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

218 Comments

  1. Can i add sprinkles to this to make it into a funfetti frosting?

    1. You sure can! Or try my rainbow chip frosting: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/homemade-rainbow-chip-frosting/

  2. Hi, does this frosting crust? I’m having trouble finding a buttercream that will crust enough on sugar cookies I decorate. If I pkg them, don’t want it to collect on pkg.
    Thanks!
    Teaci

    1. Hi Traci, 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 I don’t recommend it for cookies that you would like to package or stack.

  3. Karen C Cutler says:

    Sally, I have been making buttercream for over 60 years, why did it take me so long to find you? This is the best I have ever had. The salt and heavy cream make all the difference. Thank you!

  4. Declan Harris says:

    Sally,

    How do you store the frosting?

    Yours,
    Declan Harris

    1. Hi, Declan! Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator (usually in a bowl covered tightly with press and seal) or up to 3 months in the freezer (in a bowl or ziplock bag would work).

  5. This was my first time to make this recipe. It turned out beautifully and made more than enough to frost two dozen cupcakes, upon which I placed decorations. This is definitely my **forever** frosting recipe!

  6. This turned out great as far as taste and texture. However, it was slightly yellow in color. How do I get it to be truly white?

    1. Hi Kata, I know this sounds weird but a *very* tiny drop of purple of food gel food coloring will whiten your frosting!

  7. Made the vanilla buttercream to frost lemon cupcakes, substituting the heavy cream with oat milk “creamer”, and it did not disappoint! Very unexpected as I am usually all about the dairy, but it is exquisite!

  8. would it be okay to use this on sugar cookies?

    1. Sure can! You can see how I use in on top of my Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies.

  9. Can I double the recipe? Or are there differences to batch up?

    1. Hi Katie, you can double this vanilla buttercream recipe– no specific changes needed besides doubling each ingredient.

  10. I just made the vanilla cupcakes and this buttercream and both are wonderful! This buttercream is amazing! 🙂 Thank you!

  11. Can I use shortening in place of some of the butter? I am going to decorate my sons birthday cake and I have heard that shortening can stabilize it some.

    1. Absolutely.

  12. Is there anyway to avoid the grainy texture? I sometimes get that sort of texture when I make buttercream? What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Ana, It could simply be the brand of confectioners sugar you are using. Try sifting it before using which should help.

  13. I loved this recipe! Can’t stop eating it

  14. Hello! I wanted to know if I can use this recipe for my macaron fillings? May you please let me know I’d appreciate it! ☺️

    1. Sure can! I fill my French Macarons with buttercream and in the recipe notes I also give many other ideas for fillings!

  15. Hi sally! I really like your recipes. I was just wondering, i really prefer my buttercream on the less sweet side. Would this recipe also work with 2-3 cups of confectioners sugar?

    1. Hi Kristine, the buttercream will be a little greasy without enough sugar to balance out the butter. I recommend my cream cheese frosting or Swiss meringue buttercream instead.

  16. I made this for my son’s 7th birthday. The texture was so smooth and moist. Perfect!

  17. HI! i have all the ingredients except for heavy cream can I replace it with butter milk or 33% whipping cream?

    1. Regular milk, half-and-half, or the whipping cream you have would be great.

  18. Hi Sally!
    Is it possible to add natural strawberry flavor to this butter cream icing rather than the cream cheese icing? I am trying to make a strawberry naked cake. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sonya! Here’s my strawberry buttercream frosting recipe made from real strawberry flavor–freeze-dried strawberries.

  19. 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 🙂

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. Tina Jackson says:

    This was the best not too sweet.

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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!!!

  28. 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

  29. 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.

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

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