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 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!

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, 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. 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 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. 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!

Deliciously soft, creamy, silky, and easy PERFECT chocolate buttercream recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Deliciously soft, creamy, and easy PERFECT vanilla buttercream recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com

370 Comments

  1. I have been using this recipe for years! I have used it for weddings and engagement parties. This is my go to. I add more than a pinch of salt, 2 sometimes 3. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

  2. Hi Sally,
    I love your other recipes, but this one wasn’t for me. The texture was amazing, but it was just too sweet for us. I tried to cut it with salt and finally a bit of lemon juice (which helped). Lol, maybe I’ll just use your chocolate for everything from now on. It’s so, so, so good!!

    1. I agree with you. I am not one who likes sweet things in general. I actually use buttermilk instead of milk, water or heavy cream in my frosting recipes. It adds creaminess but the bitterness cuts down the sweetness a little. Try this!

      1. That sounds delicious! I’ll try that next time. Thank you

  3. Is this buttercream recipe recommended for high humid areas?

    1. I’ve never had a problem with it, even in 90% humidity days on a hot summer day.

  4. First of all you’re a super star!
    My son and daughter have the same birthday one year apart, we have a pretty big shindig to celebrate. Of course, there is always cake…. (I love your Vanilla Cake YUM!) and it will need frosting.

    I immediately looked up your frosting recipes.
    Your Vanilla Frosting is utter perfection.
    Absolutely not one bit of grittiness at all!
    I had more than enough for both layers of the cake. It spreads easily.
    I love everything I have made from the recipes I receive by email. They always turns out splendidly. My Christmas presents are going to be easy this year…. all of your cookbooks!
    BTW reviews at my house on the Frosted Birthday Cake…. “Not one slice of cake was left and everyone said it tasted better than some of the local Bakery’s.”
    High praise indeed!
    Thanks Sally for making all my baking dreams a reality!
    Always,
    Maggie

  5. 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/

  6. Love all of your recipes and cookbooks (have all of them). I have made your vanilla cupcake recipe over and over. My question is my fancy Wilton decorating set does not have the tip you used for your demonstration. Is there an equivalent number? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Lisa, the Wilton 1M is the tip I use most often but if you look up in the blog post above there is a numbered list (1-5) of the tips and numbers I use most frequently.

  7. Beautiful, silky buttercream! It’s a dream to pipe. I made a 9 inch 3-tiered cake so I doubled the recipe but didn’t have enough to pipe my rosettes so I made another half recipe and I just barely had enough. It was delicious, but as is normal with homemade buttercream, it was unbelievably sweet. Everyone said my cake was beautiful and VERY sweet. To which I replied, “Cake is supposed to be sweet.” Because it is, and I ate all my frosting, but pretty much everyone else left it on their plates, which is kind of painful to see, because it’s the most difficult, expensive and time-consuming part of cakemaking. Kind of feel like that 5$ in butter I spent ultimately wound up in the trash.. that being said, do you have any frosting recipes that are less sweet? Is swiss meringue less sweet? I would be willing to go through all that trouble just to make a frosting everyone would enjoy!

    1. Most people do find that Swiss Meringue buttercream (which uses egg whites) is not as sweet as American buttercream. It’s 100% your personal preference which one you like to work with and there are many recipes for it online (I don’t have one yet!). If you still like to use this buttercream recipe you can add a pinch more salt to cut the sweetness.

      1. Thank you so much! I woll definifely give that a try and I’ll be on the lookout for when you do upload a recipe for it 😉 not one of your recipes have ever failed me!

  8. Do you use a flat beater or the wire whip?

    1. Hi Valerie, you can use either, but I like using the flat beater.

  9. Hi Sally!
    Would sifting the powdered sugar (after weighing/measuring of course) either hurt or help the final outcome, such as consistency-wise?
    Thank you for all of your amazing recipes and information btw, I have enjoyed trying and learning so many new things since discovering your site! :o)

    1. It can’t hurt! I usually don’t find it necessary because most brands I use do not clump, but depending on the brand of powdered sugar you are using if you are finding that your frosting is clumping or grainy in texture then try sifting.

  10. Hi can i make the frosting ahead of time? If so how long does it last in the fridge before i should ice the cake?

    1. Hi Eva, see step two of the recipe directions for details on storing the frosting!

  11. Hi! I’m looking to make this icing recipe for soft baked sugar cookies! But wanted to put a hint of lemon extract in it. I’ve heard lemon buttercream goes amazing with a soft baked sugar cookie! I’m not wanting a strong lemon, just a nice hint of a creamy vanilla/lemon flavor. What do you recommend for amount? Would i still add some vanilla along with the lemon? I’m using Watkins flavoring. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Ashlee, This is my favorite recipe for soft baked sugar cookies: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/soft-cakey-sugar-cookies/ and in it I link to my lemon buttercream (https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/lemon-buttercream-frosting/) as an optional frosting!

  12. I ‘m making this cookie for a project and the question I have is, when do you add the natural food coloring? Or how do you get the icing to be pink?

    1. I usually make the frosting, divide it between a few bowels, and add food coloring to each bowl to make a few different colors. I highly recommend a gel food coloring such as AmeriColor brand instead of a liquid food coloring as the colors are much brighter without adding as much.

  13. This worked great for my 3-year-old’s birthday cake and I am planning to make it again for my nieces 2-year birthday cake. There is only one problem, she is allergic to gluten does icing contain gluten? I am just asking to play it safe.

    1. Hello – None of these ingredients contain gluten.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. Cally Younger says:

    Can I use half n half instead of heavy whipping cream?

    1. Yes, that is fine for frosting!

  17. 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).

      1. Declan Harris says:

        Sally,

        Thanks! also your recipes are really amazing! I use you webpage anytime I bake.

        -Declan Harris

  18. I need help. I have tried 3 different icing recipes and i can not get any of them to turn out right. I know I must be doing something wrong. I just got a stand mixer for Christmas. I just finished your vanilla cake reciepe but the buttercream icing didn’t do as well. It always seems to be so funny. I tried adding more sugar then it split.

    1. Buttercream Catastrophe says:

      I have a similar issue, the buttercream is fine and then when I pipe it on to my cooled cupcakes, it breaks down. What am I doing wrong?

  19. Does this frosting need to be refrigerated?

    1. It can be left out of the refrigerator for several hours, but I recommend keeping it in the refrigerator to preserve its freshness.

  20. 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!

  21. Hi sally i love your recipes so0 much and thank you for always sharing your recipes

    1. Thank you for reading and trying my recipes, Junnel!

  22. can you add gel color to this recipe?

    1. Yes absolutely!

      1. off topic, but I don’t like using the candy melts, I feel like they are too sweet. can I add gel color to melted white chocolate instead of using like pink candy melts.

  23. Hi! I’m wondering if you think this vanilla buttercream would be good with your homemade strawberry cake? Will be making the cake for Valentines Day! Love all your recipes! Thanks!

    1. Hi Amanda! It would be excellent, but you’ll lose some strawberry flavor without the strawberry frosting on that cake!

  24. Celaena Sardothian says:

    Can you add cocoa powder to this to make it chocolate?

    1. Yes, I use cocoa powder. You can see the exact ratios in my recipe for my Favorite Chocolate Buttercream.

  25. Made this ever since I first come across it. “My forever frosting” I saw in someones review and I second that! I once added too much cream and the mixture split a bit; however i added a splash of milk and it came together smooth again.. not sure if it had something to do with the cream but turned out fine!

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. Delicious. Not too sweet. I also used the 1/8 tsp of salt.

  29. Making this for the first time, should the full cream also be at room temperature?

    1. It doesn’t HAVE to be, but I find it’s best to bring to room temperature first to avoid any separation or curdling.

  30. 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.

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