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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 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? Here’s my how to use piping tips video. And here is how we use this frosting to decorate easy Halloween cupcakes!

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 the ratios written in this white cake for a two layer cake, or for a three layer cake use the ratios in this confetti 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Made my stepsons 4 tier wedding cake…2 strawberry (one was anniversary layer) , 1 chocolate and 1 white. This was foolproof and delicious with each flavor. Tons of compliments. Thanks so much!

  2. Since this recipe uses heavy cream…will the cupcakes need to be refrigerated after decorating?

    1. Hi Lin, we find the frosted cupcakes are okay to keep at room temperature for about 24 hours, but after that we recommend refrigerating. Although you can certainly refrigerate right away and enjoy the cupcakes cold or take them out a bit before serving to bring them back to room temperature. Whatever you are most comfortable with!

  3. Hey Sally am Norah from Yemen I’ve been cooking for quite while
    To be honest your website very very lovely and I tried your recipe for 2 times I would like to share with pictures for the first time I decorate it with my almond cake the second time I made with it the base of my homemade ice cream it turn out very well all love and appreciation ♡♡

    1. This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes.

  4. Absolutely perfect. I added an extra tablespoon of cream, which may not have been necessary & used Whole Foods 365 butter, which made the frosting very white.
    This will definitely be my go-to vanilla buttercream!

  5. Hi, big fan of this website.
    Just wondering if their is a base frosting that I could make then separate into three. Then add chocolate to one and strawberry to the other and have the vanilla? Do I have to make three separate frosting or can I just make one and add in other flavors?
    Thank you for your time?

    1. Hi Cherie, while you could try making separate flavors from this vanilla frosting, it will take some testing to determine the best amount of cocoa and freeze dried strawberries to add. You will likely need to tweak the amount of liquid add-ins once adding those flavors, since the cocoa and strawberry powder will be added dry ingredients. You can see from our chocolate frosting and strawberry frosting recipes that the recipes are each a bit different to account for the ingredients needed to make the different flavors. Hope this helps!

    2. Hi! Will adding gel food coloring to this recipe thin it out? If so, how can I fix it? Love your site, thank you!!

      1. Hi Amy, we do it all the time! You can add gel food coloring with no other changes. Enjoy!

  6. I love all your recipes and this is my go to buttercream recipe. Making a honey cake and wondering if I can add some honey to give this a honey flavor?

    1. Hi Shilpa, we haven’t tested it ourselves, but you could try adding a small amount of honey. Since it’s a liquid ingredient, it will impact the texture so you may need to tinker with the other ingredients a bit to get your desired consistency. Let us know how it goes!

    1. Hi Kathleen, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076

  7. This recipe was a lot easier to make than I expected, and the taste is fantastic: tangy and not cloyingly sweet.

    1. Hi Stephanie, this recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes. You can double to recipe for your needs.

  8. This is my go to frosting recipe. The ratio of butter to sugar is absolutely perfect (I use the full amount of sugar). I had never been able to make a perfectly sweet and smooth buttercream before using your recipe. Now if someone asks for a great American buttercream, I’ll send them to this recipe.

  9. Would I be able to use swerve powdered sugar instead of regular powdered sugar instead for a sugar free option?

    1. Hi Ashley! We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. Thank you!

  10. This looks so good! Would I be able to replace the butter with shortening?

    1. Hi Tiffany, you can replace some of the butter with shortening for a “crustier” buttercream (like we do for our gingerbread house!)

  11. Do you have a recommendation for how to add Bourbon to the vanilla buttercream frosting recipe?

    1. Hi Laura, you can replace some of the milk/cream with Bourbon. We would try to replace about half (2 Tbs), but how strong you want it will depend on your tastes. Let us know how it goes!

  12. I am planning to use this icing for sugar cookie decorating with kids. I need to use this recipe because of the simplicity and quick dry time. Can this icing be applied to cookies using a squeeze tube (much easier for kiddos) instead of using a piping bag?

    1. Hi Carley, as long as the squeeze tube’s opening is larger than a tiny round piping tip like Wilton #4, that should be fine. If needed, you can thin out the buttercream using a bit more heavy cream.