This easy homemade American buttercream frosting recipe is the best ever! It's velvety smooth, full of creamy, buttery flavor, and perfect for decorating cakes, frosting cupcakes, filling sandwich cookies, and so much more! This post is packed with tips and recipe variations to help you create your perfect buttercream frosting.
Every baker needs a mouthwatering and reliable recipe for American buttercream frosting up their sleeve, and this recipe is the best ever! I tested more than 10 batches of frosting to ensure that this recipe is just right, and I’m confident that you’re going to love it. Keep this go-to frosting recipe in your back pocket the next time you need to decorate a birthday cake, whip up a batch of cupcakes, decorate cookies, or just because!
This frosting is so decadent and silky smooth it will take all your self control not to eat it with a spoon. Which I’ve done and have absolutely no regrets about, by the way. And the best part? Once you’ve mastered this classic vanilla buttercream frosting recipe, you can make an infinite number of variations. I’ve shared a few of my favorites below, but the possibilities are truly endless!
Butter - Use unsalted butter so that you can control the amount of salt in the frosting and be sure that the butter is a cool room temperature before you begin in order to achieve a smooth frosting. So much of the frosting’s flavor comes from the butter, so use a quality butter for the best tasting buttercream. European-style butter, which contains a higher ratio of fat to water than American-style butter, will yield an especially delicious and creamy frosting. Just note that European-style butter is often more yellow in color than American-style butter, which will give the frosting a stronger yellow tint (see Recipe Tips below for more information about keeping your buttercream white).
Vanilla Extract - Just like with butter, quality is key for optimal flavor, so choose a high-quality pure vanilla extract for flavoring frosting. Or make your own vanilla extract.
Salt - While American buttercream is notoriously sweet, a hint of salt helps to balance the sweetness and enhance the flavors of the butter and vanilla.
Confectioners’ Sugar - Confectioners’ sugar provides the sweetness for the frosting, and it’s fine texture allows it to dissolve more easily into the butter. Do not substitute granulated sugar, which will create a gritty frosting.
Whole Milk - Milk adds a final bit of creaminess to the frosting. I recommend whole milk (or even heavy cream), since the higher fat content will produce the best creaminess, but any dairy milk you prefer will work.
Step-by-Step Recipe Instructions
This buttercream frosting is easy to make from scratch and takes just 10 minutes!
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer), beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth.
- Add vanilla and salt and beat on medium-high speed until blended.
- Add sugar slowly – one cup at a time – beating well on medium speed (A) and scraping the bowl often. When all sugar is added the frosting will be slightly dry (B).
- Add milk and beat on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy.
For the smoothest frosting, be sure to use butter that’s a cool room temperature and sift the sugar.
If using a stand mixer, use the mixer’s paddle attachment rather than the whisk, which could add too much air to the frosting.
Troubleshooting Texture - This recipe can be easily tweaked to customize the frosting’s texture. If the frosting seems a bit too dry, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting seems a bit too wet, add more confectioners’ sugar, a Tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is to your liking.
How to Store Frosting - Store buttercream frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. If you plan to refrigerate the frosting before using to decorate a dessert, let the frosting come to room temperature and briefly re-whip it with a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer so that it's soft and fluffy before using. Cakes or other desserts that have been decorated with American buttercream frosting can be stored on a covered cake plate or stand at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Keep Frosting from Crusting - American buttercream frosting is a "crusting" buttercream, meaning that the frosting lightly sets and develops a very slight "crust" after it is exposed to air for a period of time. The frosting will still be very smooth and creamy and the "crust" almost unnoticeable when eaten, but the slight "crust" helps the frosting to hold its shape when used for decorating. If you're finding that the frosting is crusting before you're finished decorating with it, place a damp cloth over the bowl of frosting to keep it moistened and stop it from drying out.
White Frosting - American buttercream will naturally have a slight yellow tint thanks to the butter and vanilla extract. If you’re aiming for pure white frosting, try these tips:
- Choose a light colored butter. Different brands of butter will have different shades of yellow, and a butter that’s lighter yellow will produce a whiter frosting. European-style butter is likely to be more yellow in color, so while it provides amazing flavor and creaminess, it may not be the best choice if pure white frosting is what you’re after.
- Replace half of the butter in the recipe with vegetable shortening, which is white in color (see Recipe Variations below for more information).
- Add a tiny bit of purple gel food coloring to counter the yellow of the frosting, since yellow and purple are contrasting colors. Dip a toothpick into the container of food coloring and transfer a teeny dot of coloring to the frosting. Be careful not to add too much food coloring or the frosting will become purple.
Recipe & Flavor Variations
Vegetable Shortening - Vegetable shortening (commonly known by the popular brand name, Crisco) is a solid fat used in baking that has a consistency similar to butter. You can replace up to half of the butter with vegetable shortening in this recipe. While all-butter buttercream has the best flavor, replacing some of the butter with vegetable shortening has two benefits:
- Shortening has a higher melting point than butter, so buttercream frosting made with shortening will hold up better in warm temperatures. (If you're serving a frosted cake in the summer, this frosting will be less likely to melt off your cake than an all-butter buttercream frosting.) This frosting will also hold decorations like piped roses a bit better and is less likely to become melty in a piping bag from the warmth of your hand holding the bag.
- Shortening is white in color, so a vanilla buttercream frosting made with 50% shortening will be white, unlike all-butter buttercream, which has a pale yellow tint from the butter.
Note: I have made this recipe using 50% butter and 50% shortening countless times, and it has always received rave reviews. While a frosting made entirely of shortening would lack the delicious buttery flavor of buttercream and have a greasy mouthfeel, a frosting made from both butter and shortening provides good butter flavor and a delicious creaminess that’s not greasy, while still reaping the benefits that shortening provides.
Fruit Flavor - Here you have two options: jam or preserves (which provides a subtle flavor and color and yields a slightly softer frosting due to the extra liquid and is very easy) or freeze-dried fruit (which provides intense flavor and color but is a bit more involved).
- Jam or Preserves - Make a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting. Add ¼ cup fruit jam or preserves and beat until blended.
- Freeze-Dried Fruit - In a food processor, blend 1 ½ cups freeze-dried fruit, which should yield ¾ cup of powdered freeze-dried fruit. Make a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting, replacing ¾ cup confectioners sugar with the powdered freeze-dried fruit.
Chocolate - Make a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting. Melt ½ cup chopped semisweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler. Once chocolate is melted and smooth, let chocolate cool for 2 minutes before adding melted chocolate to vanilla buttercream and beating until blended.
Vanilla Bean - Simply replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of vanilla bean paste for frosting with delicious vanilla flavor and beautiful vanilla bean specks.
More Frosting Recipes to Love
Love this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the comments below! And don't forget to subscribe to ALWAYS EAT DESSERT for even more baking inspiration and tips.Print
This post was updated in June 2021 to include an improved recipe, new recipe photos, and additional recipe details.