Alternatives to butter in icing

Shutterstock.com/ msaandy033

Buttercream is a type of icing used in cakes and is often the most popular in online recipes. As the name suggests it relies heavily on butter. The buttercream icing is absolutely delicious and if you are happy with the recipe you found then please use it. However, today many of us are trying to avoid butter. Whether it is because it is too fatty, because you have other ingredients in your house you want to use, or because you don’t like the taste it leaves in your mouth, or because you find it unsuitable to the cake you are making, or you simply ran out of butter, there are many reasons why you may want to avoid butter. Here we list all the alternatives to butter that you can use when making icing.

The first go-to substitute for butter in every walk of life is margarine and it is no different here. Margarine is a suitable butter replacement in icing and doesn’t require a lot of adapting of the recipe. The only thing you should be careful with is what margarine you purchase. Some kinds of margarine have a very low-fat quantity. While that sounds great it means that the icing won’t hold its shape as well. Try to choose a margarine that is at least 80% in fat content. You can use this exactly as a recipe that describes the quantities of butter required.

Vegetable shortening is another popular option and it works well in an icing recipe. Some recipes ask for both shortening and butter but you can feel free to simply replace all the butter with shortening and you will get the same end result (roughly). Shortening really doesn’t compete with butter in flavor or color so there are going to be some differences. The great thing about shortening is that it has a higher melting point than butter so it will do well in high temperatures. This makes it a great option if your cake is going to be outside for any length of time, as you don’t want it to melt away.

One option that may surprise you as a butter replacement is peanut butter. One because it is a butter (but not really, right?) and two because it has such a distinct flavor. However, it is a fantastic icing option as long as everyone likes peanut butter. Your icing will finish with a very peanut heavy taste, so make sure everyone is on board with the strange approach. Peanut butter lacks the stability of butter so instead of replacing the entire amount of butter suggested with PB, make the recipe half peanut butter and half shortening. That way you are adding in a great taste and the stability of shortening, win, win.

Cream cheese and cream are two other options when it comes to replacing butter. Cream cheese will make your icing far more tangy taste. It is best to use cream cheese without additional flavor and to replace each cup of butter with around 3 to 4 ounces of cream cheese. If you are going to have your cake in a high-temperature place then we recommend avoiding this option. Similarly cream would need to be refrigerated as it doesn’t create the same stability as butter or shortening but it does make a fantastic light fluffy icing. Use three cups of whipping cream for every cup of butter that is advised. 

These are our favorite butter replacements but you can really let your creativity take over here once you start to understand the mechanics of icing. While you need something to keep stability you also want something to add great flavor. That is why a combination of peanut butter and shortening is my favorite approach.