4 Ways To Fix Grainy Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream frosting is one of the most delicious and versatile frostings that ever topped a cake. It goes well with almost any kind or flavor of cake, and an unlimited number of flavorings can be added to buttercream to create any flavor combination you have in mind. But sometimes, it can turn out a bit gritty or grainy.

Grainy buttercream frosting can be fixed by trying several different solutions, one of which is sure to solve the problem. Those solutions are:

  1. Let it sit for a few minutes, and try mixing it again.
  2. Add a little milk to soften the powdered sugar.
  3. Add a warm ingredient.
  4. Use a hand or stand mixer.

Let’s cover each one in detail.

Anne-James-Chocolate-Buttercream-Frosting-in-a-Bowl-With-a-Spoon

1. Mixing it Again

Try this first!

This might be the most common cause of grainy frosting. It could be that you have used cold butter, which doesn’t combine well with the other ingredients. The result will be buttercream frosting that does not have the smooth texture you want. 

The good news is it can be fixed rather easily.

Pro Tip: Butter should be left out and at room temperature. Make sure it has fully softened before you combine it with the powdered or confectioner’s sugar. To speed up the process, it can be melted in a pot on the stovetop or microwave in a microwave-safe container. 

What to Do

All you have to do is wait a bit.

  • Let it sit for a few minutes– The butter will warm to room temperature rather quickly and will mix with the other ingredients to form a smooth frosting.
  • Mix it again- After a little while, your frosting should be perfect after a little more mixing.

2. Adding Milk

If #1 doesn’t work, all is not lost. Try this next.

Graininess can be caused by not sifting the confectioner’s sugar well.

When making buttercream frosting, you start the process by combining butter and confectioner’s sugar. This mixture soon becomes very thick, and a liquid is needed to form the right consistency.

If you didn’t sift the confectioner’s sugar before adding it to the butter, your frosting might not necessarily be grainy tasting. But, it may not be smooth and will look grainy instead.

What to Do

Adding milk to the mixture will help to soften the confectioner’s sugar. With enough stirring or beating, the frosting will become smooth.

When adding milk to the frosting, only a small amount. Not more than a tablespoon should be added at a time and then stirred in completely before adding any more.

It is very easy to add too much liquid, and it would then be necessary to add more confectioner’s sugar to create the right consistency to spread well.

Powdered-Sugar-Added-to-a-Bowl-of-Chocolate-Buttercream-Frosting
If it gets runny, just add more sugar.

3. Adding a Warm Ingredient

If #1 and #2 didn’t work or didn’t fully work, adding a warm ingredient can also help melt the sugar and the butter so that they combine to form a smooth texture.

Try warming some more milk and adding it to the frosting.

Or, you can add another warm ingredient. For example, when making chocolate buttercream frosting, I use a couple of tablespoons of brewed coffee. A big bonus is that it adds a mocha flavor, which is very appealing to a lot of folks.

Adding any hot or at least warm liquid ingredient can help all the ingredients to melt and combine to form a frosting with a smooth texture.

Remember: When adding any liquid to buttercream frosting, only add a small amount, not more than a tablespoon, at one time. Otherwise, it will quickly become very runny. Of course, if it does, just add a little more sugar and stir well to combine.

Related How to Fix Runny Frosting | The Best Way.

4. Using a Mixer

This option is for those that like hand mixing. I personally prefer the taste of buttercream frosting that has been mixed by hand, not beaten with a mixer. Not only does mixing with a hand or stand mixer change the texture of the frosting, but it also changes the taste.

However, in the case of grainy frosting, make an exception and use a mixer to beat the frosting until smooth. This is often a surefire method of fixing grainy frosting. If you stir or beat the frosting long enough, it will usually become smooth. Even if it is just because it takes a bit for ingredients to warm a bit.

In case you are looking to make the frosting in advance, check out my article called Does Buttercream Frosting Need to Be Refrigerated?

What Causes Grainy Buttercream Frosting?

3 main issues cause buttercream frosting to be grainy. Those issues are:

1. The Butter Was Still Cold

Butter will not combine well with confectioner’s sugar if it is still cold. That makes it one of the major causes of grainy buttercream frosting.

Just set the butter out at room temperature for an hour or so before making the frosting, and you probably won’t have to deal with grainy frosting again.

In a rush? You can melt the butter in a saucepan on the stovetop or microwave in a microwave-safe dish. Either way will work just fine.

Some folks don’t like for the butter to be melted until it is in liquid form, but I see no difference in the texture of the buttercream, whether the butter is soft at room temperature or whether it is in liquid form.

2. Margarine Was Used Instead of Butter

While margarine will work when making buttercream frosting, and the results will taste good, it does not produce the same fluffy results that you will get when using butter.

Buttercream frosting really needs the high fat content in butter to create the rich and creamy texture you always hope to achieve when making frosting.

To fix the issue, you can just add a bit of extra butter and remix it. Make sure it is at room temperature before trying.

You may want to try the fixes I talked about above, beforehand.

3. The Powdered Sugar Wasn’t Sifted

The other main issue that can cause buttercream frosting to be grainy is not sifting the powdered or confectioner’s sugar before combining it with the butter.

Sometimes there isn’t a problem because the sugar is smooth and doesn’t need sifting, but it doesn’t pay to assume that is the case. Often, the sugar has clumped and needs to be sifted to separate all the sugar grains or crystals.

If the frosting is grainy because you forgot to sift the sugar, let the frosting sit for a few minutes and add a small amount of milk or other liquid. Then stir or beat some more either by hand or with a mixer. The frosting will be smooth, and the small lumps or grains should disappear.

You will be left with a batch of buttercream frosting that looks smooth and creamy, just the way it should.

How To Avoid Grainy Buttercream Frosting?

Anne-James'-Chocolate-Buttercream-Frosted-Cake-Next-to-a-Bowl-of-Frosting
Perfect buttercream is so good.

Anytime you are making buttercream frosting, if you take the time to follow these simple steps when preparing to combine the ingredients, your batch of buttercream frosting should turn out smooth and creamy every time.

Step One: Use butter, not margarine.

Always use butter, not margarine, because buttercream frosting needs the fat content found in butter to turn out smooth and creamy.

Step Two: Don’t use cold butter.

Take the butter out of the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before making the frosting. This will allow it to come to room temperature.

If you forget to take the butter out in time, be sure to melt it either on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Step Three: Sift the powdered sugar.

If the powdered sugar has lumps, large or small, then the frosting will be grainy. To mitigate this, sift the powdered sugar before combining it with butter.

If you don’t have a sifter, just running the sugar through any strainer will eliminate the lumps and create a buttercream frosting with a smooth and creamy texture.

Pro Tip: If the strainer is large, you can shake most of the sugar through the strainer; if the strainer is small, just push the sugar through the strainer with the back of a spoon or your fingers.

Final Thoughts

In case you were intrigued by my mention of adding brewed coffee to chocolate buttercream frosting, my video explains the steps I take to make my version of homemade chocolate buttercream frosting, which includes adding a couple of tablespoons of brewed coffee to create a delicious chocolate mocha flavor.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss How Far In Advance Can You Make A Cake (So it Stays Fresh).

Anne James

Anne James has a wealth of experience in a wide array of interests and is an expert in quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, mixing drinks (bartending), and making jelly. Anne has a professional canning business, has been featured in the local newspaper as well as on the Hershey website, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is. With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass. Amazingly, she doesn’t need to reference many resources due to her vast wealth of experience. She IS the source. Anne wants nothing more than to pass on her extensive knowledge to the next generations, whether that be family or anyone visiting her website, her YouTube channel, or survivalfreedom.com.

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