This vanilla buttercream frosting has been my go-to recipe for well over a decade and is absolutely the best! Made with four ingredients and ready in under 10 minutes, you can whip this creamy frosting up in no time. Buttery, silky smooth, and not too sweet, make this fluffy buttercream frosting for cakes, cupcakes, and more!
Why You’ll Love This Frosting
You know I am ALL about the frosting when it comes to a moist cake. From rich chocolate to tangy cream cheese, the right frosting just makes a slice of cake better.
Of all the frostings out there, American buttercream is the easiest of the buttercream frostings to make and comes together in under 10 minutes making it the perfect option when you are looking to make a last-minute frosting for a cake or cupcakes.
Three Main Types of Buttercream
While there are a number of different buttercream options, the three most common include American, Swiss, and Italian. Each are made in unique ways and depending on what you plan to frost may suit your needs better.
American buttercream: The buttercream we are discussing today, it’s the easiest and most commonly used frosting for home baking.
Italian meringue buttercream- The most difficult of the three buttercreams, Italian buttercream comes together from pouring boiling hot sugar syrup into egg whites as they whip. While difficult to make, it also is the most stable of the buttercreams.
With just 4 simple, pantry-staple ingredients, this homemade buttercream frosting whips up in no time.
Butter: I like to use unsalted butter in this recipe to control the amount of salt that goes in. It’s also critical that the butter is at room temperature before you begin whipping this frosting up.
Powdered Sugar: If your powdered sugar is a bit clumpy, it’s best to sift it before adding it to the butter.
Salt: Just a pinch to balance out the sweetness.
Vanilla Extract: Adds a light touch of flavor to the buttercream. You can also substitute the same amount of vanilla bean paste or the seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean.
Buttercream Frosting Flavors
This buttercream recipe makes a sweet vanilla buttercream. For different flavor options try:
Chocolate: Add 4 ounces melted semi-sweet chocolate to the buttercream before whipping for 2 final minutes.
Coconut: Use 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract to flavor the buttercream.
Cinnamon: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the frosting for a delicious cinnamon vanilla flavor that will top gingerbread cookies perfectly!
Whip the butter: Using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, topping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
Add powdered sugar: Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar.
Add vanilla: Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
Whip until fluffy: Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.
Frost: Move to a piping bag and pipe or use an offset spatula to frost cakes or cupcakes with the vanilla buttercream frosting.
Coloring Buttercream Frosting
My favorite way to tint vanilla buttercream frosting is with gel food coloring. After making the frosting, it’s ready to color.
Jarred gel: If your food coloring comes in a jar, use a toothpick to scoop out some of the coloring and stir it into the buttercream. Continue adding more gel until you make the desired shade you are looking for.
Squeeze lid gel: Some gel food coloring comes with squeeze-able sides and a drop lid. Squeeze the desired amount (I like to do just a few drops to start with) into the buttercream and mix. Add until you’ve obtained the shade you were looking for.
Multiple colors: If you plan to color the frosting with different colors, scoop out the frosting into smaller bowls and color a different shade in each bowl.
White buttercream frosting: For a bright, white buttercream frosting use clear vanilla to prevent tinting the buttercream. Note that this is imitation vanilla and not authentic vanilla.
Piping Buttercream Frosting
One unique feature of the American buttercream frosting is its ability to crust. Once piped and exposed to air the frosting will form a thin crust on the outside making it ideal for piping, especially detailed designs on cakes and cupcakes. Here are a few different tips you can use to pipe with buttercream.
Open Star Tip: I like to use Ateco #828 to pipe a swirl top on my cupcakes.
Plain Pastry Tip: The Ateco #808 makes a round swirl finish for cupcakes.
Writing: Use a small round piping tip like the Ateco #1 to write or draw detailed lines and swirls on cakes.
Many of these recipes come with suggested frostings, but if you are looking for a way to switch up these treats pair perfectly with this vanilla buttercream frosting.
Using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Frost cake or cupcakes as desired.
Yield: This is enough frosting to generously frost 12 cupcakes or a 9×13-inch cake. If you are making 24 cupcakes or need to fill and frost a 2-layer cake, I recommend doubling the recipe.
Equipment: While a stand mixer with a whisk attachment makes this easy and efficient, you can also use a hand mixer.
Vanilla: You can substitute an equal amount of vanilla bean paste or the seeds from one vanilla bean for the vanilla extract.