How to Make the Best Buttercream

Recipe By Tessa Arias
  |  
January 28th, 2015
4.95 from 19 votes
4.95 from 19 votes

How to Make the Best Buttercream Icing that's perfectly creamy, sweet, and can be made ahead of time. Plus tons of flavor customizations listed and a step-by-step video!  Download my free Buttercream guide here!

Yield: 3 cups

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

There’s nothing worse than the sickeningly sweet and artificial-tasting frosting that comes prepacked or that’s loaded onto grocery store birthday cakes.

How to Make the Best Chocolate American Buttercream

I seriously despise that stuff and would rather eat nothing (which is saying something for this sweet toothed girl). That’s why making buttercream from scratch is the only way to go. It may seem complicated but it’s actually ridiculously easy and this post is all you’ll need to not just learn how make the best buttercream, but how to make it ahead of time and how to customize it with over a dozen flavor options.

Check out the step-by-step video below so you can actually see what every step looks like, which if you’re a visual learner like myself you’ll find super helpful. The flavor ideas and full printable recipe are just below, plus some more links to other posts you’ll love.


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 Chip Cookie Dough

Use 3/4 light brown sugar in place of all powdered sugar, add 1 1/4 cups flour, and garnish with mini chocolate chips

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 in 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 cup Kahlua in place of the cream

Mint

Add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract and a few drops of green food coloring

Nutella

Add in 2/3 cup Nutella and reduce powdered sugar to 2 cups

Lemon (or any other citrus)

Add in 2 tablespoons lemon zest and 3 tablespoons lemon juice and increase powdered sugar to 3 1/2 cups

Coconut

Add in 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Cinnamon

Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Pumpkin

Add in 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, remove cream

Salted Caramel

Add in 1/3 cup caramel topping and increase salt to 1 teaspoon, remove cream


4.95 from 19 votes

How to make
the Best Buttercream

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
How to Make the Best Buttercream Icing that's perfectly creamy, sweet, and can be made ahead of time. Plus tons of flavor customizations listed and a step-by-step video!  Download my free Buttercream guide here!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (375 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together 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 for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed.

STORAGE:

  1. 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.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Photos by Constance Higley.

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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Recipe Rating




  1. #
    Susan — November 29, 2015 at 7:21 am

    This is a beautiful recipe. I have just used it….buttercream seems to be my Achilles heel! This one was masterful and so very easy!! Can’t wait to pipe it onto my 12 dozen cupcakes later this week.

  2. #
    Saranya — August 18, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Hi
    I have a doubt.i have done many cakes,it come out very well soft and fluffy,after icing it,I’ll store in fridge,but when we cut it its getting hard.
    How to store a buttercream cake.
    How many days can I store buttercream cake and fondant cake and how to store them.
    Waiting for your reply
    Regards
    Saranya

  3. #
    Ivy — August 17, 2015 at 7:47 am

    If I add oreos crumbs on it, do I need to add or take other ingredients of the recipe? thanks

  4. #
    kylie — August 16, 2015 at 2:40 am

    wats the difference between powdered sugar and normal sugar :-/

  5. #
    Alison — August 9, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Do you need to put food coloring in the mix? If just put the strawberry preserves in, will the mixture still be as pink ?

    • #
      Tessa — August 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      The food coloring is totally optional, but your buttercream will definitely not be as pink without it.

  6. #
    Louise — August 9, 2015 at 3:12 am

    Laura
    – 1 stick = 4oz = 113 grams of butter. Check out Tessa s measuring guide, it has all the ingredients listed and the gram and oz conversions for each ingredient…
    https://handletheheat.com/ultimate-guide-measuring/

  7. #
    Laura — August 2, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    How many grams of butter is in your butter sticks?

  8. #
    Louise — July 29, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Sorry I meant banan milkshake powder, which I’d mix with a little milk ( so I could make it really banana-ry)

    • #
      Tessa — July 29, 2015 at 9:56 am

      I’ve never had banana milkshake powder so I really can’t say! Also, I’m not sure coconut milk would provide a whole lot of coconut flavor because you’d be using such a small amount. If you like the texture of shredded coconut, I’d add some either in the buttercream or sprinkle with toasted coconut on top.

  9. #
    Louise — July 27, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Hi Tessa, thanks for the help, the measuring guide is really helpful! Just a couple more things: firstly what’s pumpkin pie spice? Don’t think we have anything like that in the UK, are there any spices I can mix to make my own version?
    Also what about a banana buttercream? Some extracts either aren’t available in the UK or they taste nothing like what they’re supposed to… I was thinking about using banana milkshake (nesquick) to make some banana buttercream.. any idea how I’d do that? Want the buttercream to be smooth…
    And also coconut… carnt seem to find coconut extract, what about coconut milk? How much do I add/ how do I change the recipe?

    Thanks!

  10. #
    Louise — July 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Hi, are the cup measures, US cups or UK cups? Also can you please provide gram amounts for the icing sugar and all the flavour variations ? It’s more accurate to measure in grams than cups.

  11. #
    Brenda — July 22, 2015 at 10:05 am

    For the chocolate chip cookie flavor idea: you say to add flour, it won’t make you sick eating the flour that way (uncooked)? Just wondering.

  12. #
    Dani — July 21, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    When you say cream do you mean whipping cream? Sorry I’m just clueless here

  13. #
    Sharon — July 21, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Do you also have this in grams?

  14. #
    Nanci Lenoci — July 11, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Hopefully this will clarify the butter cube measurement question. Our hostess is correct.

    Amount:
    2 stick of butter
    Equals:
    8 ounce – oz
    http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/butter_converter.html

  15. #
    Dayna Jones — July 1, 2015 at 4:08 am

    I’m going to regret giving away my secrets. Using Crisco instead of butter will keep your frosting from melting in warm weather.Use 2 pounds of powdered sugar for each cup of shortening and beat the daylights out of it. It takes at least 5 minutes in the mixer before it’s properly incorporated.

  16. #
    ANGIE — June 28, 2015 at 6:17 am

    In the video I did not see you add the salt. Is that a step to omit or did you just not show it in the video. I’m not trying to be picky, I want to make sure I get the best buttercream due to the fact yours look so delicious.

  17. #
    ANGIE — June 28, 2015 at 6:01 am

    What type of cream is used?

  18. #
    Sof — June 25, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Hey Tessa! I am obsessed with your buttercream recipe. I usually make the chocolate and it is ridiculously good. Seriously amazing! However, I am curious about your cookie dough buttercream. Wouldn’t the brown sugar make the buttercream quite grainy? Thanks!

    • #
      Tessa — June 26, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Well cookie dough is slightly grainy. It is basically replicating the exact taste and texture of cookie dough, just without the eggs!

  19. #
    Robin @thebakingexchange — June 22, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Tessa, I once made cupcake icing with normal white sugar (not powdered sugar) and it was horrible, all grainy and gritty. I was surprised to see you list brown sugar as the sugar for the cookie dough variation. Wouldn’t that also have a gritty texture or is it different? Thanks!

  20. #
    Jackie — June 6, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    This really is the best buttercream icing recipe. i’ve tried others and you can really taste the powdered sugar in them — not good. This is creamy and sweet (but not too sweet) and delicious! Also, I didn’t have any cream, so I put in a big dollop of whipped cream (haha). Worked beautifully! Can’t wait to try the variations!

    • #
      Tessa — June 10, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Yay!

  21. #
    Lizzie — June 3, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    I wish I came across this webpage before St. Patrick’s Day! I made some cupcakes then and ended up having to use a glaze instead.

  22. #
    Lizzie — June 3, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    @Melani
    Yes! Buttermilk CAN be homemade! The recipe I’ve seen is 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and milk. What you do is you add the lemon juice to the measuring cup, then fill to the correct amount. If this is wrong, please correct me!

    • #
      Edda — June 17, 2021 at 9:33 am

      I’m wanting to put freeze dried strawberries ground up. Would I adjust anything?!

      • #
        Tessa — June 17, 2021 at 9:46 am

        Yummy! I haven’t tried that, but I’d think you might need to add in a bit more cream, all depending on how much of the strawberries you add in. Let me know how it goes!

  23. #
    Melani — May 28, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Tessa! I just found your blog and i love it!. I have a question, Buttermilk can be homemade?

  24. #
    Monica — May 26, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    I saw your video on how to frost cupcakes and I was just wondering what you use to hold the nozzle.. I just place mine into the bag but yours looks different.

  25. #
    Mary — May 14, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    What is the weight of powdered sugar? (We don’t usually use cup measures in the UK) I assume powdered sugar is what we call icing sugar, I’ve always made buttercream with just icing sugar, butter and flavouring, does adding real cream mean that cakes have to be refridgerated once decorated?

  26. #
    Danielle — May 8, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Can I add fruit color to this recipe

  27. #
    willy crane — May 5, 2015 at 11:49 am

    When you say cream does that mean heavy whipping cream?

    • #
      Tessa — May 5, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Yes that works fine!

  28. #
    Diana — April 27, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Penny: the buttercream will crust over after a while therefore the sprinkles will not stick. it’s best to ice them at the time the kids will be making them. hope that helps.

  29. #
    Bibi — April 21, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I love this blog! I can’t believe it has everything i want to know about! I love your you tube vids and this blog! Can’t wait to try the butter cream recipe!!!

  30. #
    Penny — April 19, 2015 at 2:41 am

    Hi there. Quick question. I’m having a cupcake decorating table at my daughters upcoming birthday. I was going to ice the cupcakes and they will just add the sprinkles etc. I will ice the cupcakes the morning of the party. Will this buttercream icing be soft enough that sprinkles will stick to it a few hours after it is piped? I have a great buttercream icing but I know that it will not go hard but certainly harden 2 or 3 hours after it is piped and sprinkles can not be applied after this. I look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks, Penny.

    • #
      Tessa — April 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      I’m sorry Penny but I don’t know the answer to your question as I’ve never been in that particular scenario with this recipe.

  31. #
    Monica — April 18, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to post this awesome recipe. It is very kind of you and helpful to the rest of us. Best wishes….

  32. #
    samia — April 12, 2015 at 1:18 am

    cream cheese version*

  33. #
    samia — April 12, 2015 at 1:16 am

    Hi Tessa! I think its brilliant! though! I would need a cream version as well… and thn i am going to treat this page as my frosting bible!! :D:D

  34. #
    Paila — April 11, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    what type of cream?

  35. #
    Jo — April 9, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Hello, I really love the frosting color on the cupcakes. Would love to know what colors you used to get that result.
    Thanks

  36. #
    Shannon — April 8, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Made the Nutella version – outstanding! Got rave reviews at work, too! Followed the recipe to the letter. Sooooo yummy! Definitely a keeper 🙂
    Thank you!

  37. #
    Erin — April 4, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Sue–the recipe has all the clues you need..

    If it says 3 cups of sifted powdered sugar, then you sift and then measure 3 cups. This recipe calls for 3 cups of powdered sugar, sifted. So you measure and then sift. Hope that helps.

  38. #
    sue griffore — April 2, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    anxious to give this a try. do you measure the powdered sugar before or after you sift it? looks likes this pipes well??? will it crust? ……. thank you so much….. sue

  39. #
    Diana — March 4, 2015 at 7:07 am

    Hello Tessa, thank you for all your awesome recipes!!!
    I made the valentine’s cake with this butter cream, but as soon as i added the strawberry preserve to the mixture it split (i think that’s the right work for it) the oil or fat from the preserve was flooding on the top, it tasted very good. i followed the recipe just like you listed. What did i do wrong?? I had to use regular store bought butter cream. Please help.

  40. #
    Sandy — February 25, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    not sure what kind of butter you are using Lei, but I have a 1 pound package of Land O Lakes butter. It has 4 sticks and it states: “1 stick equals 1/2 cup, 1 pound equals 2 cups or 4 sticks”. One pound has always been 16 ounces and if a 16 ounce package of butter has 4 sticks in it then 2 sticks equals 1 cup of butter, 4 sticks equals 2 cups. A cup is 8 ounces……or 2 sticks of butter. Each stick has 8 tablespoons…..not 8 ounces.

  41. #
    Marianna — February 11, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    How long should I keep the butter out so it is at cold room temperature, please help!

    Thank you!!!
    Btw your website is awesome!!!!!!

  42. #
    Christine — February 6, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    He…he…I had to giggle at a lot of the ‘fix your recipe’ requests:) I used to have a cupcake business and this is very similar to the recipe I used for buttercream (except I added 2 tbsp. of heavy whip cream at the end and beat on high for 2 minutes- exceptional fluffy!). Your recipe looks spot on and perfect:) Best wishes!

  43. #
    Joanne — February 1, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    I love all of your recipe guides, and this buttercream frosting looks perfect!

  44. #
    Justine — February 1, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    this recipe is awesome! I used salted butter and added the additional salt on accident. It was ok but too salty. If you use salted butter don’t add any salt! I need to pay a little bit more attention! I remade it with salted butter and no additional salt and it was amazing!

  45. #
    Arlene — January 31, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    I love you blog! I’ve made many of your recipes. I think it’s completely hilarious how people want to correct you on your butter cream recipe. Lol! I’m not sure if people know this, but, butter cream isn’t meant to be low calorie/low sugar. Ha! I make my mine with the same exact measurements. And it’s delicious! Keep doing what you’re doing.

  46. #
    Rachel — January 30, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks! I love your recipes and guides! I agree 3 cups is both conservative and laudable!

    Almost all recipes assume posession of a standing mixer. I’ve made icings in the past without them. In your opinion, are standing mixers really necessary for frosting? Any tips to ensure one with a hand mixer doesn’t screw it up? I’m fairly conservative with my counter space, but don’t want to sacrafice good cupcakes. 🙂

  47. #
    Madelyn — January 30, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I have a quick question…I’ve done a cake recipe, which calls for cool butter and the cake looks beautiful at first but them completely sinks. I’ve done it twice and the same thing happened both times. Can it be the cold butter? I’ve done a number of cakes and they always come out perfect. Thanks for your help!

    • #
      Tessa — January 30, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      It may be your that you leavener is expired (baking soda or baking powder), that the butter and sugar were over-beaten, or that the oven temperature was off (use an oven thermometer). It may also just be the recipe, some cakes are ultra moist and tend to sink a little bit (my favorite chocolate cake does this).

  48. #
    Madelyn — January 30, 2015 at 11:35 am

    This is brilliant and so convenient! Now I can make butter cream with everyone’s favorite flavor on their birthday. When do I add the flavor in the beginning or at the end? Thank you!

    • #
      Tessa — January 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      You can add flavorings anytime after the butter + sugar have been beaten together.

  49. #
    Daisy — January 29, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    I’m so happy I found this post!! Sounds like just the right buttery sweetness and consistency I’ve been searching for…this doesn’t sound too sweet at all. Most of my recipes call for at least 4-5 cups of powdered sugar per 2 sticks of butter, which is more sweetness than my family can handle most days. And I’m really looking forward to trying some of the flavor additions you posted as well. Thanks, Tessa 🙂

  50. #
    Mary Ann Broda — January 29, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Great demo.I am going to make it for tonight. Looks so creamy. MaryAnn B

  51. #
    Sarah — January 29, 2015 at 6:44 am

    I had no idea buttercream could be made ahead! I’m sooo going to try it. Thank you!

  52. #
    Dulcistella — January 29, 2015 at 1:21 am

    Arrgh, I was hoping it was the swiss meringue buttercream!!! 🙂 I have a problem with it, especially with the lemon one, because once it just split and I was sooooooo sad ;-(
    Can I hope to see it here soon or late?

  53. #
    Heidi — January 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Lei- Can’t we all just get along and be nice? 2 tablespoons = 1 oz. 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup or 1 cube = 4 oz.
    On a happier note, love Handle the Heat, Tessa. Your slow cooker pork carnitas are cooling in the the slow cooker as I type. Also, do you like Italian Meringue Buttercream? Less sweet, but they both definitely have their advantages.

  54. #
    Lei — January 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Carol- Do you have an actual stick of butter in your fridge? If so, go look at it!
    The recipe is correct – Each stick of Butter is 8oz so 2 sticks is 16 oz or 1 cup.

    Other than that, the recipe looks great and I look forward to trying it.
    Have a great day

  55. #
    Joan — January 28, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Please correct the amount of powdered sugar. Thank you.

    • #
      Tessa — January 28, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      It was never incorrect!

  56. #
    carol — January 28, 2015 at 9:45 am

    16oz. of butter is 4 sticks or 2 cups. 8oz. Of butter is 2 sticks or 1 cup. Which is the correct amount for recipe?

  57. #
    Liz — January 28, 2015 at 9:12 am

    A good recipe to keep on hand. Thank you and have a great day.

  58. #
    Megan — January 28, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Wow! Can’t wait to try your recipe! I love all the flavor variations!

  59. #
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness — January 28, 2015 at 5:29 am

    I LOVE all your baking how-tos! I am the worst buttercream maker. So I just never make it…which is sad because buttercream is the bomb!
    Thanks for the great tutorial! Pinned!

  60. #
    Mindy — January 28, 2015 at 4:29 am

    I’m sorry but I think THREE cups of sugar and TWO sticks of butter is way too much. How can something with 3 cups of sugar NOT be really way too sweet?

    • #
      Tessa — January 28, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      Mindy – powdered sugar isn’t as dense as regular sugar so it may LOOK like more than it actually is. Some buttercream recipes actually call for 4 cups of powdered sugar so this is relatively conservative! Feel free to also adjust the sugar ratio to your preferences.

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