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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Taste and salt. Add a pinch of salt to offset the sweetness. Trust me on this one!
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.
- 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.
- Confectioners’ Sugar: Sweetens vanilla buttercream and adds stability and pipe-ability to the frosting.
- Heavy Cream: Though whole milk or half-and-half are perfectly acceptable, use heavy cream for maximum creaminess and richness.
- Pure Vanilla Extract: Adds that glorious vanilla flavor. And if you use homemade vanilla extract, even better.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wilton 8B – one of my all-time favorites.
- Ateco 849 – it’s a pretty wide piping tip. You can make a rose, a soft-serve swirl, or a super easy ruffled look.
- 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.
- 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!
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!
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:
- Lemon Cupcakes
- Confetti Cupcakes
- Vanilla Cake
- Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies
- Checkerboard Cake
- Sugar Cookie Bars
- Chocolate Cupcakes
- Piñata Cupcakes
- Sugar Cookie Cake
By the way, if you make my homemade vanilla extract, this buttercream tastes even more fantastic. 🙂Print
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
- 4 – 5 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Confectioners’ Sugar: If your confectioners’ sugar is particularly lumpy, I recommend sifting it 1-2x before measuring and using.
- 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!