How to Make Frosting That Dries Stiff

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The secret to perfect frosting flowers, borders and other designs that hold their shape is a crusting buttercream frosting that becomes stiff as it dries. While a traditional buttercream recipe uses butter, the fat melts easily at room temperature and causes piped decorations to lose shape. Solid vegetable shortening, on the other hand, has a much higher melting point than butter and results in a hard crust when mixed with sugar in frosting. This type of buttercream also works well if you want a perfectly smooth finish similar to fondant.

Things You'll Need

  • Mixing bowl
  • Electric mixer
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Butter (optional)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk or water
  • Flavor extract
  • Add the vegetable shortening to a mixing bowl and mix until the solid shortening has a creamy, smooth texture. As a general rule, mix 1 cup of vegetable shortening for every 1 pound of powdered sugar, which yields approximately 3 cups of frosting. If desired, you can substitute 1/2 cup of butter for half the shortening to give frosting more flavor, but the resulting frosting won't dry as stiff as when made with only shortening.

  • Mix the powdered sugar into the shortening approximately 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the sugar to incorporate thoroughly before adding more sugar. Use 4 cups or 1 pound of powdered sugar for every 3 cups of frosting needed. After adding the last bit of sugar, the mixture will be very stiff and crumbly.

  • Add milk or water to the mixture, using about 2 tablespoons of liquid for every pound of powdered sugar. Add vanilla extract or other flavoring to taste; use flavor extracts sparingly at a rate of about 1 teaspoon for every pound of powdered sugar. Beat the mixture until it becomes smooth and fluffy.

Tips & Warnings

  • This frosting will keep in the refrigerated for about two weeks in an air-tight container, so you can make a large batch and use it as needed.
  • Mix butter flavoring with the frosting to give it the taste of butter without sacrificing any of the stiff-drying vegetable shortening.

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  • Photo Credit Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Getty Images
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