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. 🙂

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


This is my favorite vanilla buttercream. It’s the perfect vanilla frosting that’s simple, creamy and smooth and tastes unbelievable on vanilla cupcakes!


  • 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


  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.


  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


  1. Sally -I made your frosting and it is delicious. I have also made it with the crushed freeze dried strawberries with great results. I have a small problem though. Since I only bake non-dairy for Kosher purposes, I must use margarine instead of the butter. The taste is fine, but the color of the frosting is not as pale as yours is. I believe when butter is beaten it turns a lighter color than the margarine ever can. I think that substituting half of the margarine with shortening (Crisco) would lighten up the color but I feel that the taste would be sacrificed. Also, when coloring the frosting that is made with the margarine, the colors always end up with a yellowish tinge and are never true to the color they should be. Do you have any suggestions for a good tasting non dairy “buttercream” frosting that would be a lighter color?

    1. Unfortunately, I have never had luck making a nondairy buttercream. I wish I could be more help! My only suggestion would be the margarine/shortening suggestion. I’m so sorry! If you find something, let me know!

    2. I have used Imperial margarine with great results!!! It beats up lighter. Using Clear Vanilla Extract helps also!

    3. Vegan butter!! If you go to a sprouts or some health food store they carry a brand called earth balance. I had to make completely dairy free cupcakes for a coworker and discovered that butter. The frosting comes out just as amazing as if you were using dairy butter.

  2. Thank you for this, Sally! I’ve been looking for a classic vanilla frosting lately. Since I was diagnosed with Celiac I have to make the cupcakes with alternative flour which is often … less than perfect, we’ll say 😉 But the frosting can still be the bomb! And your frostings are always my favorite 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Michelle!

  3. Lisa Roybal says:

    I’ve made butter cream frosting before, not your recipe tho. I’m wondering why after I’ve made the frosting, it tastes great, buttery and very smooth. But after a few hours, it starts to taste too sweet and a bit gritty. Can you help???

    1. Hi Lisa! I’m unsure about other recipes, but I’ve never had that issue with this frosting. Make sure you’re using icing/powdered sugar and whipping it up for several minutes.

  4. I made this buttercream last weekend for the cupcakes (used the funfetti recipe but died the batter red, white and blue) I made for our block party. I usually just eyeball/ wing my buttercream but have been looking for a go to, easy buttercream and yours is the winner! I’ll definitely be using this from now on when I want to use buttercream. I love how fluffy it is and easy! It’s also pretty tasty too 🙂 I did red white and blue tie dye swirly topped icing on the cupcakes and after the icing set it ended up looking like the giant swirly ranbow lolypops you get at Disney or somewhere like that! Can’t wait for another occasion to make this icing! Ps. I have some left and I’ve been eating it by the spoon or just dipping my finger into it haha

    1. Your cupcakes sound SO CUTE!!!

  5. Eva Gjerlevsen says:

    Hi Sally!
    Eva from Denmark here ☺️
    Can you tell me how long in advance I can make the buttercream? Or do you always recommend to make it right before use?
    I always make as much stuff in advance as I possible can when baking or cooking ☺️

    1. Right before using is best, but up to 2-3 days in advance is perfectly ok! Keep refrigerated.

  6. I made two recipes of frosting for cupcakes.  My grandmother chose the cupcake with your frosting and says, “This is really, really good!  It’s so creamy.”  I guess your frosting is the winner.

  7. I’ve been bringing my baked goods into work (because who should eat a dozen cupcakes by themselves?), and I have gotten the most compliments on the icing. Everyone is super impressed that it’s homemade icing and that it’s not sickly sweet like the icing you get on baked goods from the store. It’s so funny because it’s one of the easiest things to make in the cupcake process! Thank you for the recipe and especially the ratio of icing sugar to butter! 🙂

    1. I totally agree – once you realize how easy it is you will never want store bought icing again!

  8. Victoria Wade says:

    Hi Sally, I was wondering how long this could be refrigerated after it’s made? I apologize in advance if you mentioned this and I missed it. 

    I have a fundraiser coming up on July 2nd but wanted to make my cupcake icing a little in advance as I have a 6-month old so timing is key.

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    1. about a week in the fridge– cover tightly 🙂

  9. Hi Sally, do you have any tips on making this a lemon buttercream? Would you use fresh lemon juice instead of vanilla? Thanks for your help!!

    1. That’s what I would do, yes!

  10. Bev Connelly says:

    I’m making cupcakes for a bridal shower and I’d like to frost them the day before using some of your tips. Will they hold the shape over 24 hours?

    1. Sure will!

  11. Hello Sally. What are your favourite piping tips to use for mini cupcakes? And this really is the best frosting!

    1. Thanks Lee! I like to use Wilton 12 or Wilton 1M piping tips for mini size 🙂

      1. Thank you so much for the quick reply Sally, it is really appreciated. You are such a kind and hardworking soul. I will try out those tips for when I make mini cupcakes for the first time. Take care 🙂

  12. 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?

    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.

  13.  I recently made your chocolate cupcakes with your vanilla buttercream icing and it was a huge hit! I would have to say especially for the icing, I am not an icing person normally and I think yours is fantastic! I actually made half the amount because I don’t like a lot of frosting and it worked perfectly  for frosting a dozen cupcakes with what I would consider a decent amount of frosting LOL! Thank you so much for this stable recipe! 

    1. You are welcome, Christina! Happy to hear you found a frosting you like! 🙂

  14. Will this recipe crust? I am trying to find a good recipe that will stay soft. 

    1. If left out for a couple days, yes it will– but covered and stored, it stays pretty soft.

  15. How long can buttercream frosting be left out before going bad?

    (Like…. On a frosted cupcake. I know you always recommend storing in the fridge up to 3 days. But if they accidentally got left out how long do you think they are they still okay to eat?)

  16. So I’ve been making these buttercream recipes for a while now and they never hold their shape. I was wondering if switching to Crisco might help. 

    1. I’d do maybe half and half (half shortening half butter) just so you have the taste of true butter.

  17. This is our favorite buttercream!  I will be using it to decorate cupcakes for an upcoming wedding (they special requested your buttercream recipe:).  The wedding is out of town and I’m nervous about transporting the cupcakes that far, so I’m making the cupcakes and the frosting ahead of time, but waiting to decorate once we get there.  I plan to refrigerate the frosting and transport in a cooler.  How long do you typically let the frosting sit at room temp before using?  Do you mix again or can it go straight into the piping bag.  Thanks for your help!

    1. How long are you traveling? I would fill the piping bags and transport them already filled in the cooler and then just let them sit out about 10 minutes or so (depending on how warm or cool it is). Have fun!

  18. Rhonda Messercol says:

    Hi Sally,

    I just made these cupcakes but I went wrong on the first step!  My granulated sugar was not going to cream in with the butter in 2 minutes so I knew something was up !

    I am in Australia and I think ‘granulated sugar’ is a different thing here.

    Do you know if your Granulated Sugar = Australian Caster Sugar  ?

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      I’m also in Australia and if you used caster sugar that’s more than likely where you’ve gone wrong. Icing sugar (as we in Aus call it) is what you need to use.

  19. Hi, Sally! I never made any frosting from scratch before but I want to try your recipe. Question: can I use regular butter or I absolutely need unsalted butter? Thanks!

    1. Do you mean salted butter? You can use salted butter– I would taste the frosting before adding any added salt.

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

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

  21. I made the frosting for cupcakes and it was the delicious!! I love the addition of heavy cream and prefer it to milk, thanks!

  22. So I made your chocolate bettercream frosting which was great! In that recipe you can use milk instead of heavy cream does that apply to this recipe also?

    1. You can use either in this recipe, though I do prefer heavy cream here.

  23. Sally, any tips for making this icing by hand only? Ie. Without a stand or handheld mixer??

    1. A quality spoon and lot of arm muscle 🙂

  24. Hey Sally! Would it be Ok if I used cream instead of heavy cream???

  25. Martha deutsch says:

    Sally, Sally, Sally. I just made your chocolate cupcakes and your vanilla buttercream icing to go on top.  I had my own recipe that used milk, but using the heavy cream truly does improve the texture & makes it turn out less gritty than my recipe. So smooth and delicious. Your buttercream pipes really well. The ratios on everything was spot on! No guess work for me. And it was just perfectly stiff enough; I will be icing a cake one day very soon with this and no doubt it will be perfect for that.  Thanks to your addiction, and I’m looking forward to trying your other recipes now. All the best, from Switzerland!  

    1. Just so happy to read this! Thank you for trying my vanilla buttercream recipe and for taking the time to write in about it!

  26. Hi,

    LOVE this buttercream recipe. Tastes great and piped perfectly. I plan on using it for my baby shower. If I frost cupcakes 24 hours before do you recommend storing them at room temp or refrigerator overnight?

    Thanks so much!

    1. If only 1 day– I suggest room temperature.

  27. Paired this buttercream with the moist chocolate cupcakes and they were amazing!
    I hand mixed and only used a bit over 3 cups powdered sugar and therefore not all of the cream- it was still plenty sweet for my taste with a really creamy texture.
    I had made other buttercreams before, and they were either a little gritty, or you could really taste the powdered sugar, or something else….
    This one is so good you could eat it with a spoon (OK I’ll admit it- I did it)…
    Thank you Sally!

    1. It’s always appropriate to taste your frosting with a spoon!! 😉

  28. Hi! Once a cake is frosted with this buttercream, can you leave it out?  Or should the frosted cake be refrigerated?  Thanks!

    1. For a day or 2, yes. After that– I would refrigerate.

  29. Good evening, Sally!

    I just came across your wonderful website and read all of these comments. It sounds like you have some great tastin desserts. I am going to attempt to make the chocolate chip cookie cake for a girls birthday to feed a classroom size of about 18. Should I double your recipe? Also, with this delicious sounding buttercream recipe, what would you suggest best for making multiple colors (ex. liquid food coloring, gel version..etc.)? I’m tying for a mermaid themed cookie cake 🙂

    Thanks so much & God bless!

    1. Hi Natasha, I would double the recipe for 2 cookie cakes for that size group. I prefer to use gel food coloring – the colors are brighter and you don’t have to add more liquid to the frosting which can change it’s texture. Have fun!

  30. Hi Sally thanks for this yummy buttercream recipe!! Our household loves it!! I have usually made this fresh and serve the cake straightaway. Can a cake frosted by this buttercream be left out at room temperature for a day or two before serving bearing in mind it’s almost summer here for Down Under and temperatures can reach 95F or is it better to refrigerate the frosted cake and bring it to room temperature before serving? Thank you very much Sally!!

    1. Hi Melanie! I would refrigerate for that day or 2, then bring to room temperature right before serving. Will taste best that way!

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