Favorite Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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 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.

For something lighter and less sweet, I recommend the whipped cream frosting used on this cookies and cream cake. Feel free to leave out the Oreos!


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? 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 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 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

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 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

216 Comments

  1. This buttercream looks yummy. I can’t wait to try it. Do you think it will hold up in hot/humid weather or do I have to use shortening instead of butter?
    Thanks.

    1. In extremely humid weather, the frosting may wilt a little after a few hours. But should be OK. You can try half shortening/half butter if you’d like.

  2. Hi Sally can I use milk instead of heavy cream?

    1. Sure can! The frosting won’t be as creamy though.

  3. Simply the best vanilla butter cream frosting! Your instructions were spot on. Beating it on high for three minutes and the additional salt made this recipie unique. It’s  A keeper. Thank you!  Cynthia 

  4. Is it okay to add food coloring to this frosting?

    1. Yep! I recommend gel food coloring. Liquid food coloring is less concentrated; you usually need more of it to reach a desired shade. This can alter the texture of the frosting.

  5. Delicious exactly as written. I used a full 1/8 tsp. of fine-grained salt. Super excited about these cupcakes tomorrow!

  6. My search for the perfect buttercream is over, this recipe is amazing!

  7. Hi Sally, I used this exact recipe for cupcake frosting but found that the frosting did not hold its shape. I added additional powdered sugar and placed in fridge to harden but no such luck. Any suggestions? Thanks

    1. Hi Olive, it could be that your butter was too warm. You can always add a lot more sugar to help thicken it up – and if it’s too sweet add a pinch more salt.

  8. Like so many of Sally’s recipes this one is a keeper. It turns out perfectly every time. Sometimes buttercream can look good but lack flavor, or taste good but not pipe or frost well. This recipe does both and is easy to make. Thanks Sally, keep them coming!

  9. Last week I tried the strawberry cupcakes and frosting and commented at that time because they were so amazing! Well this week I did the vanilla cupcakes and this vanilla buttercream and you made me look good again Sally! This buttercream is so smooth and silky and unlike any buttercream I have ever made. One of the men at work asked me to call his wife and give her the recipe. Another just wanted a bowl of it to eat. Next on my list, I am going to try the moist chocolate cupcakes and chocolate buttercream. I am having so much fun with these recipes. Many thanks for bringing new excitement to my baking!

  10. Janice B Butler says:

    I made your cupcake recipe today ” Homemade Vanilla ” & OMG just tasting the mix straight out of the mixing bowl, was so yummy. After I baked them, “doubled your recipe” I had to eat one “plain” & found them extremely moist & almost the density of an angle food cake. So good, now to make my buttercream icing, it’s very similar to yours only I had , don’t laugh, but I use my French Vanilla or Italian Cream coffee creamer. OMG it makes the icing so good. Can’t wait to put the rich icing on these & then share them with co-workers. I’m so happy I found your site. I’m a home baker & love to bake, as much as I enjoy doing my photography business too. Well almost !!

  11. Barbara G Hume says:

    Sounds great – can’t wait to try both the vanilla and chocolate buttercream! Do you ever SIFT the confectioner’s sugar first?

    I typically sift ALL confectioner’s sugar and flour – but not sure that’s always appropriate for an individual recipe. Thanks!

    1. For this buttercream I find I don’t need to sift the confectioners sugar.

  12. Patricia Eshleman says:

    How do you think this would taste with mint flavoring?

    1. Delicious! I recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, then tasting and adding more if desired. Mint extract tastes more like spearmint (depending on the brand, it can taste like toothpaste!) so I always recommend peppermint instead.

  13. I always sturggle making icing, but this turned out amazing!! ❤️

  14. You were not kidding about this being the best vanilla buttercream ever!! Who would’ve though that a vanilla buttercream could be so delicious. I used this recipe but doubled it to cover a 5 tier rainbow layer cake for my daughter’s birthday cake. Thank you so much for a brilliant recipe. It will definitely get filed and get used again and again.

  15. Veronica Holguin says:

    Hi Sally, would the consistency of the buttercream change if I were adding different food coloring to pipe succulents? Any recommendations?

    1. This buttercream is excellent for tinting. I always recommend using gel food coloring. It’s more potent than liquid food coloring, so you need less of it. And less additions means that the texture and taste of the buttercream stays the same. 🙂

  16. Just made this vanilla frosting to go onto sally’s funfetti cupcakes and it is melt in your mouth delicious and smooth like silk! Thank you so much for sharing ❤️

  17. Not sure if this posted already, sorry for the double if it has. I am making a 2 layer cake, how many layers will this cover? In general, I usually use one can of icing in the store for each layer, but want to make from scratch this time! Thanks!

    1. Hi Austin! This isn’t quite enough frosting for a 2 layer cake. I recommend using this quantity of vanilla buttercream: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/new-favorite-white-layer-cake/

  18. Is there a way to make this without dairy?

    1. Hi Esther! You can try a vegan “butter” stick (Earth Balance has a nice product) and nondairy milk or even coconut cream.

  19. Melissa Mahon says:

    This is a perfect delicious vanilla buttercream! Very good for piping!

  20. Hi! If I wanted to change the flavor to almond, how much almond extract do I use?
    And do I combine with the vanilla extract? Thank you for your awesome recipes!

    1. Use 1 teaspoon of almond extract and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract! You can also try this recipe– the cupcakes are topped with vanilla almond buttercream

  21. Hi Sally,

    If I wanted to make this frosting the night before I frost cupcakes, will sprinkles still stick to the frosting? Sometimes the frosting seems hardened a little when it sits overnight in the fridge.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Julie! I recommend adding the sprinkles right after the frosting is spread or piped.

  22. This recipe is unbeatable!! Personally, I struggle with vanilla icing that doesn’t taste like pure butter. This was light, fluffy, and so delicious! I added a tiny bit of lemon juice because I was making the Sally’s lemon cupcakes (unreal) and I also did a tiny bit of cream of tartar.

    This is my go-to buttercream from now on and was a huge hit! Thank you!

  23. Hello Sally,
    I’m making a 9×13 cake, will this recipe be the perfect amount to frost and do a border on the cake or should I up the amount some?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Amy! As long as you don’t go heavy with the frosting spread on the cake, this will be enough to frost it, plus add a piped border around the edge.

  24. Hi Sally! To rid the icing of air bubbles do I mix it with a wooden spoon the whole time (completely ditch the mixer) or do I mix it all together with the mixer and the mix by hand? Thank you!!

    1. I always use a mixer as it’s very difficult to cream the butter and sugar together by hand. If you whip the frosting too quickly it can get air bubbles – instead mix slowly and for longer.

  25. How long can I leave cupcakes, with this frosting, outside the refrigerator? Just want to be safe.

    1. I’ve left them out for 1 full day and they’re completely fine.

  26. This frosting is perfect! I received several compliments on the taste and texture; it piped VERY nicely. I followed the recipe as written, though I made a double batch. I especially appreciate the questions and comments listed below the recipe, I learned several helpful things. Thank you!

  27. Un-be-lievable! We almost ate the entire bowl of frosting right out of the mixer. Some of it actually got to the cupcakes. Will totally make this again. We went a little thicker than your recipe wanted.

  28. I have been using this recipe for years! I have used it for weddings and engagement parties. This is my go to. I add more than a pinch of salt, 2 sometimes 3. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

  29. Hi Sally,
    I love your other recipes, but this one wasn’t for me. The texture was amazing, but it was just too sweet for us. I tried to cut it with salt and finally a bit of lemon juice (which helped). Lol, maybe I’ll just use your chocolate for everything from now on. It’s so, so, so good!!

  30. First of all you’re a super star!
    My son and daughter have the same birthday one year apart, we have a pretty big shindig to celebrate. Of course, there is always cake…. (I love your Vanilla Cake YUM!) and it will need frosting.

    I immediately looked up your frosting recipes.
    Your Vanilla Frosting is utter perfection.
    Absolutely not one bit of grittiness at all!
    I had more than enough for both layers of the cake. It spreads easily.
    I love everything I have made from the recipes I receive by email. They always turns out splendidly. My Christmas presents are going to be easy this year…. all of your cookbooks!
    BTW reviews at my house on the Frosted Birthday Cake…. “Not one slice of cake was left and everyone said it tasted better than some of the local Bakery’s.”
    High praise indeed!
    Thanks Sally for making all my baking dreams a reality!
    Always,
    Maggie

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