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a swirl of vanilla frosting on top of a vanilla cupcake

Best-Ever American Buttercream Frosting

  • Author: Allison Ferraro
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x


This easy homemade American buttercream frosting is velvety smooth, full of creamy, buttery flavor, and perfect for decorating cakes, frosting cupcakes, filling sandwich cookies, and so much more! Don’t miss all of the tips and recipe variations in the recipe notes below.


Units Scale
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tbsp. whole milk


  1. 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. 
  2. Add vanilla and salt and beat on medium-high speed until blended.
  3. Add sugar slowly – one cup at a time – beating well on medium speed and scraping the bowl often. When all sugar is added the frosting will be slightly dry. 
  4. Add milk and beat on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy.


Storage: 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.

Recipe & Flavor Variations:

  • Vegetable Shortening - You can replace up to half of the butter by volume with vegetable shortening in this recipe. (See explanation in post for pros and cons of using vegetable shortening.)
  • Fruit Flavor (using jam or preserves) - Flavoring frosting with fruit jam/preserves provides a subtle flavor and color, yields a slightly softer frosting due to the extra liquid, and is very easy to do. Make a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting following the instructions above, then add ¼ cup fruit jam or preserves and beat until blended.
  • Fruit Flavor (using freeze-dried fruit) - Flavoring frosting with freeze-dried fruit provides intense flavor and color but is a bit more involved than the fruit jam/preserves version mentioned above. In a food processor, blend 1 1/2 cups freeze-dried fruit, which should yield ¾ cup of powdered freeze-dried fruit. Make a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting following the instructions above but replace ¾ cup confectioners' sugar with 3/4 cup 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.

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.

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.

  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: buttercream frosting, American buttercream