Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

AmericanButtercream Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
When I used to bake and decorate wedding and birthday cakes, I would use different types of frosting depending on who was eating the cake.  Most wedding cakes were frosted in egg based recipes such as Italian or French meringue but for children’s cakes or cupcakes I usually frost cakes in American buttercream frosting.  Made with powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and milk, this is a basic, easy recipe for classic vanilla buttercream frosting.  This frosting works great for spreading on cakes, cupcakes, and/or for decorating.   Some frosting recipes will call for shortening.  Although you could easily substitute some of the butter for shortening, your frosting will taste greasy.  But if you must have a true bright white frosting or need to stabilize it, shortening and clear vanilla extract flavoring would work fine.  I prefer using all butter and occasionally substituting the vanilla extract for other flavors such as almond, coconut, milk, or lemon.  The color of the buttercream is slightly off white but the taste of whipped buttery frosting makes it entirely worth it.  Also, the frosting can be easily tinted with food paste gel or food coloring.

It’s important to note that when preparing a batch of frosting you  adjust the consistency of the buttercream for what you plan on using it for.  The easiest way to do this is by adjusting the amount of milk you use.  The less milk you pour in, the more stiff your frosting will be.  And if you pour in too much milk, you can always add more sifted powdered sugar to stiffen it right back up.  I for one prefer a medium (somewhat soft but slightly stiff) consistency when spreading on a cake.  But for piping and decorative work, I prefer a stiffer consistency so the different edges of my piping tips will show clearly.  The tip I used in the picture above is a #32.  As you can see, I piped it in 3 different styles using the same tip.

This recipe is very forgiving.  The amounts of milk and powdered sugar you use can be adjusted for what you need.  The only important suggestion I would recommend is to make sure you sift your powdered sugar before adding it to the butter.  This will insure your frosting is smooth and without small sugar clumps.

If you’re looking for a classic vanilla buttercream recipe, look no further. Enjoy!

**I am also soliciting cake tutorial requests – just leave them in the comment section below**

Buttercream Ingredients Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

powdered sugar sifted Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
buttercream frosting2 Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
buttercream frosting Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Buttercream frosting3 Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

* Many of you have asked about how much frosting you need to make for cakes and cupcakes. Here’s an informative link from Baking 911 with a useful chart giving approximate frosting amounts depending the cake size.  Also, as far as cupcakes are concerned there is no standard answer.  Some people like to decorate with very little frosting on the cupcakes and others like to pipe them skyscraper high which would require way more frosting per cupcake.  For decorating cupcakes, the amount of frosting you need is according to how much frosting you would like to use.

**Someone emailed me wanting to know what tool I use to sift the powdered sugar.  I just buy a round metal mesh strainer available at any grocery store and use a spoon to stir the sugar against the metal mesh.  Hope this helps.**

*** Tips for success:  Use unsalted butter.  Different brands of butter have varied levels of salt content in salted butter.  Some people have commented that their buttercream was too salty.  This is due to the brand of butter you use.  Some brands will be vary salty and others not so much.  Therefore I have changed the recipe to reflect unsalted butter.

The texture of the butter makes a BIG difference.  If your buttercream is runny or thin, this is due to the texture of the butter which I’m assuming some of you may have microwaved to get it softened.  When you microwave butter like this, you run the risk of melting the butter which will make your frosting runny and grainy.  Ideally you want your butter to be soft enough to whip with a mixer or beater but not so soft it will melt.  The texture should be similar to ice cream, soft enough to scoop but firm enough to hold it’s shape.

Since many of you have asked about the chocolate version, here’s my Chocolate Buttercream recipe!

Related Savory Sweet Life post:  How to Frost a Cake



4.7 from 279 reviews
Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Recipe type: Cake Decorating
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2.5 cups
Classic American Buttercream frosting. This recipe uses powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk. This is a great recipe for decorating and piping on cupcakes and cake.
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
  • 3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
  1. Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn't blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.

Here’s a great short video tutorial I did for PBS on how to pipe these beautiful frosting flowers using this buttercream on cupcakes. If you enjoy the video, please like it so I’ll be able to do more!

My standard chocolate cupcake recipe, slightly adapted from the popular Hershey’s version.  In this PBS video tutorial you’ll see how I make my own chocolate cake mix too.  Just add water, oil, eggs, vanilla, and milk. That simple!

And here’s another short PBS video tutorial I did on how to make Cookie Monster Cupcakes.

pin it button Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
About these ads


  1. milen infante says

    I live in the tropics. The buttercream frosting I make always melts after half hour at room temperature. Is the frosted cake suppose to stay in the fridge until ready to serve? What am I suppose to do to avoid this happening?

  2. Arlene says

    This has become my “go to” recipe for cupcakes. It’s so light and pipes like a dream! I always get compliments when I bring cupcakes frosted with this. It’s just fabulous! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Amy says

    Hi, I love this icing, but it has separated on me several times when I color it (Amerigel) or try to thin a day old batch with some milk. Do you know why it separates? Is that what you mean by melting?

  4. Alisha Combs says

    Hey there! I just want to thank you for this recipe! I have been using it for a few years now and have made it with different flavorings and no matter what it always comes out. I get so many compliments on this!


  5. Dee Ramsey says

    I’ve always made pure buttercream frosting and you can’t go wrong! If adding food color, remember to use paste colors, not gels or liquid. Also, I beat the butter until it is almost white in color and the. I add in the vanilla or flavorings. It takes about 10 minutes in a Kitchenaid. If adding meringue powder for stabilization, I add this prior to adding the flavoring, milk or color.

  6. Sook Yee says

    why is the powdered sugar in my buttercream frosting remains powdery, it didn’t melt into smooth texture & the buttercream became wet & lumpy.

    • says

      Hi Sook Yee,
      Did you sift your sugar? Also, sometimes (and this has happen to me, too) you get a funky batch of powdered sugar that is more granular. I do not know why this happens. And if you frosting came out wet and lumpy, I wonder if you didn’t sift or add enough sugar, and your butter was too melted.

      • Sook Yee says

        Thank you Alice, no I didn’t sift the sugar & used a ratio of 1:2 for butter : sugar because I didn’t want it too sweet. Probably thats the reason. Will try out with the correct proportion in your recipes. I love your website & recipes. I spent so much time viewing & reading. Good job & thank you for sharing Alice !

  7. Bianca says

    Literally the best buttercream frosting recipe out there.
    I’ve used it on its own, along with adding different extracts to it to make it flavoured, and without fail it is a hit!
    I find that most recipes have too much icing sugar in it and make it taste too much like it, and this is just the right mix of everything.

  8. Lucy Blake says

    Love. Love. Love this recipe! I also really love your site! I am 14 years old and I love making cupcakes! But with school and my after school activities my schedule can get super busy and sometimes I’m afraid there isn’t going to be enough time to fill my orders. But your site and frosting recipes has helped so much! They are quick and easy yet still super delicious! Thank you so much!

  9. jennifer marks says

    How do I add flavors? Carmel… brandy.. etc.. without loosing consistancy…. I am making “adult” oreos

    • says

      Hi Jennifer, I would start by making a small batch of the frosting. Instead of using milk to thin out the frosting, start with a couple tablespoons of whatever flavoring you want. Just make sure the butter is not too soft or melted.

  10. says

    Great blog! Looking forward to trying this recipe this weekend. Since it’s all butter and milk, how long can it sit out at room temperature (at a party) before it starts to break down? Thanks for the great work!

  11. Nene2Sweet says

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I made it for my husbands birthday cake that I baked and let me tell you it was a hit. Everyone loved the taste and texture. I will NEVER go back to store bought frosting. Homemade cake from scratch deserves homemade frosting. I love it! Thanks again!!!

  12. Blanca Jacobo says

    So for piping/decorative work, how much milk should I use? Do I do 2 tablespoons instead of 4?

    Also, if I am wanting to add color, can I just add to the recipe as is or do I need to modify if somehow. Thanks! Any recommendation as to what color product works best. Thanks again.

    Blanca Jacobo

    • says

      Hi Blanca, it really depends on how thick you want it. Some decorators like it really stiff. I would start with 1-2 tablespoons and see if you like it. As far as food coloring, gel paste works the best but the liquid drops you can get at the grocery store work fine.

  13. Katherine says

    There is no other type of frosting…period. When I got married, I insisted on vanilla buttercream on my chocolate wedding cake. Original? No. Delicious and perfect? Yes!!

    My mother used to make the recipe on the back of the C&H powdered sugar box which is darn close if not identical to yours. I’m so glad you sing the praises of buttercream. Store bought frosting has no place on this earth next to your recipe. I can remember baking cupcakes as child with my mother and eating the frosting until I was sick. It is sooooo good though!

  14. Beverly says

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…another perfect batch whipped up for my daughter’s birthday party next weekend. If the Anna and Elsa doll cakes don’t turn out well, it won’t be the fault of this recipe, it will be the fault of this very amateur decorator! I’ve used it on every birthday cake I’ve ever made for both my children. They won’t eat cake now if it doesn’t have this buttercream on top!

  15. Ann Tille says

    Can you tell me…does your buttercream recipes (vanilla and chocolate) set up to “crust” for smoothing?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Rate this recipe:  

Anti-Spam Quiz: