

  • The newly made frosting is usually runny especially if it is still a bit hot. Give it time to set. When after some time it is still the same, then you can start finding a way to thicken it.
  • Butter base and whip cream frosting, it will become runny if exposed to heat. It is advisable to keep it in the fridge.
  • Wait for the cornstarch to cool down before mixing it to the frosting. Otherwise, it will melt the butter and make your problem worse.
  • The trick there is to add gradually the ingredient to reach the consistency you need for your frosting.

My Final Thoughts

It is true that your cupcakes or cakes are not interesting no matter how delicious it may be if there is no frosting. Learning how to make frosting is necessary for a perfect food presentation too. Do you know now how to thicken your frosting? Depending on the type of frosting you are making, the different ways that I have suggested are effective.

Just make sure to use the right method for the right type of frosting. Follow precisely the instructions when making your frosting to prevent it from being runny. Even though you already know how to fix it, in doing so, you will save effort, time, and ingredients. So, how about that?

Are you ready for your cupcake party?

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