This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, read my disclosure policy.
My Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe is one of the easiest and best frosting recipes – this is my GO-TO 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!
Table of Contents
- Creamy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- 5 Ingredients in Vanilla Frosting
- The Secret Ingredient for perfect Buttercream
- How to make Vanilla Buttercream
- Expert Tips
- FAQ about Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- Whipped Buttercream Frosting Recipe Recipe
- How to use Buttercream Frosting
- Other Buttercream Frosting Recipes
- Favorite Equipment and Tools
Creamy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe
This is an American Buttercream recipe – fluffy and sweet with butter and powdered sugar. It’s my favorite frosting for cakes, cupcakes and cookies and it’s easy to color too!
Why you’ll love this recipe
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!
5 Ingredients in Vanilla Frosting
- 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 – be sure NOT to pack it or your frosting will be too sweet.
- Salt seems like something that doesn’t belong in frosting but I always add it to deepen the flavor as well as cut or enrich the sweetness of the frosting. If you’re using UNSALTED butter, you need to add 1/2 teaspoon. If you use SALTED butter you can reduce that to 1/4 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.
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.
You’re going to want to start with softened butter. (If you’ve forgotten this step, read how to soften butter quickly.)
- Beat the butter for a few seconds first, to get it nice and smooth. You can use a hand mixer and a large bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Add some powdered sugar. 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.
- Continue mixing adding more powdered sugar.
- Mix in the salt and vanilla.
- At this point your mixture will be crumbly if you’re using a hand mixer. It might me more smooth if you’re using a stand mixer.
- Add a bit of 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 once the heavy whipping cream is mixed in, making the frosting nice and fluffy.
If you’re using a hand mixer: You may need to add the cream while it’s still crumbly because it takes longer to mix with a hand mixer.
- Be sure to measure your powdered sugar correctly (spoon and level it). I prefer weighing it if you have a scale. It doesn’t really matter if you have more powdered sugar in your frosting, but it means you may need more cream, and your frosting will be sweeter.
- Use salted or unsalted butter in frosting, but you need to add salt regardless (add more if using unsalted butter).
- The heavy whipping cream makes a whipped buttercream frosting that’s fluffy and sweet. I’ll never use milk in frosting again!
- This vanilla frosting recipe is perfect for piping on cupcakes or cake or using on sugar cookies.
- If you want to color your buttercream frosting, I suggest using GEL food coloring instead of water-based (grocery store) food coloring. Gel colors are richer, more vibrant, and won’t thin the frosting.
FAQ about Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe
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).
Add a bit more salt, that will cut the sweetness.
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.
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.
You can make this up to 2 days ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To use cold 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.
Freeze buttercream in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Let it thaw and 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.
See below the recipe for all the products I like best. Also, learn how to frost a cupcake here.
Depending on where you live it is! Many people refer to the two interchangeably, but I think of frosting like buttercream and icing is more of a drizzle of a powdered sugar and cream mixture without butter.
The vanilla is the flavor! A good vanilla buttercream frosting recipe will have lots of PURE vanilla extract. You can also use any other kind of flavoring: almond extract or lemon, coconut – any extract you like.
Use GEL food coloring instead of water-based (grocery store) food coloring to color buttercream. Gel colors are richer, more vibrant, and won’t thin the frosting. Gel is also best if you want to make bright red buttercream icing – use Super Red or an equivalent. Grocery store brands will get dark pink at best.
Whipped Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened
- 4 cups (452g) powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt (see note)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons (30-45ml) heavy whipping cream see note
- 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.
How to use Buttercream Frosting
We love this buttercream frosting recipe for cake or cupcakes, but it’s also great for cookies and perfect for piping.
- Yellow Cake with vanilla frosting is my favorite!
- Chocolate Cake is great with vanilla buttercream too!
- Sugar Cookie Cake with a bit of easy vanilla frosting and sprinkles!
- Piñata Cupcakes with a swirl of whipped buttercream frosting hiding the opening with sprinkles.
- Funfetti Cake is great with vanilla buttercream – just add sprinkles to the icing.
- Sugar Cookies are a favorite, especially with this vanilla buttercream recipe!
Other Buttercream Frosting Recipes
- Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is the chocolate version of this recipe!
- Cream Cheese Frosting is one of my favorites.
- Mocha Frosting adds cocoa to chocolate frosting!
- Peanut Butter Frosting is rich and perfect for cake.
- Whipped Cream Frosting is light and airy
Favorite Equipment and Tools
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!
Last Updated on January 11, 2023
This is a perfect buttercream recipe and amazing on banana cake!
Does this recipe crust at all? Need it for a cake that I’m transporting. First time attempting a stacked cake and a rosette cake at that!
It does lightly in the refrigerator.
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)
Did you use unsalted butter? If so it’s probably a taste thing, you can add more powdered sugar to balance it out.
I have used this recipe for over a year. It tastes great. Each time it is so smooth until I add in the milk (whole milk). Then it splits into little bumps. Any idea why?
Is it just lumpy or is does it look curdled? I have never had that happen but I found this from here: https://bakeclub.com.au/blogs/q-a/curdled-buttercream
Buttercream curdling or ‘splitting’ after adding milk is a common problem, especially in winter. The reason for this is that butter is essentially an emulsion and when you add milk the additional water (full cream milk is almost 90% water) causes butter emulsion to split.
The best way to rectify this is to continue to beat the buttercream until it becomes smooth again. The friction created by the beating will warm the butter slightly and soften it helping to reform the emulsion and absorb the extra moisture. Alternatively, you can beat the original buttercream for longer and the warmth generated by the friction will soften the buttercream to a more spreadable consistency so there is potentially no need to add milk to help soften it.
As I mentioned, this ‘splitting’ is more likely to occur in winter when ‘room temperature’ butter is colder than it will be in summer. Also, the beater, bowl and air around the buttercream mixture will be cooler which will also lower its temperature, making it more prone to splitting when milk is added.
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.
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!
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?
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.
Whipping cream is about 35 % fat and has a very long shelf life in a cold fridge. Check the date when you buy it. Buy a small container. Two weeks or so later you could make something simple like strawberries and whipped cream or any other simple dessert. Or make more frosting and freeze it.