Quick Tip: Ermine Frosting (Vegan and non-vegan)

I stumbled across ermine frosting recently and realized it’s pretty much perfect for me. As much as a love a good Swiss meringue buttercream, it’s not as easy to adapt for vegan recipes. But American buttercream is, to me, way too sweet. Enter ermine frosting — it’s light like whipped cream, not too sweet, and actually pretty easy to put together.

Doing some brief research on the origins of ermine frosting didn’t give me a lot. It seems the history of it is muddied, but some people believe it was the original frosting used for Red Velvet Cake instead of cream cheese frosting.

It’s also easy to adapt for use on a vegan cake and uses items that are pretty common in a vegan kitchen.

The basic idea is this: you make a roux from flour and milk, then let it cool. You beat room temperature butter until it’s smooth, then add the roux a little at a time to the butter all while still beating on medium speed. Then switch to a whisk attachment, add your flavoring (vanilla in my case), and beat until it’s soft and light.

I made both vegan and non-vegan ermine frosting to compare them and honestly didn’t see a major difference. The vegan one seems to be a bit more oily, since vegan butter is mostly vegetable oil, but not enough to be an issue. Just whip it well and keep an eye on the temperature of it and it should be fine.

Here is the original recipe by Stella Parks — I used this one exactly for the non-vegan version.

For the vegan version, I made simple substitutions. I used Earth Balance vegan butter sticks in place of unsalted butter and almond milk in place of dairy milk. It’s really that easy. I’d love to try a version with Miyoko’s vegan butter but I’ve washed my mixing bowl enough for one day so I’ll have to try it another time. For the milk, you can probably use whatever non-dairy milk you like but I only tested with almond.

Now, I hardly did a scientific study on this. I didn’t measure the temperature or anything, just tried to get them to about the same consistency and tried to get the appropriate whipped cream texture. Otherwise I used the same amount of the ingredients in both and made sure to weigh them instead of using measuring cups so that I knew there weren’t too many differences. One thing to note is that my regular butter was unsalted, while Earth Balance does have salt in it — so I should have reduced the salt in the vegan batch but I forgot. I didn’t notice it being significantly saltier, but it’s something to keep in mind. You can always add salt toward the end if you think it needs it.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two. Now you might be asking “why are they both blue?” That’s a great question — because I wanted to show how they hold food coloring and my brain decided to break and not put it into a separate bowl before adding food coloring so I could show the regular + dyed versions. So we’re comparing blue versions.

Here’s the non-vegan version:

And here’s the vegan version:

Note that the color difference is probably because I didn’t measure out how much frosting and food dye I was using — just plopped both into the bowls and stirred. So I probably just used more dye for the non-vegan version, or less frosting.

Although the textures look a little different in the photos, I didn’t notice that much difference eating them. They both do resemble a whipped cream consistency and both have the similar flavors, though I think the vegan version ended up a bit sweeter. Overall, I think both are good frostings and if you need to whip up a quick frosting whether it’s vegan or not, Ermine frosting is a really good recipe to have in your back pocket.

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