Vanilla Buttercream recipes may seem beyond simple but I get a surprising number of questions from home bakers everywhere. So let’s set the record straight with perhaps the most ubiquitous and variable frosting recipe there is! Let me know how you enjoy this recipe; historically, I have found it to be a crowd pleaser whether decorating birthday cakes or homemade vanilla cupcakes.
Ingredients for Homemade Buttercream
Butter: I almost always specify unsalted butter in my recipes then add salt back in. I do this because different manufacturers put in various amounts of salt and I don’t want anyone to make something too salty or not salted enough when using my recipes. If you only have salted butter on hand then go ahead and use it. You can add more salt to taste if needed.
Confectioners Sugar: Not all brands are equal and some will definitely be lumpier than others. It’s always a good idea to sift it out before using, especially if you’re using piping tips. A little lump can clog the tip and cause a big problem.
Vanilla Extract: I love vanilla but there are tons of flavorings you can add, I have a whole section on this below. If you are using vanilla then try and use a nice one and I would not recommend using artificial vanilla flavor.
How To Make Buttercream Frosting
1. Cream the softened butter and salt in a stand mixer for about a minute using a paddle attachment. You can also make this frosting with an electric hand mixer and a big bowl.
2. Add your powdered sugar to the butter in batches. Make sure to sift your powdered sugar, especially if you’re going to be using any piping tips. Those clumps will cause clogs that make decorating nearly impossible! It’s best to run the mixer on low speed.
3. After the first batch of powdered sugar is added it’s time to scrape the bowl down, then sift in more powdered sugar and repeat.
4. Add a tablespoon of cream or milk and mix in. You can add more later if desired.
5. Once incorporated, with the mixer running on low, go ahead and add the vanilla extract or whichever flavoring you’re using. Add more cream or milk as desired to thin the buttercream out. When your buttercream is finished, you should have a nice even and fluffy consistency.
6. You can now use the frosting as desired. If you make it ahead then the buttercream can be chilled and then used after coming back to room temperature. Always give your frosting a whip just before using and feel free to add some milk or cream to thin things out if needed.
Pro Tips for this Recipe
- Sift your powdered sugar to avoid clogging piping tips.
- Scrape the bowl down to help ensure even consistency throughout.
- You can use almost anything to flavor buttercream like fruit juice, citrus zest, coffee, orange blossom or rose water, melted chocolate, or Oreos!
- If your buttercream has been sitting for a while or was chilled and brought back to room temperature it’s always a good idea to give it a quick whip to restore it’s consistency.
- If you’re looking for a very spreadable and very smooth icing for something like a sheet cake or to make your life easier when using a piping bag, you can add the full amount of cream in (and maybe even a bit more).
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best butter to use for buttercream frosting?
- For a whiter buttercream it’s really important to use a pale butter. Almost every recipe will call for using unsalted butter but then have you add salt back in. This is done because various brands of butter have different amounts of salt in their product.
- Using unsalted butter helps to ensure a consistent result. You can however use salted butter, omit additional salt and have a delicious cake frosting.
- The most important thing to do when whipping up a batch of buttercream is that it’s room temperature!
How can you make cold butter room temperature?
If you need to warm some cold butter up just slice it into some smaller pieces and microwave them on a plate at 50% power for 10 second bursts. Flip them after each burst and they’ll be nice and room temperature in no time!
Is buttercream or whipped frosting better?
The main difference between buttercream frosting recipes and whipped frosting is the butter. Whipped frosting does not contain butter and is a lighter and fluffier icing. Buttercream contains a good amount of butter and has more of a rich flavor; so you be the judge! 🙂
Will this frosting recipe melt at room temperature?
When buttercream icing is left out at room temperature, it will form sort of a crust on the outer layer while the inside will stay fairly smooth. If it is very warm or humid, then the buttercream can loose structure. This will affect decorations you’ve piped and may even destabilize layer cakes, causing them to sag or even collapse.
How long can you leave buttercream out?
You can leave this buttercream frosting recipe out overnight if covered. If the buttercream contains cream cheese, then it should always be refrigerated for it to remain safe to eat. Homemade frosting that contains dairy will spoil more quickly so it should be refrigerated after a few hours.
How do I thin it out?
If you want to thin out buttercream frosting, then you’ll want to add in some extra cream or milk. I recommend mixing in a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
If you’ve tried this american buttercream frosting recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you!