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This Heritage Frosting Recipe has been one that has topped Red Velvet Cake in my family for as long as I remember.

Red Velvet Marble Cake Recipe
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Heritage frosting includes ingredients and is made a bit differently from how you might think of a frosting, but definitely don’t let that scare you away from making this wonderful frosting recipe.

Heritage frosting is made by cooking flour and milk over low heat until it is thick, then allowing it to cool completely. As it cools, you whip together butter, sugar and vanilla until they are light and fluffy before adding the butter mixture to the cooled flour mixture and whipping until it resembles fluffy whipped cream. Believe me, it is out of this world delicious and the perfect pairing for so many delicious desserts! Once you taste a cake topped with this frosting, you will be completely smitten, I think. Totally smitten.

You may also want to give my Chocolate Heritage Frosting recipe a try. It is divine!

Here is the Heritage Frosting recipe that Mama learned when she was in high school. She’s been using it ever since.

4.88 from 8 votes

Heritage Frosting Recipe

Dessert 15 mins

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch
This Heritage Frosting Recipe makes a delicious, light frosting perfect for so many desserts such as red velvet cakes and rich chocolate cakes.


  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Cook flour and milk on low heat until very, very thick. Cool completely before moving forward with the recipe.
  • Cream sugar and butter and vanilla until fluffy. Add to completely cooled flour and milk mixture. Using a paddle attachment, mix on high speed with an electric mixer until the mixture is the consistency of whipped cream. Spread the frosting on completely cooled cakes or other desserts.
  • Store in the refrigerator.


from Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, Desserts Edition, 1963

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Robyn xo

(This post originally published November 7, 2010. Republished on December 12, 2014.)

Frosting / Icing Recipes

Robyn Stone

Robyn Stone is a wife, mom, blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. Welcome to Add a Pinch where I share thousands of delicious, tested and perfected easy recipes that the whole family will love.

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Recipe Review


    1. 5 stars
      This recipe is amazing! 
      Do you know if you can use it on carrot cakes?

  1. 5 stars
    My mom always called this “wedding cake icing” and still makes my brother, now 46, a chocolate cake with wedding cake icing anytime he visits. We used to refrigerate the leftover frosting and put it between graham crackers for an after school snack. This recipe brings back great memories!

  2. Surprised anyone even knows this recipe! It was the way my mom always made our red cake frosting long, long before it became the “thing”. It was always a very special occasion when we got red velvet cake. Linda

  3. I got this recipe 30+ years ago from friends but it was called Blue Ribbon Frosting. I always use it on an Apple cake. I just made it this week and took it to work. It was a big hit.

    1. Hi Jocelyn,
      Yes, you can use heritage frosting in place of a buttercream frosting. The richer the cake, the better this frosting pairs with it!

    1. Great question! It uses granulated sugar. I’m updating the recipe to avoid any confusion!

  4. How do you keep the frosting from having lumps of flour? I’ve made this frosting a few times before and always have lumps, even when I’ve sifted the flour. Thanks.

    1. Hi,
      I’m planning to make a two tier cake. Would this frosting hold the cake well if used in the bottom tier, or will we have issues with crumbling. I’m planning to use the chocolate version of this frosting with the chocolate cake recipe on your blog. Pls do tell me if this is a good idea. Also for seconds, will the chocolate cake recipe on your blog go well with chocolate ganache frosting. Please help. Planning on using this for a two tiered birthday cake. One last query, like the butter cream frosting can I paint with gold lustre dust on this frosting. Will there be any issues?

  5. I just made this frosting. I stirred the flour and milk mixture till it thickened and after it cooled I added it to the butter and sugar mixture but after beating it for a while it had flour lumps in it. Is it ruined and what did I do wrong? Maybe I should not have allowed it to cool and get firm?

    1. Great stuff this frosting. I have made this recipe for years and one thing I have always noticed is that during the beating process sometimes it looks like a bowl of snot. Just keep beating. (I just walk away from my stand mixer) Sometimes it takes a long time. Then all of a sudden through some miraculous process it turns awesome. You can see it before your very eyes!

  6. Help! I made this last night for the first time, to use on red velvet cupcakes. I followed the recipe and directions, but my frosting seems to have broken down, like the butter separated. I followed everything and whipped for a few minutes until it looked similar to whipped cream. Tasted it and was like YUM. By the time I got it in my piping bag and began to put on the cupcakes, the texture and appearance changed…where the sugar granules suddenly became very visible and it looked like the butter was separating…giving an almost oily appearance/texture. What did I do wrong?

  7. Help! I have made this twice and had the same horrible results! For some reason it forms a consistency where it sees like the butter is separating and becoming oily 🙁 the first time I thought maybe I somehow did something wrong (even though I’m fairly experienced in the kitchen) but I just made it again while being extra careful and yet the same disaster 🙁

    1. I’m sorry you had bad results with this recipe. I would recommend a couple of things. You’ll want to be sure that the flour and milk are cooked until they are very thick. I’ll add a note on the post to make sure that it is clear that the consistency at this step is very, very thick. Then, you’ll want it to be cooled completely before incorporating the butter. Again, sorry you had bad results.

  8. Hello!

    I was looking for a lighter frosting for a vanilla cake with a lemon curd frosting. Could I put a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in the frosting or would that affect the texture?

    Thank you!

  9. Advice, please. Whenever I have made this icing in the past, the taste is wonderful; however, there is a small crunchy sugar consistency. How to I correct this?

  10. 5 stars
    This is the only kind of icing I use on my Red Velvet Cakes! It just doesn’t get any better than this recipe! BTW, I use butter not shortening.

  11. 5 stars
    I’ve made this frosting for many years. You must whisk the milk and flour while it cooks,otherwise it will have lumps. I cover the pan with Saran Wrap and refrigerate until it is cold.  Beat the butter and sugar for 5-8 min. before adding flour mixture. Then beat 10 more minutes. It’s amazing !

  12. 4 stars
    I’ve been searching for this recipe for the icing for years. “My” birthday cake was always red velvet too, with this icing. Not cream cheese icing! Along the 37 years the fragile paper (recipe) was misplaced. Finally, I found it!!! You have brought me back to some cherished memories. (Yes, just because of red velvet cake!) This cake and icing was made for me since I’m in diapers. Obviously, since I’m hunting the entire nation for this recipe, it is by far, the most exquisite icing I have EVER had. Anywhere. It’s not too sugary, more whipped, and simply perfect. No one could possibly be unhappy. 

    1. Aww, Kris, this makes my day! I have memories childhood memories of this frosting too, so I am so happy that you’ve found it! I am glad you enjoy it and I’m thrilled you dropped in to leave me a comment about it! Thanks so much! xo

  13. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe, but I thought I should half it again to make enough icing for the three layer red velvet cake.

  14. I did look through many comments to make sure my question wasn’t already answered so here it is, does this frosting hold up well to freezing?  I want to make a Red Velvet cake and this is also the frosting I remember from childhood but not sure if it will freeze well, as in on the cake and frozen by the slice?  Thank you 

    1. Hi Joey,
      I’ve not frozen red velvet cake slices with this frosting so I can’t answer for certain about how it holds up in the freezer. Looking at the ingredients, I don’t see why it wouldn’t though. I would just be certain that each of the slices are packaged well to prevent them from drying out in the freezer. Good luck and keep me posted how it works!

  15. I must have made some sort of error. I’ve tried it twice and it won’t fluff and is wayyyyyy too sweet! 

    1. I’m sorry it didn’t turn out fluffy for you Reta. I haven’t had that happen and have not found it to be too sweet for frosting. Maybe there are some pointers in the blog post that may help…also make sure as in step 1 of instructions to cook the milk and flour on low until VERY thick then completely cool before moving on. When reach the next step, make sure you whip on HIGH until fluffy.
      I hope some of this helps to see what may have happened. Thanks! xo

    2. Could we get some clarity on “very thick” please? Should the flour/milk be like glue? Like gravy? Like paste? Paint? Ty!

  16. 5 stars
    Fantastic. Light as clouds.
    I ended up heating/whisking the flour and milk for 20 minutes until it was like a thick glue. Then transferred the mix to Tupperware and it went in the freezer. Instead of my mixer’s paddle, I used athe whisk attachment and whisked the shortening/sugar/vanilla for 8 minutes on highest setting. I added the flour/milk and whisked another 10. It was perfect.

    Hard to believe women used to do this by hand.

    1. I agree with you, Kate. I am so glad I don’t have to mix this frosting by hand. I’m so glad this turned out well for you. Thanks!

  17. I’ve made this frosting for years with my Red Velvet Cake and love it! I have always wondered if it could be made with powdered sugar, so that it wouldn’t be so grainy. Have you ever tried it with confectioners sugar?

  18. Is the red cake with white areas, shown at top of this recipe, on your website? This is a favorite frosting of mine, but that cake looks fantastic!