Since publishing my posts on the easiest way to frost a cake and cupcake ever, I’ve had a ton of requests for a homemade pourable icing recipe that can work as well as my store-bought poured icing.
This is an awesome alternative to using store bought icing (though the store bought way does work the most reliably), and is perfect to frost cakes, cupcakes, donuts, cake pops, cookies and is especially handy of things with odd shapes that are hard to frost with a knife and regular frosting.
While store-bought icing will always be the easiest and produce the most fondant like results, you can make a great homemade icing that will pour!
First off, don’t just melt buttercream icing. The butter will get too oily and just be a greasy mess. The icing we’re making today will be a kind of royal-buttercream hybrid- so you will want to use it on a cake that isn’t overly sweet since it will have a lot of sugar.
Homemade Pourable Icing
- 4 cups powdered sugar if gluten free, check that it is made of cornstarch not wheat derivatives
- 2 tbsp milk plus more if needed
- 4 oz/ 1/2cup 1 stick softened butter
- 1 tbsp vanilla or lemon extract
In a large bowl or stand mixer, stir butter well until very light and fluffy. A stand mixer works best.
Add in powdered sugar, stir until combined.
Add vanilla or lemon extract.
Slowly add in milk, one tablespoon at a time. Mix well as you add milk. If butter separates, slow your milk additions and be sure to increase stirring inbetween additions.
Stir after each addition of milk to see if it has reached a consistency that will pour. It will look thick, but a little runny.
Slowly drizzle over cake in a circular motion, making sure it evenly coats all sides. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to smooth out any lumps or uneven areas.
Pop cake in fridge and let set for 5-10 minutes.
Repeat icing drizzle step for a thicker more fondant like coat, then return to fridge. Repeat as needed.
If adding sprinkles or decorations, add them before setting, or they will not stick well.
If icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If too thick, more milk.
I am tweaking a dairy free version of this recipe- stay tuned coconut milk loving friends!
A few of my best tips for perfect cakes and cupcakes:
Ice cakes/cupcakes/etc. while they sit on a cooling rack over a flexible mat. This way, you can collect unused icing and pour it over the cake again if you need another layer, or for the next cupcakes. It also makes for easy cleanup!
Cooled cakes (from the fridge or a short trip to the freezer) will work the best. This will help the icing set better and look smoother. Store-bought icing sets much faster than homemade- so chilling the cake helps to coax the process along a little more.
To find an icing of the proper thickness, a good tip is to run a knife through it. If you see a line in the icing for more than 5 seconds, it is too thick. For less than 2 seconds, it is too thin. Or, you should be able to drizzle it from a spoon but it should still be pretty thick (thicker than when you use my store-bought icing technique as it is less stable than the store bought stuff).
If adding in liquid food coloring, be sure to add it in before milk so as to not overly thin icing. I prefer gel icing for this type of icing if possible.
If your cake is particularly crumby or bumpy, add a layer of thinner icing as a base or crumb coat. This will allow the thicker icing to set up well and not show the imperfections.