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Seven-Minute Frosting

This old-school frosting of egg whites and sugar comes together fast to give your cakes and cupcakes piles of fluffy, marshmallow-y swirls.

Quick and Easy Seven-Minute Frosting spread on cake.
Alison Bickel

Think of seven-minute frosting as a glossy, spreadable meringue, where egg whites and sugar are whipped into a voluptuous cloud. It was popular in the mid-20th century, when cookbooks offered recipes for a whole family of boiled icings.

This frosting is very similar to Swiss meringue, which is also cooked. The big difference is how they are cooked: Swiss meringue is cooked, then beaten off the heat while seven-minute frosting is beaten as it cooks on the heat.

I love fluffy seven-minute frosting on fine-grained cakes like devil’s food cake, red velvet cake, and coconut cake. It also stars as the frosting and filling of our Fresh Strawberry Layer Cake.

One thing to keep in mind is that seven-minute frosting is best enjoyed the day you make it, when it’s fluffy and soft. After about 4 hours, it starts to deflate and become sticky.

What If I Don’t Have a Hand Electric Mixer?

There are ways, yes, but they’re basically adaptations of Swiss meringue—so if you only have a stand mixer, we recommend making our Swiss Meringue recipe instead.

It is possible to make this sans electricity, with handheld eggbeaters (that’s how this recipe originated), though it’s tricky, since it takes both hands to operate the beaters.

You’d need to have a very stable double boiler and resilient arms (or someone in the kitchen helping you make the frosting). But, we haven't tested the recipe using a handheld eggbeater.

Close up of Quick and Easy Seven-Minute Frosting.
Alison Bickel

Why Is It Called Seven-Minute Frosting?

It takes roughly seven minutes of cooking and constant beating for the frosting to transform. Seven minutes is not a magic number though—sometimes it takes more time, sometimes less. Use both a timer and our visual cues in the recipe and you’ll be in good shape.

Slow and Steady Makes for a Fluffy Frosting

After many experiments, I discovered heating the egg-and-sugar mixture too fast resulted in a frosting that was dense and sticky.

For the lightest frosting with the biggest volume, make sure the water is simmering, not at a full boil, and keep the bowl 4 to 5 inches above the water. Don’t be in a rush—take pleasure in watching the process unfold.

Ways to Flavor Seven-Minute Frosting

Looking for ways to jazz up this fluffy cloud of sweetness? Here’s how: 

  • Use brown sugar or maple sugar (not syrup) instead of granulated white sugar
  • Fold 3 ounces melted and slightly cooled unsweetened chocolate to the finished frosting. You want the chocolate to be the same temperature as the frosting when you add it—otherwise, the chocolate will seize
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract instead of vanilla extract
  • Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract instead of vanilla extract
  • Fold 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon, orange, or lime zest into the finished frosting. If using orange zest, use orange juice instead of water
Strawberry Seven-Minute Frosting thickly spread on sheet cake.
Alison Bickel

Troubleshooting Seven-Minute Frosting

Learning frosting takes time. I’m here to help. Here are somethings that could go wrong and what to do about it.

  • Frosting is gritty: This happens when sugar at the rim of the bowl does not get dissolved. There’s nothing you can do to fix it. In the future, be sure all the sugar is dissolved—scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula while whipping.
  • Frosting is droopy instead of light and fluffy: The egg and sugar mixture got too hot, too fast. When this happens, your frosting will be tacky and viscous, like marshmallow fluff from a tub. At this point, there’s no fix—you can still use it, but it will be harder to spread, and won’t hold its shape very well. Next time, have your water at a hearty simmer, not a rapid boil. Your bowl also may have been too close to the water in the double boiler
Easy Marshmallow Meringue Frosting on a spoon.
Alison Bickel

Frosting in a Snapshot

How do you match this with cake? If frosting had a dating profile, this would be it.

  • Taste: Extremely sweet, marshmallow-like
  • Texture: Light and billowy
  • Piping: Good for piping through a large star tip, but not good for fine detail work—it sets up too fast
  • Works best on: Layer cakes and cupcakes
  • Time investment: Less than 10 minutes.
  • Make-ahead: Use frosting immediately after making; cakes are best enjoyed the day they are decorated. This frosting cannot be frozen

Advantages of Seven-Minute Frosting

  • Quick to make
  • Easy to spread
  • Light and airy
  • You can torch it like meringue

Drawbacks of Seven-Minute Frosting

  • A handheld electric mixer is a must
  • Can’t freeze it 
  • Can’t make-ahead
  • Difficult to cover, sticks to plastic wrap; not good for transporting

More Mouthwatering Frosting Recipes

Seven-Minute Frosting

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 8 cups frosting

This quick, fluffy frosting is stunning on cakes and cupcakes, but does not hold up well. It’s best used right after making it. Serve frosted cake or cupcakes within 4 hours of decorating.

This recipe calls for partially cooked eggs. Because of the possibility of salmonella, we don’t recommend this recipe for the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, or those with weakened immune systems. Be sure to use clean, uncracked eggs. You can make this with pasteurized egg whites.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (250 grams) sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. Combine and beat all ingredients except vanilla:

    In a large metal or heatproof glass bowl, combine the sugar, water, egg whites, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat with an electric hand mixer at low speed just to combine so the eggs are lightly frothy.

    A metal bowl and hand held mixer making Strawberry Seven-Minute Frosting.
    Alison Bickel
  2. Set up your double boiler:

    Fill a medium saucepot about 1/3 of the way with water. Set it over medium to medium low heat and bring it to a moderate simmer not a boil. The water should have small to medium-sized steady bubbles on the edges of the pot.

    You do not want the simmering water in the saucepot to touch the bottom of the bowl. You are using the steam to cook the frosting, not the water directly. The greatest danger with this frosting is cooking it over too high of heat.

    Simmering sugar syrup to make Strawberry Seven-Minute Frosting.
    Alison Bickel
    A bowl set inside a pot to make Strawberry Seven-Minute Frosting.
    Alison Bickel
  3. Beat the frosting:

    Use a hand mixer to beat the mixture at low speed; over the next 3 minutes, gradually increase the speed too high. The first minute or so, the mixture will be frothy, with large bubbles.

    After 2-3 minutes, the mixture will be foamy, with finer bubbles. Around 4-5 minutes, it will have greatly increased in volume and will be fluffy, and white like soft clouds.

    Around 5-7 minutes, the beaters will leave very distinct trails in the frosting. It will be glossy, stiff, and sticky. If you lift the beaters from the bowl, they’ll form firm little peaks in the frosting. Keep beating and cooking until you see the peaks—it might take a little less or more than 7 minutes.

    Frothy egg whites in a bowl to make No Fail Seven-Minute Frosting.
    Alison Bickel
    Frothy egg whites in a bowl to make No Fail Seven-Minute Frosting.
    Alison Bickel
    Frothy egg whites in a bowl to make No Fail Seven-Minute Frosting.
    Alison Bickel
    Easiest Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Make in a metal bowl.
    Alison Bickel
    Making the Easiest Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Make in a metal bowl on the stove.
    Alison Bickel
  4. Remove frosting from heat and cool:

    Remove the bowl from the double boiler. Continue beating until the icing is very stiff and glossy, another 2 to 3 minutes (this increases the volume of the frosting, but also helps it cool down). Stir in the vanilla extract.

    Easiest Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Make whipped in a metal bowl.
    Alison Bickel
  5. Use frosting:

    Use the frosting within 30 minutes. As it sits, the frosting becomes too tacky and deflated to work with. If someone comes to the door and you can’t use the frosting immediately, drape a warm, damp kitchen towel over the bowl. This can buy you a little time.

  6. Serve:

    Cakes with this frosting are best enjoyed the day they are decorated; after about 4 hours, the frosting will look less glamorous and become tacky, with a chalky outer crust. It’s still safe and delicious to eat. It’s just not very pretty.

  7. Store:

    Store cakes iced with seven-minute frosting uncovered and avoid having plastic wrap come into contact with the frosting—it’ll stick to the wrap. If your cake is sliced you can fold plastic wrap or parchment over and press it against the cut part of cake to prevent it from drying out.