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

373 Comments

  1. Can I use whole milk in place of the heavy cream (since we are under social distancing I’d rather not run out the store for one item)?

    1. Absolutely!

    2. Yes, same! Thank you for answering my question 🙂

    3. I was wondering, do I use 4 or 5 cups of sugar as there is a big difference between them?!

      1. Hi Monica, I recommend starting with 4.5 cups and adding an extra half cup more if the frosting is too thin. I explain this further in step #2!

  2. How many cupcakes can I frost with this?

    1. 12 – 16

  3. Does this frosting have to be refrigerated?

    1. Up to 1 day at room temperature is just fine, but after that I would definitely refrigerate it.

  4. Can I double the recipe? Or are there differences to batch up?

    1. Hi Katie, you can double this vanilla buttercream recipe– no specific changes needed besides doubling each ingredient.

  5. I just made the vanilla cupcakes and this buttercream and both are wonderful! This buttercream is amazing! 🙂 Thank you!

  6. Hi, Sally! I absolutely love all your recipes. Just to make sure, icing sugar is the same as confectioners sugar, right? So I could use that? Thanks!

    1. Yes! And thank you so much.

  7. Can I use this buttercream frosting on the sugar cookies?

    1. Absolutely!

  8. Can I use shortening in place of some of the butter? I am going to decorate my sons birthday cake and I have heard that shortening can stabilize it some.

    1. Absolutely.

  9. Hi Sally! Could I make the buttercream using frozen heavy cream?

    1. Hi! No, the liquid shouldn’t be frozen.

  10. Is there anyway to avoid the grainy texture? I sometimes get that sort of texture when I make buttercream? What am I doing wrong?

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

  11. I loved this recipe! Can’t stop eating it

  12. how do you measure powdered sugar

    1. I have a post on How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients that you will find helpful!

  13. Hello! I wanted to know if I can use this recipe for my macaron fillings? May you please let me know I’d appreciate it! ☺️

    1. Sure can! I fill my French Macarons with buttercream and in the recipe notes I also give many other ideas for fillings!

  14. Khushee Kumar says:

    Can I add food color like light pink to it….it’s my sister’s bday…so I thought it would be nice…

  15. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to do this! The recipe is so good and I will definitely be trying it again! I’m not too good at baking but this made my cupcakes taste really good!

  16. Do I need to heat treat the cream (as you would for a choc ganache) to help keep it longer?

  17. hi can I use coconut cream instead of whipping cream? I’m making a cake for a dairy allergy baby. I’m going to use dairy free nuttelex for the butter. Was wondering if I could use coconut cream for whipping cream. Thanks!

    1. Coconut cream will work great!

  18. This is the best buttercream I’ve ever had and I want to make on Sunday and put in the fridge and then decorate the cake on Sunday (for baby’s birthday). Once I remove from the fridge, how long do I need to let it sit out before I can pipe with it? And do I need to whip it up again in the stand mixer?

  19. Can I use an electric hand mixer with beater attachment? If so, for how long should I cream the butter and beat to get the perfect consistency and texture? It would be really kind and helpful of you if you answered this query.

    1. Yes, a hand mixer is great. Follow the same mixing times as written in the instructions.

      1. Thank you so much! Do you suggest that I cream butter and next sugar on high speed or low speed?

  20. Hi sally! I really like your recipes. I was just wondering, i really prefer my buttercream on the less sweet side. Would this recipe also work with 2-3 cups of confectioners sugar?

    1. Hi Kristine, the buttercream will be a little greasy without enough sugar to balance out the butter. I recommend my cream cheese frosting or Swiss meringue buttercream instead.

  21. This was good but I found that it tasted like, butter. Idk how to explain, but is there someting I did wrong? Otherwise it was delicious!

  22. I made this for my son’s 7th birthday. The texture was so smooth and moist. Perfect!

  23. HI! i have all the ingredients except for heavy cream can I replace it with butter milk or 33% whipping cream?

    1. Regular milk, half-and-half, or the whipping cream you have would be great.

  24. Would this frosting be enough to frost a 3 layer cake? Or would I have to double it?Also I love all your recipes, you yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting are so delicious my daughter is obssessed!

    1. Hi Sophia, thank you so much! For a detailed description of the quantity, see my recipe note.

  25. Hi Sally!
    Is it possible to add natural strawberry flavor to this butter cream icing rather than the cream cheese icing? I am trying to make a strawberry naked cake. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sonya! Here’s my strawberry buttercream frosting recipe made from real strawberry flavor–freeze-dried strawberries.

  26. Hello Sally! I want to make this for my little brothers birthday to frost an ice cream cake! I was wondering, can I freeze the buttercream while on the cake? Thanks!

    1. Yes, buttercream frosting freezes well!

  27. Hi Sally! I absolutely love your recipes! Just wondering, I know the amount of sugar affects the consistency of the frosting but is there a way to make it less sweet? Thanks!

    1. Hi Irene, Adding an extra pinch of salt can help cut the sweetness. If you are looking for a frosting that isn’t as sweet I suggest trying Swiss Meringue Buttercream!

  28. Hello 🙂 new to baking here — do you recommend kosher salt or sea salt when incorporating a pinch of salt? If you recommend sea salt would Maldon work? Thank you

    1. Hi Sam, I usually use regular table salt in frosting but you can use either kosher or sea salt since you’re adding it to taste. Kosher salt would be the better choice though.

  29. hi there how many cup cakes does this frost

    1. Hi Linda, See recipe notes 🙂

  30. Hey sally! I’m making sugar cookies and I wanna use the butter cream to frost them I will put lime zest in it it’s my first time making butter cream

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