Your Buttercream is Too Sweet? How to Lessen the Sweetness of Buttercream Frosting

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Last Updated on December 31, 2022

Oh, buttercream. Sweet and decadent buttercream has been the frosting of choice in American bakery for like, ever. But sometimes it can be a bit overpowering and not everybody is into its taste as it is basically just butter and sugar. Today we bring you some alternatives to lessen the sweetness of your buttercream frosting to use on top of your favorite recipes without the fear of overpowering sugar.

Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting: Cut Down by Using Salt

The oldest trick in the book! Using salt on sweets is a very easy technique used by professional bakers and amateurs alike. Salt helps balance the amount of sugar present in buttercream frosting. 

Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting: Cut Down by Using Salt

In order to incorporate it in your favorite recipe, just add a pinch of salt into the powdered sugar that you are going to use and, voilá! Do not worry though, it will still taste sweet, but it will have a nice balance, without adding any different flavor to it. This option is perfect for classic vanilla buttercream but you can also use it for other classic flavorings, such as almond.

You can also use salted butter instead of unsalted butter for making it. This is a great shortcut! In general, we found that butter-based recipes are not as sweet as shortening based recipes, but they are also a bit softer.

Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting: Sweet and Sour is the Best Combination!

If you are making a citrus cake (or any cake that would go well with some lemon flavor) you can also add some lemon juice to your frosting. This will cut the sweetness and also give a nice kick to the mixture.

To achieve this, add a teaspoon of lemon juice to your regular batch of buttercream. Be mindful that, as it is a liquid, it can modify its consistency. Be careful of not adding too much, because it will turn soft.

This method and the previous can be used together to get the best results! So, adding a ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per 4 cups of powdered sugar is one of our favorite ways to obtain the most balanced buttercream possible.

This tip was taken from Pretty Simple Sweet. What a great idea!

Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting: Use Cream Cheese Together with Butter

Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting: Sweet and Sour is the Best Combination!

Using both cream cheese and buttercream will give you a mix type buttercream. To your regular buttercream that uses 1 stick of butter, add 4 ounces of cream cheese. You will dilute the recipe and therefore it will not be as sweet. 

This will make a soft frosting that does not crust, but with practice, you can get a smooth finish on top of any dessert! It will also add depth of flavor, as the sourness and creaminess of the cream cheese will balance out the powdered sugar. 

Keep in mind the quantities though! If you end up with too much frosting, you can always store it in the fridge or freezer to use at a later date.

Add a Little Bit of Extra Fat

Buttercream is basically fat plus sugar, so if you have a lot of sugar in your mixture you can solve it by adding more fat. As with the cream cheese method, adding other types of fat to your original frosting will dilute the amount of sugar there is in it and will not taste as sweet.

Try heavy cream. Adding cream will increase the amount of fat in the mixture and will give you a bigger batch. Be mindful of your consistency as cream is liquid fat, different from shortening or butter, so you will be able to use this method only if you have a stiffer cream.

You can also add more butter or shortening. Butter has a particular taste, though. Shortening has a more neutral taste.

Add in one of these ingredients a little bit at a time and taste test until you are happy with the result!

Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting: Use Cream Cheese Together with Butter

Try Other Types of Buttercream

Ermine Buttercream

This is a flour-based frosting that is cooked over the stove and then used warm on top of cakes. It is very old-school, but it works! It is just a lot more hassle to make than regular American buttercream, but if you are trying to cut down on calories or sugar it is perfect for you!

You can check out The Tough Cookie’s recipe for it, we just loved it! But basically, you mix the sugar, milk, and flour together and heat it up over the stove inside a saucepan. Once it boils, you cook it for one minute and keep mixing it away from the heat until it cools down to body temperature. 

To this, you add the butter 1 spoonful at a time. Once you are done with all the butter, add the vanilla extract. It will make a thick and smooth cream that you can use just as regular buttercream!

You need 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of room temperature unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and 4 ½ tablespoons of flour. 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Although it also is a bit harder to make than regular American buttercream, it does not taste as sweet and is still very smooth and silky. Adding eggs to the mixture makes all the flavors pull together differently.

Check out Liv for Cake’s recipe for it. You will need a double boiler! Also, be mindful that all utensils need to be wiped down with vinegar and you need to be very careful about not letting any yolk mix in with your whites. 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

How Do You Make Powdered Sugar Frosting Not So Sweet?

Adding ingredients like salt and acidity well help to balance out the sweetness and ensure your frosting doesn’t taste like pure sugar (it’s pretty difficult to make American buttercream taste anything but super sweet!). To make this extra soft, less sweet version of American buttercream with powdered sugar, just follow this recipe. The only ingredients you’ll need are: 330 grams of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 495 grams of powdered sugar, 45 grams of Greek yoghurt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.

  1. Now all you need to do is add the butter and salt to a bowl and mix until fluffy.
  2. At this point, gradually add the sugar, continually mixing as you go.
  3. Now add the yogurt and vanilla and continue whipping.
  4. The longer you whip for, the lighter your frosting will become.
  5. Feel free to add more salt or yogurt if your frosting still tastes too sweet for your liking.

Is American Buttercream Too Sweet?

American buttercream is light, fluffy and absolutely delicious. However, because of the amount of icing sugar used, it tends to be exceptionally sweet and may not be to everyone’s taste. If you’d like the consistency of American buttercream but not the taste, there are a few ways to make the buttercream not quite as sweet. Here’s a few ways to try.

  • Adding fat. Add around a tablespoon of shortening (as this has less flavor) to your buttercream. Fold into your buttercream and taste to see if you need to add more. This should help to balance out the sweetness, with little change to the texture.
  • Spice it up. Adding ingredients such as flavoring extracts, acidity like lemon juice or seasonings like salt can help to distract from how sweet the buttercream really is. It also adds another level of flavor to your frosting.
  • Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is only helpful if you’re making chocolate frosting. Dark chocolate is known for it’s bitter taste, which is exactly what you need if you’re looking to balance out the sweetness of your frosting. It will also add more depth to the flavor of your chocolate buttercream frosting.

How to Make Chocolate Frosting Not So Sweet?

Chocolate frosting is one of the easiest frostings to change in terms of sweetness. All you need to do is add a small amount of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is well known for it’s best bitter taste, which works well to even out the sweetness in chocolate frosting.

What is the Least Sweet Cake Frosting?

If you’re looking for an alternative to American buttercream frosting that’s not overwhelmingly sweet, there are two options I usually opt for. The first is ermine buttercream (sometimes known as flour buttercream). Despite flour being the main ingredient, it still remains light and smooth. As well as that, it has a great flavor! Another go-to option is cream cheese frosting. Naturally, this is a far less sweet option. It tastes much like cream cheese, with that delicious tangy flavor.


Water or yolk in your whites will not allow them to rise and you will not be able to make the meringue. So it is of utmost importance to pay attention to these details.

Have you tried any of these options? Did they work out for you? Experiment with other ways too! You can switch lemon juice for orange or clementine juice, for example. Comment down below with your favorite trick!

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