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.


Add 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder


Add 1/3 cup seedless strawberry preserves and a few drops of red food coloring


Add 1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves and a few drops of red food coloring


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


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


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


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


Add in 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract


Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


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!


  • 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


  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.


  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. #
    Kristy Marie — June 4, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Hey there and thank you for this WONDERFUL recipe!!! It is the best I have ever made… I ALWAYS double the recipe song can freeze the rest so I’ll always have it… The only change I made the second time I made it was instead of 2 sticks of butter I used 1 stick of butter and 1 stick of crisco shortening… I think it pipes much easier and holds the shape better… My kids are always asking me to just make the icing because they love it so much… I tend to lick the bowl myself… And it also stays better in the heat… Move over processed immatation frosting!!!!

  2. #
    Lexis — June 2, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Can this recipe of butter cream stand sitting outside in the heat for a birthday party or should i put it in a cooler .

  3. #
    Ally — May 29, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    For the malt flavor variation, do you omit the whipping cream and use milk instead? Or do you use both?

    • #
      Tessa — May 29, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      You could do one or the other – whichever you prefer!

  4. #
    Maryann — May 20, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    I like the video very well

  5. #
    Jeannette — May 17, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Thank you! You are an awesome resource!

  6. #
    Roberta — May 15, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Hi Tessa!! I was wondering if this buttercream consistency is only for cupcakes or will it stay consistent enough to fill and frost a fondant covered cake? I just love all the flavors suggestions btw!!!

    • #
      Tessa — May 16, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      Thanks! It should work for just about any use! And you can always tweak the consistency by adding more cream or powdered sugar. T

  7. #
    Marquita — May 7, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Just made this! There was a certain taste I wanted and after researching several recipes I went with this one and it’s AWESOME! Thanks so much for sharing this! I looooove cooking but baking is new territory for me. This went great with the scratch cupcakes I made tonight for my daughters birthday!

  8. #
    Meg — April 27, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    You have a phenomenal video presence, I already make buttercream but I enjoyed watching your video regardless. <3 yay baking

    • #
      Tessa — April 28, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Wow, thank you so much Meg! That means so much to me 🙂

  9. #
    Natasha — April 21, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    I am planning on using buttercream as a filling for my daughter’s birthday cake however I want to use fondant to decorate the the iutside which can not be refrigerated. Will filling the cake with the buttercream the day before or two and not refrigerate it be ok as the receipe calls for cream?

  10. #
    Jean Garroch — April 15, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Making this frosting in Cotton Candy flavor to top Confetti Cupcakes for 6-year-old’s birthday party. Two questions: Will it melt easily? Florida heat & humidity melts most frosting so subbing butter-flavor Crisco for some of the real butter makes frosting hold up longer.
    How to make Cotton Candy flavoring? Can’t find Cotton Candy Extract, no time to order bulk cotton candy floss sugar from Amazon or Webstaurant. Help!!
    TYVM for your time & AWESOME recipes!!!

    • #
      Tessa — April 15, 2016 at 11:50 am

      Hi Jean! Although I really prefer the flavor and texture of butter, if you’re worried about melting then of course Crisco can be a good way to offset that. I’d also refrigerate the cupcakes until the party so they don’t melt as quickly. I have no clue how to make cotton candy flavor unfortunately! Never tasted or tried that before.

  11. #
    bob — April 10, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Quick question. Can you make any flavor you want even if you don’t have the recipe?
    Thanks BOB

  12. #
    bob — April 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Can’t wait to make some awesome butter cream!

  13. #
    Amber — April 9, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    How would the conversions be to do a maple buttercream? I have the maple extract.

  14. #
    Colleen — April 8, 2016 at 10:50 am

    How long can I leave the frosted cupcakes out at room temperature?

  15. #
    Mona — April 4, 2016 at 5:54 am

    I was also wondering, could I use this buttercream to crumb-coat my cakes and cover with fondant?

    • #
      Tessa — April 4, 2016 at 10:17 am


  16. #
    Katie — April 3, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    For the strawberry one, does it have to be preserved seedless strawberries or can it work with fresh strawberries?

    • #
      Tessa — April 4, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Fresh strawberries are too watery. It works best with preserves!

  17. #
    Faye Otis — March 28, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    What if you don’t have a mixer. My sisters birthday is coming up soon and I can barely afford the ingredients to make it let alone a mixer. Please help!

    • #
      Tessa — March 28, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      You can use a hand-held mixer! You do need something electric for light and fluffy buttercream. Maybe borrow a had held one from a neighbor or friend? Good luck!

  18. #
    Anna — March 14, 2016 at 10:15 am

    This is my favorite buttercream frosting recipe ever! Thank you so much!! 🙂

  19. #
    Liz — March 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Tessa how long at room temperature can a cake with buttercream be left. I have made buttercream in the past using water instead of cream. I’m making a wedding cake for my niece. If I use cream will the icing be ok for 5-6 hours at room temp – or longer. Thanks I like your website!

  20. #
    Mona — March 12, 2016 at 7:30 am

    For a long time I’ve been trying to find the best buttercream – something not to sweet and easy to pipe until I found this and it’s great! You can really taste the difference between the american wilton buttercream and this all butter recipe. It’s by far the best recipe I’ve come across 🙂 Oh and the flavour options are incredible.

    • #
      Tessa — March 12, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Thrilled you love the recipe, Mona!

  21. #
    christy — March 11, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    I have been looking for, and trying, different buttercream recipes. This is now my go-to recipe! The texture is great and holds it shape. I am Phoenix, where it’s hot, I will have to see how this holds up for a park party I have planned for my son’s birthday next month. I have tried the chocolate and peanut butter variations and the flavors are excellent. I did omit the cream from the peanut butter recipe, I didn’t want it too thin. So far, so good! Thank you for sharing this recipe along with the other flavor options.

    • #
      Tessa — March 12, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Wonderful, Christy! Let me know how it holds up at your son’s party 🙂

  22. #
    Amanda — March 9, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Question, I found this recipe randomly while trying to find the perfect buttercream frosting for a cake I’m making and I was just wondering, do you think this recipe would go well under fondant? Have you tried it under fondant?

    • #
      Tessa — March 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Yep! It should work just fine under fondant 🙂

  23. #
    monica — February 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Tessa good evening .I am living in south Amerika where the temperature is always warm or hot its always summer over here.How can i make a thikker buttercream that will not melt easily.
    thank you

  24. #
    BadassBaker — February 24, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    You should have creamed the butter before you added the sugar. Just my $0.02.

  25. #
    Milka — February 24, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Hello Tessa,

    How much Wilton concentrated gel icing colors do I need to look like baby blue color? You put 1/4 teaspoon to yours. People seems to use tooth picks to test out the colors. I am afraid to put too much. Thanks!

    • #
      Tessa — February 24, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Definitely start with less and work your way up until you get your desired color!

  26. #
    SkylarStaebler — February 21, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Will it be different?

    • #
      Tessa — February 23, 2016 at 10:47 am

      Maybe just slightly less rich and creamy, but milk should still work.

  27. #
    SkylarStaebler — February 21, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Can use milk?

  28. #
    Judy — February 20, 2016 at 8:51 am

    After watching a kids cupcake bake-off my daughter (age 10 ) got inspired to “create” her own cupcakes from scratch. I’m not a baker and never made anything from scratch. She is so daring and we checked out a basic vanilla cake receipt last night. She made pineapple vanilla cupcakes and wants to now add coconut frosting (from scratch of course) I’m embarrassed to say I really had no idea how one makes frosting from scratch. I’ve only ever made a glaze for a cookie from powdered sugar, food coloring and water. I saw your blog and it looks pretty easy. Like the video, a good tool for teaching an inpatient young cook who doesn’t always like to read all the directions. excited to try it out. Looks like a nice receipt we can reuse and tailor

    • #
      Tessa — February 21, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Thanks so much Judy! How awesome that your daughter wants to create her own cupcakes 🙂

  29. #
    Carol — February 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Hmmm…this was interesting. I decided to move from canned frosting to fresh. I used to make frosting before canned, but I couldn’t remember the recipe. I remembered my mother making frosting from scratch. Now I see that the recipe can be made with variations, crisco, butter, etc.

    • #
      Tessa — February 16, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Yes, lots of ways to make frosting! This is definitely my favorite, I hope you’ll try it soon.

  30. #
    Julia — February 14, 2016 at 5:54 am

    I was wondering if you could use regular strawberry preserves? I couldn’t find seedless strawberry preserves.

  31. #
    Samantha — February 13, 2016 at 6:38 am

    I have made buttercream and trust me you need all the sugar and butter to make it perfect, absolutely love it and have now made the plain buttercream twice and everyone loved it. Now I’m guna start with the flavoured buttercream looking forward to trying the peanut butter one especially 🙂 thank you for your tips 🙂 xx

  32. #
    Beverly Berkeley — February 7, 2016 at 5:08 am

    Hi Tessa, I was looking for a less sweet buttercream for my gluten free chocolate cupcakes and was drawn to this recipe because of the added whipping cream. It is just delicious! I’d look to try to salted caramel but wasn’t clear on directions. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

  33. #
    Tanya — February 5, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I have never made buttercream before and would like to use it to frost a large number of cupcakes. But since it will be a busy day tomorrow, can I frost them today and will they be ok out of the fridge until tomorrow afternoon?

  34. #
    Elizabeth — January 31, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I just tried this buttercream and it is delicious. I used salted butter and left out the additional salt and 2 TBS of whipping cream. If I added more cream would it make it lighter/fluffier?

    • #
      Tessa — February 2, 2016 at 6:20 pm

      Yes, absolutely. Cream accepts more bubbles of air as it’s being beaten so the result is lighter and fluffier.

  35. #
    Rae — January 30, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Love this recipe. Best I’ve found so far,from someone who wants wedding cake for last meal on Earth!

  36. #
    Rae — January 30, 2016 at 10:22 am

    16oz WEIGHT is not the same as 16oz VOLUME. You can’t compare a rock that weighs 16oz to 16oz of orange juice! Butter dispute settled…5th grade math.

  37. #
    Nancy K — January 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Tessa, I just tried your frosting recipe and it was great! Ive tried another one that required to cook sugar,flour,cornstarch, over stovetop and it was also very good. I love both recipes and will use these ones all the time. Will have to try the different flavors as well. For your recipe I used vanilla bean paste and it turned out just as good as extract. I love that you can see the little specks of bean in it. You can buy this online or I bought it at a bulk store in Canada. I have yet to try the REAL vanilla bean. Next time. Thanks for the recipe and video.

  38. #
    eve — January 27, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Tessa love love you buttercream, plus all the ideas you can do with is I am love to bake even though I have no training I just take the recipes and follow the instructions correctly. I have a question in your comment on the buttercream recipe you stated that this recipes can be double for an 8 and 9 in cake when it comes to doubling recipes I am NOT good at it. could you please help how to double this for a cake without me making to separate buttercream. Oh also for a 10 in cake. Thanks and keep it up.

  39. #
    Patricia — January 25, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Hi. Enjoyed watching your video. I will be trying to make regular buttercream hopefully it comes out. Can I substitute the whipping cream for something else?

  40. #
    eve — January 23, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Hi Tessa love love you buttercream, plus all the ideas you can do with is I am love to bake even though I have no training I just take the recipes and follow the instructions correctly. I have a question in your comment on the buttercream recipe you stated that this recipes can be double for an 8 and 9 in cake when it comes to doubling recipes I am NOT good at it. could you please help how to double this for a cake without me making to separate buttercream. Oh also for a 10 in cake. Thanks and keep it up.

  41. #
    Sheyenne — January 23, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    What if you don’t have a paddle attachment.

  42. #
    Bernie — January 19, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Loved watching the Valentine’s cake video and this one on the buttercream frosting too.
    Can’t wait to make them both!
    You do a fantastic job with this site.
    Keep up the good work!

    • #
      Tessa — January 20, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed!

  43. #
    Kathleen — January 14, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Tessa, you have the patience of a saint ;). AND a great recipe. Thank you!

  44. #
    Alexis — January 12, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    My only question is regarding refrigeration after icing your cake/cupcakes because of the cream. If I’m making a cake for a party chances are it’s not going to be able to fit in the fridge until it’s served. I’ve always been concerned about this. And my buttercream has always turned out sickeningly sweet based on general BC recipes I’ve tried. I’ll try this one with less sugar and hope for the best.

  45. #
    Esmeralda — January 12, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Tessa God Bless my question is what could I use instead of heavy whipping cream cause I hate to throw the rest away if I only use a few tablespoon of I how good will this hold up in very hot weather after making cupcakes can they be left on the kitchen counter ?

  46. #
    Kim Hauber — January 11, 2016 at 5:47 am

    I loved watching you Demonstrate how to simply make your frosting. I look forward to more Info and amazing recipes. I love to bake but get frustrated when things don’t turn out the way you think they should etc… I feel as though all that’s about to change with watching your video.

    I was up in the wee hours of the morning very sick with cough and cold. Now I’m glad I was. I found you, your video, and many lovely ideas of how to make my baking much more rewarding.

    Thanks again,


  47. #
    lenny — January 6, 2016 at 10:55 pm


    just wondering if this taste like super butter? and is it too sweet? i want icing with less buttery and sweet. please help. thanks

    • #
      Tessa — January 8, 2016 at 9:59 am

      Well since butter and sugar are the primary ingredients, yes it will taste sweet and buttery. You can always reduce the amount of sugar and use shortening instead of butter if you prefer.

  48. #
    Ty — December 21, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Hello I wanted to know if this recipe melts. I make an awesome buttercream but i add shortening and it doesnt taste greasy it has a wonderful taste (per my customers) in the past i have tried making buttercream with out shortening but it eventually melts

  49. #
    Terry Box — December 11, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    I am looking for a frosting that hardens to use on “cake pops”. They need a hard shell like dipping them in chocolate candy melts provides, but I would prefer to have some flavor options. Thank you. I love this blog.

  50. #
    Terr — December 11, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    I am looking for a frosting that hardens to use on “cake pops”. They need a hard shell like dipping them in chocolate candy melts provides, but I would prefer to have some flavor options. Thank you. I love this blog.

  51. #
    Janice — December 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    In order to print your recipe I have to print all the comments that I do not want. My favorite on line recipes are condensed and concise without any comments.

    • #
      Tessa — December 11, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Janice! Are you clicking on the print icon near the recipe? That should pull up a condensed version of the post without comments. Please let me know if that works for you!

  52. #
    Robin mutters — December 10, 2015 at 10:58 pm
    Love your recipes thanks I’m going to try them !!

  53. #
    kathy — December 10, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    What type of cream?

  54. #
    Kris K — December 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    This post is much appreciated as I have yet to find “the perfect buttercream ” (I haven’t tried this yet). My question is, in the directions, it says powdered sugar, sifted, but in your video you say sifted powdered sugar. How it’s said/written makes a difference, as one means sift first and then measure, and the other means measure first and then sift. Which do I do for this recipe? Thanks much.

    • #
      Tessa — December 10, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      Hi Kris! The way it’s written in the recipe is correct 🙂

  55. #
    Tammie — December 10, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I have used this recipe which is great,But I have used other creamers to do other flavors which are very tasty,Plus have used other flavored extract and colors. This is a truly great tasting butter cream recipe

  56. #
    Sally — December 10, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    What kind of cream?

  57. #
    Shena — December 10, 2015 at 11:23 am

    I was wondering if you could just add plain milk instead of cream?

    • #
      Tessa — December 10, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      You could, though it wouldn’t exactly be buttercream 😉 It just won’t be as thick.

  58. #
    Magda — December 10, 2015 at 7:41 am

    What kind of cream is this (1 to 2 tablespoons cream)?

  59. #
    joanne — December 5, 2015 at 7:16 am

    I’ve tried making it and it’s still too sweet and rough. and when i pipe it it wont hold. I guess it depends on the powdered sugar, my cousin says powdered sugar differ in every country. So now i tried crisco shorthening 1 can and added little powdered sugar, just to make it enough sweet. Can this be a frosting or it is not good to have too much veg shortening? i never saw recipe like this in the internet but the taste is familiar to other cakes i have tasted before.

  60. #
    Liora — December 3, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Tessa!
    I love this buttercream recipe and I was wondering if there is any way to make an eggnog buttercream with this recipe? Thanks so much!

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