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This classic vanilla buttercream frosting recipe is my go-to base for all of my American buttercream recipes. It is delicate, creamy, perfectly sweetened, and so simple to make. Learn how to adjust the consistency based on how you’d like to use it, and tint it any color you desire. In this post, I will teach you my best tricks for perfect buttercream every time to help you be on your way to piping or spreading it onto all of your cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and more in no time.
THIS IS MY FAVORITE VANILLA BUTTERCREAM RECIPE
Fun fact: out of the 500+ recipes that exist here on Fresh April Flours, there are more than 50 of them that have some sort of frosting or icing on them.
Out of those 50, about 10 include this exact vanilla buttercream recipe, as written below, and about 25 of them include some sort of variation of this recipe, flavored with an extract or some other flavoring.
I love this buttercream recipe so much that I actually dedicated an entire cookbook to American buttercream recipes, and it is one of my favorite resources for all of my very best tricks for making perfect buttercream frosting for any occasion.
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS BUTTERCREAM RECIPE
I often hear from folks that they don’t really like buttercream frosting because it is too sweet.
While I can agree with that, there are so many ways to cut and complement the sweetness of traditional American buttercream, and I am confident that the specific ingredients and methods outlined in this post and recipe will have you enjoying vanilla buttercream in a whole new way, just as I have.
If you are a home baker, a staple recipe you should absolutely have down pat is one for vanilla buttercream frosting. It’s simple, uncomplicated, and can make a homemade dessert taste even better, plus you can tint it any color you like!
BUTTERCREAM FROSTING INGREDIENTS
Buttercream ingredients rarely differ when you compare different recipes. When you might notice, however, is that the ratios differ. I’m confident that my best vanilla buttercream frosting recipe with perfect buttercream ratios will give you a reliable formula you can use every time you need to whip up a batch.
For my favorite buttercream frosting recipe, you will need:
BUTTER: as the name implies, buttercream is made from creaming butter and sugar together. I always prefer to use unsalted butter so I can control the added salt and adjust the flavor more easily. Salted butter is fine, but you’ll want to be sure to taste your buttercream before adding any additional salt.
POWDERED SUGAR: this is the primary source of flavor and sweetness. Powdered sugar, as opposed to granulated sugar, lends structure to buttercream, giving you the ability to pipe or spread it based on how much powdered sugar you use.
VANILLA EXTRACT: with vanilla buttercream comes pure vanilla flavor. Do not use imitation vanilla in this recipe. You will be able to taste the artificialness, trust me.
MILK or CREAM: while I will always reach for heavy cream when making buttercream, milk of any kind will do in this recipe. Heavy cream adds a richness and creaminess that no other liquid dairy really can. If you would prefer not to purchase heavy cream for the sole purpose of making buttercream, you can use any milk that you have on hand. Half-and-half will also work just fine.
SALT: do not leave out the salt. I might even go so far as to say that salt can make or break your buttercream, because without it, your frosting can seem too sweet. With the perfect dose of salt, I believe you can turn a buttercream hater into a buttercream lover.
HOW TO MAKE AMERICAN VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
The process for making American buttercream is very simple. It can be ready to use in about 10-15 minutes if your butter is at room temperature and ready to go.
Start by beating the the softened butter on medium-high until smooth, about 2 minutes. You can use a handheld mixer or a stand mixer to make buttercream.
Next, reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until everything is combined. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
Slowly add the milk or cream, watching for and stopping at desired consistency. Then, add the salt and increase the mixer speed to medium. Beat the mixture until completely smooth.
Turn off the mixer and use a spatula to stir the buttercream by hand to remove air bubbles and make it smooth and creamy. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes, but can take longer, especially if your mixer is very strong.
HOW TO DECORATE WITH BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
What you will love about this perfect vanilla buttercream frosting is that it holds its shape so nicely. You can use it to pipe small, intricate lines like on football cupcakes or football brownie bites, or make more elaborate borders on cakes like I do with my basic chocolate cake recipe.
If you find that the consistency doesn’t work for your project, simply follow the troubleshooting/success tips below to adjust it.
HOW TO REMOVE AIR BUBBLES IN BUTTERCREAM
Air bubbles can really ruin the look of your buttercream. In fact, it’s something I notice in so many beautiful photos of desserts– those pesky little air bubbles create pockets of air that create holes in your final product. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way!
I mentioned above in my steps for making buttercream that pressing out the air bubbles will make your buttercream nice and smooth. In order to do this, you’ll want to remove the bowl from your stand mixer or put your hand mixer away. All you need is a spatula!
Stir the buttercream nice and slow, pressing it up against the sides of the bowl to press out the air and pop the bubbles. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes but it can take longer if your buttercream is especially air bubbly. Stop when you have the perfect creamy consistency.
I admit, this can be tiring, but give yourself a break when you need it and come back to it in a few minutes! There is no need to rush the buttercream process.
If you find that your buttercream is consistently always full of a ton of air bubbles, consider reducing the speed of your mixer. There’s a chance your mixer is quite strong and is simply incorporating way too much air into your frosting. Slow it down a bit at every step and see if that helps!
HOW TO USE VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
This buttercream recipe is perfect with nearly every cake, cupcake, cookie, or brownie recipe out there. As written, this recipe will top 24 cupcakes or frost a 2-layer cake (I always suggest scaling it up a bit if you want more for piping!).
SUCCESS TIPS FOR THIS AMERICAN BUTTERCREAM RECIPE
Make sure you are using room temperature ingredients. If your butter is too warm, your buttercream will be too loose and fall apart. It will also turn out greasy and unappealing. Absolutely do not use melted butter.
Do not leave out the salt. It may deter you, but I promise, even a pinch of salt will make a huge difference in the sweetness of your buttercream. I prefer ¼ teaspoon for every 1 cup of butter and 4 cups of powdered sugar. Adjust your final result to your preferences.
Do not use the whisk attachment to make buttercream. You will incorporate too much air and your buttercream will be craggy and hard to work with.
Use good quality vanilla extract, not imitation. In fact, if you’re feeling really fun, you can use vanilla bean paste to really amp up the vanilla flavor and throw some vanilla flecks into your frosting. If you want to be sure your vanilla buttercream stays stark white, consider using clear vanilla extract. You can also make your own homemade vanilla extract!
Use gel food coloring to tint your buttercream as opposed to liquid food coloring. Gel coloring is what I prefer because it doesn’t thin out frosting like the liquid kind does!
AMERICAN BUTTERCREAM FROSTING FAQs
MORE FAVORITES FROM FRESH APRIL FLOURS TO PAIR WITH VANILLA BUTTERCREAM
Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ to ⅓ cup (30-80mL) milk or cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the the butter on medium-high until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Reduce the mixer to low, then slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until everything is combined. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
- Slowly add the milk or cream, watching for and stopping at desired consistency. Add the salt, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth.
- If after beating, the frosting is too stiff, add more cream. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar, about 2 Tablespoons at a time.
- Turn off the mixer and use a spatula to stir the buttercream by hand to remove air bubbles and make it smooth and creamy. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes, but can take longer, especially if your mixer is very strong. Buttercream is ready to use right away. Store leftovers covered at room temperature up to 3 days or in the refrigerator up to 6 weeks. Frosting freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature. You may need to beat it again for a minute or two to bring it back to life.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.