Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is one of the first buttercreams that I learned to make. It's an easy recipe - smooth, creamy, sweet, and a great basic recipe for any baker's kitchen. Use it on cakes or cupcakes for an absolutely delicious dessert.
- Ingredients You’ll Need for Vanilla Buttercream
- How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- Ways to Use Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- How to Add Different Flavors to Frosting
- How to Add Color to Buttercream
- How to Store Buttercream
- Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Recipe - Frequently Asked Questions
- If You Like This Recipe, Try These Recipes
- Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Classic vanilla buttercream, aka American Buttercream (ABC) is a childhood favorite. I remember lots of parties with cupcakes or cakes decorated with this incredibly easy-to-make frosting. This homemade buttercream is much better than any store-bought frosting. This frosting is sweet, but with a beautiful strong vanilla flavor.
Ingredients You’ll Need for Vanilla Buttercream
Here is what you’ll need for this delicious frosting:
- Unsalted Butter: We can’t have buttercream without butter. Unsalted butter is the best option for this recipe because the amount of salt in salted butter can vary by brand and can contain up to 7 grams of salt per pound of butter. That amount of salt will affect the final taste of the buttercream.
- Confectioners Sugar: Also known as powdered sugar sweetens the buttercream, adds stability, and makes it easier to pipe. Make sure to sift the powdered sugar to remove lumps and ensure a smooth buttercream.
- Heavy Cream: Heavy cream helps produce a buttercream that is creamy, smooth, and rich tasting
- Pure Vanilla Extract: The vanilla extract is what gives this buttercream a beautiful vanilla flavor. You can also use vanilla bean paste or vanilla beans for the extract punch of flavor. Use a good quality vanilla extract that smells and tastes good.
- Kosher Salt: The salt balances the sweetness of the buttercream.
How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Classic vanilla buttercream is the frosting you want to make when you want something that tastes good but is short on time. It takes less time to make than Swiss meringue buttercream. From mixing bowl to decorating cupcakes in less than 15 minutes.
Start by sifting the confectioners' sugar to remove lumps and ensure a smooth buttercream. Without sifting you’ll end up with tiny lumps throughout the frosting
Add the butter, salt, heavy cream, and vanilla extract to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, then increase the mixer to medium-high speed and mix together until the mixture is smooth.
The butter should be a room temperature (about 68F). If the butter is too soft, the final buttercream will be too soft to spread and pipe. You can also make this frosting with an electric hand mixer and a big bowl.
Add the confectioners' sugar and mix on medium-low speed (setting 3 on a KitchenAid mixer) until all the powdered sugar is incorporated. Then increase the speed to medium-high speed until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all the ingredients are combined. At this point, you can add more sugar if the frosting is too thin or more heavy cream if it’s too thick until you reach the desired consistency.
When the frosting is ready it should be smooth and creamy.
Ways to Use Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
This buttercream is very versatile. It's great with vanilla cupcakes and can be paired with your favorite chocolate cupcakes. It can also be used to frost sugar cookies or as a filling for sandwich cookies.
How to Add Different Flavors to Frosting
To make flavored buttercream, just stir in your desired flavorings at the very end of mixing. Try these mix-ins:
- You can easily add other flavors to this buttercream. Replace the vanilla extract, with 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, or another flavor extract such as lemon, coconut, or orange. For almond extract which is quite strong use 1/2 teaspoon.
- Chocolate Frosting: Add 1/2 cup of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder. Since you’re adding dry ingredients reduce the amount of powdered sugar by ½ cup.
- Raspberry or Strawberry Frosting: Add 1/2 cup seedless preserves or jam that has been strained to remove the seeds.
How to Add Color to Buttercream
This buttercream is perfect for adding colors. It is best to use gel food coloring. I recommend this AmeriColor Gel Food Coloring set. It’s concentrated therefore you will only need a small amount to achieve the desired color when compared with liquid food coloring. In addition, because of the consistency of the gel, it won’t change the consistency of the buttercream
- Set aside the amount of frosting you want to color in a separate bowl.
- Add 1-2 drops at a time depending on the amount of frosting and the final color you want to achieve. Mix in with a spoon or spatula.
How to Store Buttercream
- If you’re planning on using this frosting the same day, it can sit at room temperature.
- If you’re planning on using it in the next week or so, store the buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Bring it to room temperature and re-whip it back to a fluffy consistency
- The buttercream can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it first in the refrigerator overnight, bring it to room temperature and then re-whip it again before using.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Sift your powdered sugar to avoid clogging your piping tip.
- Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl down as you’re mixing the buttercream 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, or melted chocolate.
- If your buttercream has been sitting for a while or was chilled and brought back to room temperature place it in the mixing bowl and mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed to restore its consistency.
Recipe - Frequently Asked Questions
Since the buttercream is made with butter and heavy cream it does need to be refrigerated. The buttercream can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
If the buttercream is soupy or too soft then too much liquid has been added or the butter was too soft at the beginning of the recipe.
Yes, place the buttercream in an airtight container and freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw the buttercream in the refrigerator 24 hours before you're ready to use it.
No, granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar are two different things. Confectioners' sugar has been ground to a powdery consistency which means it will dissolve into the butter. Granulated sugar crystals are too big to dissolve and will result in a grainy buttercream.
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If You Like This Recipe, Try These Recipes
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 1 pound (454 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups (454 grams) confectioners’ sugar sifted
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Sift the powdered sugar through a medium coarse strainer. This step is to remove any lumps from the powder sugar so that the buttercream is smooth.
- Place the butter, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment beat this mixture on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
- Add 4 cups of confectioners’ sugar to the butter mixture. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium high speed and beat for 2 minutes. The buttercream should appear creamy.
- If you want a thicker buttercream adjust the consistency by adding up to 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add more heavy cream 1 tablespoon at time, beating after each addition if the desired consistency is achieved.
- Use the buttercream immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw the buttercream, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then beat the frosting with the paddle attachment on medium speed. To frost a cake or cupcakes, you made need to thin out the frosting with 2 or 3 teaspoons of heavy cream.
- 20 tablespoons (282 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-1/2 cups (284 grams) confectioners’ sugar