Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Since posting my last couple of cakes (see Tinkerbell and Super Mario Brothers), I have received a number of comments and emails from readers asking what types of recipes, fillings and frostings I use for the cakes. It really all depends on what the person asks for, so I thought I would start by sharing one of the most raved-about fillings I use. This is the standard vanilla buttercream I use when someone requests a simple buttercream filling for a cake, and it always gets insanely rave reviews. It couldn’t be easier to make – it takes less than 10 minutes – and is absolutely delicious. Not only is it great as a filling, but if you need a frosting for cupcakes, this is perfect for both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes. Buttery, sweet, light and fluffy – everything the best buttercream should be (and maybe more).

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

I really love using a vanilla bean in this recipe not only because of the intense vanilla flavor that it imparts, but also because of the flecks of bean that dance through the frosting. It’s one of the reasons I love making homemade vanilla bean ice cream as well. However, I know that vanilla beans can be expensive and so if you opt not to use the vanilla bean called for in the recipe, you will want to increase the amount of vanilla extract to 1 Tablespoon. You can make this and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. When you are ready to use it, allow it to come to room temperature and then re-whip it in your stand mixer to lighten it up.

Now run off and whip up something to slather this on. Or just make a batch and eat it with a spoon. I allow, and I won’t tell.

Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Yield: 3 cups (Enough for 24 cupcakes)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes


2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2½ cups confectioners' sugar (10 ounces)
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons heavy cream


1. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into butter and beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds.

2. Add confectioners' sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 20 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

(Recipe from Cook's Illustrated)


101 Responses to “Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream”

  1. jennifer on March 24, 2010 at 1:53 am

    yum! love the vanilla bean flecks! how well would this frosting/icing hold at room temp? I always get nervous about leaving this out that really should be kept refrigerated.


    • Julia on July 25th, 2013 at 6:45 am

      I have kept buttercream out at room temp for a couple of hours but I have never for an extended period of time like overnight. buttercream holds up okay as long as its not too hot. I wouldn’t keep it out if the room’s temp is above 72. I put it in the fridge and then when its close to serving time, I let it sit out for about 20 – 30 minutes to let it soften up again.


  2. Sinful Southern Sweets on March 24, 2010 at 6:40 am

    I adore vanilla bean!! Looks so good!


  3. Stacey Lowe on March 24, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Yes, my question too, what a pretty look! I am also interested in moist cake recipes. I often find that homemade cake recipes tend to be dense and some what dry. I myself like a moister cake but one that can also stand up to a good frosting.


    • Angel on January 18th, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      My mom always told me to do this trick: With any recipe add an extra egg and a package of pudding mix (any flavor) to make it more moist.


  4. Suhaina on March 24, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Yummm….Looks very delicious.


  5. Katrina on March 24, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Oww I love how you can see the yummy vanilla bean!! This is awesome!


  6. Angie on March 24, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I love anything vanilla – and in fact, the first thing I was going to do after checking my google reader this morning was to look up a vanilla bean buttercream for some cupcakes I’m making this weekend. Looks like I won’t have to go searching (though you’re blog is one that I start at so I wouldn’t have looked long anyway!!) Thanks!


  7. jaclyn@todayslady on March 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I too love the look of vanilla flecks, especially throughout something creamy! Your buttercream looks amazing!


  8. Maria on March 24, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Fresh vanilla bean is the best! Looks good!


  9. Baking is my Zen on March 24, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Vanilla beans are the ultimate when used in baking. I use Pure Vanilla Bean Paste instead of pods and I don’t ever worry again about dried out pods! This happened to me the first time I used pods and was very disappointed.

    Vanilla Paste (Nielsen-Massey Vanilla-Madagascar Bourbon can be purchased at William Sonoma.



    • Lynne on September 19th, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      Probably you are not going to see this because your comment was 3 years ago, but I’m curious how much paste you use for the equivalent of the bean? The bean yields about 1/4 tsp if that, so is it equivalent? Or do you use more?


      • Michelle on September 23rd, 2013 at 11:15 am

        Hi Lynne, Typically 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste can be substituted for one vanilla bean.


        • Grace!! on October 1st, 2013 at 8:29 pm

          Is there any way I can use Vanilla extract on it’s own?!… I don’t have Vanilla bean paste or anything. But I really need frosting on my cupcakes!!!


          • Michelle on October 3rd, 2013 at 2:50 pm

            Hi Grace, Yes, 1 vanilla bean is equivalent to 2.5 teaspoons vanilla extract.


  10. Married to an Aussie in OK on March 24, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Oh I like the vanilla paste idea. I can’t wait to try this recipe. For some reason, the fact that it really does have CREAM in it makes my world all sunshiney.


  11. Ria on March 24, 2010 at 11:07 am

    How I love those lil flecks! Thats the first thing I noticed in the pic. Your buttercream looks so lush! No wonder you get insanley rave reviews! 🙂 Will try it sometime!


  12. Lisa @ The Cooking Bride on March 24, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Seeing as how in the past I have been known to consume an entire can of buttercream frosting, I think I should proceed with caution. This could be dangerous!


  13. Shauna from Piece of Cake on March 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Confectioners’ sugar buttercreams are so simple, and yet, so easy to get wrong–it’s all about that butter/sugar ratio. Yours looks perfect! I second the vanilla bean paste–I am a total convert.


  14. Lauren on March 24, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Sounds amazing. I’ve never tried buttercream with a vanilla bean…but I think I will have to now!


  15. Nastassia (LetMeEatCake) on March 24, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for sharingthe recipe! It looks fantastic and I’m glad it is so easy. Frosting for my next cake yay!


  16. Melanie @ Heavenly on March 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks so much for this fab recipe. I’m always on the lookout for icing which isn’t too cloyingly sweet. The addition of proper vanilla [pity it’s so pricey] will make this a special treat. I’m planning to make a cake for the Easter Weekend and will definitely use this icing.


  17. Sarah, Maison Cupcake on March 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    The addition of that cream sounds like the magic ingredient! Thanks for sharing.


  18. Fuji Mama on March 24, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Did you really just say 10 minutes? Oh, I’m sold and I haven’t even tasted it yet! LOL


  19. Bob on March 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Looks good to me, I love vanilla buttercream.


  20. Ash on March 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I just love vanilla bean buttercream!! I swear I’m a vanilla bean-aholic!! I was lucky enough to find vanilla bean paste at a shop that sells gourmet ingredients at a discount… woo!


  21. bridget {bake at 350} on March 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I’m so excited! Every buttercream I’ve tried has been a flop! I’ll definitely try this…and yes, eat it with a spoon…I’ll try out the vanilla bean paste in it, too.


  22. Stefanie Hassan on March 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    You made my day!!! I was just searching for a Vanilla frosting for the cutest mini cupcakes I just made and here was your recipe in my inbox! Thank you, this looks delicious and I can’t wait to make it tonight!


  23. Lori on March 24, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    The little flecks of vanilla bean lure me in every time!


  24. Raina (The Garden of Yum) on March 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Wow! Frosting made with fresh vanilla bean..sounds fantastic! Thanks for sharing.


  25. leslie on March 24, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I love this buttercream..Cooks illustrated never steers me wrong!


  26. Linn @ Swedish home cooking on March 26, 2010 at 4:32 am

    Looks delicious! I have a big sweet tooth (I guess you do to), I made Swedish Cupcakes in my latest episode of my online cooking show, come check it out!


  27. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on March 26, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Your buttercream looks great… It’s very similar to a recipe I make, and I often add vanilla bean paste because I love the little flecks, too!


  28. Valen on March 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I love the black specs of vanilla in this frosting! I’ve never added vanilla bean to my frostings before, but I think I will next time.


  29. chandani on April 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    yummy, great recipe. The picture looks perfect.


  30. Michelle on April 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Did you really just say 10 minutes? Oh, I’m sold and I haven’t even tasted it yet! LOL


  31. Allie on April 19, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Looks yummy! Is it stiff enough to pipe?


    • Michelle on April 20th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

      Hi Allie,

      Yep, I have piped it on top of cupcakes. Enjoy! 🙂


  32. Mie on April 23, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Ooh, this looks perfect for my first attempt at cupcakes this weekend! Can this be coloured? I have those gel colourings. Thanks!


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  34. Ginelle on June 12, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Michelle! Do you recommend any vanilla cake/cupcake recipes? I have been seeking a really moist vanilla cupcake reminiscent of one from a bakery and I hope you can help me. Thanks a bundle!


  35. Jill on June 16, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I tried this recipe to top off a chocolate guiness cupcake recipe I found. The result = stellar. The buttercream is creamy and light, perfectly sweet. The real vanilla bean gives a really fresh taste. I am a big fan!


  36. Denise on August 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    This was a very good recipe. Perfect topping to my cupcakes. Thanks!


  37. Christie on October 5, 2010 at 9:28 am

    This was a creamy, dreamy creation! I omitted the vanilla extract & pod and just used vanilla bean paste to taste. (my new favorite ingredient!) I have a sea salt grider that I used and the results were heavenly! Not sickeningly sweet like most buttercreams – I think the cream has a lot to do with that. This is my forever go to recipe. Even my husband and teenaged boys loved it!I made a densed up version of a coffetti box cake and did a slight raspberry poke cake treatment on it with this buttercream. It was awesome…


    • Michelle on October 5th, 2010 at 11:39 am

      Oooh vanilla bean paste sounds lovely Christie! Your cake sounds like it was INCREDIBLE! Pass me a piece? 🙂


  38. Echo @ Barely Mommy on October 19, 2010 at 1:06 am

    I have been experimenting with different buttercream recipes, and this is the first one that hasn’t come out thin. It’s so light and fluffy! I substituted lemon zest for the vanilla bean and it made a wonderful lemon buttercream.

    Thank you!


    • Michelle on October 24th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed this, love the addition of lemon zest!


  39. Evie on February 21, 2011 at 1:00 am

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! Made the mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream and LOVED it!!!! I’ve been looking for a buttercream frosting recipe, and many I’ve found call for 8 cups of sugar to 1 cup of butter, which comes out way too sweet… I thought it was crazy to use that much sugar, especially since the name is BUTTERCREAM…


  40. Michelle on March 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Made this today… YUM! Really love it. I used Vanilla Bean Paste instead of the vanilla bean/vanilla. Turned out beautiful and delicious!
    Thanks for postine!


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  42. Laura on March 27, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I’ve never been a big fan of buttercream, but I’m happy to say that this recipe is the exception! Seriously! Light, fluffy, and not to sweet – it is perfect and it will now be my go-to recipe for vanilla icing. 🙂


  43. Amanda on March 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I think I found my new favorite icing. I can’t even begin to write how delicious this was!


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  45. jen on May 5, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Wow buttercream with real cream. This sounds sooooo yummy. I am going to make cupcakes and use this as a topping. Can’t wait to try it out.


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  48. Candace on August 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I just have to say, 2 1/2 sticks of butter is not a measurement. There are 1/2 C sticks of butter, 1 C sticks, and the ones I get at Costco are 2 C.

    On an other note, I am looking forward to making this recipe. I just made a vanilla bean cake and the batter was so light and fluffy. They just came out of the oven and all they are missing is this wonderful buttercream recipe.


  49. Erin on August 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    So I tried this frosting recipe tonight and it needs a little tweaking. It was quite tasty but a little on the soft side. I thought it needed to be a tad stiffer and I didn’t even add the full amount of butter. I used two softened sticks vs. the two and a half the recipe calls. I feel like it was the perfect consistency before I added the 2 tbsp of cream so next time I would add just 1 tbsp or none at all. I tried to add a little more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit but then it started to taste too sweet. It was still good but wanted to see if u had any other tips for thickening up a soft frosting.


  50. kelsey on October 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

    i adore making this vanilla buttercream filling. i ate a cupcake with a similair frosting and fell in love with the texture and taste. this recipe is even better than the first one i tried! i always get compliments, and i have added cocoa to it to make a vanilla chocolate buttercream. THANKS FOR THE RECIPE!!!


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  53. Today at 61 Ossipee on February 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    the frosting was way too buttery! the cupcakes look delicious but I don’t want to eat them with subpar frosting.


  54. Doreen on March 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Recipe Review – Made and demolished!

    I came across your site in search of ‘how to make cupcakes like on tv’. I started with the vanilla bean butter cream on top of a dare I say devils food cake mix, since well cake doesn’t really matter to me, it is just a holder for the frosting. This butter cream is absolutely fantastic and compares with bakery quality frosting, or better. My dedicated other half Scott has become a creme brulee fiend so I am well stocked on vanilla beans, and the use of the bean makes for a superior flavor. I am preparing for my next attack on your peanut butter butter cream frosting, however since I see no need for cake , it will be piped on top of a most chewy chocolate chip cookie cup. I may just as well make the chocolate butter cream at the same time. Both piped generously on top of chewy chocolate chip cookies! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and recipes!


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  60. Dawn Hall on June 5, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks for this! YUM YUM YUM! Soooooo good and perfect!


  61. Sweetess on September 25, 2012 at 1:50 am

    I loved this! Not too sweet and not greasy either. Had a wonderful flavor and I loved that with lots of whipping, the icing was white and fluffy. For religious reasons I don’t use alcohol so i subbed vanilla powder for the extract but the beans still shone thru. Thanks!


  62. Hello on November 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I know it’s BUTTERcream, but it tasted like sweetened butter, not velvety frosting. Wasted time and effort. Very greasy!


    • Michelle on November 20th, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      Most American buttercream recipes do not produce velvety smooth frosting – they are sweetened with powdered sugar and tend to be thicker more sweet in flavor. I think you might be looking for a Swiss meringue buttercream.


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  67. Jan on February 1, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I just finished making this for my son’s birthday cake and YUM. I had a plan in my head and then had a last minute change of heart on the type of frosting I was going to make. I did a quick search for vanilla bean buttercream and this was the first recipe that came up. I read through it and loved the idea of the heavy cream. Followed the recipe exactly and the consistency is perfect. Will definitely use this again. So so so good.


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  69. Jodi on April 4, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I just made this buttercream to go with a white mud cake & the buttercream was easy to make & tasted fantastic,I loved it! Thankyou for sharing.x


  70. Jenn on September 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Hi Michelle,
    I’ve used your vanilla buttercream recipe several times and absolutely love it! I’m making some birthday cupcakes next week and would love to make a raspberry buttercream. Do you have a recipe for raspberry buttercream or could I just use your vanilla buttercream recipe and add some raspberry preserves/jam?
    Thanks for your help,
    Jenn…Go Steelers!


    • Michelle on September 17th, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Hi Jenn, I don’t have a raspberry buttercream recipe, but you could definitely stir in some raspberry preserves; I have done that. I would err on the lower side when you start, as it will thin out the frosting.


  71. MARIANA on October 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I’m from Brazil, and would like to know how much is in these measures 2 1/2 sticks of butter


    • Michelle on October 23rd, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      Hi Mariana, 2.5 sticks of butter is equivalent to 6 ounces, or 170 grams.


      • Kris on October 31st, 2013 at 10:24 am

        Hi Michelle, 1 stick butter is 113g. So I think 2.5 sticks butter should be around 282.5g? Pls confirm, thanks!


        • Michelle on October 31st, 2013 at 11:47 am

          Gah, you are right, I was looking at a different chart. I have 2.5 sticks of butter as 284 grams.


          • Kris on October 31st, 2013 at 12:11 pm

            Thanks michelle 🙂 is this buttercream perfect for piping rosettes all over cake? Also, I only have vanilla extract on hand, how much should I use? Thanks.


            • Michelle on November 1st, 2013 at 12:55 pm

              Hi Kris, Yes, you should be able to pipe with this frosting without a problem. There is a vanilla substitute at the bottom of this page: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/substitutions/… 1 vanilla bean is equivalent to 2.5 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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  74. swetha_13 on May 23, 2014 at 4:40 am

    hello, i was wondering what you have to do if the icing is too sweet?
    and also should butter be at room temp or from the fridge?



    • Michelle on May 23rd, 2014 at 10:30 am

      The butter should be at room temperature (usually “softened” means it has had to sit out at room temperature). If you want a less-sweet icing, you should use less sugar, but it might result in a softer frosting.


      • swetha_13 on May 23rd, 2014 at 11:59 am

        exactly, see my icing is runny and texture is horrible if there is less sugar but most of the time it becomes more sweet. is there any solution to this?
        and the thing is i dont have a hand mixer… so i make my icing manually.. is that why there is this difference?


        • Michelle on May 23rd, 2014 at 7:12 pm

          It will definitely be too soft if you don’t add enough sugar. Doing it by hand could also play a part, as you aren’t able to really whip it and give it structure.


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  76. Liz on June 10, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Can I use one dram of watermelon oil instead of the vanilla bean to make a watermelon flavored buttercream? And should I omit the vanilla extract so its not fighting with the flavor of the watermelon oil? I also love your strawberry meringue buttercream. So yummy! Can I just replace the strawberries with a dram of watermelon oil for a watermelon meringue buttercream? Thank you in advance for your help!


    • Michelle on June 11th, 2014 at 10:01 am

      Hi Liz, For this frosting, yes, I think you could substitute watermelon oil for the vanilla bean. However, since the strawberry meringue buttercream uses chopped strawberries as part of the structure, I would recommend adding watermelon oil to a basic vanilla meringue buttercream instead.


  77. Sarah on October 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    This is seriously the best Vanilla Buttercream frosting I have EVER made!!! Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve made this twice, the first time I bought the vanilla bean from my local big corporate grocery store chain…one bean was $12.99!!! YIKES. So this week, I wanted to make the frosting again, and decided to check out the small local Mexican supermercado in my neighborhood…well, what a deal….one vanilla bean was only $2.29 there…I bought 2 and made a double batch for less than half the price! Thank you again…all of your recipes are just wonderful!


  78. Shannon Russell on February 8, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Hi! I am going to be making sugar cut out cookies for a bake sale next Friday and I was wondering if this recipe would work to be dyed with gel and used to ice the cookies? Thanks!


    • Michelle on February 9th, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Shannon, Yes, absolutely!


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