This old-fashioned 7 minute frosting recipe is light, delicious, and easy to make. A bright white frosting that’s perfect for cakes, cupcakes, and more.
Your grandma’s favorite frosting! But not like your grandma used to make it…
I thought I was done with posting frosting tutorials for a while, but I keep hearing about/finding out about new ones (thanks to you guys!) so I can’t help myself.
Today, I’m sharing this classic 7 Minute Frosting.
What is 7 Minute Frosting?
Seven-minute frosting (or boiled frosting) is basically a Swiss meringue. You cook the egg whites and sugar and whip them up. It’s called 7-minute frosting because that’s how long you need to cook/whip it.
The traditional recipe calls for whipping the meringue over a double boiler with a hand mixer. This is too “hands-on” for my liking, so I’m making it the way I make the meringue for my Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
How to Make 7 Minute Frosting
Making this frosting comes down to a few simple steps:
- Wipe down your tools (don’t skip this)
- Cook the egg whites and sugar
- Whip for 7 minutes
- Add flavoring
Step # 1 – Wipe Your Tools
Wipe down everything that will come in contact with the egg whites. Things like:
- Small bowls used to separate eggs
- Stand mixer bowl
- Hand whisk
- Measuring cup (that will be used to scoop sugar)
- Stand mixer whisk
This will help ensure your frosting (aka meringue) whips up properly.
Step #2 – Heat the Eggs and Sugar
Once you’ve separated your eggs (I do not recommend carton whites — read on for why), place them, the sugar, and the cream of tartar into your mixer bowl and place the bowl over a pot with 1-2″ of simmering water. This is called a double-boiler, or bain-marie.
If you don’t have a bowl-lift model mixer, just use a different bowl (ideally metal – better heat transfer) that you’ve wiped down and then transfer the mixture into your stand mixer bowl when it’s cooked so you can whip it.
Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.
Stir the mixture constantly with a whisk to make sure the egg whites cook evenly. This process will take 2-3 mins (sometimes more) depending on the number of egg whites you’re working with and how vigorously your water is simmering.
The mixture is ready when it is hot and no longer grainy to the touch. Use a candy thermometer to check that it has reached 160F. This is the most accurate way to make sure your whites are cooked fully.
Then, dip a (clean) finger into the mixture and rub it between your thumb and forefinger. If there is any graininess at all, keep cooking it until all of the sugar is dissolved.
Step #3 – Whip the Meringue
Remove your mixer bowl from the pot, wipe the bottom of the bowl, and place it on your stand mixer (or transfer the mixture into your tilt-head mixer).
Attach the whisk attachment and begin whipping.
I usually crank it right up to high speed (about 8-9 on my KitchenAid). You’ll see it start to thicken.
Whip for 5-7 minutes or until the meringue is stiff. You’ll know if your meringue was successful if it holds a stiff peak. This is what it should look like – no droopy peaks!
If your meringue is droopy or soft, it was likely affected by either grease, yolk, or carton whites. See Step #1. Unfortunately, if this happens, you will need to start over. There is no way to save the frosting at this point.
Step #4 – Add Flavoring
Stream in vanilla or other flavoring while the meringue is whipping. If you’re adding an oil-based flavoring I recommend folding that in as not to deflate the meringue.
Can I use a Hand Mixer?
You can make this frosting a couple of ways using a hand mixer.
- You can do it the traditional way and whip the frosting while it’s cooking over the double boiler or,
- Repeat the steps above but use a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer to whip it up.
It’s a little more hands-on this way but will work out totally fine.
Help! My Meringue Won’t Whip Up
Meringue is very susceptible to fat. If even a speck of grease comes in contact with the egg whites it could prevent the meringue from whipping up fully, or at all. You could be left with a soupy mess.
This includes traces of egg yolk (fat). Separate your eggs one at a time and into a separate bowl before putting them in the mixer bowl. You don’t want one cracked yolk to ruin the whole bunch.
Traces of yolk are the biggest culprit in a failed meringue. This is why I don’t recommend using carton egg whites. You cannot guarantee they are completely yolk-free. I, personally, have not had a successful, stiff meringue using carton whites.
Another important tip is to not use plastic tools, especially bowls. Plastic has a tendency to retain grease no matter how thoroughly it’s cleaned.
Stick to metal (preferred, best for heat transfer) or glass bowls.
Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar helps to stabilize the egg whites and make a sturdier meringue.
I don’t typically use it when making Swiss meringue buttercream but since we’re making a plain meringue, it’s good to add it in.
It’s not the end of the world though if you don’t have any though. The frosting will still turn out just maybe not stay fluffy as long.
For an even more stable version of this frosting, you can make Homemade Marshmallow Fluff. It uses an Italian meringue method which also helps to stabilize the whites. You can see the difference in the stiffness of the two below.
Storage and Perishability
For best results, the frosting should be used immediately. It will start to set a bit and could become difficult to work with so I recommend frosting your cake or cupcakes with it right away.
It should last for a day or so on the cake/cupcakes, but will soften over time and develop a crust. I’ve had longer-lasting success with meringue that is torched.
It holds up better in heat than a butter-based frosting, but might not last as long (gets soft/deflates) unless toasted.
This helps to keep the shape of it on the outside, but it will still be a little softer and runnier on the inside as time goes on.
You can store any leftovers in the fridge or freezer (in a glass container – not plastic), but it will lose some stiffness over time. You’ll need to bring it to room temperature and rewhip it, but it won’t get as stiff a peak as you initially had.
You can still use it though, in something like these Fluffernutter Cookie Cups, or even in good old Rice Krispie Treats.
Seven-minute frosting is light and airy — like marshmallow fluff. It’s delicious! Perfect for those people that don’t like buttery frosting.
It is a bit sticky and may not be the easiest to work with, but it pipes beautifully and looks amazing with a rustic frosting technique.
Definitely a frosting recipe to have in your repertoire!
Looking for more Frosting recipes?
- Ermine Frosting
- German Buttercream
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- American Buttercream
- Homemade Marshmallow Fluff
Tips for this Seven Minute Frosting Recipe:
- Wipe down all your tools with vinegar or lemon juice to ensure they are grease-free.
- Separate your eggs into a smaller separate bowl so that if one of the yolks breaks, you haven’t ruined the batch.
- Don’t use carton egg whites — they don’t whip up as well.
- Use immediately for best results. See Storage & Perishability for more tips.
7 Minute Frosting
- 5 large egg whites
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Wipe your mixer bowl and whisks down with lemon juice or vinegar.
- Place egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.
- Place bowl over a pot with 1-2" of simmering water and stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture is hot, no longer grainy to the touch, and reads 160F on a candy thermometer (about 2-3 mins).
- Transfer bowl to your stand mixer and whip on med-high until the meringue is stiff (about 5-7 minutes).
- Slowly stream in vanilla while the meringue is whipping. Taste and add more flavoring if desired*
Deborah Chapman says
I’ve been making this since I was 10 or 11 using an old-fashioned rotary egg beater. Seven minutes was a long time! Now I make it using my hand mixer over the double boiler. Seven minutes is still a long time but less arm work. Liv’s idea of doing it in the stand mixer is great but I don’t own one bits a fail proof icing with a lovely, almost marshmallow-y texture. I highly recommend this easy icing.
So happy to hear you love it, Deborah!
I am eager to try this recipe. What kind of eggs do you suggest for you 7 minute frosting? Farm fresh? White or brown? Others?
Hi Ginger! Any eggs work just fine. I just dont recommend carton egg whites.
I am amazed at this recipe! I’ve been baking for over 60 years and I was prepared for this to fail. I’ve always made it over a double boiler the whole 7 minutes or by streaming hot syrup into beaten egg whites and had limited success. This frosting is delightful, not grainy at all, didn’t deflate overnight and never formed a crust. I only bought my KitchenAid mixer a year ago because I was resistant to having another appliance on the counter, but this made it all worthwhile. I no longer have any stainless sauce pans, so I was searching for an alternative to using a hand mixer in a saucepan (I ruined one this way). Thanks so much.
Hi Barb! I’m so happy you loved this recipe and that it turned out well for you 🙂
Tom Hicks says
I made your seven minute frosting to top off my angel food cake. It turned out perfectly especially as I was initially spreading it on the cake. Sooo soft & fluffy and licking it off the mixer whip was the highlight.
After frosting the cake, I let it sit on the counter overnight. I did not have a cover to put on it. By this morning, the frosting was stiff and I was able to touch it with none getting on my finger.
Do you have any thoughts on how to keep it soft and fluffy just like when I put it on the cake at the beginning? Maybe cover it, use a little less cream of tartar?
It’s a great recipe and at the start very close to the soft seven minute frosting my mother used to make.
Hi Tom! Meringue does dry out over time. Having it covered would help prevent this. The Cream of tartar wouldn’t affect the drying.
I covered mine in a plastic cake carrier with no adverse effects and it’s still creamy today, no crust formed at all. Next time I will blow torch it, I added coconut at a friend’s birthday request. It was a yellow poke cake with lemon pie filling, very tart, so this sweet frosting balanced it perfectly.
Can I add blue gel food colouring to this?
Hi Kathy! For sure, just add it right at the end.
Hi there! Wondering if this will make enough to frost a 10 inch 2 layer cake. Thank you!
Hi Lara! I’ve never made a cake that large so I can’t say for sure. I would increase the recipe though, to be safe. You can change the servings to 6 or 7 cups to get the amounts.
Mandy Blackmon says
Absolutely amazing! It turned out a perfect consistency and tastes delicious! Thank you for posting!!!❤️
Thanks so much Mandy! I’m glad you love it 🙂
Can I make chocolate 7 minute frosting?
Hi Jean! Yes, you can add either cocoa powder or cooled melted chocolate at the end. I would go with the latter.