Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is one of my quick, classic go-to frosting recipes that I turn to time and again.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting | ©addapinch.com

My family absolutely adores it, it is so very simple to make, and you just can’t beat that classic vanilla buttercream for all sorts of celebratory and everyday type of desserts. It is perfect for my white cake recipe for birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations and works as a delicious, yet stark visual contrast on chocolate cake, too. It is great sandwiched between a couple of butter cookies or spread on top of a cookie cake, as well. You just can’t beat the versatility of good ole vanilla buttercream frosting. It just works.

I am consistently receiving emails asking about my vanilla buttercream frosting, so I thought I’d repost the recipe by itself instead of it being included along with my chocolate cupcake recipe where it is scaled down for just 12 cupcakes.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting | ©addapinch.com

I also thought I’d answer a few of your questions as well.

How do you get your vanilla buttercream frosting so white? 

There are a few tricks to getting my vanilla buttercream frosting as white as I do. First, after each cup of confectioner’s sugar that I add, I turn my stand mixer on the highest speed that it will go. This not only makes the frosting extremely fluffy, it also lightens the coloring of the frosting as air is incorporated.

My second trick is to use clear vanilla extract whenever I want my vanilla buttercream as white as possible. Mind you, vanilla buttercream frosting still has butter in it, so it is virtually impossible to get it pure white. It will still have a bit of a tint of the yellow, albeit it will be faint. Most folks probably will say it is pure white. We’ll just know it isn’t exactly pure white, just as close as a vanilla buttercream can get without substituting shortening for the butter.

How do you get your vanilla buttercream frosting so fluffy? 

I skipped ahead when I answered the question above and explained how after each cup of confectioner’s sugar that I add to the buttercream, I turn my stand mixer on the highest setting that it will go. This incorporates air into the buttercream and makes it lighter and fluffier.

I also use the paddle attachment of my stand mixer as I have just found it to make a smoother, fluffier buttercream frosting than when I use the whip attachment. Also, it is easier to get all of that delicious buttercream frosting off of your paddle attachment than it is the whip attachment. And I’m all about easy. Heh.

How do I make my vanilla buttercream firmer for a prettier decoration?

The firmness of your buttercream frosting greatly depends on the amount of sugar to liquid ratio in your frosting. If you want a firmer frosting, add more confectioner’s sugar. If you want a softer frosting, add more milk or cream.

Please know that I in no way am professing to be a professional baker, frosting maker, or anything else for that matter. These are my observations after years and years of making buttercream frosting and finding little nuances that make it easier, prettier, tastier, and more everything -er.

Here’s my Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe along with a few instructions and notes.

4.5 from 34 reviews
Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is one of the classic frosting recipes used on so many delicious desserts! Get this favorite vanilla buttercream frosting recipe along with all the tips for making perfect buttercream frosting every time.
Author:
Serves: 4½ cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3 - 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
Instructions
  1. Place softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on a medium setting and cream the butter until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add confectioner's sugar, ½ a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
  3. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
  4. Add milk, heavy cream or half-and-half until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner's sugar, a ¼ cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time.

 

Happy frosting making! Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how you make the perfect vanilla buttercream frosting? Please share them in the comment!

If you are looking for other buttercream frosting flavors, you might like these:

Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Nutella Buttercream Frosting

Love ya,
Robyn xo

 

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Comments

  1. 140

    Heather says

    What size cake would this cover? I am making a 9in four layer cake for Easter and wondered if this should cover it, or if I should double? We don’t do thick amounts of frosting, since it will be decorated with wafer grass, but still wanted to have enough. Thanks so much! 😀

  2. 149

    Kathy says

    I just made your chocolate buttercream frosting about an hour ago, and it’s fabulous! Perfect directions, and tastes delicious. I made a large cake and there are only a few of us here, so I know it won’t get eaten right away. Does it need to be refrigerated?

    • 151

      Jack Martin says

      I’ve found it can cover about 24 cupcakes with a fairly generous amount of frosting when piped, and if done with an offset spatula, leaves a bit left over.

  3. 152

    Sophie Bailey says

    Hello! This recipe looks fab, but I work on UK measurements! How much is a cup of butter? Thank you!
    Sophie
    X

    • 153

      John says

      Converting the recipe to UK metric:

      250 grams butter
      500 grams icing sugar
      10 ml vanilla extract
      30 – 45 ml milk

      The amount of icing sugar may need to be adjusted up or down to get the desired consistency, but 2 to 1 sugar to butter is a good starting point.

  4. 154

    cezanne says

    How warm/cold should the milk be? I want to make earl gray and lavendar frosting and am wondering if I could heat the milk up to absorb the tea flavour better. Should I let it cool to around room temperature or chill it in the fridge?

    Also every time I have made buttercream frosting it gets chunky and the butter doesnt mix properly in with the other ingredients. Is the butter too cold? Am I overmixing??

    • 155

      says

      Your butter should be softened to room temperature and your milk/ cream can warmed to absorb the flavor and then cooled completely. Make sure that it doesn’t have any heat remaining in the milk or the frosting won’t come together and hold properly.

  5. 157

    Vanessa says

    Hi

    I came across your vanilla frosting since I am looking for one to cover a cake that I want to bake for my son’s birthday. It will have a firetruck shape so I wonder if this is thick enough?

    Also can I add food coloring?

    Thank you in advance

    Regards

    Vanessa

    • 158

      says

      Hi Vanessa,
      I think this frosting will work perfectly. It is thick and covers well and works perfectly with coloring. I would recommend using gel coloring so as not to add much additional moisture to the frosting. Happy birthday to your son!

      • 159

        Vanessa says

        Hi Robyn

        Thank you ever so much for replying and for the birthday wishes.

        That’s wonderful to know. I don’t want to use the supermarket ones because of the artificial taste so I will surely use yours.

        Thanks for the tip on the gel coloring as well.

        • 160

          Vanessa says

          Sorry Robyn

          I forgot to ask. Because I’m in the UK I’m not sure if 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar is the same amount as in the US? My cup is roughly 250ml? I would assume it’s the same but can you just confirm?
          Thanks again

  6. 161

    Inbal says

    Hey,
    This looks great! I do have a question though… Is this recipe really buttery? What I mean is, is it a sweet suger frosting or heavy duty butter taste to it…? Would love an answer… Thanks you!! =)

  7. 163

    Virginia says

    Hi,
    Can’t wait to try your icing. I was wondering if since you are using cream, do you need to keep the cake refridgerated or will it be fine on the counter? Also, I generally have some icing left over, can I freeze the extra for another time?

  8. 164

    Anna says

    This looks great, I’m going to try it for my son’s first birthday cake this weekend. Do you think frosting it the night before will be okay? I have a cake stand with cover. If so, should I keep it on counter or in fridge over night? (sorry this might be silly question- I don’t have a lot of baking experience!)

  9. 166

    Alexa Corteza says

    Thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes for both cake and frosting. They are easy and always yield great results especially for someone like me who is new to baking from scratch. It was such a treat for my parents on their 25th anniversary!

  10. 167

    eri says

    Hi there! I’m planning to use this recipe for my cupcakes. I’m just wondering if making it double would cover 72 cupcakes? They are not regular sized cupcakes though, not minis either. I think somewhere in between. Maybe 1.5oz, not sure. Thanks in advance. Great recipe, btw! (:

  11. 170

    Emily says

    Can I use this frosting and add food coloring if I’m making a kids’ birthday cake? Specifically, I’m trying to make a superman cake, so I’ll need blue, red and yellow frosting :) I want a frosting that’s somewhat firm but good tasting. Thank you!!

    • 172

      Allie says

      Confectioners sugar and fine sugar are completely different. Because confectioners sugar is powder it sort of absorbs the butter, which is how it thickens and makes it icing. Fine sugar would just give you really sweet and gritty butter. Lol. Hope I’m not too late with this info for you.

  12. 173

    Parrish Nored says

    Hey Robyn,
    I made this icing and put it on cupcakes made from Betty Crocker white cake mix for our July 4th Barbecue. They were wonderful and they are gone! what a great, easy icing recipe. I did add Almond extract to the cake and icing. Thank you for such wonderful recipes!

  13. 175

    Jesi says

    I have a 600 watt Kitchenaid mixer. I’m wondering if the mixer you used is the same wattage? I just worry about my highest setting differing than what you used, as I don’t want frosting flung all over the kitchen. Just wanted to be sure before I use this recipe.

    • 176

      says

      Hi Jesi,
      I’ve used different wattages of mixers to make my buttercream. I would recommend gradually increasing the speed until you feel comfortable that it is mixing at a high enough speed without flinging contents all over the place :)

  14. 177

    Danielle says

    Hi, since the butter cream recipe no longer comes with the chocolate cupcake recipe what would the measurements be for 12 cupcakes?

  15. 180

    Cindy Roussy says

    This buttercream is amazing! My daughter wanted cotton candy icing, so I bought some really good cotton candy flavouring. I substituted the vanilla for 3/4 of a teaspoon of flavouring. It turned out incredible! It’s so fluffy and white, which is perfect as we are using gel colouring to colour the icing, so this won’t change the colours at all. This will be q staple buttercream in my recipe book now.

  16. 182

    says

    I didn’t have a paddle attachment for my mixer, so I was deciding to use a whisk attachment or do it by hand. I decided to do it by hand with a paddle, while i made the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting with the whisk attachment. The Chocolate Buttercream turned out so much better! I added extra powdered sugar to make the Vanilla Buttercream thicker, but should i do anything else to make my frosting fluffy, yet thick? Should I go over it with a whisk attachment on the mixer? I need to know by tomorrow.

  17. 183

    Allie says

    Hi. I love this recipe and your cake recipe. I’m making both for my daughter’s first birthday party next weekend. However, there is a lot of preparation I all have to do. If I make this two days ahead of time, would it still be easily spread of I keep it in the fridge the whole time. I’m making a two layer 9 in round cake with a 6 in round layer on top for the smash cake and about 50 cupcakes. I’m planning to make three batches of the cake batter and three batches of the icing, making each batch of icing a different color. But I’m worried the time in the fridge might alter the consistency with the gel food coloring in our alert the vibrance of the color. Any thoughts?

  18. 184

    Maria says

    I tried your white cake and it was so perfect! big hit :) can I use this buttercream recipe to do a frozen buttercream transfer? I keep reading that you need a buttercream that is half butter, half shortening to do the transfer. I’m just wondering if this one being all butter would work or it wouldn’t freeze?

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