How to make old-fashioned 7-minute frosting, plus a dozen variations to try

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This light and fluffy seven-minute frosting has been topping cakes for decades. What made it so popular? Apart from its frothy, foamy deliciousness, it is pretty simple to make, and uses readily-available and inexpensive ingredients.

But just because it’s affordable and old-fashioned doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious to today’s taste buds! The recipe lasted so long in the first place because people loved it. (If you haven’t heard of it, it may be because it was edged out by ready-made frosting-in-a-can, which became popular in the mid-sixties.)

Because of its meringue-type consistency, it’s not a long-lasting frosting — more robust than a whipped cream frosting, but not as sturdy as a buttercream — so frost your cooled cake shortly before serving.

A variation of this classic — which uses brown sugar in place of the white — is known as seafoam frosting. (That full recipe is below.)

Here, find out how to make the original 7-minute frosting — plus get some how-tos on whipping up some tasty new ways to enjoy this icing! All of these recipes and suggested variations came from newspapers across the country, published from the 1940s through the early 1970s.

Recipe for the famous old-fashioned 7-minute frosting

There’s nothing like a homemade frosting to complement the flavor of your homemade cake! This fluffy, versatile seven-minute frosting adds something special to almost any cake.

There are a few important things to remember when making this frosting. First, be sure to measure the ingredients accurately, especially the corn syrup. Also, before you start beating the frosting mixture over the heat, check that the water for the double boiler is at a full boil (and make sure none of the water gets in with the frosting).

Finally, a tip to know when it’s done: the icing is cooked enough when it piles up in soft little peaks that hold their shape.

Seven-minute frosting: Base recipe


2 egg whites (room temperature)
1-1/2 cups sugar
Dash of salt
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla


Before putting the mixture on the heat, combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, water, and corn syrup in top of a double boiler. Beat about 1 minute, or until thoroughly mixed.

Next, place the top of the double boiler over boiling water, and beat constantly with a rotary beater (or at high speed of electric mixer) for 7 minutes, or until frosting will stand in stiff peaks, stirring frosting up from bottom and sides of pan occasionally with a rubber scraper, spatula or spoon.

Remove from boiling water. For a very smooth and satiny frosting, pour at once into a large bowl for a final beating. Finally, add vanilla and beat 1 minute, or until thick it is enough to spread.

Note: The mixture may be tinted by gently stirring in one or more drops of food coloring.

To use on cakes

This recipe makes 4-1/2 cups of frosting, or enough to cover tops and sides of two 8-inch layers (generously) or two 9-inch layers; or top and sides of 9- or 10-inch square cake; or 13×9-inch cake, or 10-inch tube cake, or about 16 large or 2 dozen small cupcakes; Or makes enough filling for a 15×10-inch cake roll.

Mix 2 batches of this recipe to frost tops and sides of three 10-inch layers, or to frost three-tiered layer cake (8-, 10-, 12- inch deep layers), or a three-tiered oblong cake.

7-minute frosting recipe

Now, try a dozen different variations!
1. Seafoam frosting

Follow classic recipe above, but use 1-1/2 cups firmly-packed brown sugar in place of the white sugar.

2. Chocolate seven-minute frosting

Melt 3 squares (3 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate and set aside to cool. Follow base recipe above, then blend in chocolate when mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Lemon 7-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, but substitute 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for the vanilla extract, and add 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel during the last minute of beating.

4. Orange seven-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, except reduce water to 1/4 cup and add 5 tablespoons orange juice. Omit the vanilla, and add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Add 1 teaspoon grated orange peel during the last minute of beating.

5. Coconut-marshmallow seven-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, then fold in 1 cup marshmallows, quartered, before spreading on cake. Then sprinkle top and sides of cake with 1-1/3 cups flaked coconut while frosting is still soft. (You might also like this recipe: The retro ‘Rave Reviews’ coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting.)

6. Coffee 7-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, but add 2 to 3 teaspoons instant coffee to the egg white mixture before beating.

7. Almond seven-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, but decrease vanilla to 1/4 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.

8. Pineapple 7-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, but substitute 1/2 cup canned pineapple juice for the water. Omit corn syrup and vanilla. Add 1/2 cup well-drained canned crushed pineapple.

9. Cherry 7-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, but add 3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice with the unbeaten egg white, and substitute 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind for the vanilla.

10. Pistachio 7-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, then substitute 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pistachio extract for vanilla extract. Blend in 1 or 2 drops green food coloring, if desired.

11. Peppermint seven-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, then fold in 1/2 cup finely-crushed peppermint candy and 2 drops red food coloring.

12. Burgundy wine 7-minute frosting

Follow base recipe above, but substitute 1/3 to 1/2 cup Burgundy for the water. Omit vanilla. Tint frosting with red food coloring.



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Comments on this story

3 Responses

  1. After 2 attempts this recipe failed. I’ll stick with pouring sugar syrup into soft peaks from now on

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