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. 🙂

Print
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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

402 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 🙂

      1. Hey sally! What measurements should I follow in order to make a 6 inch, 5 layer cake with rosettes on top. I am also concerned on if the buttercream is overly sweet because I tried out another recipe and it turned out too sweet and had a buttery aftertaste. Thank you!

    2. I am only 12 and I have been baking since I was 7! I love this website as well and I’m making lemon cupcakes and this vanilla buttercream frosting to go on them!

  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?

      2. Hi, so I have made a bunch of cakes what is the trick to keep the icing firm and for it to not get to hard. I always have this problem

      3. 3 days thats a lot! I baked a cake for my family

  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.)

  16. The BEST vanilla buttercream icing, if I do say so myself, that I have ever made (and I’ve made a lot of buttercreams in my 60 year life!) and had it on top of your chocolate zucchini cake. Followed your hints exactly and found they made all the difference. Even set a timer for 2 minutes exactly while I beat it for 2 minutes.;-) I only used 4 cups of conf. sugar, but for a lark, sifted more than half, and that may account for its bulk? I actually used 1/3 c of heavy (room temp!) cream instead of your quarter cup, and added 1 t. of almond along w. the vanilla to go w the slivered almonds I sprinkled on top. Added a scant 1/2 t. salt to combat the sweetness and it was just enough to take it over the edge. I made a 9×13 and had about 1-1/2 c. left so I can use it again! I haven’t made cakes for a long time, nor icings, so I thank you so much for “reintroducing” me to a recipe I’ll use again and again, Sally. Oh, and I shredded the recipe I had been using for 45 years, just like zucchini!!!

  17. Alia Chaudhary says:

    I came across your blog a few months ago and ever since then, I have been baking quite a lot; ALL of your recipes (including this one!) have been a huge hit with my family. Thank u so much for what you do! I always feel guilty taking all the praise I get from the stuff I bake, as all I do most of the time is follow your recipes; the real praise belongs to u

  18. Can this be used for a frozen buttercream transfer?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      I’ve used it for frozen transfers before! I did need to add extra milk/cream to thin it out for the best transfer.

  19. Simply the best buttercream. Just PERFECT. I used salted butter and it was still extremely delicious. Thank you

  20. Great recipe! I am using it with my plain rolled sugar cookies as a dip. How long does it keep without refrigeration?

  21. I love love love this recipe!
    Just wondering if it can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge over night?
    I need to make 60+ cupcakes tomorrow… and with two toddler assistants, I’m trying to spread the work load out if possible! lol

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can! You can cover the frosting tightly and tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

  22. Can I use 50-50 salted and unsalted butter? I have always found buttercream to be too sweet but I need this to decorate.

    I’m planning to make the dinosaur cake and was wondering if I should use this buttercream or a crusting one? Please advise. Been following a lot of your recipes and every time comes out perfect! Thanks.

    1. Hi Prathyusha, this frosting should be ok for your cake. You can use some salted and some unsalted butter. Taste the frosting before adding salt, then add salt to taste.

    2. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes you can use salted butter – or simply add a bit more salt to your frosting. If you decided to use crusting buttercream you will use half butter and half shortening (we used crusting buttercream in this Gingerbread House Recipe). For a frosting that isn’t as sweet but pipes beautifully you can try Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

  23. Hey sally! So i’m baking for a baby shower and i’m trying to figure out which butter is the best for buttercream frosting?
    which brand do u recommend?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tilly, we are truly not brand loyal to any particular butters at this point. We usually use our grocery store’s store brand butter. (We usually shop at Wegmans.) We like to use KerryGold for cooking or spreading onto food, but don’t bake with it. We don’t find a flavor or textural difference when using a fancier butter in baking. Happy baking!

  24. Hello, can I half this buttercream recipe? Thanks.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can!

  25. its so good!

  26. man this is the best frosting i never had

  27. Hi! We are going to try this recipe with your vanilla cupcake recipe tomorrow. I’m more of a cook, and not much of a bakery. Can you give me a guideline of how much salt to start with?

    1. Start with just a quick sprinkle/shake. I usually add about 1/8 teaspoon– so start with a little less, taste, then add more if desired.

  28. Hi, this is probably a silly question, but I usually use milk in my frosting…I want to try using heavy cream, but all I see is heavy whipping cream..is whipping cream the same as heavy cream that I would want to use for frostings? Is there a certain brand I could look for to find just “heavy cream” and is it in the refrigerated section or a can. Thanks so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kellie, Not a silly question, this can definitely be confusing! Their difference is in the percentage of milk fat. Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream contain 36% milk fat and whipping cream (without “heavy” in the title!) is a little lighter with 30% milk fat.
      They can all be used interchangeably in most recipes, especially frosting. The difference usually only matters but when it comes to making actual whipped cream– heavy cream/heavy whipping cream will hold its shape longer.

      1. Thanks, Stephanie! So “heavy whipping cream” is what I want to be looking for then? There isn’t anything called just “heavy cream”? Thanks again!

      2. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Heavy cream OR heavy whipping cream will be written on the carton. They are the same thing 🙂

  29. Hi Sally,

    Can I substitute orange extract in this recipe? I think it might be nice on a vanilla cake. I need enough frosting for a rainbow layer cake!

    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes you can. Enjoy!

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