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. Will this work well with fondant?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, this will hold well under fondant!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Sally! Is this recipe enough for a Bundt cake? Thank you!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, it depends on how heavily you’d like it frosted, but yes, this should be enough or 1.5x it if you’d like to have a little extra!

  3. Jasmine Bakes says:

    too sweet

    1. Sharon Prentice says:

      Too sweet? Buttercream is butter and sugar. What did you expect?

  4. This was easy to make and easy to adjust as long as you go slow. I really liked this recipe although I did need to add more vanilla which I honestly think is to personal taste because Ive had cupcakes from professional that I felt didn’t have enough vanilla. Otherwise this was super tasty and easy for me and my 15 yo daughter to make in my stand mixer.

  5. History Geek says:

    Great frosting! I made it for my mother in law’s birthday.

    Just a question, how long can this frosting be left out of the refrigerator? Or should I refrigerate immediately? Thanks 🙂

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So glad this buttercream was a hit! We find the buttercream (on a cake or cupcakes) is usually okay left at room temperature for about a day. After that, we recommend refrigerating.

  6. This buttercream is perfect!! At first it tasted too much like confectioner’s sugar – I added a bit more vanilla and about a tsp more cream, but still couldn’t get rid of the sugary taste. However, about an hour later as a decorated it, it tasted much better. Maybe it just needed time for the sugar to combine with the butter? Anyways, don’t give up on this frosting if it isn’t perfect at first!! I will definitely use this recipe again !!

  7. Would you say that this recipe would be enough to cover a 2-layer 6 in cake for a child’s smash cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Megan, absolutely — this will be plenty to cover and decorate a 2 layer, 6 inch cake. Enjoy!

  8. Perfect! There was nothing I would change about it.

  9. I’ve tried to make this twice and both times my frosting was super crumbly and hard to spread evenly! Any idea what I’m doing wrong?!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nicole! How are you measuring your powdered sugar? Make sure to spoon and level instead of scooping to avoid over-measuring – that would result in dry buttercream. You can add an extra splash of milk or heavy cream to help smooth it out as well. Hope this helps!

  10. The best buttercream frosting recipe I’ve ever had!

  11. This tasted really good, but was a little too sweet for me. I had to use milk (instead of cream) so maybe that was why? I might try 4c of powdered sugar next time? I did add the salt too, which didn’t seem to make a difference. But, all of my party guests loved it! Was super easy to make too!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Trisha, for next time, feel free to add another pinch or two of salt to help cut the sweetness. Reducing the confectioners’ sugar will help as well, but keep in mind that that will change the final texture (and thickness) of the frosting. Or, for a less sweet frosting, you might enjoy our Swiss meringue buttercream instead. Thanks for giving this one a try!

  12. Hello. I tried this recipe today and I feel like I did something wrong, even though this is a fairly simple recipe. I doubled the batch to start. But confirmed I measured correctly. But it tasted buttery and when I was decorating, it kept getting stuck in my tip. Then once I got near the end of the amount in my bag, it was soupy. I’ve never made homemade buttercream and I’m thinking I’m going back to the can! (Kidding…kinda). Any help would be appreciated!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Yvonne, thanks so much for giving this buttercream a try. A few tips for next time — it sounds like your piping bag may be a bit too full. It’s normal for the tip to start to clog up after some use, so if you fill the bag in smaller batches, you can clear it out throughout. Also, the buttercream will begin to soften the longer you use it (your hands + being at room temperature cause this), so we’d recommend refilling a few times to prevent the softening that you mention. If it ever gets too soft, you can always stick the frosting and / or piping bag with frosting in the fridge for a few minutes to help it solidify. Hope these help!

  13. Love this buttercream! It’s my go-to recipe

  14. Hello!
    ADVICE? I would love to try yours. I have made many failed buttercream’s. #1 problem – they come out grainy! I have sifted my powered sugar & bought C&H fine confectioner’s sugar. #2 It is too sweet I feel.
    HELP!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cherish, we’re happy to help. Sometimes the graininess can depend on the brand of confectioners’ sugar you’re using — however, sifting, like you mention, should help. If you find buttercream too sweet, you can try adding an additional pinch of salt to help cut the sweetness. Or, for a less sweet buttercream, you might also enjoy our Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead. Let us know if you give either a try!

  15. There are only 4 of us in the family and we decided to make a small cake for my daughter’s birthday. I halved this recipe and added raspberry extract instead of vanilla for two reasons – it’s my daughter’s favorite flavor and it imparts a pale pink color which would be perfect for the fondant decoration that I have in mind. (Just want to add that I use professional quality extracts, regular raspberry extracts can taste a bit fake). This recipe is perfect. I start with the lower range of sugar and add more as needed, so it’s a great way to manage the sweetness. This recipe is a keeper, thank you! I also love your chocolate buttercream recipe.

  16. Hi,

    What tip was used in the main picture of the vanilla buttercream cupcakes? The picture right under the bowl of buttercream And what is the tip used in the Chocolate buttercream cupcakes further down the page? Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz! The Vanilla buttercream photo is Ateco 849, and the chocolate buttercream photo is Wilton 1M. You can learn more about our favorite piping tips in this Piping Tips blog post!

  17. I love this recipe, and have used it many times in the past. I am making a large pull apart cupcake cake and so I will need a lot of frosting. If I want to double or triple the recipe is it best to just make 3 individual batches separately or is there a ratio I can use to double or triple the recipe? I wasn’t sure if following the recipe for the 3 layer cake would make enough. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  18. Can this recipe be doubled? I need a LOT of icing for the decor I’m planning.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lindsay, yes, you can double this recipe.

  19. Monique B Stober says:

    Absolutely the best vanilla buttercream! I don’t usually add all the powdered sugar but I love the directions she has. This buttercream is so great to pipe ❤ thank you!

  20. Best frosting I’ve made. It is perfect for warm weather and food coloring holds nicely. It was a little too sweet but I just added a little more salt to even everything out. Definitely plan on using this recipe for future baking!

  21. Tried this out a few days ago to do a test run and it was SO easy to make & to pipe! Very sweet so I may try adding more salt this time. I’m making for a picnic tonight- how soon can I frost them if I don’t plan on refrigerating before tonight? Do I cover them after frosting or can I leave them out? Also- do you think they will melt in the heat? Thanks so much!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Grace, if you’re planning to frost the cupcakes soon, you should be fine to leave them covered at room temperature until the evening, as long as they aren’t in direct heat or an overly hot room. Otherwise, it might be best to store in the fridge as long as possible!

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

  23. I made this for my friends and my birthday sense she can not have regular icing and this is her favorite thanks

  24. Great recipe. The first time I made it, my milk was cold so it separated, but I made another batch just now and I microwaved the milk to make it room temperature and it turned out. Thank you!

  25. This is the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever made. The recipe is easy to follow and I appreciate all of the advice before the recipe. I got it perfect first time! Thank you!!

  26. This buttercream tastes delicious and pipes well, but I would like to know how you get your color to be so white. Using real butter and real vanilla makes this buttercream totally off-white-light beige in color?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

      1. Never heard of such a thing but I am definitely going to have to try that. Reminds me a little of adjusting white balance in photos with that blue-yellow scale

  27. Clear and easy to follow directions, and absolutely delicious! I’m so happy with the result. Thanks Sally!

  28. Hi Sally, this is my favourite buttercream recipe. I get compliments every time I use it. I’m going to be making a 4-layer cake. Would it be best to make 2 batches of the 2-layer cake recipe? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heidi, so glad to hear this buttercream recipe is a hit for you! Yes, for enough buttercream for a four layer cake, you can double the buttercream ratios from this recipe. (If making the cake as well, though, we recommend two separate batches rather than doubling so as not to accidentally over or under mix).

  29. I have been baking 50 years! This is the recipe I have always used! It is perfect!

  30. Cindy Breeland says:

    I made this today as a trial run for a wedding cake I’m doing in a couple of days. It was delicious but it never crusted. I frosted a sample Cake it stayed very moist to the touch. I went by the directions; but I’m thinking I didn’t beat it long enough. Suggestions?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cindy, this is not a crusting buttercream, but you could try replacing up to half of the butter with shortening in order to get more of a crusting effect. Hope this helps!

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