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A staple in any baker’s kitchen, vanilla buttercream frosting is deliciously soft, creamy, and sweet. My favorite recipe for American vanilla buttercream 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 frosting. 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 American Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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 Frosting 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 you are using room temperature butter.
  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.

For something lighter and less sweet, I recommend this whipped cream frosting.


Decorating with Buttercream Frosting

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 Frosting

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 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

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2.5 cups 1x
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: No Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  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.

Keywords: Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. NOT GOOD I WAS MAKING CUPCAKES AS A GIFT AND THE FROSTING LITERALLY COMPLETELY SEPARATED really annoyed right now.

    1. I just made some Easter cupcakes with frosting and they turned out great!! Thank you for a tasty treat!

      1. I’ve made this many times!! And it’s everyone’s favorite!! Thank you!!

    2. Were your ingredients at the room temperature? i.e the butter should be soft enough to poke your finger into, but it shouldn’t leave a greasy slick on your finger. if your butter is super soft, then its too warm and needs to be chilled up a bit. If your butter and cream/milk weren’t at room temp. that could cause the buttercream to separate. Try chilling it a bit and then beating again if that happens. it might fix your issue. I’ve made this recipe more times than i can count and i’ve never had it separate. I hope you give it another go. it really is a great frosting. i’m making it again tonight for my sons 9th birthday tomorrow.

    3. I’ve made this recipe at least 40 times and it’s never seperated. Not an issue with the recipe. Check ingredients – especially temp of butter vs temp of heavy whipping cream.

      1. Do the fristed cupcakes need to be refrigerated, or can they be kept out in a covered container for a couple of days? Looking forward to making these!

      2. Hi Carolyn, after decorating anything with buttercream, it’s typically fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it.

    4. I used this recipe on cupcakes that I made for a charity auction. I refrigerated it up until using it but it started melting when I piped it on. I was extremely disappointed in this recipe.

  2. There use to be a bakery where I was from Th at made the best cakes, the frosting truly made it, this frosting is EXACTLY that frosting! I am so happy I found this recipe. Thank you so much Sally!

  3. I have been too intimidated to try to make frosting but this was easy! The frosting turned out great and I used it as the mix in for my cake pops, and had plenty leftover for snacking on.

  4. I’ve used this frosting many times and it is delicious! I was wondering if I could replace part of the vanilla extract with coconut extract and/or the heavy cream with canned coconut milk to use with your coconut cake. I’m planning to make it for a birthday and my grandfather prefers buttercream to cream cheese frosting. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica, you sure can! Use canned coconut milk instead of milk and add 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract.

  5. This recipe is amazing! I will not use any other buttercream recipes other than Sally’s. (I use several different kinds of hers) All of the flavors are on point and so delicious! They are my go to buttercream recipes for sure! I’m actually making 6 different types of cupcakes this weekend and 6 different frostings. All Sally’s recipes of course!

  6. Hi Sally! I can’t wait to try this recipe. After piping, how long can the cupcakes stay at room temperature for before they need to go in the fridge? Many thanks!

    1. Hi Bon, We typically recommend that cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. After that it’s best to store them covered in the fridge. Enjoy!

  7. The BEST BUTTER CREAM ICING I have ever made . Thank you it’s a keeper

  8. DO NOT MAKE THIS RECIPE MINE ENDED UP BAD I COULDN’T PIPE IT WITHOUT IT MELTING

    1. You may need to adjust how much cream vs powdered sugar you use. If it’s too thin then you’ll struggle with piping so you’ll want to add more powdered sugar (that’s why she gives a range in the ingredient list). Temperatures affect how much you need to add so you want to check the consistency before you put the buttercream into a piping bag to use. If your hands are warm it’ll also melt the icing while you’re trying to pipe it because it’ll absorb the heat from your hands. Give the recipe another try. It really is delicious! With baking you have to be able to adapt to all the different factors that can affect your recipe.

  9. Do you have any suggestions for making the frosting the day before and piping after it has been in the refrigerator? Thanks!

    1. Hi Becky! If the frosting has been in the refrigerator overnight, you can beat it on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. Beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.

  10. Is this firm enough to hold decorative flowers piped on a cake? I know it’s delicious but don’t want the decorations to droop on a June day . Thanks!

    1. Absolutely! You could also replace half the butter with shortening for an even stiffer piping consistency.

  11. I made this recipe for the first time today, along with the vanilla cupcakes, and was delighted with the results! Following the directions and making sure to use room temperature ingredients makes a huge difference!

  12. This was the first recipe from this website that was a real fail for us. It was way too sweet, and salt couldn’t save it.! And then it melted in the car on the cupcakes on the way to the party. The whole reason I was doing the buttercream frosting instead of the whipped cream is cuz I was afraid the whipped cream would melt. Would have much preferred the whipped cream or a cream cheese based frosting. This was yuck. I used it on the confetti cupcakes, which were just okay. People were eating the cupcakes and throwing the frosting in the trash. Very embarrassing and sad.

  13. I absolutely adore this recipe! It was my first time making buttercream from scratch and the final product looks superb. I took Sally’s advice and replaced the beater with my spatula instead. It ended up being smooth, creamy and absolutely fantastic. Room temperature is definitely key.

    1. Hi Keiairre, yes, you can use this buttercream for a crumb coat.

  14. My husband says this is the best buttercream he has ever had!

    I love your recipes, Sally. I am now also addicted to baking because of you

  15. Just made this again for probably the 20th time. It’s my go to frosting for everything and so easy. Everyone loves it and not too sweet! I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with it if they follow the recipe. I would truly call it foolproof! Thanks for all the great recipes Sally. I’m having a cupcake baking weekend with only your recipes!

  16. This recipe was easy and delicious i used less sugar and it still came out Great. Thank you Sally.

  17. This vanilla buttercream was soooo good! It was super easy to make, and delicious. I frosted vanilla cupcakes with this buttercream. Perfect recipe!

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