Chocolate Ermine “Pudding” Buttercream

July  3, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • makes 4 cups (enough to fill and frost one 8- or 9-inch cake (up to 3 layers) or 24 cupcakes
Author Notes

I used to call this “pudding buttercream” before I knew it’s true name: ermine. This technique involves preparing a simple pudding-style custard base, then whipping butter into it to create the final frosting. This method has become one of my go-tos, because it allows for a really creamy frosting that’s thick and pipable, but also not too sweet. Be sure to let the pudding base cool to room temperature before whipping in the butter, but don’t be tempted to refrigerate it to speed it up. If it gets even a bit cold, it will make the frosting likely to split. If you’re in a hurry, pour the pudding onto a baking sheet—the greater surface area will allow it to cool much faster. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a very sweet lesson in all things frostings, icings, and glazes. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Chocolate Ermine “Pudding” Buttercream
  • 1 3/4 cups (398 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) fine sea salt
  • 2 cups (460 grams) whole milk
  • 1 pound (454 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) vanilla extract
  1. In a medium pot, whisk the granulated sugar, flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder (if using), and salt. Whisk in the milk.
  2. Begin to heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and becomes pudding like, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a heat-safe storage container, cover directly with plastic wrap, and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Place the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the room temperature pudding mixture 1 heaping tablespoon (about 25 grams) at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Once all of the pudding base is incorporated, add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • rearaerich
  • avyb
  • Chris
  • pattycakes
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

4 Reviews

rearaerich October 11, 2022
I tried this ratio and ended up with a soupy mess. Shouldn't 2 cups of milk and close to 2 cups of sugar reqire more like 2 lbs of butter for the right ratio and consistency? It could have been me, but I wasted sell that time and money for nothing, I had to start over with a more familiar recipe, winging the chocolate part. Not my usual best work. It made delivery of the cake late!! My own fault, I guess. Need to stick to familiar when pressed for time.
avyb January 23, 2022
Made this frosting to put on a banana cake. One of the best frosting I have made! Not too sweet, airy, and absolutely delicious. Will definitely be making this again. I used instant coffee instead of espresso powder - next time I would use a little less since the coffee flavor was more forward than I wanted.
Chris August 1, 2021
Professional baker here—1 3/4 C sugar is not 398g (that would be closer to 2 cups). The actual weight is closer to 350g. I always follow recipes as written the first time through, and I found this frosting to be unpalatably sweet. I add 2/3 C more of Dutch processed cocoa powder to temper the sweetness. Five grams of espresso powder is also too much and makes the frosting taste like coffee.

Two grams is enough to enhance the flavor of the chocolate without adding a pronounced coffee flavor.

Finally, I've never made a flour-thickened pudding that took only 2-3 minutes to thicken. This took 5-6 minutes on medium heat. You have no go by texture, not time.

If the editor fixes the instructions, I don't doubt the frosting will be delicious. The texture is fantastic.
pattycakes June 17, 2021
I can't wait to try it and see how it differs in taste from the way I've been making it. My ermine frosting is very popular, but it's made so differently (& I have a feeling it's wrong lol). I've just been cooking the milk & flour until a thick paste (it cools & plops into the butter almost like gelatin), & creaming the butter & sugar - all with a paddle attachment and beating med/ high for 10 min. Idk how it turns out so good lol, but i bet your's is better. I'm trying it today!