The Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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This is the best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe. It’s so versatile, you can use it for just about anything. Made with just a handful of ingredients, this frosting comes together in a snap.

Swirl of Vanilla Buttercream Frosting on a yellow cupcake

You won’t be disappointed in the light, creamy texture. Use this homemade vanilla frosting to top cakes and cupcakes or sandwich it between your favorite cookie.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

It’s always a good idea to have a basic buttercream recipe in your archives and this is one you’ll want to keep!

My ermine frosting, swiss meringue buttercream, coconut buttercream, cream cheese frosting, and chocolate buttercream are always a huge hit around here but sometimes you just need something basic. This frosting is just that!

It’s light, fluffy, smooth, and creamy. It’s the perfect frosting for a basic vanilla cake or vanilla cupcakes.

Not only is this a great vanilla frosting, but it’s also the perfect base for other flavor additives. Mix in any other flavored extract to create your own unique frosting.

Try adding in peanut butter or almond extract or any other extracts that you love. Or turn it into pineapple frosting!

Ingredients for buttercream frosting.

How to make vanilla buttercream

Make sure the butter and heavy cream are at room temperature. The butter should be soft enough to bend without breaking but not so soft that it’s melty. If the butter has an oily sheen to it, it’s too soft.

Whip the softened butter with an electric mixer until it’s creamy and noticeably lighter in color. It should be very pale yellow.

I don’t recommend using salted butter. The frosting can taste too salty.

When adding the confectioners’ sugar, make sure it is sifted and free of lumps. Add half the sugar then mix it for 3-5 minutes. Add the remaining sugar and mix it for another 3-5 minutes.

Mix on low speed when you first start the mixer or the sugar will fly everywhere. Let it mix in some before you turn the speed up.

You want to mix the sugar in very well before adding the cream. At this point, the frosting will be quite thick but the cream will loosen it and make the frosting silky and light.

Add the vanilla, salt, and half the heavy cream. Beat the frosting for 3 minutes then give it a stir and test the consistency. Add more cream, if needed,  and beat for another 3-5 minutes.

The frosting should be soft and spreadable but not so loose that it doesn’t hold its shape.

Process shots for making buttercream frosting

How to get vanilla frosting to be white?

There are a few things I do that make my vanilla buttercream turn out almost pure white. The first thing I do is beat the butter by itself until it turns pale in color. This process is adding air which lightens the color and the texture.

The second thing I do is beat the frosting for 3-5 minutes on high speed after each addition of confectioners’ sugar. This ensures the sugar is fully mixed in while adding more air.

The final thing I do is whip the heck out of the frosting after adding the vanilla and heavy cream. Once the cream is added you can turn the mixer on high and whip it until it’s light and fluffy. This can take up to 5 minutes.

You can also use clear vanilla extract to avoid tinting the frosting.

How to prevent American buttercream from tasting so sweet?

The biggest complaint about American buttercream is that it is cloyingly sweet. This comes from the amount of confectioners’ sugar needed to thicken the frosting. But, there is a way to counteract the sweetness.

Whip the frosting! Don’t be afraid to beat the frosting on medium-high to high speed for 5 minutes after adding each and every ingredient.

The longer you let the frosting whip, the less sweet it will taste.

Tips for making the best vanilla buttercream frosting

  • Don’t work with butter that is too soft. If it’s oily, it’s too soft and will curdle your buttercream. Pop it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow it to firm up slightly.
  • Use confectioners’ sugar that contains cornstarch! Tricalcium phosphate is another anticaking agent found in confectioners’ sugar but it doesn’t work as well as cornstarch. 
  • Add a pinch of salt to help balance the sweetness.
  • Don’t be afraid to let the frosting whip! The more air you add the lighter the frosting will be which in turn makes it taste less sweet. So turn your mixer up and let it whip on medium-high for 5 minutes.
Swirl of vanilla buttercream closeup.

Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

4.56 from 697 votes
Swirl of Vanilla Buttercream Frosting on a yellow cupcake
This Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe is so versatile, you can use it for just about anything. Made with just a handful of ingredients, this frosting comes together in a snap.
Makes 5 cups. It’s enough to frost 24 cupcakes or a double layer cake. Halve the recipe to make enough for 12 cupcakes or a single layer cake.
Jen Sobjack
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Serving Size 24

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups (340 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 ½ cups (660 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream, room temperature

Instructions

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and pale in color, about 5 minutes.
  • Add half the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla and salt. Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly add 3 tablespoons of the heavy cream. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until the cream is well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes. (After 2 minutes stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then continue mixing.)
  • Check the consistency of the frosting and add more cream, ½ tablespoon at a time, if needed. The frosting should be soft and spreadable but not so loose that it doesn’t hold its shape.

Notes

  • The butter must be properly softened. It should be soft enough to bend but not so soft that it looks oily.
  • Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or a double layer cake. Halve the recipe to make enough for 12 cupcakes or a single layer cake.
  • If you wish to color the frosting, I suggest using gel food coloring. Add the desired amount during step 4.
Make ahead tip
  1. Frosting will keep for up to 2 weeks stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. You must let the buttercream come to room temperature by setting it out on the counter for a couple hours, then beat it with an electric mixer if needed.
  2. Or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to use, place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Let stand at room temperature to soften before use.

Nutrition

Serving: 3tablespoons | Calories: 223kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 0.2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 27mg | Potassium: 8mg | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 410IU | Vitamin C: 0.02mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.02mg

The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients and brands you used in the recipe.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
4.56 from 697 votes (676 ratings without comment)

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152 Comments

  1. Hi is it recommended to frost cupcakes the day of an event or can they be made ahead of time ? Would they be best if made the night before left in fridge or room temp

    1. Jen Sobjack says:

      You can do either or. Keep frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator then allow them to come to room temperature before serving.

  2. is there can form of heavy cream ? or do I need to buy the cold heavy cream container and pour out 6 tablespoons of it into the bowl?

    1. Jen Sobjack says:

      Heavy cream is a dairy and can only be found in the refrigerated section near the milk.

  3. How long can it stay out at room temperature?

    1. Jen Sobjack says:

      I wouldn’t leave it out at room temperature for more than a couple hours.

  4. 5 stars
    How much buttercream frosting would i need for an 8inch cake and also if I want to make the frosting beforehand afew days. How is it best stored?

  5. Amazing frosting! Probably the best one I have ever made.

  6. Made this for my daughter’s Belle cake – absolutely amazing. Everyone was raving about the frosting. Will definitely make it again and again.