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 (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.

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

552 Comments

  1. Jasmine Bakes says:

    too sweet

  2. This was easy to make and easy to adjust as long as you go slow. I really liked this recipe although I did need to add more vanilla which I honestly think is to personal taste because Ive had cupcakes from professional that I felt didn’t have enough vanilla. Otherwise this was super tasty and easy for me and my 15 yo daughter to make in my stand mixer.

  3. History Geek says:

    Great frosting! I made it for my mother in law’s birthday.

    Just a question, how long can this frosting be left out of the refrigerator? Or should I refrigerate immediately? Thanks 🙂

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So glad this buttercream was a hit! We find the buttercream (on a cake or cupcakes) is usually okay left at room temperature for about a day. After that, we recommend refrigerating.

      1. History Geek says:

        Thank you! Yep, I refrigerated it.

        My mother-in-law loved the cake and this frosting. Thanks for helping me make Mother’s Day special for her.

  4. This buttercream is perfect!! At first it tasted too much like confectioner’s sugar – I added a bit more vanilla and about a tsp more cream, but still couldn’t get rid of the sugary taste. However, about an hour later as a decorated it, it tasted much better. Maybe it just needed time for the sugar to combine with the butter? Anyways, don’t give up on this frosting if it isn’t perfect at first!! I will definitely use this recipe again !!

  5. Jo Donnelly says:

    Have you made this in a Thermomix?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jo, we haven’t tested this buttercream in a Thermomix, but please let us know if you give it a try!

  6. Would you say that this recipe would be enough to cover a 2-layer 6 in cake for a child’s smash cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Megan, absolutely — this will be plenty to cover and decorate a 2 layer, 6 inch cake. Enjoy!

  7. I have never baked a nut-free cake before, I really don’t think this has nuts in any of the ingredients but asking to make sure… is this nut free?
    if you have a cake recipe that is nut free too please let me know!

    1. Hi! You can use this frosting on chocolate cake. There are no nuts in either recipe. However, some ingredients you purchase may be manufactured or packaged in a factory or environment with nuts. Double check labels to be certain the ingredients fit your needs.

  8. wow thank you SO much – I’m excited to make these
    any recommendation for a vanilla cake mix?

  9. Perfect! There was nothing I would change about it.

  10. I’ve tried to make this twice and both times my frosting was super crumbly and hard to spread evenly! Any idea what I’m doing wrong?!

    1. Also, I did sift the sugar both times.

    2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nicole! How are you measuring your powdered sugar? Make sure to spoon and level instead of scooping to avoid over-measuring – that would result in dry buttercream. You can add an extra splash of milk or heavy cream to help smooth it out as well. Hope this helps!

  11. Evelyn Mateo says:

    Can this be made in advance? Like a couple of days? If so, how do I use it at the moment of piping? Mix it by hand again? Thank u!!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely! See step 3 of the recipe for make ahead instructions.

      1. It went perfectly! Smooth silky But then I freeze it and defrost in the refrigerator as per step 3… but it was not silky so I added a little milk (1 tablespoon) and mix for a few min in the mixer. But it looked greasy… consistency appears to be fine but color seem a little yellowish than before I freeze it… which was mainly white… what did I do wrong? I would love to understand so next time I thaw I can still use this buttercream…

  12. The best buttercream frosting recipe I’ve ever had!

  13. This tasted really good, but was a little too sweet for me. I had to use milk (instead of cream) so maybe that was why? I might try 4c of powdered sugar next time? I did add the salt too, which didn’t seem to make a difference. But, all of my party guests loved it! Was super easy to make too!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Trisha, for next time, feel free to add another pinch or two of salt to help cut the sweetness. Reducing the confectioners’ sugar will help as well, but keep in mind that that will change the final texture (and thickness) of the frosting. Or, for a less sweet frosting, you might enjoy our Swiss meringue buttercream instead. Thanks for giving this one a try!

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