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The Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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 swiss meringue buttercream, coconut buttercream, cream cheese frosting, and chocolate buttercream is 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.

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Swirl of Vanilla Buttercream Frosting on a yellow cupcake

Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 5 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

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.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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

  1. The butter must be properly softened. It should be soft enough to bend but not so soft that it looks oily.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 214Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 25mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 0gSugar: 25gProtein: 0g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Thelma g

Tuesday 17th of August 2021

Is heavy whipping cream same as HEAVY CREAM?

Jen Sobjack

Wednesday 18th of August 2021

Yes, they are the same. Anytime it says "heavy", you know you are using the right product.

Alla

Wednesday 7th of July 2021

Hi! I have light cream in the fridge. Do you think that would work? Thank you!

Jen Sobjack

Wednesday 7th of July 2021

That could work but it won't allow the buttercream to whip up to the lightest, fluffiest consistency.

Carrie Bottarini

Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

Hi Jen,

I am going to try this recipe on some cupcakes I will be baking for my daughters birthday. Can you please tell me what tip you used to frost the cupcakes you show with this recipe and how you achieved that wonderful ruffled look? Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated!

Jen Sobjack

Thursday 24th of June 2021

I used the Wilton 2D piping tip. The ruffled look is the look of this particular piping tip.

Rhonda

Sunday 6th of June 2021

This was DELICIOUS!! It made enough for a 3 layered cake. If your doing a 9x13 cake I would cut the amounts in half.

Jess

Monday 24th of May 2021

Do cupcakes/cakes with this frosting need to be refrigerated?

Jen Sobjack

Tuesday 25th of May 2021

That's going to depend on the type of cake or cupcake. Some require refrigeration. A basic vanilla or chocolate cake with this frosting will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 5 in the refrigerator.

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