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

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

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 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. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.)
  2. 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. 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

430 Comments

  1. Hey Sally!
    Can I use vegan butter instead of regular ?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marlie, we haven’t tested this recipe with vegan butter. If you try anything let us know how it goes!

      1. Hello,
        It works just fine with vegan butter and vegan heavy cream 🙂 Would be cool to see some vegan recipes on your blog.
        I‘m a huge fan of your site, thanks a lot for the recipes and baking ideas 🙂 Greetings from Luxembourg:)

  2. Miriam Hartman says:

    I’m looking forward to making this as my son’s first birthday cake! Any suggestions on what to do with all the extra egg yolks that will remain?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Miriam, You can look through all of our recipes that use egg yolks! Personally, I love making a jar of lemon curd 🙂

  3. Does it have to be refrigerated if you use it on cupcakes?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elizabeth, After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we recommend refrigerating it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- We’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day.

  4. Does skim milk work instead of whole milk for this?

    1. You have to use whole milk because it has the right amount of fat content in it. If you use skim milk, your frosting might become too runny

  5. Hello Sally! Is it enough for 2 layer 8 inch cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pat, See the recipe notes for enough frosting for a 2 layer cake. Enjoy!

  6. Hey, Sally!! Can this frosting be piped onto cupcakes ahead of time, and then frozen till prepared cupcakes are needed?

    1. Hi Holly! Frosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator!

      1. Thanks! Is it ok to freeze cupcakes that have already been frosted with SMBC, too?

  7. Hi Sally! Can I used salted butter then just omit the salt in the recipe? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tin, You can use salted butter. Taste the frosting before adding salt, then add salt to taste.

  8. Hi Sally! Curious whether I could use some of this buttercream to frost the top of an ice cream cake (your recipe!) instead of the whipped cream topping? Do you think it would freeze well for cutting/eating or become too hard?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dana, You definitely could! It will soften up enough to cut if you simply place the ice cream cake on the counter for a few minutes. Enjoy 🙂

  9. Hi, is this recipe enough to frost an 8-inch 3 layer cake? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Samantha, See recipe note #1 for the quantity to use for a layer cake.

  10. Hi Sally! I’m planning to use your buttercream recipe to decorate pull apart cupcakes for a birthday celebration 🙂 Heavy cream isn’t a popular ingredient where I am (Philippines). Would whipping cream be a good substitute?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lianne, whipping cream will work, or even whole milk as well. Hope you enjoy baking the pull apart cupcakes – so fun!

  11. I’ve never doubled a frosting recipe . Is it ok to double a frosting recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can!

  12. I love all these recipes! Approximately how many cupcakes could 1 batch frost??

  13. What the reason for using unsalted butter? Can I use salted butter and omit the salt?

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