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.

4.4 from 27 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

      • 70

        Jeff says

        Regarding the white cake. Can you cut the recipe in half? Not sure if you tried that, or use a 9 x13 pan?

        • 71

          says

          Hi Jeff,
          I make the white cake in a rimmed sheet pan frequently and it does really well. I don’t halve the recipe for using that pan, though. I would recommend dividing the recipe in half for a 9×13.

  1. 74

    says

    You asked for tips and hints. Well, I always, but always, use pure whipping cream for the liquid. I find it makes a much fluffier and much more dependable frosting than the other two milk substitutes.
    I also use only salted butter, because the unsalted has added flavorings, which I don’t want.
    Lastly, you can add a bit of salt to this, even so, and if you do so before you add the liquid, it will be encapsulated in the butter, and then if you tint it a dark color, and if moisture draws to each salt granule, the frosting will surprise you with white flecks amidst all the dark frosting, after a day’s wait, giving a starry night effect. “If” is a big word, here, but it is a nice look, if and when it turns out. :)

  2. 75

    Tammy says

    Possibly the best buttercream I have made! Thank you for the tip beating after each 1/2 c of sugar! Mine turned out amazing

  3. 76

    says

    Amazing frosting! I love the fact that there is no shortening in this recipe. I have seen similar recipes that call for way more sugar, and I can’t imagine how sweet they must be. This one is perfect – texture, flavor, color is great (followed directions exactly). Definitely a keeper! Thank you!

  4. 77

    Jen says

    Love this recipe! Thank you so much. Every other time I’ve tried making buttercream frosting the consistency turned out gritty. Your instructions are so helpful; creaming the butter first and whipping on high speed after each addition of confectioners sugar. Brilliant!

  5. 79

    Jaimie Parnell says

    Im baking for the first time and I found this cake simple and easy to make…
    The flavor was perfect, light and fluffy….Perfect for any special occasion :)
    I had no buttermilk so I just changed to to ” 1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice and fresh milk, I used a 1 cup measuring cup and left the two ingredients to mess together on there own. After 5 mins I gave it a quick stir and into the mix it went…” Really the favor was awesome! Thanks for sharing your family secrets with us robin… we love baking them.

    regards Jaimie Parnell

  6. 80

    Jezrel says

    Just stumbled upon your blog while looking for the “best vanilla cake recipe” and your site came up and I tried your recipe tonight and I must say that it’s the best vanilla cupcake I’ve ever made. Will definitely keep this recipe and will do a cake as well using your frosting recipes which I can’t wait to try. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  7. 81

    Cheryl R says

    I’ve always disliked the way vanilla colors the frosting. I’ve never heard there was a clear vanilla. Where can I find it? I’m baking today, for hubby, who is turning 51 as we watch the Denver/Seattle game. He’s a rabid Denver Bronco fan while the rest of the three of us are fairly rabid Seattle Seahawk fans. It’s interesting here, and a good thing we love each other so much,
    :)

    • 82

      says

      You can usually find clear vanilla extract at stores that sell baking supplies, like Hobby Lobby or Michaels. You can also find online at Amazon.

  8. 83

    Cate says

    I wanted to let you know that this is THE Best buttercream recipe I have ever made. The technique of adding the sugar one cup at a time and speeding the mixer up is great. Plus, I used salted butter which I have never done before. Thank you for sharing those tips. I used it to frost the Best White Cake I found on your site. The friends I made it for loved it! I will for sure be making this again, but now I have my eye on the Southern Caramel Cake…
    Thanks again!

  9. 84

    Sara says

    This is seriously the best buttercream I’ve ever made. My family loves it and they are extremely picky about their icings. It holds color well too. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. 85

    Birgitta Holm says

    Can I use this frosting on a cake that I am going to cover in fondant? I need a delish tasting frosting that I can use for that :) Thanks

  11. 89

    Christina says

    Recipe: 2-3 tablespoons milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half

    Does it matter if you use milk, heavy cream or half and half? I want to choose the best of the three but not sure which that would be?

  12. 92

    Ken Roberts says

    Help! The taste and thickness is perfect. But, mine turned out gritty. What did I do wrong?

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful (non-shortening) recipe!

  13. 94

    Heather B. says

    Michaels sells white icing color drops by Wilton which whitens the frosting for those who were asking about how to make the frosting whiter.

  14. 95

    lily says

    Is there a way to make it not so sweet? My family does not like very sweet frosting too much. Can I use less powdered sugar and use shortening instead of butter? Would that help keep the frosting firm?

  15. 96

    Jake says

    I like the tips of beating on the highest speed and creaming the butter first, but the recipe just tasted like butter and sugar, even though it looked great.

  16. 99

    Lucy says

    Am making this for a first communion, as i don’t like the sickly taste of fondant! This cake looks amazing on the website (don’t know what mine will turn out like though :)
    fingers crossed!!!!

    • 101

      says

      Hi Lucy,
      I placed about 1/4 cup of frosting on the cake stand before I placed my bottom layer on it so that it worked as a sort of “glue” to hold the cake in place on the stand. Then, spread frosting on top of the bottom layer and stacked the second layer on top of it. Some use cake dowels or bamboo sticks cut to size to hold their cake layers in place. I don’t find it needed with this cake, but you may decide you need them. Once I have the cake layers stacked and aligned like I want them, I spread a thin coat all over the cake to seal it as a crumb-coat. Once the crumb coat is on the cake, I then begin with the sides and frost the cake, moving all around until the sides are well covered. Then, I frost the top of the cake. Once it is completely frosted, I go back over it with a spatula to make sure it looks as close to how I would like for it to look as possible. That’s it. It sounds a lot harder than it actually is. I hope that answers your questions and I didn’t misunderstand you! xo

  17. 103

    Summer says

    I want to make a sponge cake with butter icing for my mum’s birthday,which is going to be my first time…am so scared of how its going to turn out to be

  18. 105

    Eden says

    You can avoid the yellow tint from butter by getting all-natural butter. most store-bought butters have an artificial yellow coloring in them, home-made butters will be a nearly pure white.

    • 106

      Aimie says

      This is a GREAT point! I just made butter yesterday (we were making a thank you gift that included homemade bread so it is only proper to include homemade butter, right?) and it is MUCH more white than store bought butter.

  19. 108

    jamie says

    LOVE this recipe. I did 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of imitation butter flavor. Just for a bit of an extra butter flavor. Soooo yummy!

  20. 109

    Jacki says

    I am an impatient cook/Baker whatever. So if I get bored, which happens very quickly, I tend to shorten things up (i.e. properly mixing the frosting). Thanks for sharing the science behind it. Now that I know what the purpose of mixing so long is, I will do it! Frosting is amazing!

  21. 110

    Jenny says

    I love this recipe SO much! Your tip for mixing in 1/2 cup at a time makes all the difference. I do this will all my frosting recipes now! My modification: I use an all natural vanilla flavored coffee creamer instead of milk or cream…gives it that extra layer of deliciousness! Keep up the delicious work! :)

    • 111

      says

      I’m so glad you find that tip useful! I think it makes a huge difference in the consistency of frosting! I love your idea of adding the vanilla flavored coffee creamer! Oh at the possibilities! :)

  22. 112

    Melissa says

    I’ve made this several times now, it is a fantastic recipe and I love the taste, just right. I just use whatever butter I have lol and just follow your instructions and voila, beautiful white frosting

  23. 115

    Ana Castro Yanez says

    This frosting recipe was very useful. I added some lemon juice and cinnamon to mine. Thank you so much and God bless you!

  24. 116

    Shelby says

    Sorry to leave a bad comment but I followed this recipe to a “T” and it turned out awful. It’s runny and has absolutely no consistency. Usually I can find something to do with my recipe fails but I don’t know what I’ll even do with this. I may just deal with the loss of supplies and just toss the stuff.

  25. 119

    Angela Ponder says

    Can I frost these the night before?? Because it is butter I think I will frost and put in fridge overnight???

    • 120

      says

      Hi Angela,
      You absolutely can frost your cake the night before. You can store it in the refrigerator if you like and depending on your climate (if it is hot, etc), but you don’t have to do so.

  26. 121

    Malay Washi says

    Hey I made this and everyone loved but me. I could taste either my vanilla or sugar too much. Could you please tell me the brand butter, sugar, and vanilla I should use as my go to? I have this problem a lot and have tried various brands but something just doesn’t taste up to par.

  27. 124

    Christine says

    I’m going to make this today for my son’s birthday cake. I can’t wait. I’ve been looking for a better cake recipe and I’m so excited to try this one. Thanks for posting your expertise for us to use!

  28. 125

    Nathan says

    Thank you so much for the recipe it was my wifes 39th birthday the other day and i made her a cake….now im no shakes at baking but i love to cook, and it turned out perfect i i upsized the ingredients due to the size of my cake but worked beautifully with a hand mixer thanks again Robyn

  29. 126

    DeboraMG says

    This cake is amazing! It is so soft that melts in the mouth. I did it for Valentine’s day today, and my husband and I loved it!

  30. 127

    Hannah G. says

    Wow… talk about the best EVER frosting. This is now my vanilla frosting recipe for every occasion. Every time I first a cake with this frosting, everyone ALWAYS comments on the frosting. I live in South Asia so some ingredients are hard to get by, like whip cream. So I have to substitute milk, which doesn’t always work. But by far, this is the best frosting I’ve made. Now to find a vanilla cake recipe to go along with it…

  31. 128

    Jennifer L says

    I was looking for a new vanilla buttercream frosting for cupcakes for my daughter’s 4th birthday. Found it Thursday and tried it Friday morning for the party. WOW! I love it and so did everyone at her party! And I’m super picky about buttercream, because sometimes it’s too sweet for me. I made chocolate cupcakes and piped on the vanilla buttercream (love the look of that combo). I used a combo of whipping cream and milk. It was creamy and smooth, but firm enough to hold it shape for the cute swirls I made on top. Thanks for sharing this!

  32. 129

    Valeria says

    I’m looking for one that will be great for putting on a cake before the fondant. Will this frosting dry? Also, how long can it be left out at room temperature?

  33. 130

    Thomas says

    Would it be okay if I used this recipe with your chocolate cupcakes for a school project? I’m sure you wouldn’t mind, but I figured it would be nice to ask.

  34. 132

    Emma says

    I know this is an old post, but is this a crusting buttercream? I am looking for a nice frosting for a wedding cake, but not too big on crusting frostings.

  35. 134

    Madalyn says

    I made your Classic Vanilla Buttercream frosting yesterday to top a birthday cake I was making for a friend. I had been searching for a simple delicious recipe any home cook could make. Anyone does not need to look any further than this one! Everyone loved the frosting! I started only with using 3 cups of sifted sugar as directed, but ended up using all 4 cups in the batch. It was nice and smooth, I almost forgot to incorporate the milk. The milk added just the right touch. This frosting also stands up well when using food coloring.

  36. 135

    Emily says

    Thank you so much for this! Because of dietary restrictions, I had to make it completely dairy free. So in place of butter, I had to use margarine (I used Earth Balance brand) and in place of the milk or cream, I used soy milk (Wegman’s store brand, for what it’s worth). I also only have a hand mixer. So even with these maybe less-than-ideal replacements, it was awesome! I mean a million times better than anything that I’ve ever had that comes out of a can from the store. I used it on our daughter’s birthday cake and people were commenting how good it was. Creamy, smooth, and with real flavor. I was happy to tell our friends and family that I finally found my go-to recipe on this site! So thank you again for posting this.

    • 136

      says

      I’m so glad you loved it Emily and made the adjustments that were just perfect for you! Happy birthday wishes to your daughter! xo

  37. 137

    Granny Jo says

    I’ve been searching for a different buttercream frosting. I used your recipe yesterday for my daughter’s birthday cake. OMG this is the most fluffy and deelish frosting ever! Not greasy tasting like some buttercreams. I think the beating on high after every addition of sugar is the key. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

    Robin, I can’t thank you enough!

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