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The Best Substitutes for Butter in Frosting

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

Are you baking a cake and looking for butter substitutes for frosting? Well, get ready because our alternatives are pretty sweet!

You have tons of options — coconut oil, cream cheese, creamy margarine, airy heavy cream, and thick vegetable shortening — all you have to do is pick one. We’ll also share secrets for making a smooth frosting.

Say goodbye to butter, and let’s get started.

Butter in Frosting
Butter in Frosting

Frosting Without Butter: Top 5 Substitutes

  • Cream cheese
  • Margarine
  • Heavy cream
  • Coconut oil
  • Shortening

1. Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese
Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is a spreadable and moist butter substitute for frosting. For every cup of butter, you may use 3 to 4 oz of cream cheese. It contains enough fat to keep the frosting from falling off. However, it’s a little sour, which will alter the aroma of your frosting.

When you make frosting with cream cheese instead of butter, it’ll be white, whereas a butter and cheese combination has beige coloring.

Cream cheese frosting melts easily in the heat, so you don’t want to leave your cake at room temperature.

2. Margarine


To obtain the same consistency and texture as you would with butter frosting, use margarine with a fat content similar to butter.

Some kinds of margarine only contain 60% fat, which is insufficient for a recipe that calls for a creamy frosting that will stick to the cake properly. Due to its similarity to stick butter in function, stick margarine is the ideal choice.

Look for stick margarine that has at least 80% fat. Use it in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with butter.

3. Heavy Cream

Heavy Cream
Heavy Cream

If you want your frosting to be light, airy, and fluffy, swap the butter for heavy cream. You may use 3 cups of heavy whipping cream for 1 cup of butter.

Your frosting will be bubbly thanks to the air pockets in the whisked cream. Unfortunately, that makes it harder to spread than buttercream.

It’s also vital to remember that this frosting is delicate and light, and hot temperatures will ruin it. That’s why it needs to be refrigerated for at least an hour before it can be used as frosting.

4. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil
Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is the best butter substitute for frosting if you’re vegan or allergic to dairy. Because there are several types of coconut oils, the butter-to-coconut oil ratios may change — test a 1-to-1 ratio and see how it goes.

The coconut oil frosting is similar to buttercream in texture; it’s creamy and thick. Use solid coconut oil rather than melted coconut oil for the best results.

Keep in mind that coconut oil will impart a unique taste to the cream.

Coconut oil can melt at room temperature, so the frosting must be chilled quickly.

5. Shortening


Shortening is a solid vegetable fat derived mostly from hydrogenated vegetable oils. In your recipe, replace butter with shortening in an equal proportion.

Despite the fact that it does not taste or look like butter, shortening produces a white frosting that has a firm texture. In fact, vegetable shortening can withstand heat better than butter since it has a higher melting point.

Frosting vs. Icing: Are They the Same?

Frosting and icing are similar since they’re both dessert toppings, but there are some important differences between the two.

Frosting is a luscious topping for cakes, cupcakes, brownies, and cookies. It has a rich, creamy flavor and a light, fluffy texture. Frosting is good for decorating because fat (butter, cream, or other replacements) helps it keep its shape. It’s used to decorate cakes and between cake layers.

Icing is similar to a glaze and is commonly used on doughnuts, cinnamon buns, and pastries. It has a thinner consistency and a shinier appearance than frosting. It typically hardens after it’s applied to pastries, whereas frosting retains its airy texture. It’s usually sweeter than frosting.

Icing is frequently poured over desserts, whereas frosting is typically spread with a spatula or piping bag. Icing is not often used for cakes or for decorating desserts because it’s difficult to control how it will look.

Can You Use Any of the Butter Substitutes in Icing?

Since icing does not require butter, you shouldn’t make it with butter substitutes.

Icing is made by swirling powdered sugar with a liquid such as water, cream, regular milk, or coconut milk. Frosting, on the other hand, is made of solid fats such as butter or cream.

As previously said, solid fat allows the frosting to remain together and maintain a uniform, fluffy appearance. Icing is a spread that is liquid, thin, and shiny.

Frosting Mistakes to Avoid

Applying a smooth frosting to a cake is very simple, if you manage to avoid its common pitfalls.

#1: Avoid Placing Your Cake Board Directly on a Turntable

If you put your cake board directly on a turntable, it will move whenever you put any pressure on it, making frosting difficult.

To keep the cake board from rolling around during frosting, use a non-slip mat to hold it stable on the turntable.

#2: Avoid Placing Your Cake Directly on the Cake Board

When you spread the frosting and filling, the cake will wobble since nothing is holding it in place. Tall cakes could even fall over if you apply too much pressure.

To correct this, generously apply frosting over the center of the cake board, then press the first layer of cake onto the dot. This will serve as cement to secure the cake to the cake board and prevent it from shifting.

#3: Don’t Frost the Cake Layers at Room Temperature

If you frost the cake while the layers are at room temperature, it will begin to wobble even if the cake is attached to the cake board with a dot of frosting and a non-slip mat.

The cake should be refrigerated for 15 minutes before frosting. The layers will be sturdy and less prone to crumbling, making frosting easier and more consistent.

#4: Don’t Make the Frosting Too Stiff

It’s important to pay attention to your frosting’s consistency; if it’s too stiff, it won’t be easy to spread it over your cake. Even if you successfully spread it, it would be difficult to smooth it out afterward with a cake comb.

To solve this problem, thin down the frosting by adding a few tablespoons of milk or cream.

#5: Don’t Add a Thin Layer of Frosting

If you spread the frosting too thin, the cake comb will scrape off all of it, revealing the cake layers beneath.

Spreading a thicker layer of frosting is the best method. It will seem excessive at first, but don’t worry; as you smooth it, you’ll remove the excess and reduce its thickness.

To make precise corners with no gaps on the top, spread the frosting higher than the cake. Apply an extra layer over any dents. After that, scrape it all over one more time to smooth out the touch-up frosting and remove any leftovers, leaving a lovely, smooth surface.

#6: Avoid Scraping the Cake With a Cake Comb That Already Has Frosting on It

After scraping, the cake comb will be covered with frosting. If you immediately use the cake comb again, the frosting will be pulled back onto the cake, forming a textural line.

Instead, wipe it with a cloth or paper towel. The same goes for scraping the top with a spatula — wipe it completely clean every time you use it and push the frosting sideways with your spatula instead of down to make smoother edges.

#7: Don’t Leave Your Frosted Cake at Room Temperature

If you leave your cake at room temperature, the cake will sink, making it lean and bulge with cracked frosting.

Before serving the cake, place it in the refrigerator for about two hours. The cool temperature will keep the frosting firm and steady.


Butter is an essential part of the frosting that keeps it from crumbling.

Luckily, cream cheese, margarine, heavy cream, coconut oil, and shortening may all be used to make a great frosting if you don’t want to use butter.

Margarine is the most similar to butter in terms of taste and texture. The melting point of shortening is the greatest, so the frosting can stand at room temperature longer without melting. Coconut oil and cream cheese are good choices, but they’ll change the flavor quite a bit. Heavy cream is ideal for lighter frostings.

Remember to follow the particular ratios for your butter alternative of choice and avoid some of the common mistakes we outlined. Place a dot of frosting on the cake board and use a non-slip mat to keep it from sliding around. Chill your finished cake for 2 hours before serving.

Have fun whisking!

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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