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. I love love love this recipe!
    Just wondering if it can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge over night?
    I need to make 60+ cupcakes tomorrow… and with two toddler assistants, I’m trying to spread the work load out if possible! lol

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can! You can cover the frosting tightly and tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

  2. its so good!

  3. Hi, this is probably a silly question, but I usually use milk in my frosting…I want to try using heavy cream, but all I see is heavy whipping cream..is whipping cream the same as heavy cream that I would want to use for frostings? Is there a certain brand I could look for to find just “heavy cream” and is it in the refrigerated section or a can. Thanks so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kellie, Not a silly question, this can definitely be confusing! Their difference is in the percentage of milk fat. Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream contain 36% milk fat and whipping cream (without “heavy” in the title!) is a little lighter with 30% milk fat.
      They can all be used interchangeably in most recipes, especially frosting. The difference usually only matters but when it comes to making actual whipped cream– heavy cream/heavy whipping cream will hold its shape longer.

      1. Thanks, Stephanie! So “heavy whipping cream” is what I want to be looking for then? There isn’t anything called just “heavy cream”? Thanks again!

      2. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Heavy cream OR heavy whipping cream will be written on the carton. They are the same thing 🙂

  4. Hi Sally,

    Can I substitute orange extract in this recipe? I think it might be nice on a vanilla cake. I need enough frosting for a rainbow layer cake!

    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes you can. Enjoy!

  5. Hi Sally! Can I used salted butter then just omit the salt in the recipe? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tin, You can use salted butter. Taste the frosting before adding salt, then add salt to taste.

  6. Hi Sally! Curious whether I could use some of this buttercream to frost the top of an ice cream cake (your recipe!) instead of the whipped cream topping? Do you think it would freeze well for cutting/eating or become too hard?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dana, You definitely could! It will soften up enough to cut if you simply place the ice cream cake on the counter for a few minutes. Enjoy 🙂

  7. The taste is great, but my frosting ended up grainy. Did I over or under whip the buttercream? Or possibly too much or too little of an ingredient?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  8. how much do have to make for a 2 layer 9 inch cake plz I need your help. love your cakes

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lindsy! You can use the ratios from this white cake recipe – it yields slightly more, perfect for a 2 layer 9 inch cake.

  9. Ruined the whole cake. It pulled the cake of (the cake was cooled, so it couldn’t be that), it was grainy, didn’t spread.

  10. Hi
    I just tried this recipe for my birthday cake… OMG it was soooo good!! Will definitely be my go to recipe for cakes going forward!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  11. What brand of butter do you use? How do you get your buttercream so white?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather, we know this sounds weird but a *very* tiny drop of purple of food gel food coloring will whiten your frosting!

  12. Hi there, could you flavor this recipe? Trying to use a good piping buttercream but my daughter is requesting lemon. Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, we’d recommend following our Lemon Buttercream recipe instead. Hope your daughter enjoys it!

  13. Very good!!

  14. Mirna Morales says:

    I’ll be using this recipe for some cupcakes this weekend. I will be tinting the frosting red (Disney Cars theme); will be using the Wilton Icing color (gel-based). Does the tint alter the flavor? Should I add a little more vanilla or sugar?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mirna! No need to make any changes to the recipe.

  15. Hello Sally!
    Is this buttercream good to frost cookies?
    If so, will the buttercream crust? I am looking for a good buttercream to frost cookies.
    Thank you so much Sally!
    I so enjoy your recipes ❤️

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Janette! This buttercream is great on cookies, but does not crust. Usually crusting buttercream uses shortening instead of all butter. This recipe will maintain it’s shape when piped but it won’t crust unless spread in a very thin layer. Here is our crusting buttercream recipe. (It’s in the gingerbread house blog post.) Enjoy!

  16. Love this recipe, but I have a lot of leftover. Can I halve the recipe for the same great results?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can!

  17. Hi!I was wondering if almond milk would work for this recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Halle, you can, but the buttercream won’t be as creamy.

  18. overall the frosting tasted okay, but I have a question.. first of all my frosting turned soft and gooey, it barely held up the shape of the piping tips.. Do you know why that would happen?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bree! Next time if your buttercream is too soft you can add more confectioners’ sugar to help it stiffen and hold its shape when piped.

  19. Hi Sally. Been using this recipe of yours more times than I remember and always forgot to comment and say thanks!

    Your recipes are so simple and honestly my favorite thing is how you put so much detail in each recipe you use and you explain why you use a particular ingredient and how it helps with the overall recipe/presentation. Cheers!

  20. Terrible, it absolutely ruined my cake! It was insanely thick and dry, even though I used only 4 cups of powdered sugar. I’ve made American buttercream many times and have never had any issues like this. Do not use this recipe if you want useable frosting!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ana! You can add more cream if your buttercream is too thick. Thanks for giving it a try!

  21. I am not someone who is usually a fan of buttercream, but I thought this was delicious! Most buttercream is too oily/fatty and makes my stomach hurt, so I was a little nervous with this one as it has a good chunk of butter. Surprisingly it was very mild in the buttery-ness. Would recommend!

  22. I absolutely love this buttercream, have used it many times. Sally could I add some meringue powder or another agent to help keep this frosting more stable in the heat of the summer? Or do you have another recipe that would stand up to some heat?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jill, If you replace half of the butter with shortening it should be more stable in the heat! I would still try to keep it inside, or at least out of direct rays of sun, on a particularly hot day until close to serving.

  23. Hi Sally,
    I plan to make the triple chocolate cake recipe (3 layers) with this buttercream recipe. So do I have to use the 3-layer cake ratio to have enough buttercream to frost the cake?
    Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lola, correct – use the ratios from this recipe to yield enough for a three layer cake. Enjoy!

  24. Absolutely awful, there was too much sugar and so it had like a sugary texture and was way too thick no matter how much cream I had added!

  25. Hi Sally, I tried this recipe and it was good. My friends and family loves it.
    But for me personally it was too sweet. If I reduce the sugar, the buttercream is not as thick as it supposed to be. Is there something I can use to substitute the sugar but still maintain the consistency of the buttercream?

    Thankyou 😀
    ~love from Indonesia ❤

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lizz, for a less sweet buttercream, try adding a bit more salt (a pinch or two more). That should help cut the sweetness without altering the texture and consistency by removing some of the confectioners’ sugar. Or, you might like our Swiss Meringue Buttercream better — still delicious but less sweet than traditional American buttercream like this one. Hope this helps!

  26. Sarah Kaiser says:

    This is glorious, as is everything I’ve made from your website. I was wondering if I doubled the standard vanilla as a base, if I could split it and add the lemon ingredients to some of it, and the chocolate ingredients to some of it to have three different types of frosting. Or, is the chocolate and lemon recipes enough different that it would be better just to make 3 separate batches? My daughter’s first birthday is coming up, and I think it’s best to make things overly complicated. 😉

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah! That is definitely a great idea, but may end up being more trouble than it’s worth. Mostly because chocolate buttercream requires less powdered sugar to account for the cocoa powder so the base recipes aren’t exactly the same. You could make half batches of each if you don’t need the full amount. Would love to hear how everything goes for you!

  27. Hi, I’m sorry I did not read through all the comments to see if this question is already been answered. But I need a crumb coat for a cake. Would this work?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Definitely!

  28. How much frosting can be made with all these ingredients ?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lexi, This recipe yields 2.5 cups of frosting. See recipe notes for details.

  29. Marion unabia says:

    Hi. Just like to know what if there is no powdered sugar. What can I substitute for it. I will try it today for my son’s bday tom.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marion, unfortunately, there’s no suitable substitute for the powdered sugar here. Regular sugar will leave a grainy, unpleasant texture. Best to get powdered sugar here!

  30. S.Burrell says:

    Nice texture to work with and very smooth, but I think it could use more vanilla because I could really taste the powdered sugar.

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