So You Want to Make Vegan Gluten-Free Frosting

So You Want to Make Vegan Gluten-Free Frosting

Jun 27, 2024Sensible Edibles
We've been experimenting with our vanilla cake frosting this month, and our creative juices are flowing. Vegan and gluten-free frosting isn't hard to get right- you just need to think outside the box. I thought I'd share our experience in case anyone out there needed a little encouragement!

We basically have to make substitutions for everything but the sugar, but don't despair! We don't really need traditional frosting ingredients. With all the plant based options on the market today, you'll find your perfect recipe in no time. There are a lot of healthy, allergy-friendly alternatives and combinations. Just take a deep breath and enjoy the journey.


Below are a few substitution options. Keep in mind, you might not need to replace ingredients 1:1. We are trying to achieve a creamy texture that's solid at room temperature, so don't get caught up on replacing each component. Focus on the results. Generally speaking, milk provides moisture, butter provides creamy thickness, and eggs hold everything together. With some combinations (for example, vegan butter plus oat milk), you may find that the "egg" can be omitted altogether.
 

Butter

Melt: Our preferred vegan butter is Melt. It replicates the taste and texture of butter really well. It's solid at room temperature, doesn't melt too quickly, and has no aftertaste.
Coconut Oil: A great option because it's solid at room temperature, but it does melt easily. You might opt for a coconut butter which includes emulsifiers to stabilize the oil. In our experience, coconut butters tend to be a bit pricey, but it's worth experimenting with.
Vegetable Shortening: these can be soy based or palm oil based. We stay away from the soy based shortenings because it's a common allergen. If using a palm oil based shortening, make sure it's ethically and sustainably sourced. Shortenings are great because they're thicker than butter and hold really well.

 

Close-up of a carrot walnut bundt cake with intricate frosting design and crushed walnuts.

Milk/Cream

Theoretically, you don't need to replace milk with another "milk." What needs to be replaced is liquid. Plain water might work just fine. (It's also less likely to go bad.) When using plant-based milks, we recommend making your own. It's a straightforward process that will help you avoid preservatives and artificial emulsifiers.

Oat Milk: Gives the creamiest results. Gluten-free and allergy friendly. Our milk of choice (and we make ours in-house!).
Almond Milk: Nice because it doesn't have much of a taste. Very watery. We don't use it because almonds are an allergen for many people.
Coconut Milk: Nice and liquid, but imparts a strong taste of coconuts.
Coconut Cream: not stable, so only use for treats you'll eat right away. Adds strong coconut flavor.
Tofu: A viable option, but requires prep work. To achieve a smooth, creamy texture, mix with a liquid using an immersion blender.
Aquafaba: This is the liquid that naturally forms when beans are left in water for an extended period. A great unprocessed option for holding ingredients together and adding moisture.

 

Eggs

Xanthan Gum: It sounds like a goo from outer space, but xanthan is made by fermenting sugars. It helps create a creamy, spreadable texture and prevents ingredients from separating.
Psyllium Husk: this comes in powder form. It's great at holding ingredients together, but will give the food a bit of a beige color.

Now that we have an idea of ingredients we'll need, lets discuss types of frosting:

Buttercream Frosting

Simple buttercream (aka American buttercream) frosting is a fluffy frosting made by whipping together:
  • Butter
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Milk or Cream
  • Flavoring
But! Buttercream comes in many styles. A little tinkering with methods and ingredients can yield variable results.

Cream Cheese Buttercream: replace a portion of the butter with cream cheese
Russian Buttercream: use sweetened condensed milk
French Buttercream: add hot sugar syrup to egg yolks while whipping
Swiss Buttercream: heat egg whites and sugar, then whip with butter
Italian Buttercream: add hot sugar syrup to egg whites while whipping
German Buttercream: add pastry cream to whipped butter

Knowing about the different modifications is helpful for brainstorming. Regardless of how you prep your buttercream, you should end up with a fluffy, spreadable frosting perfect for cakes and cupcakes.

Ermine Frosting

Ermine frosting is also known as cooked flour frosting or boiled milk frosting. Traditionally used in red velvet cake, this frosting is known for being silky, but not too sweet. It's made by cooking flour, sugar, and milk, then whipping in butter. Your flour replacement should be super-fine for best results. We recommend corn starch or rice flour.

Whipped Cream Frosting

Whipped cream frosting is usually made with heavy cream. This frosting has a lighter, fluffier texture than buttercream, but it can lose volume quickly. This can be fixed by adding a stabilizer like agar agar or vegan gelatin.


So, what does our frosting look like? Our current recipe consists of a mix of Melt vegan butter and ethically sourced palm oil, oat milk, powdered sugar, vanilla powder, and a touch of salt. We like to add color naturally by incorporating fun ingredients like beet powder (red/pink), blueberry powder (purple), turmeric (yellow), or matcha (green).

Tips:

  • Use vanilla powder instead of extract. This helps control the moisture level.
  • Granulated sugar requires a lot more mixing to break down. Opt for powdered sugar for easier, quicker incorporation. This will also ensure you don't overbeat the mix.
  • Sift your powdered sugar to get any clumps out to ensure a smooth finish.

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