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. 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. 🙂

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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

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
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
  • 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. 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 for a few seconds so it’s creamy again.

Notes

  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or one 9×13 quarter sheet cake. Follow these ratios for a 2 layer cake and these ratios for a 3 layer cake.

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

233 Comments

  1. for my little sister’s birthday they will be decorating cookies. I will be making your Best Sugar Cookies recipe. so my question is, i need a frosting that is pipeable, tastes good with sugar cookies, and will hold shape well. will this frosting be ok for that? in past expierences buttercream frosting is really thick and hasn’t worked well with me when pipeing, will this be different? and keep in mind that i am working with 5-8 year olds.

    1. Hi Lily! This vanilla buttercream pipes so easily and always holds its shape! Follow the recipe precisely. Let me know how it turns out!

  2. Hi Sally, thanks for this recipe! They were absolutely delicious topped with your buttercream. However, they deflated quite a bit upon retrieval from the oven. Thoughts? They were actually muffin-topping in the final minutes of cooking and then they lost all their body when cooling. Could it be because I let them cool in the cupcake tin instead of taking them out right away? Thanks again.

  3. Oops! I realize I just posted this comment on the buttercream page. It was meant for the “Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes”. Hope you can correct that. Cheers!

  4. When using this frosting for Sugar Cookies, does it dry/harden to allow the cookies to be stacked without being individually wrapped?

  5. 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.

  6. Hi Sally!

    Good day!
    I am anew follower of your page. I already tried baking your super moist chocolate cupcakes and paired it with this vanilla buttercream frosting. My relatives really liked it, however, the frosting is a little too sweet for their taste and for mine as well. I used 1 cup butter to 4 cups confectioner’s sugar. If i reduce the sugar then the texture of the frosting will be thin. Do you have any tips to lessen the sweetness of the frosting but still the consistency and thickness of the frosting remains??? Thank you.

    1. Hi Tala! My typical recommendation is 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar to 1/2 cup of butter (plus milk/cream, vanilla, and salt of course). You can slightly reduce the sugar and cream, but the frosting may taste a little greasy. How about vanilla whipped cream?

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. Hi Sally, the butter sometimes makes the frosting not quite as white as I’d like when using it for cookies (snowmen). Do you have any suggestions for that?

    1. I know it sounds weird but sometime a tiny drop (like just barely the end of a toothpick dipped in) purple gel food coloring will whiten it up!

    2. Hi-I’m not Sally, but I love her recipes! She’s my fave, but I also find good baking recipes on a site called What Charlotte Baked. I found a vanilla buttercream technique for getting it nice and white: beat 1 cup unsalted butter by itself on high for at least 5 minutes. The butter will be light, fluffy and very, very pale. Then add 4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar in 3-4 stages, beating for at least a minute between additions. Once all the sugar has been beaten in, add between 2-4 TBS milk or cream, depending on the consistency you prefer. Beat in 2 tsp vanilla extract. This makes about 2 cups. It really was almost white but I wanted it even lighter so I added Wilton white icing color, which I bought at a craft store. Good luck!

  10. 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. 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!

  12. I tried this butter cream. You have mentioned heavy cream ..is it fresh cream or whipping cream? I used fresh cream and color , the cream curdled and cpuldnt get a proper piping.

    1. If there are no other perishable ingredients in your cake, then a cake covered in buttercream will be stable at room temperature for a few days!

    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. Can I use this frosting for naked cakes and drip cakes with colored stripes.
    Thank you so much for sharing … so kind

  14. Hi! I was going to try and add a hint of flavor to this buttercream, possibly almond or orange. Should I omit the vanilla extract or supplement it? Can you advise how to add a not overwhelming flavor to this using extracts? I’ve seen you suggest starting with 1/2 tsp for mint flavoring, but not sure if thats a good rule of thumb for any flavor? And will the vanilla take away/overwhelm if I keep that in as well?

    1. Hi Amy! Best practice for adding flavor to American buttercream– start with 1/2 teaspoon. Taste. Add 1/4 teaspoon. Taste. And continue adding 1/4 teaspoon until you are satisfied with the flavor. I recommend reducing the vanilla extract to just 1/2 or 1 teaspoon so it does not overpower the other flavor you are adding.

  15. Good morning! I need to make vanilla and chocolate frosting for my daughter’s birthday cupcakes today. The quantity is just what I need, but half has to be chocolate. Any advice on converting half this recipe to chocolate frosting?

    1. Hi Erika! The easiest way: I recommend making the vanilla frosting, then adding a couple Tablespoons of cocoa powder and milk/cream to half of it to produce the chocolate version.

  16. Sally;
    What is the nutrictional information on your buttercream recipe?I am a type 2 diabetic and it would be nice to know this information?
    Kimkim

  17. Hey Sally, this looks like an amazing recipe, but if I wanted to write something on top of a cake, would I use this recipe or would it be too creamy? I’m looking for something thin but delicious. Thanks!

    1. This buttercream is great for writing. You can even keep it a little thicker, if desired, by reducing the heavy cream.

  18. Hi sally! I need your help. We don’t have heavy cream in our country. Do you have any alternative ingredients to substitute for heavy cream?

  19. Hi Sally,
    I’m finding that everytime I make buttercream, all I can’t taste is icing sugar. Is that common? Or is there potentially something that I’m doing incorrectly?
    Thank you!

    1. Alex, that’s pretty common. Try sifting the powdered sugar first and add a little more salt or flavoring such as pure vanilla extract or even the seeds from a vanilla bean.

  20. I made this for the moist chocolate cupcake recipe, which was very good by the way (https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/super-moist-chocolate-cupcakes/). I didn’t use quite as much sugar because I was trying to cut down on the sugar. But it did taste more buttery than it probably should have. So next time, I will add more sugar to see if that balances it out. Besides that, this is a great frosting recipe. It beat up thick enough to pipe and tasted good. I did add more vanilla because I just like vanilla alot! I also doubled it and I had extra for the two batches of cupcakes, about 32.

  21. 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.

  22. 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. 🙂

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