I want to teach you how to make the BEST buttercream frosting you’ve ever had.
There’s nothing worse than the sickeningly sweet and artificial-tasting store-bought frosting that comes in tubs or is loaded onto grocery store birthday cakes. I usually scrape that stuff off whenever I’m served something like that – which is saying something for this sweet-toothed girl!
Enter my homemade buttercream frosting recipe. Perfectly balanced in sweetness, silky smooth and creamy in texture, and an absolute dream to both frost with and eat.
Making homemade buttercream might feel a bit daunting, but I promise it’s super easy! I’ll teach you how to make perfect buttercream step-by-step, so there’s no need to feel intimidated.
My buttercream frosting recipe is the easiest way to level up your homemade cupcakes and cakes – and it’s so much fun to customize the flavors, too. Check out all my customization suggestions below.
How to Make Buttercream Frosting
What is Buttercream Frosting?
American-style buttercream frosting is made of butter and powdered sugar, whipped together with a little cream and some flavoring (such as vanilla extract). Some American buttercream recipes will contain shortening or a combination of butter and shortening, but I use an all-butter mixture. Shortening leaves a slightly greasy film behind on the palate and has a slight aftertaste that I don’t prefer.
This perfect buttercream frosting recipe is one of the quickest and easiest buttercreams possible.
Ingredients for The Best Buttercream Frosting:
- Sugar – Powdered sugar (aka confectioners’ sugar) is the base for this buttercream. Be sure to sift the powdered sugar or your buttercream may end up clumpy and gritty. Read more about my preferred types of powdered sugar below.
- Butter – Use high-quality butter since it’s the base of the recipe. I like Challenge butter and prefer to use unsalted butter in all my baking so I’m in control of the salt. Also, be cautious that your butter isn’t too warm or too cold. Your butter should ideally be about 67°F.
- Salt – I like using fine sea salt, simply because I prefer the flavor. Learn more about different types of salt here.
- Vanilla extract – I recommend using a high-quality pure vanilla extract (not an imitation vanilla flavor) when making a buttercream, especially if it’s a vanilla buttercream and the star of the show. Even better, use vanilla paste if making vanilla buttercream!
- Heavy cream – Used to thin out the buttercream just a touch and give it that smooth consistency and creamy texture.
Do I Have to Use Heavy Cream? Can I Use Milk in This Buttercream?
You can use milk or half-and-half if that’s all you have, but I highly recommend using heavy cream if possible for its creaminess and maximum richness. There’s a reason it’s called buttercream. 😉
Why is my Buttercream Frosting Full of Air Bubbles?
Be sure to use the flat paddle attachment on your stand mixer. Using a whisk attachment will cause air bubbles to form. If your buttercream has been sitting for an extended period, you will need to re-mix on your mixer’s lowest setting for a minute or two, or mix by hand with a rubber spatula for a few minutes.
If your ingredients are too cold, this can also cause airy buttercream.
Here’s how to fix this:
- Remove ½ a cup of buttercream to a separate bowl.
- Microwave it for 10-15 seconds until softened (without melting it).
- Add it back to the bowl and hand mix with a rubber spatula to fully incorporate.
This will help the whole batch of buttercream warm up a little and encourage the air bubbles to dissipate.
The Best Powdered Sugar for Buttercream
Always sift powdered sugar before adding it to your buttercream. Most recipes (including mine) are written like this: “3 cups powdered sugar, sifted” which means you measure the sugar first, THEN sift it before adding it in.
For the absolute smoothest buttercream frosting, I recommend investing in organic powdered sugar that contains tapioca starch instead of cornstarch because it dissolves much more readily to remove grittiness. This is the brand of organic powdered sugar I usually use, though Trader Joe’s also has a great option available.
Buttercream Must-Have Tools:
Step-by-Step Instructions for Buttercream Frosting:
- Mix the powdered sugar and butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and butter. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Continue to mix. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase to medium speed and beat for another 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the salt, vanilla, and cream. Beat on medium for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed (go slow and only add a teaspoon or so at a time) until your desired consistency is reached.
- Use right away or store for later use. Your buttercream is now ready to use, or it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to Tell When Buttercream is Properly Creamed:
How to Color Your Buttercream Frosting
If you’re adding a flavor that naturally is colored (such as fruit preserves or chocolate), then your buttercream frosting will, of course, be colored by this addition.
For a more brightly-colored buttercream, I highly recommended gel food coloring. I like Americolor or Chefmaster gel food coloring. It packs a saturated punch so you don’t need to use much. Start with a few drops then add more from there until you reach your desired color.
Ways to Use Buttercream Frosting:
Does Buttercream Need to be Refrigerated?
While the sugar in buttercream acts as a preservative and keeps the frosting intact for a few hours at a time, I recommend storing the buttercream in the refrigerator.
How to Store The Best Buttercream:
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week. Allow the buttercream to come to room temperature, then re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again. Add a tablespoon or 2 of powdered sugar if it needs to thicken.
Can You Freeze The Best Buttercream?
Yes! Store this buttercream in an airtight container or freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, and then bring to room temperature before re-whipping until light and fluffy again.
Buttercream Frosting Flavor Ideas:
You may need to adjust the powdered sugar ratio depending on your flavor preferences and adjust the cream ratio depending on your texture preferences.
- Chocolate: Add 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Strawberry: Add 1/3 cup seedless strawberry preserves and a few drops of red food coloring.
- Raspberry: Add 1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves and a few drops of red food coloring.
- Mocha: Add 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder.
- Chocolate Malt: Add 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup malted milk powder, and use 1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed.
- Peanut Butter: Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter and reduce the powdered sugar to 2 1/2 cups.
- Irish Cream Buttercream: Use Bailey’s Irish Cream instead of cream.
- Kahlua: Add 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 cup Kahlua in place of the cream.
- Mint: Add 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract and a few drops of green food coloring.
- Nutella: Add 2/3 cup Nutella and reduce powdered sugar to 2 cups.
- Lemon (or any other citrus): Add 2 tablespoons lemon zest and 3 tablespoons lemon juice and increase powdered sugar to 3 1/2 cups.
- Coconut: Add 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract.
- Cinnamon: Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon.
- Pumpkin: Add 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, remove cream.
- Salted Caramel: Add 1/3 cup caramel topping and increase salt to 1 teaspoon, remove cream.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: Use 3/4 cup light brown sugar in place of all powdered sugar, add 1 1/4 cups flour*, and garnish with mini chocolate chips. *To make the raw flour safer, we need to kill bacteria. Treat the flour by baking it at 350°F for 10 minutes or microwaving in 30-second bursts until it reaches 165°F. Use an instant-read thermometer to guarantee it hits the temperature at which bacteria dies. Heating the flour in the oven also toasts it slightly, giving it a nutty caramelized flavor that works beautifully in this recipe.
Click here for my FREE Best Buttercream Cheatsheet, which includes the recipe, my tips and tricks, and all of the customization ideas listed above in printable form!
Other Buttercream Recipes You’ll Love:
(375 grams) powdered sugar,
(227 grams) unsalted butter,
at a cool room temperature
pure vanilla extract
1 to 2
heavy or whipping cream
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add the salt, vanilla, and cream and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed.
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let come to room temperature and re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again. Add a tablespoon or 2 of powdered sugar if it needs to thicken.
Customization ideas listed in the pink tip box above!
This recipe makes enough buttercream to frost about 12 to 15 cupcakes. Double this recipe to frost an 8 or 9-inch two-layer cake.
This post was published in 2021 and updated in 2023 with new photos and recipe improvements. Photos by Joanie Simon.