Frostings are often made with large amounts of butter. And the main issues with using butter in making frosting are:
- Butter is very high in fat as well as calorie content which makes it very unhealthy.
- Frostings made of butter are more prone to melt on days when the temperature is very hot which can leave your frosting with a rancid aftertaste.
So in this article, I am gonna share with you 9 of the best alternatives you can use instead of butter and how to correctly use them so your frosting can still taste good.
The 9 best substitutes for butter when making frostings are:
- Margarine (A healthier & yet close substitute in both taste & texture)
- Cream Cheese
- Heavy Cream (Makes your frosting very light, airy & fluffy)
- Shortening (Cheaper & best for hot weather)
- Peanut Butter
- Coconut oil
- Avocado (Healthiest Alternative)
Margarine is the closest substitute for butter. Butter is made by churning cream or milk to separate the solid components from the liquid whereas margarine is made from plant oils. There is much debate as to which of these is healthier but while both have their pros and cons most margarine contains little or no cholesterol, whereas butter contains a significant amount of cholesterol.
When choosing a margarine for your frosting, find one with a fat content that is similar to butter. Look for a margarine that has at least 80 percent fat and use the margarine in the same ration as you would butter in your recipe.
If you’re using a margarine with a low fat content, you may want to add a small amount of meringue powder in to stiffen it and add more depth to your frosting. This is especially important if you will be piping the icing to make decorative borders or flowers.
2. Cream Cheese
Cream Cheese adds a creamy, rich, tangy flavor to frosting when used instead of butter. It adds a flavor that is unique in comparison to butter but cream cheese also has a high-fat content, moist and spreadable like butter.
Cream cheese frosting made with no butter will be snow white, while a cheese and butter blend will have a pale beige tint from the butter.
To use cream cheese instead of butter in a recipe substitute 3 to 4 ounces of cream cheese for every 1 cup of butter required in your recipe. The unflavored cream cheese available in the stick form is best to use.
Cream Cheese frosting however, does not hold up well in heat and should not be used on a cake that be in an outdoor setting.
To lean more about tips and tricks to weather proofing your frosting and transporting cakes in hot weather read this article.
3. Heavy Cream
If you want a light, airy, fluffy whipped frosting, try using heavy cream as a butter replacement and make a Whipped Cream Frosting. It isn’t as spreadable as buttercream because of the air in the mixture, which means you’ll see slight bubbles in your frosting’s finish however it still tastes creamy and rich.
Substitute 3 cups of heavy whipping cream for 1 cup of butter. Whip until the heavy cream gets thicker, then add powdered sugar until peaks form.
This type of frosting should be refrigerated and is not as stable as traditional buttercream frosting. It is also important to note that most whipped frosting contains fewer calories than buttercream frosting.
Shortening, by definition, is any fat that is solid at room temperature, and is made from partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Shortening can be used in equal parts to the butter required in your recipe. However, shortening adds a stiffer consistency than butter, but is very bland and does not add the flavor and color when compared to butter.
Shortening is best to use in a buttercream frosting on a hot day because it doesn’t melt as quickly as butter and holds its shape better. Butter melts at 90°F to 95°F. Vegetable shortening stays solid all the way up to 115°F. Along with being more stable than butter, shortening is also cheaper than butter.
5. Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter is delicious creamy and rich! Smooth Peanut butter can be used instead of butter in frosting and adds a peanut buttery flavor of it.
If you want a frosting that is similar to buttercream frosting in texture, it is better to use a combination of peanut butter and a vegetable fat such as margarine or shortening.
Use a 1 : 1 ratio of peanut butter to shortening. The peanut butter adds flavor and texture and the shortening stability.
Mascarpone is Italian Cream Cheese made from cow’s milk. It is off-white in color and very spreadable. Instead of using butter in your frosting try using Mascarpone to make mascarpone frosting. This frosting is similar in look compared to Cream Cheese Frosting or Italian Buttercream Frosting but has a different taste. Mascarpone is not as tangy as cream cheese but has its own delicious flavor.
Plus this type of frostings is stable and holds its shape at room temperature and remains soft when refrigerated. Mascarpone can also be used to stabilize whipped cream for piping on cakes.
The ratio for mascarpone frosting is usually 8 ounce of mascarpone cheese to 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1 cup of powdered sugar.
Coconut in the form of oil or cream (which is more solid), is another great choice to use in a buttercream frosting recipe in the place of butter, as it gets a bit stiff at just below room temperature and won’t melt or separate if made correctly. Additionally, the coconut oil adds a coconut flavor to your frosting that is fresh and unique.
To solidify frosting made of coconut oil you need to place it in the fridge. It is also important to keep the frosting away from heat, cool the cake completely before icing, and once iced, store the cake in the fridge until ready to serve.
Every variety of coconut oil or cream is different and may not have the same ratio for butter in the recipe. Experimentation is key to figuring out what works best for your recipe.
If you don’t know what Nutella is, trust me you are missing out. It is a chocolate and hazelnut spread that can be used for a variety of food including toast, pancakes, and many desserts. It is smooth, spreadable, and rich in flavor.
Nutella cannot be used by itself as a substitute for butter in frosting but it can be used along with margarine to make chocolate frosting or it can be used to lessen the amount of butter used in traditional chocolate frosting and intensify the chocolate flavor.
Here is the link for one of my favorite Nutella Frosting recipe. Note that while this recipe contains butter I have made this recipe successfully using the Nutella and margarine combination.
Avocados are a superfood loaded with healthy nutrients for the heart, eyes and even contains more potassium than bananas. I know that to some of you, avocado might seem strange to add to frosting but in may ways avocado is like a blank canvas when it comes to flavor. It can be easily transformed into a sweet creamy frosting with a slight hint of citrus.
I experimented and found that using avocado in chocolate frosting worked best as the cocoa flavors really complimented the avocado.
Experimentation is key with all of these butter substitutes, as they may differ in the flavor, nutritional value, as well as the quantity needed for every recipe.