7-Minute Brown Sugar Frosting

Close up of whipped cream in mixer beaters
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Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 10 mins

Seven-minute brown sugar frosting is a classic recipe. It appeared in newspapers as early as 1912, though it's most often associated with the 1930s. Apparently, it was around that time that it picked up the "7-minute" moniker and, due to the technique, it's also called "boiled frosting." Whatever you want to call it, this is a quick and delicious frosting for cakes and cupcakes, giving your homemade desserts a charming old-fashioned spin.

This frosting is made with egg whites and brown sugar, along with vanilla. You'll use a double boiler at first and the heat from the boiling water helps it thicken up as you beat. After that, it requires just a little extra beating and it's ready to frost your cake.

The resulting frosting is white and fluffy like marshmallow cream. It has a warm, caramel-like flavor with just the perfect amount of sweetness. Try the frosting on different types of cake. It's particularly fitting for seasonal recipes like butter pecan cupcakes, apple spice cake, and any recipe with walnuts or pumpkin. Get creative, too; some fans have found that it's fantastic on pineapple cakes.


  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • Dash salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat 1 to 2 inches of water in the bottom part of the double boiler until it is boiling. 

  3. In the top of a double boiler, add the brown sugar, egg whites, water, and salt. Place the double boiler over boiling water. The water itself should not come in contact with the bottom of the top of the double boiler. 

  4. Beat the sugar and egg mixture with an electric beater until the frosting thickens. This should take about 7 minutes and the frosting should hold its shape when dropped from the beater.

  5. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

  6. Continue beating until the frosting is thick enough to spread.

  7. Spread on your favorite cake and enjoy!


  • The recipe makes enough frosting to cover a 9x12 cake, two 9-inch cake layers, or a dozen cupcakes.
  • Make sure the boiling water doesn't bubble so much as to touch the top double boiler pan. The extra heat may result in a grainy frosting.
  • You'll find it best to spread the frosting while it's still warm. Just make sure that your cake is cool before you begin the frosting.

Recipe Variation

  • Many of the oldest recipes for seven-minute brown sugar frosting add corn syrup. It's not necessary, but if you'd like to follow that suggestion, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of light corn syrup (some use up to 1 tablespoon) to the egg white and brown sugar mix. Also, reduce the vanilla extract to just 1 teaspoon.
  • Other boiled frosting recipes add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar instead of corn syrup. Vanilla extract can be added or left out.