How do you fix frosting that is too sweet?

Frosting is an essential part of many delicious baked goods like cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. It adds flavor, moisture, and visual appeal. However, sometimes frosting can end up too sweet, which throws off the flavor balance of the treat it’s topping. Luckily, there are several tricks you can use to fix frosting that’s too sweet.

What causes frosting to be too sweet?

There are a few common culprits behind overly sweet frosting:

  • Too much sugar in the recipe – Sugar is obviously a key ingredient in frosting, but too much will make it unbearably sweet. Double check the amount of sugar called for in the recipe you used.
  • Using pure extracts – Pure extracts like vanilla contain alcohol which enhances flavor. This intensified flavor can make frosting taste sweeter. Opt for imitation extracts instead which don’t contain alcohol.
  • Overbeating – Whipping air into frosting too much can develop the sugars, making it sweeter. Beat only until soft peaks form.
  • Cake layers are too sweet – If the underlying cake or cupcakes are very sweet, the frosting will taste even sweeter.

Tips for fixing frosting that’s too sweet

If your frosting ended up too sugary, don’t despair. Here are some simple methods to tone down the sweetness:

Add more frosting ingredients

The easiest route is to make a new batch of the frosting using the original recipe, but reduce the amount of sugar. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of powdered sugar, use 3/4 cup instead. Then mix the less sweet new frosting batch with the overly sweet batch until the flavor balances out.

You can also add more of the other ingredients like butter, cream cheese, or milk to dilute the sugary flavor. This introduces more fat and liquid which counteracts the sweetness.

Incorporate acid

Adding a tart flavor like lemon juice or vinegar will offset some of the sweet taste. Start by mixing in 1 teaspoon and then add more as needed. But take care not to make the frosting too tangy.

Use salt

A pinch of salt balances out sweetness. Stir in a small amount of salt, 1/8 teaspoon at a time. Be conservative with the salt as you don’t want the frosting to taste salty.

Add cocoa powder

Cocoa powder contains bitter compounds that temper sweetness. Fold in a tablespoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder until you achieve the desired flavor.

This works best with cream cheese or buttercream frostings. The chocolate flavor pairs well and you get a chocolate cream cheese or chocolate buttercream frosting.

Introduce coffee

The slight bitterness of coffee is another great way to counter sweetness. Prepare a teaspoon of instant coffee granules with a bit of hot water. Mix the coffee liquid into the frosting a little at a time until it loses some of its saccharine taste.

Coffee frosting is delicious on chocolate cakes or spice cakes.

Add fruit puree

Stirring in some fruit puree like raspberry, strawberry, mango, or pineapple infuses tangy fruit flavor that makes the frosting less cloyingly sweet. Start with a couple tablespoons and add more as needed.

Fruit puree frosted cakes have lovely color and taste great with vanilla or cream cheese frosting.

Whip in heavy cream

Heavy cream has a mild sweetness on its own that dilutes the sugar overload when you mix it in. Whip a few tablespoons to soft peaks then gently fold into the frosting. The higher fat content in heavy cream also mellows sweetness.

This technique works best with buttercream or whipped cream frostings.

Add citrus zest

Zest contains the flavorful citrus oils without much acidity. Mix in orange, lemon, or lime zest for a refreshing zing. Just a teaspoon or two is plenty to take the edge off excessive sweetness.

Lemon or orange zest are especially nice in cream cheese frostings.

Stir in cornstarch

Cornstarch is a straightforward thickener that dilutes sweetness. Mix in a teaspoon at a time until desired consistency and flavor is reached. You may need up to 1-2 tablespoons.

This thickens the frosting nicely, but too much cornstarch can make it gummy.

Tips for preventing overly sweet frosting

While you can fortunately rectify a too sweet frosting, it’s better to avoid the issue altogether. Here are some tips to prevent making frosting that’s too sugary in the first place:

  • Follow recipe carefully – Don’t add extra sugar beyond what the recipe calls for. Measure ingredients precisely.
  • Use frosting sparingly – Spread thin layers between cake layers and swirl lightly on top. Too much frosting can be overwhelming.
  • Make sure cake or base isn’t too sweet – Test a piece of the baked cake or cookies before frosting to ensure it’s not already too sweet.
  • Use extracts judiciously – A little goes a long way with pure extracts.
  • Don’t overbeat – Beat only enough to reach the desired texture to avoid developing excess sweetness.
  • Taste test as you make it – Sample a bit before frosting the treat so you can adjust flavor if needed.
  • Substitute powdered sugar – Exchange some powdered sugar for corn starch to cut sweetness.
  • Mix sugars – Use confectioners and granulated sugar rather than only powdered sugar.

Frosting fixes for common baking recipes

Some of the most popular kinds of baked goods and frostings can easily end up too sweet. Here are some specific tips for rescuing frosting on classic recipes:


Buttercream is a silky frosting made by beating butter with powdered sugar. To tame the sweetness of buttercream try adding:

  • Heavy cream or milk – 1-2 tablespoons
  • Lemon or vanilla extract – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Fruit puree – 2-3 tablespoons
  • Salt – pinch

Cream cheese

Cream cheese frostings pair tangy cream cheese with sweet powdered sugar. To cut the sugar level down, incorporate:

  • More cream cheese – 2-3 tablespoons
  • Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon
  • Vanilla extract – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Heavy cream – 1-2 tablespoons

Whipped cream

For whipped cream frostings that are too sweet, you can:

  • Whip in additional heavy cream
  • Use full fat whipped cream or creme fraiche
  • Fold in fruit puree
  • Add a pinch of salt


Fondant is essentially icing made of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and glucose. To tone down the sweetness:

  • Knead in a little shortening
  • Add a teaspoon of citrus juice
  • Work in a drop of coconut extract


Ganache is chocolate and cream. If chocolate you used is extra sugary, make it less cloying by:

  • Adding a tablespoon of butter
  • Using semisweet chocolate instead of milk or white chocolate
  • Sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt

Royal icing

Royal icing is powdered sugar and egg whites or meringue powder. To balanced the sweetness:

  • Use lemon, orange, or almond extract instead of vanilla
  • Stir in lemon or lime zest
  • Substitute 1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar with cornstarch

Alternative frosting options

If you just can’t seem to make the frosting less sweet, another option is to ditch it entirely. Consider these tasty lower sugar alternatives:

  • Whipped yogurt frosting – Whip plain Greek yogurt with a bit of honey or fruit
  • Sweetened ricotta – Beat with vanilla and honey
  • Mascarpone – Sweeten slightly with sugar or honey
  • Peanut butter – For cakes and cookies
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread – Spread on layers
  • Jams and curds – Apricot, raspberry, lemon, etc
  • Fruit – Fresh berries, sliced peaches, bananas, etc
  • Sweetened coconut flakes – Toast first for texture
  • Cocoa powder dusting – For chocolate cakes
  • Dulce de leche – Caramel sauce spread
  • Honey butter – Blend softened butter with honey

Storing and reusing fixed frosting

If you end up with extra frosting after repairing the sweetness issue, you can store it to use again. Here are some storage tips:

  • Buttercream – Refrigerate in airtight container up to 1 week. Let soften at room temperature before reusing.
  • Cream cheese – Refrigerate in airtight container up to 5 days. Soften before using again.
  • Ganache – Store in airtight container at cool room temperature up to 1 week. Heat gently to reliquify.
  • Whipped cream – Freeze up to 2 months. Thaw in fridge before rewhipping.
  • Royal icing – Store in airtight container for 1-2 weeks. Add water or meringue to thin out.
  • Fondant – Wrap tightly in plastic and store at cool room temperature for several weeks.

Be sure to place plastic wrap or parchment paper directly on the frosting surface before storing to prevent crusting and drying out.


Sweet frosting ruining the flavor of your cake or cupcakes is a frustrating predicament for bakers. But there are many simple fixes you can use to tone down the sugary sweetness after the fact. Simply incorporate acidic or bitter ingredients to balance the flavor. Stick to small amounts of ingredients like juice, zest, coffee, or cocoa to avoid over-correcting.

Preventing overly sweet frosting in the first place is ideal. Carefully follow recipes and don’t overdo it on sugar. And when tweaking frosting flavor, be sure to do taste tests along the way.

With the right techniques and a few extra ingredients on hand, you can easily rescue frosting that turns out too sweet. Your cakes and treats will have the flawless flavor balance you expect.

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