This is a classic American buttercream frosting recipe made with confectioner sugar, unsalted butter, pure vanilla extract, and milk or cream.
American buttercream frosting is a classic recipe that has been passed down for generations. It is a sweet and creamy frosting that is perfect for decorating cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts.
This frosting is made using butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk. Alternatively, Swiss meringue buttercream and Italian meringue buttercream are made from egg whites and French buttercream is made with egg yolks. Learn more about different types of frosting below.
Check out my scaled-down, small-batch version, Buttercream Frosting for Two Cupcakes.
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- Easy recipe: This is a classic, fool-proof, simple recipe that works every single time.
- Customizable: Add different flavors and colors to match your taste and style. See variations below.
- Simple ingredients: Easy to find ingredients in the grocery store that are pantry staples.
- powdered sugar - also called confectioner's sugar or icing sugar
- unsalted butter - room temperature butter
- vanilla extract - any vanilla will do (pure vanilla extract or imitation vanilla extract), but use clear vanilla extract if you want a pure white color.
- milk - whole milk OR heavy cream
- Cream the powdered sugar into the softened butter with a hand mixer in a medium size bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed until well incorporated.
- Increase to medium speed and blend for about 3 minutes until the consistency becomes creamy and spreadable. You can use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl if needed.
- Add vanilla extract and milk (or heavy cream) and beat for an additional minute. Add more milk if you need to thin it out to reach the right consistency.
To make this easy American buttercream recipe, you will need an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer. If using a stand mixer, you can use either the whisk attachment or the paddle attachment to make perfect buttercream.
- Use unsalted butter to keep the frosting from tasting salty.
- Start with room-temperature butter. If the butter is cold or not completely softened, it will not make a creamy frosting. Don't let cold butter get in the way of you and fluffy frosting.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar to prevent it from flying out of the bowl and creating a mess.
- Add the milk slowly and in small amounts until you reach the desired consistency. Too much milk can make the frosting too thin.
- Use a piping bag and tip to decorate your cakes and cupcakes. You can also use a spatula to spread the frosting on top of cakes and other desserts.
- Cake Decorating: American buttercream frosting is commonly used for cake decorating. It is easy to pipe and holds its shape well, making it perfect for creating intricate designs on birthday cakes and wedding cakes.
- Cupcake Decorating: Homemade frosting is also perfect for decorating cupcakes of any flavor (vanilla cupcakes are my favorite). You can create swirls, rosettes, and other designs using a piping bag and tip.
- Filling for Layer Cakes: It can also be used as a filling for layer cake. It pairs well with chocolate cake, vanilla, and other cake flavors.
- Frosting for Brownies and Cookies: Vanilla buttercream frosting can also be used to frost brownies and sugar cookies. It adds a sweet and creamy layer to the rich and fudgy brownies.
- Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: Add ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder to the frosting recipe.
- Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting: Replace half of the butter with cream cheese and add a pinch of salt.
- Lemon Buttercream Frosting: Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest to the frosting recipe.
- Raspberry Buttercream Frosting: Add ¼ cup of raspberry puree to the frosting recipe.
- Mint Buttercream Frosting: Add 1 teaspoon of mint extract and a few drops of green food coloring to the frosting recipe.
Types of Buttercream
There are several different types of buttercream frosting, each with its own unique flavor and texture. Here are some of the most common types of buttercream:
- American Buttercream: This is the most common type of buttercream in the United States. It's made with butter, powdered sugar, milk or cream, and vanilla extract. It is easy to make and can be flavored with different extracts, fruits, cocoa powder, or other ingredients.
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream: This is made with egg whites and sugar, which are heated over a double boiler and whipped to a meringue-like texture. Butter is then gradually added and whipped until the frosting is light and fluffy.
- Italian Meringue Buttercream: This is similar to Swiss meringue buttercream, but with a different method of cooking the sugar syrup. The sugar syrup is heated to a higher temperature, resulting in a more stable and silky texture.
- French Buttercream: This is a buttercream made with egg yolks, sugar, and butter. It has a rich and silky texture, and a delicate flavor. It is often used for filling or frosting delicate cakes or pastries.
- German Buttercream: This is a buttercream made with custard or pastry cream, butter, and sugar. It has a light and creamy texture and a subtle vanilla flavor.
- Ermine Buttercream: This is a buttercream made with flour, sugar, milk, and butter. It is cooked into a thick, pudding-like mixture and then whipped with butter to create a light and fluffy frosting.
American buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Before using it, let it come to room temperature and beat it again to ensure that it is smooth and creamy.
If you need to store leftover frosting for longer, you can freeze it for up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and let it come to room temperature before re-beating it to ensure that it is smooth and creamy. If the frosting looks separated or curdled after thawing, you can try re-beating it with an electric mixer to restore its texture.
American Buttercream Frosting
- 2.5 cups powdered sugar sifted
- ¾ cups unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon whole milk
- Cream the powdered sugar into the softened butter with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer on low speed until well incorporated.
- Increase the speed to medium and blend for about 3 minutes until the consistency becomes creamy and spreadable.
- Add the vanilla extract and whole milk (or heavy cream) and beat for an additional minute. Add more milk if you need to thin out the consistency.