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 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. // 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 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. // 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.

Yield: 4 1/2 cups

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Total Time 10 minutes
Prep Time 10 minutes
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.
4.7 from 72 votes
Did you make this recipe?

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

Directions

  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, 1/2 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 1/4 cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time.

Notes

If you want to make the buttercream frosting ahead, place it into an airtight container and refrigerate. When ready to use, let the frosting come to room temperature, then beat it again with the mixer until fluffy.

All images and text © Robyn Stone for Add a Pinch

 

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

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Love ya,
Robyn xo

 

358 comments on “Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe”

  1. can i use this recipe to make a 9 by 13 cake ?

  2. Can I use food coloring with this recipe. I want a green color frosting

  3. How long can you keep the frosting before it goes bad?

  4. The most creamiest and delicious frosting i have ever made. thank you for sharing this recipe

  5. Why do some butter cream recipes use unsalted butter?

    • Different brands of butter contain different levels of salt. You cant control the level of salt in the butter either so it’s best to use unsalted, and then add salt if desired, to taste. Nothing worst than having a salty icing because the confectioners sugar that you will use will definitely bring out the salt taste

  6. I live in Poland and the confectioners sugar here is wonky, to coarse or something. So nothing ever tastes right, except for this. The method really made up for the local ingredients, My kid just declared this the best frosting ever. Thank you!

    • Just put regular sugar in a food processor with a cutting blade, process it for a while, with some pulses, and you might get something quite close to confectiner’s sugar.
      Maybe this frosting works better than others because the milk helps dissolve the sugar. Other frostings with no milk will leave coarse sugar just coarse, and this will make the frosting unpleasant…

  7. Thank you for sharing this recipe. It is absolutely perfect

  8. Can you half this recipe and be able to cover a 9 x 13 cake? My family does not like a real thick layer of icing on our cakes. I made this recipe like it states, but it ended up being very thick on my 9 x 13 cake. Also, because you put cream or milk in it and it is not cooked, do you have to store it in the fridge?

  9. I just made the cake but want to freeze until next week – should i frost it before freezing or next week when I serve it?

  10. Hi is it salted or unsalted butter? Thank you!

  11. For the sugar, the recipe calls for this:

    3 – 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

    does that mean 3-4 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar or 3-4 cups of confectioner’s sugar that is then sifted? I am not sure if I need to sift the sugar and then measure or measure the sugar, then sift it.

    Thanks.

  12. Hi, I made this vanilla buttercream frosting today for your chocolate cupcakes and the cupcakes turned out great and so delicious. But the frosting was kind of a disaster, it turned out grainy and wasn’t at all pretty, white, or smooth. I halved the recipe. Is there something I may have done wrong?

    I would appreciate an answer, as I usually never fail with a recipe and also I would love to do these cupcakes again with this frosting.

    Kind regards
    S

    • This recipe didn’t call for any “grainy” ingredients, so my only guesses would be:

      1. You used white sugar instead of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar; or
      2. You did use the correct type of sugar, but did not sift it adequately.

      Hopefully your butter wasn’t the grainy part >_>

    • It’s important to beat the softened butter first (and all at once) until it’s creamy and light. Until I learned this my buttercream icing often ended up grainy.

  13. YUM!! Thank you!

  14. Thank you very much for this recipe as well as the chocolate cake recipe (all of the versions!) which I’ve baked several times over the past couple of months with great success. I love baking but had gotten tired of my two go-to chocolate cake recipes. This recipe is so easy and quick and with three children including a newborn this is exactly what I need ?
    Happy New Year!

  15. Just want to add that this is the best and most descriptive buttercream recipe ever. I stopped making buttercream after several grainy attempts and mostly use store bought fudge icing. Beautiful fluffy almost completely white buttercream icing. Lovely! I now have the perfect cake for New Years Eve. Thanks again!

    • Oh thanks so much, Carmen! I love making this frosting for so many cakes and treats and am so glad you enjoy it too! It am sure what you’ve baked will be beautiful for New Years Eve! Thanks again! xo

  16. Made this recipe for the first time last night..OMG it is so awesome, my daughter and her friend loved it..I do have one question tho, i refrigerated it, to get it smooth again should i just add some more cream??? Thanks

  17. I pinned this awhile ago but don’t believe I tried it until today. I often make buttercream but everytime I forget which exact recipe I followed 😀 So today I followed this one and I loved your tips explaining how to make it the best rather than just throw all these things together. It came out delicious and I love how it was hard after frosting so the designs aren’t dripping away like I’ve had in the past. It looks professional! Due to lack of time (and patience lol) tonight I just quickly shook powdered sugar one cup at a time into a measuring cup and then mixed it in, and repeat. I did the full 4 cups. I also used probably the full 3 tbsp of milk. It came out the perfect consistency. We added a few drops of red to make it pink. It’s delicious and this will be my go to recipe now! Thanks!!

    • I’m so glad you love it, Suz! I found that those little nuances make it so much better than just adding it all at once and mixing. I’m so glad you did, too! xo

  18. is this recipe enough for a 10 inch and a 8 inch cake?

  19. I tried this for my son’s birthday last month and it was BY FAR the BEST buttercream I’ve had!! I’ve searched high and low the last 3 years for a good one and this is going on my recipe book! We have lots of birthday parties in our family and I’m beyond thrilled to have found the one!!!!!!! THANK YOU!

  20. Hi! I was wondering how much of this i should make for a 3 layer 6-inch cake? (frosting outsides and between the layers). Thank you in advance!

  21. Hi Robyn,

    I tried this recipe for a cake I made for a colleague earlier this week and it was absolutely delicious! Your tips were so useful too , they made the whole process of making it much easier. And I don’t even have a stand alone mixer, just used a good old hand mixer, so I can only imagine how better it could get if I did have one. Thank you so much for sharing, I will use it again!

    Nadina

  22. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for this recipe. Not only did I use your vanilla buttercream icing recipe, but I also made your best ever chocolate cake. I was designated by my friends to make a birthday cake, which I did last minute early in the morning on the day. I found your chocolate cake, which was deliciously moist. Only down side is I could taste the one teaspoon of salt, but then again I reduced the sugar to one cup instead of the two. But the vanilla icing made up for everything. I made a double staked cake so i used the cut out pieces and whisked it with the vanilla icing. It came out really pretty and made the whole cake amazing. My friends and the birthday girl could not stop talking about how delicious it was. Thank you for making our day with your recipes.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this frosting and the Best Chocolate Cake Ever – I love this combination too! As far as the cake itself, you are correct about the reduced sugar being why you tasted salt in the cake.
      Your cake sounds so pretty! I’m glad you let me know that you liked it! Thanks so much! xo

  23. should i use the whisk for the standing mixer or the other placement

  24. Could I use this frosting to make roses or decorations? If so, by how much should I alter the amount of powdered sugar I add?

  25. Will the cake need to be refrigerated if using this buttercream icing?

  26. How do I make my buttercream smooth not grainy if I use confectioner’s sugar?

    • Hi Aini,
      If you prepare it according to the recipe instructions, it should not be grainy. Besides, I don’t think confectioner’s sugar would be grainy. I hope you enjoy the frosting. Thanks!

  27. If I want to use almond flavoring, should I still use some vanilla as well? I was thinking 1/2 tsp of vanilla and 1 1/2 tsps of almond. Or is almond too strong and should it be 1 tsp of each? Thank you!!

  28. Hi Robeyn!
    I recently took up a hobby for baking (after watching the great british baking show) but I’ve found that whenever I make buttercream frosting, it is always grainy and so runny that I can’t pipe it. Troubleshooting? Also is confectioners sugar the same as powdered sugar because usually buttercream calls for powdered. Thanks.

    • Hi Rachel,
      Baking is such a fun thing to do! I’m glad you enjoy it!
      One thing I’ve found that causes that with buttercream can be if butter has gotten too soft or melted.
      And you are correct about confectioners and powdered sugar being the same.
      Thanks so much! xo

  29. Could I crush up some Oreos to put in the icing and make cookies and cream buttercream? Also, could this icing be put on the cake and refrigerated the day before it’s eaten?

    • Hi April,
      I’ve never crushed up cookies in the frosting, but it sounds delicious! Let me know how that turns out!
      You can definitely make the cake and frost it the day ahead, but there’s not a need to refrigerate it. It will be fine for a few days without refrigeration – I just put mine on cake plate with cover.
      Thanks so much!

  30. Could I crush up some Oreos real fine and toss them in to make it cookies and cream buttercream? Also, could I put it on the cake and refrigerate the day before the cake is eaten?

  31. Do you use salted or unsalted butter?

    • Most professionals recommend using unsalted butter for baking and frostings, etc. I generally keep salted butter on hand since it has a longer shelf life in the refrigerator. So, all that said, I use salted, but you can use whichever you prefer or have on hand! 🙂

  32. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe. It’s the best one! Simple yet delicious! And SO easy to use.
    I’m a beginner and I used this recipe for the first cake I ever made. My cake was perfect!

    THANK YOU!

    • Yay, that’s wonderful Wendy! I’m so happy you had such success on the first cake you’ve baked – that’s a wonderful feeling!!!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the cake and frosting! Thanks so much! xo

  33. Is the boiling water necessary?

    • Hi Jessica,
      I think you may be referring to the Best Chocolate Cake that has boiling water in the recipe since there is none in this frosting recipe. If that is the recipe you are asking about, it is very necessary to use the boiling water as in the recipe for the best results. Thanks!

  34. Hello Robin, thanks for the recipe. Do you find that this is enough to frost your white cake recipe or do you make extra? Made the cake today, delicious by the way thanks for that recipe also it was a hit! But I needed to make extra frosting to cover the cake. Thank you

  35. Hi Robyn,
    This recipe + the chocolate cake is unreal. Thank you! Question- I made this and frosted some cupcakes right away, and it was bright white- beautiful! Then, I put the rest of the frosting in the fridge and frosted the remaining cupcakes 6 hours later. They were not bright white at all but more yellowy. I refrigerated all cupcakes and the next day the first batch was still bright white, the second batch still yellow. What?

    • Hi Sima,
      I’m so happy you enjoy the cake and the frosting! I’m sorry, but I’ve not this happen before with the frosting turning off-white. But if I ever refrigerate my buttercream frosting, I put it in an airtight container…then when ready to use, I let it come to room temperature, and then beat it again with the mixer until really fluffy. I hope this helps!
      Thanks so much!

  36. Ok I made the cake first completely following the directions and tips. Then the frosting and doubled it as you suggested. Two things:. One the cake was so good it didn’t need frosting! But I frosted it for my ten year old who has autism and is very picky about cakes. He doesn’t eat candy, cookies or chips like typicall kids. He only likes cupcakes or cakes, frosted of course. The second thing is:. He absolutely loved this cake and got a kick out of it being three layers! He gave it a two thumbs up! Thank you for the recipe!

    • Oh Debra I’m absolutely thrilled that your son enjoyed it and was excited about the layers! His two thumbs up are such an honor to me today! Thank you so much for telling me this! xo

  37. First of all, this frosting turned out delicious!!! Except I had to add literally twice as much sugar as the recipe stated. After coming up with really soupy “frosting” I looked up the butter to sugar ratio for buttercream and it said it was 4:1 instead of the 2:1 this recipe called for.

    • Hi Caitlin,
      I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the frosting! I’ve never had it turn out soupy, nor have I had to double the sugar. It’s always the perfect consistency every time I make it, so I can’t be sure what happened. Thanks!

  38. Can you add pink gel coloring to make it pink icing?

  39. Hi please help. I am panicking. lol. seriously. my daughter’s graduation party is in Am and I am doing cake and cup cakes .. piping buttercream roses to the cake will this recipe work for that? What about adding color to make the Roses yellow or purple thank you? If I can color the ice icing what kind of coloring should I add liquid gel or? This icing goes well with chocolate or vanilla cake correct? I know this is a lot of questions but one more thing when stacking round cakes on top of one another do I need to add support? Any help or advice forever appreciated. thank you kindly.

  40. just clarifying to be sure… the instructions section,
    4. Add milk, heavy cream or half-and half until yhe frosting has reached the preferred consistency.
    Does it mean that i get to choose whether i want to use milk, heavy cream or half-and-half? or do i need to have all three for this recipe? sorry but i am not sure

  41. How long is the cake supposed to bake? It doesn’t say in the recipe above?

  42. Hello,
    How much frosting does this recipe make ? I’m planning on making a 4 layer 8-inch cake this week.
    Thank you 🙂

    • I’m not a professional, but I noticed in her white cake recipe (three 9-inch layers) she recommended doubling this frosting recipe…so maybe the same for your cake? That is what I’m planning to try.

  43. Love your recipes and have made them several times Now! Wanted to change things up a bit and used coconut oil to cake and added a teaspoon of coconut extract. Still in oven. Now I’d like to make coconut buttercream. Do I replace vanilla extract with coconut or just add coconut extract to recipe?

  44. Can I color the frosting to any color ?

  45. This is the best butter cream frosting I’ve ever made! Thank, this is my new go to!

  46. Excellent recipe for frosting . I enjoyed making the chocolate cake and cupcake too . Really spongy and soft the cakes were !!! Thankyou

  47. I am going to try this frosting for my daughters cake this weekend. The party is Saturday afternoon. However, I would like to make the cake on Friday afternoon. Is it ok to leave it out frosted for one day? Or do I have to refrigerate? I am afraid it will dry out if I refrigerate it. Let me know. Thanks!!

  48. Turned out perfect!

  49. The recipe says “vanilla”; nothing about vanilla extract. But you reference the extract later. Plus, I see black specks in the frosting, which leads me to believe that it is just vanilla bean for flavor. Is this correct & can just use a couple of vanilla beans split & scraped?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *