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.

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

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!

Vanilla buttercream on cupcakes

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!

frosting with 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

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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Vanilla buttercream on cupcakes

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!

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

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

373 Comments

  1. If I’m making 36 vanilla cupcakes and 36 of your carrot cupcakes, should I triple their frosting recipes that say 12-16 cupcakes, if I’m piping the frosting as well as creating buttercream flowers?

    1. Tripling the frosting should be plenty for 36 cupcakes.

  2. jenny spencer says:

    Hey Sally! My name is Raine, I am 11 years old and I LOVE to cook and bake. My mom and I came across your website from one of my friends who made one of your chocolate cakes.
    My brother and I made this frosting for some cupcakes the other day and I just wanted to say that it turned out PERFECT!!!!! It was a perfect consistency for piping and I was really impressed.
    I look forward to making more of your recipes! Thank you,

    Raine 🙂

    1. Hi Raine, I’m so happy you found the site and enjoyed this frosting! I’m looking forward to hearing what you bake next 🙂

  3. Can I refrigerate the frosting that is already piped on the cupcakes? And if so how long?

    1. Hi Keely, After decorating anything with buttercream it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, I would definitely refrigerate it. Cupcakes usually keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.

      1. So even though I followed the ratios this came out tasting too much like butter for me. I tried adding more sugar and cream to balance but for some reason I couldn’t get it quite right. I used unsalted butter. Do you have tips for a buttercream that tastes too much like butter?

  4. Whitney Martin says:

    Hi Sally! Is this recipe good for piping cupcakes? I have been reading on some other recipes that use shortening as well. Just wanted your expertise. I am making cupcakes for my daughters birthday and wanted to have a frosting good for piping. Love your recipes btw!

    1. Yes! I pipe on cupcakes with this frosting all the time! For more intricate designs like piped roses you may want to add more sugar for a stiffer frosting.

  5. This was not only delicious but had a beautiful pearly luster! Gorgeous and tasty – that’s a winning combination! I also love that you give suggestions for adjusting sweetness.

  6. Tina Jackson says:

    This was the best not too sweet.

  7. Will this hold under fondant? Also, Can I pipe trees with this frosting onto fondant? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shannon, Yes it will be great under fondant and we pipe with this frosting all the time!

  8. Zoe Airihenbuwa says:

    Every single time I look for a recipe to bake anything (and I bake a lot) I always look for your website along them because honestly it works every single time. I don’t know if you do magic or something to make everything I bake from your website come out literally perfect. I’ve tried making this before (not using this recipe) and it failed then I was like huh can’t forget my good friend sally and it bloody worked, PERFECTLY. I love you and this website thank you.

    1. Ha same!! I was just thinking this. Now when I go to look for new recipes I look here first. Has to be magic.

    2. It’s because she’s SO DETAILED in her instructions! I’ve tried baking things from other blogs/sites, but they never turn out as well as anything I make from Sally’s! Thank you SO MUCH Sally for being so detailed in the ingredients list and especially in the instructions!!!

  9. Sally, I’ve been making a lot of your cakes and cookies on my days off. I’m semi-retired and finally have a chance to do what I love. I actually made an edible pie crust thanks to you. My next attempt is going to be macarons. I would like to make a French buttercream but cannot find a recipe of yours. Can you help? By the way, your triple chocolate has become a favorite at home.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Patricia, We don’t currently have a recipe for French buttercream but let us know if you find a good one!

  10. could I use this frosting to pipe rosettes onto your homemade strawberry cake? and for the rosettes, could I use the Wilton 224 tip or the 21 tip?
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lindsay, Yes we pipe with this frosting all the time! For rosettes either tip will work for different textures. Sometimes I will fill a piping bag and do one test rose with a few tips to pick one I like the best! For more help you can see this post on piping tips and this one on easy frosting roses. I hope they help!

  11. GrapefruitZ says:

    I LOVE this recipe and it’s my go-to when I need to make vanilla buttercream.
    However, when making this, DO NOT use Kerrygold butter. It’s great for other things, but for this…
    I used it and the frosting did not taste AT ALL like it does when I use regular butter.
    Just wanted to put that out there.
    This recipe is the best. Thanks, Sally!

  12. Wendi Bushong says:

    Could you use this recipe and add gel food coloring, I am doing graduation cupcakes for my niece and need a dark orange and royal blue?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Wendi, definitely! Add a few drops of gel food coloring to this frosting to obtain the colors you need.

  13. Hi, do we need to sift the confectioners sugar?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ivette, It can’t hurt! We usually don’t find it necessary because most brands we use do not clump. However, if you find that your frosting is clumping or grainy in texture, try sifting.

  14. Love it! It’s very sweet so I like to add 3.5-4 cups… overall, amazing!

  15. Sounds fantastic, can’t wait to try this recipe! Does this buttercream crust?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lyndsey, No this buttercream is not crusting. 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 that gingerbread house blog post.)

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