12 Ways To Upgrade Canned Frosting

Premade, ready-to-use frosting is a godsend. Whether you're short on time, intimidated by the thought of making your own buttercream, or just like the convenience of a canned product, it's the perfect option. You can use canned frosting to quickly and easily put the finishing touches on almost any homemade cake, cupcake, donut, brownie — even cookies, bars, and squares. It's been changing the way we enjoy baked goods of all types, ever since it first came into popularity way back in the early 1950s.

But as useful as canned frosting is, it's not always a perfect product. Some people think premade frosting is too sweet. Others complain about its lack of creaminess or limited flavor options. Fortunately, those issues don't have to be deal-breakers! Instead of thinking of ready-to-use frosting as a final, finished product, consider it a culinary blank canvas. The hard work is done — the frosting is made. Now, you just need to customize it. From mix-ins to flavor-enhancers, to tips and tricks for enhancing that frosting's richness and creaminess, get ready to have some fun. Here are a dozen delicious ways to upgrade canned frosting and turn this already tasty pantry essential into something that's truly spectacular — the literal icing on that metaphoric cake.

1. Try whipping your frosting

Ready-made frosting is the ultimate time saver — you can just let your cake cool and then spread it on, right from the can. But here's the thing. Just because you can use pre-made frosting straight from the package it comes in, that doesn't mean you should. One of the biggest problems many people have with canned frosting is that it just isn't as light and fluffy as the frosting you make yourself. It can seem dense and heavy on a cake and weigh your slice down instead of bringing the delicious airiness you get from a homemade frosting.

Luckily, this is one problem that's easy to fix. Instead of using your frosting as is, transfer it into a bowl or mixer and whip it before you use it. Empty the entire carton into the bowl on your stand mixer, or put it into a bowl and grab your hand mixer. Then, whip the frosting until it becomes noticeably airier and begins to increase in volume. Make sure your frosting is room temperature so it whips easily. Start at a low speed and increase gradually as it gets lighter — this will help you avoid splatters.

Most importantly, as you whip, watch for the formation of soft peaks — fluffy "billows" in the frosting that hold their shape. This is a sign the frosting is becoming smoother and creamier. If your frosting seems too stiff while whipping, add a small amount of milk or cream to thin it slightly.

2. Add flavor extracts

Another common problem many people have with pre-made frosting is that it just doesn't come in enough flavors. But this, too, can be easily remedied. Whether you decide to whip your frosting or not, you should still transfer it out of the can it comes in and into a mixing bowl. Why? So you can add your own custom flavors!

Vanilla is the most versatile flavor and the one that you can adapt in the most ways. Once you have it in a bowl, consider adding a few drops of whatever flavor extract you're in the mood for. Almond, lemon, orange, hazelnut, maple, run, and lavender extracts are all incredible options. Have chocolate frosting kicking around in your pantry? You can flavor it too with extracts like peppermint, raspberry, mint, espresso, cherry, and cinnamon. Cream cheese frostings are wonderful with a few drops of added lemon, ginger, caramel, strawberry, or pineapple extract. You can even flavor a strawberry ready-to-use tub of frosting with added lemon, raspberry, peach, banana, or coconut extracts.

Just remember a couple of essential rules as you play: extracts are potent, and a little goes a long way. Start with a few drops, mix the frosting well, and then add more if needed. Try to stick to complementary flavors you know will work well together. Always taste as you go. And don't be afraid to get creative and experiment until you find just the right pairing or combination of flavors — there are no rules!

3. Use citrus zest

Flavor extracts aren't the only way to add vibrant flavor to premade frostings. You can also use fresh citrus fruit. The tart zest — or thin outer peel — of lime, lemon, grapefruit, or orange pairs perfectly with the rich, buttery sweetness of frosting. You'll need approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest for one tub of frosting. (As you zest, make sure you use Giada De Laurentiis' secret zesting tip — it's a game changer.) Whatever type of citrus you're in the mood for, you're in luck because they all go well with virtually any flavor of premade frosting you can buy, from vanilla and chocolate to fruit flavors and beyond. Just measure out your zest, add it to the frosting, and mix well.

For even more of a citrus blast in your frosting, you can also add a dash of fresh citrus juice. Grab a juicer and squeeze out some fresh juice from whatever citrus fruit you've been zesting. Then, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of that juice to your frost and stir well. Just be careful not to use too much — you don't want to risk your frosting ending up too thin. You could also use a small amount of bottled lemon or lime juice from your fridge, or even a splash of fresh OJ — with or without pulp!

4. Blend in some added spice

Like zest, added spices are another fantastic way to turn standard-flavored frostings into something extraordinary. As with the other techniques we've already covered, to add spice to frosting, you first need to transfer the frosting out of its tub and into a bowl or mixer. Then, add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of the spice of your choice to the frosting and mix well.

For vanilla frosting, consider spicy additions like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, or ground ginger. Cinnamon is also great with chocolate frosting, as is chili powder, espresso powder, cayenne pepper, and even lavender. You can also use spice blends like pumpkin pie spice or chai spice in either flavor of frosting as well. Both will provide an even richer and more robust flavor profile to your dessert. Don't overlook unexpected spice options like ground pink peppercorns, smoked paprika, or even a fragrant curry. Even unusual spices that aren't typically part of our dessert menu can shine in certain uses, like blended into a creamy frosting.

As with any flavoring you add to something you're cooking, remember to start small. Use less than you think you might need, mix it in, and give it a taste. Then, add more spice or flavoring if needed. It's always possible to add more flavor, but you can never take it away if you are too heavy-handed at the start.

5. Stir in melted chocolate or cocoa powder

Beyond spices, flavorings, or zest, another great way to upgrade canned chocolate frosting in particular is with the addition of even more chocolate. Think of it this way — you can never have too much of a good thing! It's the same reason why you might take an already delicious chocolate cake mix and add ingredients to it. Those additions just make the cake even more scrumptious. With frosting, adding chocolate not only deepens the flavor but also makes it even richer and more satisfying once you spread it on your cake or anything else you're looking to frost.

Melted chocolate squares are an ideal frosting addition. Melt 3 to 4, or about 3 to 4 ounces, and then gradually fold that melted chocolate into your premade frosting. You can do the same thing with ½ cup of melted chocolate chips. For a darker, richer, and less sweet chocolate frosting, consider folding 1 to 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder into your frosting. You can also use hot chocolate mix and even chocolate syrup if you'd like.

And, if you're not a chocolate fan, you can use the same technique with other baking chips. White chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, mint chips, and even butterscotch chips all pair fantastically with frosting. Just melt them down and stir them in. 

6. Mix the frosting with jam or jelly

Flavor extracts are great, but with fruit in particular, nothing's better than the real thing. If you're on the hunt for a fresh, natural-tasting strawberry, raspberry, or grape frosting that tastes like it's straight from the garden, then why not turn to jams and jellies to upgrade your pre-made frosting?

For instance, you could start with a tub of vanilla frosting and transfer it into a mixing bowl. Then, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of chunky strawberry jelly. If possible, opt for a thicker, more concentrated brand versus one that is runny or contains a lot of liquid. Your frosting will stand up better. Whatever you choose, mix the two well. When done, put the frosting in the fridge to chill and set, and then frost your cake as normal.

Imagine the possibilities: vanilla frosting paired with raspberry chipotle preserves or an earthy fig jam. Chocolate frosting whipped with zesty orange marmalade or ginger apple butter? Cream cheese frosting with sunny apricot preserves or a peach jam exploding with freshness. The options go on and on, each more delicious than the last.

7. Combine the frosting with cream cheese

You can already buy cream cheese-flavored frosting, but why not go one better and add actual fresh cream cheese to your frosting instead? Nothing compares to the incredible tang and rich, velvety texture of fresh cream cheese. And adding cream cheese to a premade frosting is the perfect way to increase its creaminess and make it even smoother, lusher, and more tasty.

To get started, measure out approximately 4 to 8 ounces of cream cheese and let it come to room temperature. This will make it easier to blend and ensure a smooth texture. You can combine the cream cheese and frosting by hand, but a stand mixer or hand mixer are better options. Both will ensure the frosting and cream cheese are perfectly blended and that the final frosting ends up nice and fluffy, ready to spread on a cake. Be careful to mix the two only until the frosting and cream cheese are well combined — you don't want to overmix. If your frosting seems too runny, add powdered sugar to help thicken it. Chilling the mixed frosting before use will also help to make frosting a breeze.

For a similarly creamy and decadent frosting, you could also swap that cream cheese for fresh whipped cream or Cool-Whip. Just combine the premade frosting and whipped topping with a hand mixer or stand mixer, again being careful not to overmix. Then, spread that light and airy frosting directly onto your cake and serve immediately.

8. Fold in your favorite nut butter

Are you a peanut butter fanatic? If so, you've likely noticed that pre-made peanut butter frosting is almost impossible to find in most grocery stores and markets. But that doesn't mean you can't make your own, simply by upgrading a tub of premade vanilla frosting. To perform this super easy hack, all you need to do is dump your tub of canned frosting into a bowl and then add ¼ to ½ cup of your favorite peanut butter. Make sure the peanut butter is at room temperature (many people insist it really should be stored in the fridge). Then, mix the frosting and peanut butter a little bit at a time until both are well combined and perfectly creamy.

Although chunky peanut butter can be mixed with frosting, you'll end up with smoother frosting overall if you use a creamy brand of peanut butter to start. Nut butters like almond, cashew, and even hazelnut spread are also wonderful potential frosting additions. And don't limit yourself to vanilla frosting alone — each of these mouthwatering spreads will also work perfectly with a chocolate-flavored frosting as well. Bring out your inner Willy Wonka and create the candy-flavored cake and frosting of your dreams!

9. Stir in toasted coconut or chopped nuts

When looking to upgrade canned frosting, don't forget that ingredients that add texture to the frosting are just as important as those that add flavor. Toasted coconut is one perfect option for adding both. Grated, toasted coconut is more than just nutty and filled with complex, smokey, caramelized flavor.  It also packs that delightful crunch. It's crisp and chewy and full of all that flavor and texture that only comes from the tropics.

To mix coconut into any frosting, first transfer your canned frosting into a bowl. Then, add between ½ and 1 cup of coconut and mix well. In addition to toasted coconut, you could also use shredded coconut, coconut flakes, or even diced coconut chips. Since it's a "dry" ingredient, coconut shouldn't impact the consistency of your frosting significantly, so feel free to use as little or as much as you like...really pile it in if you want cake with that's bursting with island flavor.

In addition to coconut, you can also add texture and crunch to frosting with a wide variety of other ingredients. Chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios are all wonderful options for adding nutty flavors and texture to frosting. You could also use diced, dried fruit, including raisins, cranberries, or apricots. Or, for an expected yet delicious twist on standard frostings, try mixing granola or even crushed pretzel pieces into your frosting before you spread it on your cake, cookies, or brownies.

10. Mix in crushed cookies or candy

Cookies and candies are also amazing additions to frosting, adding flavor and crunch to whatever baked good you're making. You can add ½ cup or more to any can of premade, canned frosting to upgrade it considerably. Just combine the cookies or crushed candy, mix well, chill, and frost.

Making a chocolate-based dessert? You can add crushed Oreos, chocolate-covered espresso beans, brownie chunks, toffee bits, or even crushed chocolate-covered peanuts to your frosting. For a vanilla frosting, consider crushed vanilla wafers, crumbled sugar cookies, crushed lemon shortbread, graham crackers, or even gingersnaps.

Crushed candy is yet another indulgent and delicious way to add flavor and crunch to frosting. Just select the candy of your choice and then run it through your blender or food processor to chop it into relatively fine pieces — you don't want your frosting too chunky. Peppermint candy, cinnamon red hots, M&Ms, skittles, Reese's Pieces, and even those butterscotch candies your grandparents likely kept sitting around in bowls are all perfect options. 

Whatever you pick, just make sure you crush or chop it as uniformly as possible so that the pieces are all relatively the same size. Mix gently, and don't overmix — you don't want your frosting to turn stiff or dense. And if your frosting does start to become too thick or stiff to spread, remember that you can add a small splash of milk, liquid, or juice to help to thin it out and make it more manageable.

11. Splash in some food coloring

Playing with different flavor combinations and textures isn't the only way you can quickly and easily upgrade premade frosting. You can also change the frosting's color. All you need is some food coloring (ideally gel-based), a bit of creative whimsy, and some dye-proof bowls! 

You can add food coloring to your entire tub of frosting, or divvy it up into smaller portions depending on how many different colors you need in total. First, decide on the number of colors you want and distribute your frosting accordingly into individual bowls. (You may need to use more than 1 tub of frosting, depending on how creative you intend to be.) Then, add a drop or two of food coloring to each bowl of frosting and mix well. You may want to do this by hand instead of using a mixer so you don't have to worry about cross-contamination of colors.

When frosting with multiple shades, consider first applying what's known as a "crumb coat" of frosting to your cake. This handy secret, used by super chefs like Ina Garten, will give your cake a more professional appearance and help to reduce the risk of your different colors blurring together. First, frost your cake with a very thin layer of plain, uncolored frosting. Think of it like a base coat of paint. Put the frosted cake in the fridge and let it set. Then, go ahead and carefully add your additional frosting, one color at a time. 

12. Add crumbled bacon

Finally, when it comes to incredible and delicious ways to upgrade premade frosting, don't forget bacon — it really does make everything taste better. Adding cooked, crumbled bacon to frosting is the ideal way to create the perfect blend of salty and sweet that so many of us are obsessed with. It's the perfect layering of flavors that excites all of our taste buds and sends the brain into hyperdrive.

Crumbled bacon pairs well with vanilla and chocolate-flavored frosting in particular. To whip up this incredible concoction, you'll first need around 4 to 6 strips of cooked, crumbled bacon — or approximately 3 to 4 tablespoons of crumbles, depending on the size of your bacon strips. Then, just fold the bacon into the frosting as you would any other ingredient. Make sure the crumbles are well drained. You might even blot them with a paper towel before use to remove any excess grease. You can also garnish your frosted cake, cupcakes, or cookies with even more bacon crumbles on top of the frosting before serving. Just remember that since your dessert now includes meat, it should be stored in the fridge rather than being left out on the cupboard for an extended period.

If you don't have bacon on hand, a light dusting of bacon-flavored salt would also be a great frosting addition. Or, you could also garnish your frosted dessert with those crunchy, pre-cooked bacon bits you typically use in salad. But, of course, real bacon is better!