Although frostings are fast and easy to make, inevitably, an occasional batch will turn out grainy.
There are 4 ways to fix grainy frosting:
- Wait, then mix again- Give it a few minutes for all the ingredients to come to room temperature, and try remixing it.
- Add liquid- Add a small amount of milk or other liquid to soften the powdered sugar.
- Try warm liquid- Add a warm liquid to the mixture.
- Go electric- Beat with a hand or stand mixer.
Sometimes trying only one of these fixes will work, and you may not have to do anything else. If you stir or beat the frosting long enough by hand or with a mixer, it will become smooth. Even so, trying a combination of these methods will likely speed up the process so that you can get the job done faster.
By the way, the value of a good whisk, like the simple but effective one I use, found on Amazon, cannot be overstated. In fact, it might be my favorite tool in the kitchen and is great for tasks like this!
1. Wait a Bit, Then Mix Again
If your frosting has turned out grainy instead of smooth, one of the problems that happen most often is that you have used cold butter, which doesn’t combine well with other ingredients.
Butter should be softened so that it is at room temperature when you combine it with the powdered or confectioner’s sugar. It can also be melted on the stovetop or in the microwave if you are short on time.
If the butter is still cold when you start mixing the frosting, the result may be a grainy texture.
This problem can be fixed by letting the grainy frosting rest for a few minutes until the butter has warmed to room temperature so that when you beat it again, it will form a smooth frosting.
2. Add Milk or Another Liquid
Frosting is made by combining butter and confectioner’s sugar, and when the mixture becomes thick, a liquid is added to form the right consistency. If you didn’t sift the confectioner’s sugar before adding it to the butter, your frosting might be grainy instead of smooth.
To fix this problem, adding a little more milk or other liquid to the mixture will help to soften the confectioner’s sugar, and with enough stirring or beating, the frosting will become smooth.
When adding extra milk or other liquid to the frosting, only a tablespoon should be added at a time and then stirred in completely before adding any more. It is very easy to add too much liquid making it necessary to add more confectioner’s sugar to create a spreadable texture.
3. Add a Warm Ingredient
If the frosting isn’t smooth because the confectioner’s sugar wasn’t sifted, not only should adding extra liquid help to melt the sugar and make the frosting smooth, but warming the liquid before adding it can help melt the ingredients so that they form a smooth texture.
You can warm milk before adding it to any kind of frosting, or you can add another warm ingredient. For example, when making chocolate buttercream frosting, I like to add a couple of tablespoons of hot or at least warm brewed coffee to add a mocha flavor or add a little warm lemon juice to lemon buttercream frosting.
Whatever works with the kind of frosting you are making, adding that hot or warm ingredient can help all the rest of the ingredients to melt and combine better to form a batch of frosting that is smooth and creamy.
Pro Tip: When adding any liquid to frosting, add not more than a tablespoon at a time so that your frosting will not become runny. If it does, just add a little more sifted confectioner’s sugar and stir well to combine.
4. Use an Electric Mixer
When mixing frosting, it can be beaten by hand or with a mixer. There will be a subtle difference in the taste, and I recommend that you try it both ways and decide for yourself which method you prefer.
But, if you are in a hurry and don’t want to take the extra time to beat the frosting by hand until the grainy texture disappears, using a mixer to beat the frosting until smooth will not only be faster but can be an almost sure-fire method of fixing grainy frosting.
What Causes Grainy Frosting?
There are 3 main issues that cause frosting to be grainy. Those issues are:
- The butter was still cold.
- Margarine was used instead of butter.
- The powdered sugar wasn’t sifted.
1. The Butter Was Still Cold
Cold butter will not combine well with confectioner’s sugar and is one of the major causes of grainy frosting. But, by letting the butter come to room temperature before making the frosting, it will easily combine with the sugar and form a smooth batch of frosting.
If you don’t have time for the butter to come to room temperature, you can speed up the process by melting it on the stovetop or in the microwave. Either way will work just fine.
There are some who don’t like for the butter to be melted to liquid form, but I see no difference in the texture or spreadability of the frosting, whether the butter is soft at room temperature or whether it is in liquid form.
2. Margarine Was Used Instead Of Butter
There are some benefits to using margarine instead of butter to make frosting, the primary one being that margarine is more cost-effective than butter. But margarine does not produce the same fluffy frosting that you get with butter because frosting needs the high fat content present in butter to create the rich, creamy texture you want when making frosting.
Although margarine was once marketed as a healthy substitute for butter because of the lower fat content, it has since been proven that margarine, which is man-made, is not as healthy as it was once thought to be, and the natural fat content of butter is needed to produce the smooth and fluffy texture you want the frosting to have.
You can compare the health benefits of butter and margarine by reading this article from Healthline.
3. The Powdered Sugar Wasn’t Sifted.
Combining confectioners’ sugar with butter without sifting the sugar is the other main issue that can cause frosting to be grainy. Often, the sugar has become compacted and lumpy and needs to be sifted to separate all the sugar grains or crystals.
If you forgot to sift the sugar, just let the frosting sit for a few minutes, add a small amount of milk or other liquid, and then stir or beat again either by hand or with a mixer, and the frosting should become smooth and creamy and ready to spread on the cake.
How To Avoid Grainy Frosting?
Taking the few extra minutes necessary to follow these three simple steps before making frosting will save you time in the long run and will result in smooth, creamy frosting.
Step One: Use butter, not margarine.
Always use butter, not margarine, because frosting needs the high fat content in butter to produce frosting with the perfect texture for spreading and decorating your cake.
Step Two: Don’t use cold butter.
Melt the butter before making frosting by either allowing it to come to room temperature or melting it on the stovetop or in the microwave so that it will combine well with the other ingredients.
Step Three: Sift the powdered sugar.
Sift the powdered sugar before combining it with butter to remove any lumps which may have formed in the sugar. If you don’t have a sifter, just run the sugar through any type of strainer.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a sifter, any size strainer can be used. If the strainer is large, you can shake most of the sugar through the strainer; if the strainer is small, just push the sugar through the strainer with the back of a spoon or with your fingers.
Frostings and icings are the crowning touches for the cakes they adorn. With different types and flavors of frostings and icings to make for many different kinds of cakes, there is an unlimited number of combinations that we can make. Our only limit is our imagination. If we can dream it, we can make it.
While grainy frosting doesn’t happen very often, it does occasionally happen. But don’t stress over it. It can be fixed by trying a few easy solutions provided here.
Please let me know if it worked or didn’t work in the comments below, so we can continue to improve the article.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss How To Fix Grainy French Silk Pie (And Avoid It Next Time).
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.