How to Use Gelatin to Thicken Frosting

By Fred Decker

A well-decorated cake is a beautiful thing, but in some climates keeping it beautiful can present a challenge. Butter, the main ingredient in traditional buttercream frostings, becomes soft at ordinary room temperatures and melts when the mercury rises past the mid-80s Fahrenheit. Shortening-based frosting is sturdier, but not nearly as tasty. Thickening and stabilizing your frosting with gelatin is a better alternative that improves its hot-weather performance without compromising on flavor.

Wedding cake on table at park
credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images
On hot days, cakes that must sit outdoors benefit from the addition of gelatin to their frosting.

Step 1

Combine 1 part unflavored gelatin powder with 3 parts cold water in a small bowl or measuring cup. Generally, allow 3/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of gelatin for each pound of butter in your frosting recipe. Use the larger measure for especially light and airy frostings, such as Swiss or Italian buttercream. Allow the water-gelatin mixture to "bloom" for five minutes, until the gelatin granules have become thoroughly moistened and swollen.

Step 2

Melt the gelatin mixture over a cup of boiling water, stirring it periodically until it's completely dissolved. Alternatively, melt the gelatin in your microwave in 20-second increments at half-power, stirring after every "zap" until it's completely dissolved.

Step 3

Prepare the frosting, using your favorite recipe. If the frosting was made ahead of time, whip it briefly in your mixer to ensure that its texture is light, smooth and malleable.

Step 4

With your mixer running, pour the melted gelatin into your frosting in a very thin stream. Whip the frosting until the gelatin has been completely dispersed and is no longer visible.

Step 5

Frost your cake immediately, as soon as the gelatin has been incorporated. Once it sets, you won't be able to create a smooth surface or clean-edged piped decorations any longer.