Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

5 from 2 votes
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Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is one of the easiest and best frosting recipes – this is my GO-TO frosting for every cake I make. I’ve been making it for years and have a secret ingredient that makes it extra fluffy.

If you need a simple buttercream for any cake or batch of cupcakes, this is the one to use!

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Two vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting on wood table

This post has been a long time coming! I’ve used this same recipe on several other cakes and cupcake posts but it’s about time it got it’s own standalone post.

Here is what I love about this simple frosting:

  • It’s fast and easy to whip up
  • It’s a fluffy white frosting that’s perfect for piping or just spreading
  • It’s smooth, every time, and creamy and the perfect amount of sweet
  • My secret ingredient – heavy whipping cream – makes it extra perfect!

Let’s learn all about making this perfect frosting!

Vanilla buttercream icing in a bowl with paddle attachment

What do you need to make vanilla buttercream?

There are just FIVE simple ingredients in a basic frosting:

  • Butter
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Salt
  • Vanilla
  • Heavy Whipping Cream

Since this is such a simple recipe with not too many ingredients, you want to use the BEST ingredients possible. Let’s talk about each one separately:

Butter & Sugar

Butter: use a good one for best flavor. Also, use REAL butter, not margarine or any substitutes. My favorite butter is, as always, Challenge. Just use a good one; I don’t recommend cheap store brands when butter is an integral ingredient, like in frosting. Make sure the butter is softened before making the frosting.

Powdered Sugar, also called confectioners sugar, is the building block of this frosting. There are no substitutions for this. Some people sift their sugar, but I just scoop it from the container – just be sure NOT to pack it or your frosting will be too sweet.

Salt & Vanilla

Salt seems like something that doesn’t belong in frosting but I always add it. There are several reasons why:

  1. It deepens the flavor.
  2. It can enrich the sweetness of your frosting.
  3. It can also CUT the sweetness if you add too much sugar (or if you’re a “that’s too sweet” person.

If you’re using UNSALTED butter, you need to add ½ teaspoon. If you use SALTED butter you can reduce that to ¼ teaspoon or omit and add after the fact, to taste.

Vanilla Extract: only use PURE vanilla. Please, in general, never buy imitation. My favorite vanilla to use in frosting is actually Vanilla Bean Paste, which has those little bean flecks but is cheaper than buying actual vanilla beans. Use what you have, but always buy PURE vanilla.

The Secret Ingredient

Heavy Whipping Cream is my secret ingredient. Yes, you can use milk, but the cream gives it a richness that is unparalleled. Plus – when you’re mixing it in, it makes the frosting extra fluffy.

Close up shot of vanilla buttercream in a glass dish

How to make Vanilla Buttercream

Making this classic frosting recipe is easy.

My favorite way to make this frosting is in a stand mixer, but you can also use a hand mixer. (See the bottom of this post for links to my favorite products.)

You’re going to want to start with softened butter. (If you’ve forgotten this step, read how to soften butter quickly.) I like to beat the butter for a few seconds first, to get it nice and smooth.

Don’t add all your powdered sugar at once; I like to add it one cup at a time, mixing between each, because if you add too much it will fly everywhere.

Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time to avoid a mixer mess!

PRO TIP

Once the powdered sugar is added, then I mix in my salt and vanilla, and then I add my heavy whipping cream. You’ll see that I list a range of tablespoon amounts for the cream and that is because the amount of cream you use depends on the texture you want and it also depends on how soft your butter is when you start. I usually use about 2 tablespoons.

I like to beat the frosting on medium speed until it’s nice and smooth and the heavy whipping cream is mixed in, making the frosting nice and fluffy. Note: it’ll take longer on a stand mixer, and you may need to add the cream while it’s still crumbly because it takes longer to mix with a hand mixer.

slice of white cake on white plate

Making vanilla buttercream is really one of the easiest things you can make, but there are some questions that I regularly get. If you have more, add them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

FAQ: Substitutions, Troubleshooting and Storing

My frosting is runny, what happened?

This can happen for a couple reasons: was your butter too soft? If so, try chilling the frosting for a bit and see if it firms up. If it’s not that, then chances are you added too much cream. Add a bit more powdered sugar and taste it to make sure it isn’t too sweet (if so, add more salt).

Woah, this frosting is too sweet!

Add a bit more salt, that will cut the sweetness.

I don’t have heavy whipping cream, can I use milk?

Yes, you can use milk (regular, 2%, nonfat) or even half and half. However, the frosting will be thinner and not as fluffy and you will most likely NOT NEED 2 tablespoons, so add LESS to start.

How do I make this vegan/dairy-free?

You can substitute Earth’s Balance Vegan Butter STICKS and use non-dairy milk for the cream. Again, you’ll need less than 2 tablespoons so start with 1 tablespoon.

Can I freeze the frosting? Can I make buttercream ahead?

Yes and yes. You can make this up to 2 days ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and/or freeze it for up to a month. To use cold or frozen frosting: let it defrost, then let it come to room temperature on the counter. Stir. You may need to add a bit of cream or milk to thin it and make it spreadable.

What tips do you use for decorating?

See below the recipe for all the products I like best. Also, learn how to frost a cupcake here.

Uses for Buttercream

Other than eating it with a spoon, here are a few ways we love to use this frosting:

Have you made this recipe?

Tag @crazyforcrust on Instagram or hashtag it #crazyforcrust

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This is the BEST Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe and perfect to use on any layer cake, sheet cake or cupcakes. It's easy with just 5 ingredients and absolutely delicious.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 16 servings
Serving Size 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream see note

Instructions

  • Beat butter with a hand or a stand mixer until smooth, then add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing in between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the salt and vanilla, mix until smooth.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and beat on medium high speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy and the desired consistency.
  • Note on mixing: if you’re using a hand mixer it’ll stay crumbly for quite some time; add the heavy whipping cream to help it come together.
  • If you feel like you need a little more to get to the consistency you like, you can add up to another 1 tablespoon, adding a teaspoon at a time. This differs each time you make it depending on what mixer you’re using or how hot it is (the buttercream comes together easier in summer, for example, when the kitchen is warmer).
  • Frost as desired; will frost one 9×13-inch cake or a 9-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes. If you like extra frosting for decorating, make a double batch.
  • Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days and allow to come to room temperature before using; you may need to add some extra cream to thin it.
  • You can freeze the frosting too for up to a month. Just let it defrost in the refrigerator then at room temperature before using.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

In place of heavy whipping cream you can use whipping cream, half and half, any milk, or non-dairy milk but the less fat in the milk the thinner the frosting will be, so use less (start with 1 Tbsp). To make vegan frosting, substitute non-dairy milk and Earth’s Balance Vegan Butter Sticks.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 226kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 33mg | Sodium: 76mg | Potassium: 3mg | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 382IU | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword frosting

Favorite Equipment and Tools

Vanilla cupcakes on wood table with vanilla buttercream frosting and recipe title on top of image

This is the best Vanilla Buttercream frosting recipe! It’s so easy to make and tastes way better than the container at the store. You’ll never need to shop for buttercream again!

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7 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. I liked this recipe, but why so much salt?…it kind of came out a little salty. I had doubled the recipe because I needed a lot so I ended up with a teaspoon of salt(2 1/2 teaspoons). (Speaking of the vanilla buttercream)

    1. Did you use unsalted butter? If so it’s probably a taste thing, you can add more powdered sugar to balance it out.

  2. I have used this recipe for years and you are SO right. This is a fantastic tasting all purpose frosting. If you are in the mood for LIGHT chocolate you can add 1/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa to your powdered sugar and another 2 tablespoons butter and have an equally satisfying and useful chocolate frosting.

  3. Quite a few recipes call for whipping cream. It has a short life, so if you don’t bake every day, chances are it will go bad before one needs it again. I would love to keep it on hand but I haven’t been able to. I’m a “spontaneous baker” and hate to run out for that ingredient. If I freeze it, won’t it affect its use to a certain extent? Doesn’t it make it watery? Thank you! I have collected and used so many of your wonderful recipes! You are my favorite go to for recipes!

    1. You can use any kind of milk, it just won’t be as fluffy without the whipping cream. I know my mom freezes milk, so I think you could freeze the cream – maybe in ice cube trays?

    2. In most grocery stores, they have the small whipping cream in the size containers we used to get the milk carton at school lunch with so you’re not wasting much.