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When my husband and I married over 15 years ago, neither one of us had a ton of cooking experience or a long list of family recipes to pull from. Sure, I had my chocolate eclair cake and he could grill a steak, but beyond that we were pretty hopeless in the kitchen. But there was one special recipe my husband did bring with him, and that was his grandmother Big Sadie’s simple and easy 7-minute icing. 

This icing is exactly what it sounds like — a 7-minute version of sweet fluffiness. The ingredients are as basic and simple as they come. You can tell this icing was invented at the hands of great Southern cooks who were working with only a few  ingredients (I don’t know if this was technically invented in the South, but this icing has been in Southern cookbooks for years).

The ingredient list may be small and the method may be simple, but this easy 7-minute icing is packed with flavor. It literally tastes like a soft marshmallow and is delicious on almost any cake or cupcake. My husband’s beloved grandmother Big Sadie taught him how to make it. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet her, but I feel like this recipe offers a tiny connection to her every time we make it for our family.

Before we jump to the recipe, I wanted to share a little more about the impact both of my husband’s grandmothers had on his life, and then you’ll easily see how special this icing recipe is. I asked him to share his perspective on what makes this recipe so special. I absolutely love this story and hope it warms your heart the way it does mine.

How the 7-Minute Icing Recipe Started in our Family

From my husband’s perspective he writes:

I have been lucky enough to have had two amazing grandmothers in my life.  They each were so different but the love I shared with both of them was magical.  My Grandmother Jane Bray was a lady I loved to play cards and go to the movies with.  My dad’s mother, Big Sadie, was absolutely my favorite fishing partner.  Jane Bray would never pick up a fishing rod, much less a fish or cricket.  The one way they were the same is they loved me as much as I loved them.

Now, you might think Big Sadie was big because of her name but that was far from the truth.  She got her nickname from my cousin Sam and Big Sadie stuck.  Big Sadie was an amazing lady, who was part of the Greatest Generation.  She lived through the Great Depression and was married before World War II.  She told me many times that she didn’t know how to cook at all when she was first married. The only thing she did know how to make was the greatest of Southern foods— grits.

Big Sadie ended up picking up many other recipes along the way, including this 7-minute icing. She needed as many easy, comforting recipes as possible. My Grandfather Chili (whom I was named after) passed away in 1956 from heart complications.  As you or I can only imagine, she was raising an 8-year-old boy and a teenage daughter by herself and it had to be hard, but she always had time for cooking and baking.  As I grew up, I  thought Big Sadie was the strongest person in the world. She was so sweet and with the greatest southern drawl, I always wanted to be around her.  When I wanted to be spoiled a little, I went to Big Sadie’s house for a weekend or more, and she would often make this for me.

My Grandmother Big Sadie and Grandfather Chili

Make this 7-Minute Icing When you Want to Spoil Someone 

The one thing that always amazed me about Big Sadie is she was the best cook and baker I have ever known in my entire life.  Even after telling me how she didn’t know how to cook when she got married, she would amaze anyone in the kitchen.  My all-time favorite thing she made was this 7-minute icing.  She would always have a cake already baked and ready for this deliciousness to be spread all over it.  She would either make a pound cake or Devils Food cake before I got to her house.  At the beginning of my stay, we would make the 7-minute icing together.

I am so happy to share this great recipe with you today.

Chili and Big Sadie

How to Make the Simple 7-Minute Icing

Since my husband passed along the recipe and technique to me, I’ve discovered how many ways you can use this icing. We use it on birthday cakes, or you can add it to:

  • Coconut cake
  • Pound cake
  • Devil’s food cake or other rich chocolate cake recipes
  • Yellow cakes
  • Vanilla or chocolate cupcakes
  • Any recipe you want to add delicious, gooey, marshmallow-like sweetness to


  • 3 egg whites (I use an egg separator like this)
  • 1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 TBSP of ice cold water

This recipe calls for a double boiler and hand mixer, so make sure you have your equipment ready! You don’t want to whisk this by hand, it would take way too long.


Assemble your double boiler and fill up your pot about ⅓ of the way with water. Bring water to a nice boil over medium-high heat. You don’t want the water to touch the bottom of the bowl.

Once ready, place your bowl on top of the saucepot of the double boiler.

Add all ingredients to the bowl of your double boiler. Some recipes tell you to put it in a certain order, but this recipe is so simple it doesn’t seem to make a difference (as far as I can tell) what order it goes in.

Once combined, use the hand mixer to beat the mixture over the simmering water, starting at low speed.  Gradually increase to full speed for about 5-7 minutes. Pull the bowl off the sauce pot and continue to beat for another minute or two.

While we call this 7-minute icing, it may take more or less time. You want to look for glossy, sticky, stiff peaks that are super fluffy.

Tips for Successful 7-Minute Icing

The 6 TBSP water must be ice cold.

Make sure your cake or cupcakes are ready to be iced as soon as you make this. The icing will deflate within about 30 minutes. It still tastes delicious, but it won’t be as fluffy if you wait too long to add the icing.

You could add different flavors of extracts instead of vanilla if you prefer, such as ¼ teaspoon of mint or ½ teaspoon of almond extract. Try adding lemon or lime zest if you want a citrus slant.