Store-bought frosting is a quick and easy solution when you’re in a time crunch. You can either buy it pre-made or quickly add water and whip it up.
The harsh price that you pay for this incredible convenience, however, is a compromise in taste and texture. Some store-bought icings taste like plastic or are way too sweet, or the consistency is just plain wrong! Is it still worth the buy?
Even if your store-bought frosting doesn’t turn out exactly how you’d like it to, don’t fret, as we have some fantastic solutions!
How can you make store-bought frosting better? If the frosting has a bad taste, you can try diluting the flavor with milk, vanilla essence, or another flavor of your choice. If it is too sweet, you can add unsweetened cream, salt, or lemon juice. You can even adjust the consistency with powdered sugar for thickening and milk for thinning.
In today’s jam-packed article, we will have a look at all the ways you can make store-bought frosting better. We will look at common problems such as lumpy frosting, frosting that is too thick or thin, and some flavor issues as well.
Store-bought frosting is a form of buttercream frosting that has already been mixed and made. It comes in several forms, but all of them are meant to be convenient.
The most common form of store-bought icing you can find is ready-to-use tubs. These have already been mixed with water, milk, or butter, and is ready to go.
It comes in tubs of varying sizes and has a very thick consistency. These icings also have a ton of stabilizers and preservatives that will help prolong their shelf life.
Sometimes, depending on how you plan to use the frosting, you may need to give it a quick whip to loosen it up.
These types of frostings can also be found in a wide variety of flavors.
There is also a powdered form, where a sachet has a mix of pre-measured and sifted powdered sugar (icing sugar), a stabilizer, some salt to enhance the flavor, and dehydrated essence for the specific flavor.
These flavors are often very artificial, especially because the powdered premix is made to have a long shelf life. Depending on the quality of the premix, that artificial flavor might be usable, or completely revolting.
The powdered buttercream icing pre-mix is very easy to make and mostly requires the addition of water, milk, or sometimes melted butter.
We would recommend milk above the others, as it won’t affect the texture but adds a fresher and creamier flavor that might hide the artificial flavors.
Problems With Store-Bought Frosting
No one can argue that store-bought frosting isn’t convenient. It is incredibly easy to make, and will ultimately save you a lot of time.
This is the dilemma, however: is it even worth it if the quality (both in taste and consistency) is bad?
Below is a list of all the common problems you may run into with store-bought frosting:
- Overly sweet
- Lumpy or grainy
- Flat, extremely dense
- Too runny
- Too thick
- Diluted flavor
- Diluted or wrong color
All these are everyday problems, but luckily, we come bearing solutions! After you’ve identified which problem you are dealing with, it is incredibly easy to fix.
How To Make Store-Bought Frosting Smooth
Like we have already mentioned, store-bought frosting comes in two forms: premade or powdered.
When mixing the powder with some milk or water, you will sometimes see that the frosting has a grainy look and feel to it.
This graininess is very difficult to fix after the frosting has been mixed, however not impossible. To prevent this problem entirely, it is best to sift the powdered mixture through a fine-meshed sieve before adding water or milk to it.
Even though this powder should have stabilizers that prevent it from creating lumps, it sometimes still happens under certain circumstances and ultimately causes a grainy frosting.
If you only notice the graininess after you’ve already mixed the frosting, there are a couple of ways you can try to save it, but unfortunately only to a certain extent.
The smaller the grains are, the more difficult it is to get rid of them all completely.
The first option and one you will see many people suggesting is to add more liquid. The addition of liquid like milk or water will help melt the sugar granules that form the lumps.
However, be extremely careful when doing so because your consistency will change. The more liquid you add, the softer and runnier your frosting will become.
Of course, this can be fixed again by adding more sieved powdered sugar. The other solution is to leave the frosting to rest for a few hours, preferably overnight.
This resting period gives the sugar lumps time to soften. Once whipped again, they’ll completely disintegrate. Of course, this will only work if you have time to spare.
Another option worth trying is adding melted chocolate (white, milk, or dark). The chocolate should be cooled before incorporating it. It helps mask the graininess more than it helps get rid of it.
Your last option is to pass the frosting through a fine-meshed strainer or sieve. A pasta colander won’t work, as the holes are too big – you need something that has tiny holes to get rid of the tiniest lumps.
Place about 2 heaped tablespoons of frosting in the sieve, then push it through using the back of a large metal spoon or tablespoon. Working in smaller batches like this will make the process more manageable.
This is a labor-intensive job, and you’ll lose some frosting in the process, but definitely a good last-ditch effort.
How To Make Store-Bought Frosting Fluffy
Nobody likes a stiff frosting. Buttercream frosting, especially, should be beautifully fluffy, like a cloud.
If you have followed the instructions on the package to the letter but your frosting is still stiff, here are some solutions you can try.
The traditional way to achieve a fluffy buttercream frosting is by whipping it for a long period of time.
If your consistency is correct but it’s simply too stiff, continue whipping it for at least 10 minutes. It will eventually become fluffy with enough patience.
If your mixture still doesn’t want to become fluffy, try this:
Whip together equal parts frosting and defrosted frozen whipped cream. The whipped cream will also increase in volume as it is whipped, creating a fluffier texture.
When using this method, remember that your frosting needs to be refrigerated at all times and will defrost at room temperature if kept out too long.
How To Make Store-Bought Frosting Less Sweet
One of the most common problems people have with store-bought frosting is that the flavor is sometimes far too sweet. This is due to the flavor enhancer in the mixes.
If you don’t want your guests scraping their frosting off of their cupcakes and into the dog’s mouth under the table, there are absolutely ways to fix this.
Many people will say to add more liquid, and although that is a very valid solution, adding too much liquid will change the consistency.
When adding liquid to make a less sweet frosting, add milk rather than water. Water doesn’t have any taste, whereas milk has a balancing effect that will also make the frosting creamier at the same time.
Using canned, unsweetened cream will have the same effect; adding creaminess while diluting the sweetness. Make sure the cream you use is unsweetened!
You can also add salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer and most store-bought frosting will already contain some. Now, before you think, “Flavor enhancer? Doesn’t that mean it will enhance the sweetness?”
Actually, no. Sweetness isn’t a flavor, but vanilla, chocolate, pineapple, bubble-gum, etc., are. The salt will enhance those flavors, and they will help cover up the sweetness.
You only need to add about 1/8 teaspoon of fine salt to one batch of frosting.
Alternatively, you can add an acidic liquid such as lemon or lime juice. Adding acid to sweetness automatically balances out the two flavors.
But, like with salt, don’t add too much, as it will alter the flavor. You can add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to a batch of frosting.
Another option is to add more flavoring essence. If you have a lavender frosting that is too sweet, you can add a drop or two of lavender extract or essence.
Of course, this solution works better with simpler flavors that you may already have, like vanilla extract or unsweetened cocoa powder.
Our last solution is to add cream cheese. Cream cheese has a very creamy and rich consistency and a very neutral, well-balanced, salty-sweet flavor. Adding some to your frosting will help the flavor and texture all at once!
Of course, you may have to melt your cream cheese to do this first, as it will blend in with the frosting mixture better this way. You can also choose to add whipped cream cheese for fluffier frosting.
How To Make Store-Bought Frosting Stiffer for Decorating
Adjusting the consistency of frosting is extremely easy, but can go very wrong very quickly.
If you’re decorating cookies, we recommend our recipe for buttercream frosting for cookies that hardens.
But if you insist on buying it at the store and improving it from there, the key to adjusting the consistency of store-bought frostings is to do it little by little.
Making drastic changes too suddenly will result in a ton of new problems like the frosting splitting or becoming too runny.
To make a frosting stiffer is easier than making it runny. Simply add more sieved powdered sugar to the frosting.
When doing so, don’t add it in a lump. Instead, dust the sieved icing over the frosting. This way you won’t get lumps as you add more powdered sugar.
Start by adding only ¼ cup of icing sugar at a time. Remember, overdoing it will cause drastic changes that might eventually become unfixable.
How To Make Store-Bought Frosting Pipeable
This is the opposite of the above problem. Sometimes you need a frosting that is softer and more workable. For example, to make a coating or simply to spread it easier.
This is where you need to work with a light hand. To make the frosting less stiff, you need to add liquid. This can be in the form of water, milk, cream, or juice.
We wouldn’t recommend water, as it doesn’t add anything to the mixture, whereas cream and milk adds creaminess, and juice adds flavor.
Add 1 teaspoon of liquid at a time to prevent your frosting from splitting. This happens if you add too much liquid too fast, and the sugar isn’t allowed enough time to absorb the liquid.
Fixing split frosting is a nightmare and nearly impossible, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Add liquid and mix for about 2-3 minutes before adding more. This is sufficient time for the mixture to show its true consistency.
Adding Flavor to Store-Bought Frosting
If you aren’t happy with the flavor of the original frosting, simply add a few drops of additional essence or extract of the same flavor or something that you know will complement and balance it.
If you have a chocolate frosting that’s too plain, for example, you may decide to add other flavors such as hazelnut, coffee, caramel, raspberry, or orange.
If you have a vanilla frosting you’re unsatisfied with, your options are nearly endless. You could add anything from nutty flavors like cinnamon and almond to floral flavors like lavender and rose.
This is an easy remedy for basic flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and lemon. However, for more difficult flavors, you might need to get creative.
You can always buy a similar extract like mango, strawberry, chocolate, or caramel, but you can also add those flavors in other ways.
If you need a more chocolatey flavor, add some melted chocolate or add chocolate chips or flakes. The chips and flakes only work if you are using the frosting for certain purposes, but it is a solution nevertheless.
You can also add juices to enhance fruity frosting flavors like apple, lemon, orange, and pineapple.
You get the picture; find creative ways to incorporate flavors without using extract. A pinch of salt will also help enhance the flavor, as we’ve already discussed.
Adding Color to Store-Bought Frosting
If you aren’t happy with the color, you can also add food-safe coloring.
If you have a mint-flavored frosting with a pale white color, you can make the frosting a light, fresh, mint green to add some visual interest. You can, of course, get creative with color for any flavor.
Fixing a yellowish store-bought frosting is very difficult, and your best bet would be to color the frosting to fit a theme.
When it comes to frostings that are already colored, especially dark colors like chocolate brown, it will be much harder to adjust to another color.
You may still be able to add hints of other colors or change the tint with food coloring. You can also try adding milk or cream to lighten it to a brighter shade, but this will result in a change in texture.
Other Ways To Make Your Store-Bought Frosting Better
Having looked at all the solutions to many different problems you may come across, sometimes it still isn’t enough. There are more ways you can elevate the quality of your frosting.
Adding texture to the frosting is a great option for plain frosted cakes. You can add texture by adding finely chopped nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruits, candies like chocolate or jellies, crumbed biscuits, and whatever else you can think of.
Not only will this hide imperfections in the store-bought frosting like graininess, or lack of flavor, but also elevate the quality of the entire cake.
Can You Turn Store-Bought Frosting Into A Glaze?
You can easily turn store-bought frosting into a runny, silky-smooth glaze.
Simply add the frosting to a microwave safe bowl and place on medium high heat for 20-30 seconds. This will turn the thick frosting into a syrup-like consistency.
Stir the mixture and microwave it for another 10 seconds until you’ve reached the desired consistency.
Stir well before pouring it over the cake (like you normally would) and allow the cake to stand until the glaze has cooled completely.