Favorite Vanilla Buttercream

A staple in any baker’s kitchen, vanilla buttercream is deliciously soft, creamy, and sweet. My favorite vanilla buttercream recipe is simple to make and is easily piped onto cakes and cupcakes for a truly memorable dessert.

vanilla buttercream frosting in a glass bowl

Finally! A completely separate post for the most common recipe in any baker’s repertoire: vanilla buttercream. This is my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe. There’s nothing fancy, crazy, or complicated about it, but the flavor and texture will certainly taste like you added something special.

But guess what? You didn’t. It’s our little secret.

How to Make Vanilla Buttercream

American vanilla buttercream is incredibly simple and much easier than, say, Swiss meringue buttercream. From mixing bowl to decorating cupcakes in less than 10 minutes! Here’s how to make it:

  1. Beat butter until creamy. Make sure your butter is softened to room temperature before beginning. Use a hand or stand mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add sugar, cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until these ingredients are incorporated, then bump up the mixer to medium-high speed. At this point, you can add more confectioners’ sugar if the frosting is too thin or a splash of heavy cream if it’s too thick.
  3. Taste and salt. Add a pinch of salt to offset the sweetness. Trust me on this one!

cupcakes on a plate topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles with pink polka dot cupcake wrappers

Buttercream Ingredients

Buttercream ingredients hardly differ between recipes, but the ratio of ingredients does vary. I’m here to tell you that this careful buttercream formula works EVERY time– my recipe is perfection.

  1. Butter: We can’t have buttercream without butter. Though salted is fine, I recommend using unsalted butter so you can control the added salt. Whichever you use, make sure the butter is at proper room temperature.
  2. Confectioners’ Sugar: Sweetens vanilla buttercream and adds stability and pipe-ability to the frosting.
  3. Heavy Cream: Though whole milk or half-and-half are perfectly acceptable, use heavy cream for maximum creaminess and richness.
  4. Pure Vanilla Extract: Adds that glorious vanilla flavor. And if you use homemade vanilla extract, even better. 🙂
  5. Salt: Offsets the sweetness and adds that little something extra.

Decorating with Buttercream

The word “creamy” doesn’t even do this stuff justice. But even though it’s supremely creamy, this vanilla buttercream holds its shape beautifully. It’s perfect for piping even the most complicated and intricate designs. When decorating cakes and cupcakes, I gravitate towards the following 5 piping tips. Each creates a completely different look, so that’s why it’s a great collection if you’re just starting out. And these tips won’t break the bank– they’re each pretty inexpensive.

  1. Wilton 1M (Rose) – a classic piping tip and the easy buttercream rose is a staple decoration. This same tip can also produce a decoration that resembles soft serve ice cream.
  2. Wilton 8B – one of my all-time favorites.
  3. Ateco 849 – it’s a pretty wide piping tip. You can make a rose, a soft-serve swirl, or a super easy ruffled look.
  4. Wilton 12 small round – since it doesn’t have any detailed edges, I love using this tip for silky creamy frostings such as salted caramel frosting and cream cheese frosting.
  5. Ateco 808 large round – it’s also a round tip, but it’s much larger. Its decoration looks like a big fluffy cloud!

Want to see how to decorate cupcakes? That video is right here!

a plate of cupcakes decorated with vanilla buttercream using various piping tips

How to Rid Vanilla Buttercream of Air Bubbles

Over-whipping vanilla buttercream creates air bubbles. The taste is no different, but the buttercream is no longer smooth and velvet-y. Here’s how to get rid of air bubbles in your frosting:

Ditch the mixer. Grab a wooden or metal spoon and begin stirring the buttercream by hand. Mash the frosting up against the side of the bowl to “pop” the bubbles. Do this until most of the air bubbles pop, about 1-2 minutes. This trick requires a lot of arm muscle!

vanilla buttercream in a glass bowl with wooden spoon

Ways to Use Vanilla Buttercream

I’ve used this vanilla buttercream more times than I can even fathom, but I love it most paired with chocolate cupcakes or vanilla cupcakes. If you scale it up (slightly) you can use it to frost a layered cake, like I do with my white layer cake recipe. If you add slightly more heavy cream, you can use this as the base for whipped buttercream, as I recommend with my vanilla sheet cake. It also tastes delicious with:

By the way, if you make my homemade vanilla extract, this buttercream tastes even more fantastic. 🙂

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cupcakes on a plate topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles with pink polka dot cupcake wrappers

Favorite Vanilla Buttercream

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2.5 cups
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: No Bake
  • Cuisine: American


This is my favorite vanilla buttercream. It’s the perfect vanilla frosting that’s simple, creamy and smooth and tastes unbelievable on vanilla cupcakes!


  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar (see note)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste


  1. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. I always add 1/8 teaspoon.
  2. Adjust if needed: You can control the consistency at this point– add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or more heavy cream if frosting is too thick (add only 1 Tablespoon at a time, beat together, then taste and add more if desired).
  3. Use immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.


  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or a thin layer on a 9×13 inch quarter sheet cake. Follow these ratios for a 2 layer cake and these ratios for a 3 layer cake.
  2. Confectioners’ Sugar: If your confectioners’ sugar is particularly lumpy, I recommend sifting it 1-2x before measuring and using.
  3. Heavy Cream: I love using heavy cream for the creamiest consistency. You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead if needed. The lower the fat, the less creamy your buttercream will be. Whichever you use, make sure it’s at room temperature. Otherwise your frosting could separate or appear grainy.

And here is my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe!

Chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

Deliciously soft, creamy, and easy PERFECT vanilla buttercream recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com


  1. Hi!I was wondering if almond milk would work for this recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Halle, you can, but the buttercream won’t be as creamy.

      1. Hi, I was wondering if this would be enough icing for a three layer cake?

  2. overall the frosting tasted okay, but I have a question.. first of all my frosting turned soft and gooey, it barely held up the shape of the piping tips.. Do you know why that would happen?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bree! Next time if your buttercream is too soft you can add more confectioners’ sugar to help it stiffen and hold its shape when piped.

  3. Can this frosting be used to frost an entire cake an be able to hold its shape smooth?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Reshmi, see recipe notes for quantity details and different ratios for larger cakes. It’s very smooth when piped / frosted, yes!

  4. Hi Sally,
    I love your recipes! I paired this buttercream with the confetti cupcakes but this is the second time my frosting has come out gritty. I tried mixing it for double the time and that helped but it still wasn’t as pretty as I had hoped. I used whole milk but maybe heavy cream would help make it smoother? I also set my butter out on a plate for 30 minutes beforehand. I am determined to get this right so thanks for any tips. 🙂

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shelton! Sometimes texture can depend on the brand of confectioners sugar you are using. If you find yours is gritty try sifting the sugar after measuring it next time. That should help!

      1. Paige Young says:

        Would this be considered a crusting buttercream? Making a birthday cake and trying to get a completely smooth icing (not wanting to use fondant) that hardens sometimes when out.

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Paige! Usually crusting buttercream uses shortening instead of all butter. This recipe will maintain it’s shape when piped but it won’t crust unless spread in a very thin layer. Here is our crusting buttercream recipe. (It’s in the gingerbread house blog post.) Enjoy!

    2. I take my butter out hours beforehand and it makes a world of difference!

      1. Thanks so much for this tip! I’m actually making a cake today and going to try this!

  5. Hi Sally. Been using this recipe of yours more times than I remember and always forgot to comment and say thanks!

    Your recipes are so simple and honestly my favorite thing is how you put so much detail in each recipe you use and you explain why you use a particular ingredient and how it helps with the overall recipe/presentation. Cheers!

  6. Hi Sally! If i used this recipe for cupcakes, would they be okay to sit on the counter for 24 hours?

    1. Hi Kaye, that shouldn’t be a problem.

  7. Hi Sally, Can This buttercream make-ahead? How long can it be keep at room temperature? How many days can it keep in refrigerate? How many days can it keep in freezing?


    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alan! Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator (usually in a bowl covered tightly with press and seal) or up to 3 months in the freezer (in a bowl or ziplock bag would work).

  8. Terrible, it absolutely ruined my cake! It was insanely thick and dry, even though I used only 4 cups of powdered sugar. I’ve made American buttercream many times and have never had any issues like this. Do not use this recipe if you want useable frosting!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ana! You can add more cream if your buttercream is too thick. Thanks for giving it a try!

  9. I am not someone who is usually a fan of buttercream, but I thought this was delicious! Most buttercream is too oily/fatty and makes my stomach hurt, so I was a little nervous with this one as it has a good chunk of butter. Surprisingly it was very mild in the buttery-ness. Would recommend!

  10. I absolutely love this buttercream, have used it many times. Sally could I add some meringue powder or another agent to help keep this frosting more stable in the heat of the summer? Or do you have another recipe that would stand up to some heat?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jill, If you replace half of the butter with shortening it should be more stable in the heat! I would still try to keep it inside, or at least out of direct rays of sun, on a particularly hot day until close to serving.

  11. Hi Sally,
    I plan to make the triple chocolate cake recipe (3 layers) with this buttercream recipe. So do I have to use the 3-layer cake ratio to have enough buttercream to frost the cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lola, correct – use the ratios from this recipe to yield enough for a three layer cake. Enjoy!

  12. Absolutely awful, there was too much sugar and so it had like a sugary texture and was way too thick no matter how much cream I had added!

  13. Hi Sally! I tried making buttercream once, but it turned out to be grainy even though the granules of the confectioner’s sugar were completely powdered. Did it perhaps have something to do with the butter? And could you please suggest something to prevent this in the future?
    Thank you.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anusha! Sometimes texture can depend on the brand of confectioners sugar you are using. If you find yours is gritty try sifting the sugar after measuring it next time. That should help!

  14. Hi Sally, I tried this recipe and it was good. My friends and family loves it.
    But for me personally it was too sweet. If I reduce the sugar, the buttercream is not as thick as it supposed to be. Is there something I can use to substitute the sugar but still maintain the consistency of the buttercream?

    Thankyou 😀
    ~love from Indonesia ❤

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lizz, for a less sweet buttercream, try adding a bit more salt (a pinch or two more). That should help cut the sweetness without altering the texture and consistency by removing some of the confectioners’ sugar. Or, you might like our Swiss Meringue Buttercream better — still delicious but less sweet than traditional American buttercream like this one. Hope this helps!

  15. Rheo Vargas says:

    Hi Sally,

    I need your advice. How do I avoid the grainy buttercream? Its like the powdered sugar do not disslove in the butter. How to make it really smooth And creamy.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rheo, sometimes texture can depend on the brand of confectioners sugar you are using. If you find yours is grainy, try sifting the sugar after measuring it next time. That should help!

      1. Rheo Vargas says:

        I will do that. thank you.

        However, Should i mix it longer to dissolve the sugar. Do you think mixing it longer will make any difference?

  16. Sarah Kaiser says:

    This is glorious, as is everything I’ve made from your website. I was wondering if I doubled the standard vanilla as a base, if I could split it and add the lemon ingredients to some of it, and the chocolate ingredients to some of it to have three different types of frosting. Or, is the chocolate and lemon recipes enough different that it would be better just to make 3 separate batches? My daughter’s first birthday is coming up, and I think it’s best to make things overly complicated. 😉

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah! That is definitely a great idea, but may end up being more trouble than it’s worth. Mostly because chocolate buttercream requires less powdered sugar to account for the cocoa powder so the base recipes aren’t exactly the same. You could make half batches of each if you don’t need the full amount. Would love to hear how everything goes for you!

  17. Hi Sally, can I use food colouring gel and in what quantity to get different colours. Planning to use it on a devils food chocolate cake and would like a different colour frosting. Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nicole, absolutely — we recommend gel food coloring for best results. The quantity will vary depending on the brand and your desired colors. Start small with just a few drops (so you don’t accidentally start off with a shade much darker than what you desire), and add additional drops one at a time as needed. Enjoy!

  18. Hi, I’m sorry I did not read through all the comments to see if this question is already been answered. But I need a crumb coat for a cake. Would this work?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:


  19. My buttercream always ends up tasting too much like butter to me. I use a scale so that I can be precise with my measurements, but it always ends up tasting like sweetened butter. Can you please advise? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lisa! To help cut the sweetness, you might try adding another pinch of salt. That should help with some of the sweetness, although it is a pretty sweet buttercream. For a less sweet version, you might like our Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead. Would love to know if you decide to give it a try!

  20. kelly Doherty says:

    Can you color the vanilla buttercream? If so, what do you use to color the frosting?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelly, absolutely! We recommend using gel food coloring. Gel food coloring is usually more vibrant than liquid food coloring and doesn’t impact the buttercream consistency like adding liquids does. Hope this helps!

  21. Way too heavy, buttercream needs to be whipped on high speed, this just tastes like butter

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