It sure can. I've subbed it for shortening based frosting recipes. It turns out very soft, creamy and pure white. I would not combine coconut oil and granulated sugar. I've tried it to poor results. I'd try 1/4 cup coconut oil and 1 cup confectioner's sugar. Add water and more sugar until you get the right consistency. Beat aggressively- coconut oil is harder than shortening at room temperature. I would not serve coconut oil frosting during the summer months, it will most definitely melt faster than shortening/butter.
Most all-vegetable shortening brands contain mostly palm oil and coconut oil.
Anita is a vegan pastry chef & founder of Electric Blue Baking Co. in Brooklyn.
Unrefined virgin coconut oil is very delicious, with a strong coconut flavor. It is great to use in recipes, and yes, you can make a great frosting with it. The downside is that it has a narrow window for perfect texture, dictated by room temperature. Above 76 degrees, it is liquid, like olive oil. Below about 70, it is rock solid.
But if you can maintain the temp, I highly recommend using it. Or, you can combine it with other fats like non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening like Spectrum, for a more reliable texture.
One other thing you should know, if you chill the frosting and then take it out of the fridge to spread on a cake, let it warm to room temp. for about 20 minutes or so, and then re-whip, or you might end up with little pebble sized chunks of solid coconut oil.
You can make it more room temp stable by adding whipped potato ( unseasoned) while whipping into buttercream.
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