How to thicken store-bought frosting without powdered sugar?

Store-bought frosting can be great for decorating cakes and cupcakes, but sometimes it can be a little too thin or runny for piping or decorating. If your frosting is on the thin side, there are a few easy ways to thicken it up without adding more powdered sugar.

Use a Starch

Starches like cornstarch or potato starch work well to thicken up frosting. They absorb moisture and help give the frosting a thicker, more pipeable consistency. Here’s how to use starch to thicken frosting:

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch or potato starch per cup of frosting.
  • Mix the starch into the frosting until well combined.
  • Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the starch to fully thicken the frosting.
  • Beat the frosting again to make it light and fluffy.

The starch will dissolve into the frosting and you won’t taste it, but it will help bind the ingredients together and remove some of the excess moisture that was making the frosting runny.

Use Cream Cheese

Adding a few tablespoons of cream cheese is another great way to thicken up store-bought frosting. The fat in the cream cheese helps give the frosting more structure. Here’s how to use it:

  • Soften 2-3 tablespoons of cream cheese until smooth.
  • Mix the cream cheese into 1 cup of frosting until fully incorporated.
  • Beat the frosting for 2-3 minutes to make it light and fluffy again.

Start with a smaller amount of cream cheese, like 2 tbsp per cup of frosting. Add more, a tablespoon at a time, if needed to reach the perfect consistency for decorating.

Add Powdered Sugar

If you need to thicken the frosting more significantly, you can also add a small amount of additional powdered sugar. Here are some tips:

  • Add no more than 1/4 cup additional powdered sugar per cup of frosting.
  • Sift the powdered sugar to remove any lumps.
  • Mix the powdered sugar into the frosting until smooth and fully blended.
  • Avoid adding too much more powdered sugar or the frosting can become overly thick and gritty.

Powdered sugar will absorb moisture from the frosting and help it firm up. Just be careful not to add too much or the frosting may become too sweet and stiff for decorating.

Whip the Frosting

Sometimes store-bought frosting just needs a little extra whipping or beating to improve its texture. Here’s how to whip it up:

  • Use a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  • Whip the frosting on high speed for 2-3 minutes.
  • This will add air into the frosting, making it lighter and fluffier.
  • Whipping may be all you need to turn a runny frosting into the perfect consistency for decorating cakes or cupcakes.

Be careful not to overbeat the frosting, as this can make it too stiff and dense. Watch the texture as you whip to get it just right.

Add More Butter or Shortening

If your frosting is very thin and runny, adding a small amount of extra butter or shortening can help thicken it up. Here’s how:

  • Soften 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter or vegetable shortening.
  • Mix the butter or shortening into 1 cup of runny frosting until fully blended.
  • The extra fat will help give the frosting more body and structure.
  • Be conservative with the amount of butter or shortening you add, as too much can make the frosting greasy.

Butter and shortening help keep frosting stable at room temperature. Just a bit extra can absorb moisture in thin frosting and thicken it to the ideal consistency.

Let it Chill

If you’ve tried the other techniques but the frosting is still too thin, chilling it in the fridge can help. Here’s how:

  • Place the frosting in a bowl and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • The cooler temperature will cause the frosting to firm up.
  • After chilling, beat the frosting briefly with a mixer until smooth and creamy.
  • The frosting should now be an ideal consistency for decorating.

Chilling allows excess moisture to firm up in the fridge. Just make sure not to leave the frosting in too long or it can become rock solid and difficult to pipe or spread.

Adjust Consistency as You Decorate

Keep in mind that you can continue adjusting the thickness of the frosting as you decorate:

  • If the frosting gets too thick as you’re decorating, add a teaspoon or two of milk or cream and beat to thin it out.
  • If it becomes too thin and runny again, you can add more powdered sugar, starch, or chill it for 10-15 minutes to firm it back up.

Pay attention to the frosting consistency while decorating and tweak it when needed. The frosting may firm up while exposed to air, so be prepared to thin it as necessary.

Frosting Thickening Tips

Here are some top tips for thickening store-bought frosting:

  • Start with small amounts of thickeners like starch, cream cheese, or butter – you can always add more if needed.
  • Avoid over-whipping or the frosting can get too stiff.
  • If the frosting gets too thick, thin it with a bit of milk or cream.
  • Refrigerating helps firm up frosting, but don’t over-chill.
  • Let the frosted cake or cupcakes sit at room temperature, as chilled items spread frosting more thinly.

With the right techniques and adjustments, you can customize the consistency of store-bought frosting and get it just right for decorating. The ability to tweak it as you go gives you flexibility.

Thickening Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream is a classic frosting for cakes and cupcakes. Its light, creamy texture makes it perfect for piping and decorating. But sometimes homemade or canned buttercream can turn out too thin. Here are some great ways to thicken up buttercream frosting:

  • Add More Powdered Sugar – Sift in 1/4 to 1/2 cup more powdered sugar per cup of frosting and mix until smooth. This helps absorb moisture.
  • Whip Longer – Whip the buttercream for 5-10 minutes to add air and thicken it up.
  • Add Cornstarch – Mix in 1/2 tsp cornstarch per cup of frosting for a thicker texture.
  • Chill – Pop it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to firm up the butter.

To thin buttercream that’s become too stiff, mix in a teaspoon or two of milk or cream. Get the consistency just right for piping pretty flowers or script.

Tips for Thickening Buttercream Frosting

  • Add powdered sugar, cornstarch, and cream slowly and mix well.
  • Whip with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed to reach ideal thickness.
  • When piping flowers, thicken the frosting more than for frosting a cake.
  • Thin stiff buttercream with milk – add 1 tsp at a time.
  • Softened butter helps create thicker, more stable buttercream.

With a little tweaking, you can take a runny buttercream and transform it into the perfect consistency for decorating cakes or cupcakes beautifully.

Thickening Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting is rich, smooth and delicious on cakes and cupcakes. But it can sometimes turn out a little too thin or soft. Luckily, it’s easy to adjust the consistency to make it perfect for piping and decorating.

Here are tips for thickening cream cheese frosting:

  • Chill – Let the frosting firm up in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
  • Whip Longer – Whip for 3-5 minutes to add more air.
  • Add Powdered Sugar – Mix in 1/4 cup more powdered sugar per cup of frosting.
  • More Cream Cheese – Add 2-3 tbsp softened cream cheese per cup of frosting.

If your cream cheese frosting gets too stiff, beat in 1-2 teaspoons of milk or cream to thin it out again. Adjust consistency as needed for decorating.

Cream Cheese Frosting Tips

  • Use cool, firm cream cheese for the best consistency.
  • Whip the cream cheese into the butter first, before adding other ingredients.
  • Add milk, cream, or sour cream for extra moisture and tang.
  • For stability, allow the frosted cake to sit at room temperature.
  • Refrigerate decorating leftovers if not using right away.

With the right ratio of cream cheese to butter and sugar, plus proper whipping and chilling, you can achieve beautiful, thick cream cheese frosting that’s ideal for piping, flowers and decorations.

Thickening Ganache

Ganache is a rich chocolate frosting made from cream and melted chocolate. When warm, it flows like a thick chocolate sauce. As it cools, ganache firms up to a spreadable frosting texture. Here are some tips for adjusting ganache thickness:

  • Add More Chocolate – For thicker ganache, use 1 part cream to 2 parts chocolate.
  • Whip It – After cooling, whip the ganache with a mixer until light and fluffy.
  • Chill – Let the ganache cool completely, then chill in the fridge 1-2 hours.
  • Reheat – To thin ganache that’s too stiff, microwave briefly until softened.

The chocolate to cream ratio has a significant effect on ganache thickness. Use more chocolate and less cream for a thicker texture that’s good for piping and shaping.

Ganache Consistency Tips

  • 2:1 chocolate to cream ratio makes thick ganache for piping designs.
  • 1:1 chocolate to cream makes standard frosting-like ganache.
  • 1:2 chocolate to cream makes thin ganache for pouring over cakes.
  • Stirring cooled ganache creates a thicker whipped texture.
  • For spreading, allow ganache to warm up at room temperature.

Depending on how you whip, chill, and reheat ganache, you can achieve everything from a fudgy frosting to a smooth glaze. Adjust it to get just the right consistency for your dessert.

Thickening Whipped Cream Frosting

Light, fluffy whipped cream makes a wonderful frosting for cakes and cupcakes. But since it relies mainly on air to achieve volume, it can sometimes deflate and become runny. Here are tips for thickening whipped cream frosting:

  • Whip Chilled Cream – Make sure cream is thoroughly chilled before whipping.
  • Add Powdered Sugar – Mix in 1-2 tablespoons per cup once whipped.
  • Use Heavy Whipping Cream – It holds its shape better than lighter creams.
  • Add Mascarpone – Whip in 1-2 tablespoons mascarpone per cup of cream.
  • Refrigerate Cake – Store frosted cake chilled to help stabilize the cream.

Bit by bit, add just enough powdered sugar to lightly sweeten the cream and help it hold its whipped texture. Refrigerate any leftover frosted cake.

Stabilizing Whipped Cream Frosting

There are also a few ways to stabilize whipped cream frosting for a thicker, longer-lasting texture:

  • Gelatin – Bloom 1/2 teaspoon gelatin in 1 teaspoon water; dissolve by microwaving 10 seconds. Let cool slightly then add to whipped cream.
  • Lemon Juice – Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice per cup of cream before whipping.
  • Cream Cheese – Whip in a few tablespoons of softened cream cheese to help stabilize.

Stabilized whipped cream frosting will hold its texture longer, making it great for piping and decorating. Refrigerate any unused frosting.


With a few easy tricks, you can customize the thickness of any store-bought or homemade frosting to suit your decorating needs. Powdered sugar, starches, extra fats, chilling, and whipping can all help adjust the consistency for piping, shaping, and detailing. The key is starting with small amounts of thickeners and adding more gradually until the frosting is just thick enough to hold its shape beautifully without getting overly stiff. With the right consistency tweaks, your cakes and cupcakes will look frosted and fabulous.

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