Whip up your own delicious homemade buttercream frosting with this classic, quick and easy recipe! This recipe makes 2 cups of frosting, enough to frost 24 cupcakes. You will need a double recipe to ice an 8 in. 2-layer cake.
Once you make this light and fluffy vanilla-flavored frosting, there will be no going back to any other recipe or store-bought frosting. This is our top-requested recipe and is perfect for icing cakes, cupcakes, cookies or any other treat begging to be frosted. Its creamy consistency is also ideal for piping your favorite decorations.
From gathering your ingredients to adding colors and flavors, we’ve gathered our must-know tips and tricks for making, coloring, flavoring and storing your buttercream.
Homemade Buttercream Frosting vs. Store-Bought
It’s no secret that better ingredients mean better results. While store-bought frosting is good in a pinch, there’s no comparison when it comes to taste. Making your own buttercream gives you the ability to use fresher, better ingredients for an all-around better-tasting frosting.
The other great thing about making your own buttercream is that you can easily adjust the consistency. Add more liquid for a medium consistency buttercream, perfect for crumb-coating, spreading filling or icing your cake. More confectioners’ sugar results in a stiffer consistency frosting, ideal for piping decorations and borders. Store-bought icing is generally medium consistency, great for spreading, but often too soft for piping and decorating.
And when it comes to adding flavor and color, it’s always better to start with a homemade base. Some store-bought icings are naturally tinted due to their ingredients, which can make it hard to achieve bright, vibrant icing colors. However, if you make your buttercream from scratch, you can easily adjust the amount of butter or shortening in your recipe, resulting in a brighter white base. This is especially important when making black or red icing, which can be hard to achieve with store-bought frosting. Watch this video to Learn how Use Icing Colors to tint your homemade buttercream in rich bright colors!
Butter vs. Shortening
Our buttercream recipe calls for ½ butter and ½ solid vegetable shortening. This combination results in a stable, flavorful frosting that tastes and looks great. The butter offers flavor while the shortening helps your buttercream keep its shape, which is important for warmer climates or if you’re having a party outside.
By adjusting the ratio of butter to shortening, you can change how your buttercream tastes, looks and performs. Adding more butter means more of that creamy, rich flavor; however, the yellow tint of the butter may make it difficult to color your icing. The taste of the butter may also clash with other strong flavors, such as peppermint and citrus. Frosting made with more butter is also susceptible to warmer weather and humidity, which can cause your buttercream to melt.
Shortening helps give your buttercream stability and can be used as a substitution to butter if your goal is to get pure white buttercream. If you’re planning to pipe roses or flowers, using a buttercream with a higher shortening content will help ensure your flowers maintain their shape, even if they’re sitting out at room temperature.
Adding Salt to Your Buttercream
While salt is not essential, a little pinch can help cut the sweetness and enhance the flavor. To help evenly incorporate the salt flavor into the buttercream, use superfine popcorn salt rather than coarser table salt. Let the salt dissolve in a liquid ingredient to ensure there are no granules and that it blends evenly when added to the buttercream mixture.
Extracts vs. Clear Flavors
Extracts are available in a variety of flavors and are a fun way to customize your frosting. While extracts often do carry a tint to them, they probably won’t affect the color of your frosting too much, unless you’re making a pure white buttercream. In that instance, you can use clear extracts, which are available in vanilla, butter and almond flavors.
You can also have fun playing with unique flavor combinations using our Treatology Flavor Extracts. These little bottles only require a drop or two of flavor, so they won’t affect the consistency or color of your icing, plus they taste delicious!
How to Change the Consistency of Buttercream Frosting
If you were to make this buttercream recipe as is, it would result in a stiff consistency frosting. Stiff icing is great for piping roses, flowers with upright petals and borders, but doesn’t spread very easily. By adding more liquid, you can thin your icing to medium or thin consistency. Medium consistency is used for piping flowers with flat petals and decorations like rosettes, stars, dots, and flat borders. Thin consistency will get you smooth and spreadable icing, great for icing cakes, cookies and cupcakes. It’s also great for writing messages and piping fine details.
To thin your icing from stiff to medium or thin, simply add more of your main liquid ingredient (usually milk). For medium consistency, add 1 teaspoon of liquid per cup of stiff icing. For thin consistency, add 2 teaspoons per cup of stiff icing. Remember, a little liquid goes a long way. Start with one teaspoon at a time and add a little more as needed. To learn more about frosting consistencies, watch this video on How to Thin Icing.
To stiffen your icing, simply add more confectioners’ sugar. To avoid making your icing too stiff, start with a teaspoon at a time until you reach the consistency you need.
Using Room Temperature Ingredients
The ingredients for this frosting should all be at room temperature. If your buttercream has curdled, appears broken or the texture seems off, it’s most likely due to the temperature of your ingredients. Broken or curdled buttercream can also be caused by adding too much liquid to your recipe. If this happens stir in a small amount (a teaspoon at a time) of confectioner’s sugar to the frosting until it is smooth and fluffy.
How to Fix Melting Buttercream
If your buttercream looks like it’s falling off the cake or your piped decorations begin to droop, it’s very likely the temperature in the room is too hot, causing your buttercream to melt. If you live in a warm climate or know your cake will be outside or in a warm room, you can add a tablespoon of Meringue Powder for added strength and to help stabilize your frosting or use an all-shortening recipe.
Whether you’re looking to make beautiful blooming flowers or sweet Happy Birthday messages, this buttercream recipe is great for piping. If you’re new to piping, we suggest starting with medium consistency icing and doing a few practice decorations on a cake board or piece of waxed paper. For helpful tips on how prepare and fill your decorating bag, check out this video on Preparing and Filling Decorator Bags with frosting before you get started.
How Much Frosting Do I Need?
One recipe of buttercream frosting makes 2 cups of icing, which will spatula ice about 24 cupcakes. If you’re piping cupcake swirls, you will need 2 recipes for 24 cupcakes. To ice a 2-layer 8 in. cake, make 2 recipes of frosting.
The Cake Baking and Serving Guide is a real time saver, helping you figure how much frosting is needed for various sized cakes. It’s also a great source of information for baking and to help you estimate the number of servings a cake will make. Once you start using it, you’ll find yourself referring to it all the time!
Other Uses for Buttercream Frosting
Besides icing cakes and making decorations, buttercream can be used as a filling between cake layers, for sandwich cookies and is especially yummy as a surprise filling inside a cupcake. Use tip 230, the Bismarck tip, to pipe frosting inside cupcakes before you decorate them. Use your imagination trying different flavors!
You can also use buttercream frosting to ice cookies, brownies, rice cereal treats and more. While this icing will crust (it will be dry to the touch), it will not dry firm, like Cookie Icing or royal icing.
How to Flavor Buttercream Frosting
While vanilla and chocolate are popular buttercream flavors, homemade buttercream is a great base for adding any flavor you like. Try using flavored extracts, fruit powders or purees to change up the taste of your frosting. Keep in mind that adding more liquid will change the consistency of your buttercream. If necessary, you can substitute some of the liquid in your recipe with the flavoring (especially important if you’re adding fruit purees or curd).
You can also create unique flavor combinations with the Treatology Flavor System. With eight fun flavors, including Salted Caramel, Creamy Vanilla Custard, Warm Cinnamon Graham, Toasted Coconut, Crisp Champagne, Sweet Meyer Lemon, Juicy Peach and Fresh Basil, you can surprise and delight your friends with amazing flavor pairings!
Types of Buttercream Frosting
Looking to try a new variation on an old favorite? There are so many types of buttercream icing out there, each with its own set of unique flavors and uses.
Arguably the most popular of the buttercream recipes, American buttercream is made with butter, shortening, sugar and vanilla. It’s a familiar favorite and is quick and easy to make, well-loved for its flavor and versatility. It’s softer and more spreadable than most frostings, but can easily be stiffened to pipe flowers, roses and borders.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Swiss meringue buttercream is made by heating egg whites and sugar, then whipping that mixture into a meringue. Butter and flavors are added afterwards, resulting in a soft and fluffy icing. This buttercream is great for filling layers or frosting cakes.
Rich and creamy, French buttercream has a taste and consistency like custard or pastry cream. Made using pasteurized egg yolks and sugar, this buttercream is great for pastry or cake fillings.
Italian Meringue Buttercream
Similar to Swiss buttercream, Italian meringue buttercream uses the same ingredients, but in different proportions. This frosting is a bit sturdier than the Swiss version and is great for both piping and frosting cakes.
This buttercream combines custard and butter for a velvety silky texture great for filling and frosting cakes. German buttercream is less sweet than traditional frostings, making it a nice alternative to those who enjoy a less sugary frosting.
How to Make Buttercream Frosting
Using Room Temperature Butter
For great frosting every time, make sure you start with room temperature butter. If the butter is too cold, it won’t mix properly with the sugar, resulting in a lumpy frosting that may look curdled or separated. The best way to bring your butter to room temperature is to let it sit out on the counter for a few minutes to warm up.
To test if its ready, press your finger into the butter. If it makes an indent easily without your finger sliding anywhere, you’re good to go. If your finger comes out greasy or it goes through the butter easily, your butter may be too soft. Just put it back in the fridge to firm up a bit. If you are in a rush to warm up butter, or have more questions about preparing butter for baking, check out this blog on Softening Butter.
If you’d like to see this recipe in action, watch this video on How to Make Buttercream Frosting.
Easy Steps to Making Buttercream Frosting
Making traditional American buttercream is as easy as 1-2-3!
- In a large bowl, beat the shortening and butter with an electric mixer (or your hand mixer) until it’s light and fluffy, then add your flavoring of choice.
- Add your confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time. This is where a large bowl comes in handy, as confectioners’ sugar has a tendency to get everywhere! Start on a slow speed, then increase gradually to a medium speed. Continue adding sugar, 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed. Your icing will look dry at this point, and that’s okay. We’re about to fix that.
- The final step is adding the liquid (remember, a little goes a long way). Continue beating at medium speed until it’s light and fluffy.
Helpful Hints for Making Buttercream Frosting
- If you’re using a hand mixer, make one batch at a time to keep your mixer from overheating
- If your hand mixer is working too hard, you can add the liquid ingredients before the sugar
- To avoid air bubbles from forming, use the flat paddle attachment (on your stand mixer) or beaters (on your hand mixer)
- Do not use the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, as it will incorporate too much air into your mixture and your frosting will not look smooth
- Leftover buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Buttercream can also be frozen for up to six months. Before reusing, bring buttercream back to room temperature and rewhip using a paddle attachment until it’s back to the correct consistency.
- *Depending on the humidity and climate, it may be necessary to adjust the liquid and the sugar in your icing. If icing looks dry, add small amounts of liquid (¼ to ½ teaspoon at a time). If icing is too wet, add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time. The key for both adjustments is adding small amounts until you achieve the right consistency.
If you’d like to see this recipe in action, watch this video on How to Make Buttercream Frosting.
Natural Ways to Add Flavor to Buttercream Frosting
Flavor the buttercream for this Pink Grapefruit cake with grapefruit juice and zest for a fresh zingy flavor!
Cocoa powder is a natural way to make Chocolate Buttercream frosting. Use it to top chocolate or vanilla cake for a classic treat everyone will love.
This decadent Chocolate Mocha buttercream is a treat for coffee lovers. Pair it with a vanilla buttercream filling and fresh raspberries for a sweet indulgence!
Peppermint Buttercream frosting is a fun way to add a surprise flavor to cakes and cupcakes. It makes a refreshing filling, especially when paired with chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream.
This Strawberry Buttercream frosting is flavored with fresh strawberries, lemon juice and zest. Strawberry puree adds natural flavor and the soft pink color. It’s a win-win recipe!
Calling all peanut butter and chocolate lovers! This Peanut Buttercream Frosting is flavored with real peanut butter. Pair it with chocolate cake or spread it on brownies for a delicious treat.
Buttercream frosting can be made a day or two in advance. Keep it stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before using it. Once it’s at room temperature (should take about an hour), re-whip it to bring it back to a fluffy consistency.
If you’re making buttercream months in advance (or have leftover frosting), you can freeze it. Place buttercream in an air-tight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bring it to room temperature before re-whipping again.
If your buttercream starts to separate or curdle when re-whipping, it’s likely too cold. Let it sit for a while and warm up a little longer, then try again.
Buttercream Frosting Recipe
1/2 cup (92 g) solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) (112 g) butter or margarine
4 cups (455 g) sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons (30 g) milk
1 teaspoon (5 g) Pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon (5 g) Imitation Clear Vanilla Extract
- In large bowl, beat shortening and butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.
- Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. With a silicone spatula, scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, frosting will appear dry.
- Gradually add milk or water; beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
This recipe is for stiff consistency buttercream, which is excellent for piping decorations like flowers. However, it will need to be thinned for frosting cakes and borders.
- For medium consistency, add 1 teaspoon (5 g) of liquid per cup (226 g) of stiff frosting.
- For thin consistency, add 2 teaspoons (10 g) per cup (226 g) of stiff frosting.
What other tips and tricks do you have for making your own buttercream? Let us know in the comments below!
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