Vanilla Buttercream Frosting + Video
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This Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe is easy, creamy, and extremely versatile. Made with basic ingredients, this vanilla frosting is a staple for decorating cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.
How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Classic American vanilla buttercream frosting is made with:
- powdered (confectioners’) sugar
- pure vanilla extract
- heavy cream (or milk)
*Depending on whether you use salted or unsalted butter (or your personal salt tolerance/preference), you may want to adjust the amount of salt used. But do not skip the salt! It helps to bring out the flavors.
- Make sure the butter is soft/room temperature. (This takes about 30-60 minutes to come to room temperature, or you can try these 3 tricks to soften butter quickly.)
- Beat the butter and salt until creamy with a hand or stand mixer and the paddle attachment.
- Then add the powdered sugar, vanilla and cream. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing completely before adding more. Repeat until all powdered sugar is added. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Then add heavy cream one Tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
Adjusting buttercream is simple. Add more powdered sugar if it’s too thin, or more cream/milk if it’s too thick.
Cream or Milk?
When it comes to using cream or milk, I prefer using heavy cream in my vanilla buttercream frosting. It gives it a lighter, creamy whipped texture, while still being stiff enough to pipe decorations.
TIP: Make sure to mix in the heavy cream at a slow speed, as to not incorporate too much air.
Milk (or half & half) works just as well, and will be used in equal portions as the heavy cream. As a general rule of thumb, when adding liquid to frosting, always start small, adding only 1 Tablespoon (or even 1 teaspoon) at a time.
It’s better to add the milk/cream slowly than to have an overly sweet frosting with added powdered sugar.
How to Make Vanilla Buttercream White
Making a wedding cake and need white frosting?
- First, use clear imitation vanilla extract. The dark brown color of pure vanilla extract is hard to hide. Clear vanilla extract will give you the same taste without the discoloration.
- Second, use air to soften and lighten the color. Add each cup of confectioners’ sugar individually, turning the stand mixer on the highest speed that it will go after each addition. This not only makes the frosting extremely fluffy, it also lightens the color of the frosting as air is incorporated. Although, any buttercream that uses all butter will still have a light tinge of yellow to it.
- The last best bet you have to make a whiter vanilla buttercream frosting is to use half butter and half shortening (or coconut oil). This way you get the taste of butter, with the whiter color of shortening or coconut oil. (NOTE: I prefer using coconut oil to shortening, but some people complain they can taste the coconut. You really shouldn’t taste the coconut if it’s a good quality product.)
Have fun with it! Plus, homemade frosting tastes a million times better than anything in a can.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 tsp salt*
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3-4 Tbsp heavy cream (or milk**)
- With an electric mixer and the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the salt until creamy.
- Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing completely before adding more. Repeat until all powdered sugar is added.
- Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Then add heavy cream 1 Tablespoon at a time, and mix at low speed, until the desired consistency is reached. (*Can mix at medium-high speed if using milk.)
- Spread or pipe frosting onto cakes, cupcakes, or cookies. May add food coloring first, if desired.
YIELD: This recipe makes approximately 3 cups of frosting. Enough to cover a 13x9-inch sheet cake, two-layer, 8-inch round cake, OR pipe onto 12-15 cupcakes, depending on how much is piped on top. If frosting is spread on top of cupcakes with a knife or spatula, it should be enough for 24 cupcakes.
*Adjust salt as needed if using salted butter.
**Milk (preferably whole) or half & half can be used in place of heavy cream. As always, add in small increments.
***Use the smaller amounts of powdered sugar and cream for a less sweet frosting.