Today’s post is all about going back to the basics. This is the perfect vanilla frosting (or buttercream recipe) and can be used as a base for many different types of frostings.
Recently, my readers have been emailing me asking for a basic vanilla frosting recipe. While I have over 30 awesome frosting recipes, I was lacking the Perfect Vanilla Frosting.
It is true that vanilla frosting is the most versatile frosting there is. It can be paired with vanilla or chocolate cupcakes, lemon or strawberry or perhaps even red velvet or carrot cake. You can use a vanilla frosting as a base to add your favorite candy or cookie or fruit. Now if vanilla isn’t your thing, I’ve also got a recipe for The Best Chocolate Frosting.
One of the early posts I did here on my blog was a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. The difference between a Swiss Meringue Buttercream and an American buttercream is that American buttercream is made with powdered sugar.
There are many different vanilla frosting recipes. Some use vanilla extract and some use vanilla beans. Vanilla beans have a wonderful flavor but can be expensive or difficult to find. Some versions use half butter and half Crisco. Crisco in a frosting might sound unusual to some, but it has its benefits. It’s often referred to as a decorators buttercream because it more stable and easier for piping different shapes.
My perfect vanilla buttercream is whipped buttercream. When it comes to frosting, I live by the WHIP IT rule. The longer you whip it, the better. When a problem comes along, you must whip it. You get the point, right?
I start with COLD butter. Yes, cold. Most frosting recipes (including many of mine) call for softened butter or butter at room temperature. The difference between starting with cold butter versus softened is that the cold butter requires you to whip it longer in the beginning. I believe the cold butter produces a more stiff frosting that is better for piping. If your butter is TOO soft, then your frosting will be “weaker”. I HIGHLY suggest that you use unsalted butter for your frosting. It allows you to control the flavor.
The not-so-secret ingredient to a creamy, velvety frosting is heavy whipping cream. It’s an ingredient that usually doesn’t come cheap, but it is makes the difference. Sure, you can substitute with milk instead but using the heavy whipping cream will help give you those extra air bubbles in the frosting once it’s whipped. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, check their baking section for shelf stable heavy whipping cream. It’s a little over $1 for 8 ounces, you just have to refrigerate it before using.
The rule of thumb is that you should use 2 cups of powdered sugar for every stick of butter (1/2 cup). You can always make the frosting more stiff by adding more powdered sugar. You can add additional heavy cream to offset the sweetness and make it softer. The last thing you can do it cut the sweetness is to add a pinch of salt, but adding little by little is key. Too much salt cannot be fixed.
This frosting recipe makes enough for at least 24 cupcakes that have a hefty amount of frosting. The second rule I live by when it comes to frosting, is never come up short. So I usually end up with more than enough frosting. If you’ve ever wondered what my secret is to piping perfectly beautiful cupcakes, I’ve got you covered. I’m telling you all about my favorite tools and tricks for decorating the perfect cupcake, and there’s a bonus video included! This is a post you’ll come back to time and time again.
This recipe can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for two days before serving. Any longer than that and I would recommend freezing it. You will need to allow it to soften for a couple of hours before using. If freezing, I might recommend re-whipping it. I make all my frosting recipes fresh, so I can’t speak too much to the freezing of the frosting.
Since this frosting is all butter based, it will melt in high temperatures. If you are serving this buttercream at a party, be sure to keep it out of the sun, especially if temperatures are hot that day.
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- 1½ C (3 sticks) Unsalted butter, cold.
- 5 C Powdered sugar
- 2½ tsp Vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp Heavy whipping cream
- Cut butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter look light in color.
- Add 2 C powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter.
- Add 2 tsp vanilla extract and mix to combine.
- Add additional 2 C powdered sugar and beat on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes.
- Add last 1 C powdered sugar along with 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream and ½ tsp vanilla extract . Beat on low until ingredients start to mix together. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.
Other recipes you might like from Beyond Frosting:
How to Frost the Perfect Cupcake
Recipes from my friends:
Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes from Life Love and Sugar
The Perfect Crusting (Decorators) Buttercream from I am Baker
Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting from The Cupcake Project