How to Make Buttercream Frosting

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Homemade Buttercream Frosting is an essential recipe every baker needs to have. I’ve been making this frosting recipe for years and it’s perfect for piping on cupcakes and decorating cakes. It’s fluffy and creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness!

A side view of a layer cake with white frosting and colorful buttercream flowers

One of the questions I get asked the most is how to make a buttercream frosting that doesn’t wilt or get too soft. Today I’m answering all your questions about making homemade buttercream that you can use for everything from decorating cupcakes to frosting cakes! 

Readers swear by this recipe and they are shocked when they hear my secret to making the perfect buttercream is that I use cold butter. Read on to find out why. 

A small jar of piped vanilla buttercream with a full piping bag sitting next to it

What is Buttercream Frosting?

Butter cream frosting is made using a combination of butter and powdered sugar, this is often referred to as American buttercream and it used for frosting cakes and cupcakes. It’s usually flavored with vanilla or other flavors of extracts.

Different Types of Buttercream Frosting

There are three main types of buttercream frosting:

  • American Buttercream Frosting – This is a simple and fast buttercream that’s essentially fat (butter, margarine, shortening), confectioners sugar and vanilla extract whipped together. This is the kind of frosting we will be making in this post.
  • Swiss meringue buttercream: is much less sweet than traditional buttercream. . This method heats egg white and sugar together. 
  • Italian Buttercream – This type of frosting is made by adding simple syrup to egg whites and whipping them until they form stiff peaks. The heat from the simple syrup cooks the white.

an overhead shot of a bowl of mixing bowl filled with vanilla frosting

What You’ll Need

  • Unsalted butter: This allows you to control how much salt you want to add to the frosting. This is especially important when making large batches. You can use salted butter but the taste is not the same and I don’t recommend adding any additional salt.
  • Powdered (confectionary) sugar: My general rule of thumb is for every ½ cup of butter, I use 2 cups powdered sugar.
  • Pure vanilla (or another flavor) extract: The better the vanilla, the better the taste. I use a generous amount of vanilla extract.
  • Heavy whipping cream: Is used to make the frosting light and fluffy, and cut down the sweetness. If you don’t have heavy cream, you can use any type of milk.
  • A pinch of salt is optional and used to help control sweetness

How Much Powdered Sugar Do I Need?

The rule of thumb for most of my frosting recipe is that you should use 2 cups of powdered sugar for every stick of butter (1/2 cup). If you need to make your frosting stiffer or thinner, you can find the answers to those questions below.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting

What makes my recipe different is the fact that I start with cold butter. It sounds weird at first given that most recipes on the interest call for room temperature butter, but just trust me. Starting with cold butter allows you control the stiffness of the buttercream. 

  • Whip the butter: Cut the cold butter into 1 tablespoon size pieces and then whip it using the paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally until it’s super light and fluffy. The additional mixing time is softening the butter. 

A mixing bowl full of whipped butter

  • Add Powdered (confectioners) sugar: Add the powdered sugar 2 cups at a time until it’s all be added. Each time I add powdered sugar, I be sure to whip the buttercream until it’s nice and fluffy again before adding more.

A black measuring cup filled with powdered sugar

  • Add liquid ingredients (vanilla and heavy cream): As you start to add more powdered sugar, your frosting will become much thicker. This is when you need to start alternating in your wet ingredients such as extracts and milk or heavy cream, add as needed.
  • Add a pinch of salt (optional): You can add a pinch of salt to help cut the sweetness. Add slowly, as too much salt cannot be fixed. If you happen be using salted butter, then you may not want to add more salt.
  • Whip the frosting: Once all the ingredients are added, whip the frosting with the paddle attachment for another few minutes to get it nice and fluffy.

A hand holding a whisk of vanilla frosting above a metal mixing bowl

Can I Add Chocolate?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to make homemade buttercream frosting, let’s explore some ways to add chocolate! I have several chocolate frosting recipes on my site including my 2 basic recipes, each recipe goes into further detail about how it’s made. 

  • The Best Chocolate Frosting– a traditional American buttercream with powdered sugar and cocoa powder with a more whipped consistency.
  • Chocolate Fudge Frosting– an American buttercream with melted chocolate, cocoa powder and powdered sugar. A more intense chocolate flavor with a stiff consistency.

A spatula filled chocolate chocolate frosting sitting overtop of a glass mixing bowl

Ways to Use Your Frosting

There are so many things you can do with a good buttercream frosting. Putting it on cupcakes and cakes is, of course, a classic. But you can also put buttercream inside your cupcakes, or use it as a filling for sandwich cookies. I have even seen people hollow out fruits like strawberries and fill them with buttercream frosting for a simple and elegant dessert.

A close up view of a cake decorate with buttercream flowers and buttercream roses

FAQs

How many cupcakes can I frost with this recipe? Will it cover an entire cake?

This buttercream frosting recipe includes variations that will allow you to make enough frosting for 12 cupcakes, 24 cupcakes or a 3-layer 8-inch cake.

Can buttercream be made in advance?

This recipe can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container or in the fridge for two days before serving. Any longer than that and I would recommend freezing it.

Prior to using, you’ll need to allow it to soften to room temperature for a couple of hours and you may even want to rewhip it. If you’re planning to freeze it, you’ll need to do the same thing.

Your frosting is best for piping when it’s fresh. The longer it sits, the frosting will lose some of the air that you whipped into it. Therefore, it will be stiffer and harder to work with, which is is why I recommend you always rewhip it for a few minutes prior to use. 

How do you make stiff buttercream icing for cupcakes?

You can control how stiff or how thin you make your buttercream.  Add additional powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time to make your buttercream thicker. However, you want to be sure it’s no too stiff. 

Stiff frosting can be difficult for piping cupcakes. Also, as you continue adding powdered sugar, the frosting will be sweeter. You can use a liquid like milk or heavy whipping cream to thin out your buttercream, adding 1-2 teaspoons at a time as needed. 

However, you can still have a stiff whipped buttercream that is perfect for piping. Keep on mixing it, the longer you whip the buttercream, the lighter and airier it will be. 

A vintage baking tray filled with beautifully decorated cupcakes

How do you make light, fluffy buttercream frosting?

The key to making fluffy buttercream is by whipping your frosting, a lot. If you follow my method for starting with cold butter and whipping it through the various stages, you should get a nice, fluffy frosting.

  • Whip the butter for a good 3-5 minutes before adding any liquid or powdered sugar. The butter will grow in volume and look very light in color.
  • Whip the buttercream for 1-2 minutes at a time after adding each cup of powdered sugar and again at the end for a couple of minutes.
  • I also recommend using heavy whipping cream. The heavy cream not only cuts the sweetness, but it adds to the whipped texture of the frosting.

Can I make buttercream frosting with a handheld mixer?

The short answer is yes, anything is possible. However, it will be difficult for you to make large batches of frosting, simply because the powder of a handheld mixer is not the same as a stand mixer.

I usually recommend slightly softening the butter if you plan to use a handheld mixer. You will likely need to spend even more time whipping the butter both in the beginning and throughout when adding the powdered sugar in order to achieve the same consistency. 

6 piping bags filled with Ateco jumbo piping tips

More helpful frosting tutorials

  • How to Decorate Cupcakes with Frosting: Learn all about my favorite piping tips and how to decorate cupcakes with each different tip
  • How to Color Buttercream Frosting: Follow these step-by-step instructions to dye your buttercream different colors. I always recommend using gel colors as opposed to traditional food coloring. The gels are much more concentrated and therefore they do not thin out your frosting the way traditional food coloring does. You have several options for gel colors including the Wilton Recipe Right color system and Americolor which are my two favorite.
  • How to Use a Piping Bag: Once you have your frosting ready, it’s time to start decorating. Learn my tips for using and filling piping bags.
  • How to Use Piping Tips: Along with the piping bag, you’ll want to learn all about the different types of piping tips, how and where to use them. I also discuss how to work with couplers to make your life easier.

I hope I have answered all your questions about buttercream frosting. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

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A trip of vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream. The cupcakes have teal polka dot liners and pink, white and teal sprinkles.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting

  • Author: Beyond Frosting
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 3-8 cups

Description

Learn how to make buttercream frosting with this easy tutorial. I’ve been making this homemade American buttercream frosting recipe for years! It’s perfect for piping on cupcakes, decorating cakes and is a simple starting point for other buttercream frosting flavors.

Ingredients

Frosting for 12 cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, cold.
  • 23 cups (260g-390g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Frosting for 24 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups (339g) unsalted butter, cold.
  • 5 cups (650g) powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (12ml) vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Frosting for 3 layer, 8-inch cake 

  • 2 1/2 cups (567g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 810 cups (1041-1301g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 34 tablespoons (45-60ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until the butter looks light in color and has increased in volume.
  2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar at a time and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter then continuing adding additional powdered sugar, alternating with the vanilla extract and heavy cream.  After each additional of 2 cups of powdered sugar, beat for about 60 seconds on medium-high or until the powdered sugar is well combined.
  3. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.

Notes

  • Make ahead and storage options: This recipe can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container or in the fridge for two days before serving. Any longer than that and I would recommend freezing it. Bring to room temperature prior to using, rewhip in the mixer as needed
Nutrition Information:
1/4 cup
202
24.5g
2.3mg
11.7g
7.3g
25g
0g
.1g
31.2g
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: Mixer
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: buttercream frosting, best buttercream, vanilla buttercream

 

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81 Responses
  1. monmi das

    Perfect instructions given. Thank you. I would like to know how can I make buttercream frosting stiff with not too sweet. Since you have mentioned about powdered sugar which is very sweet, how can I make it less sweet? Trying to experiment a lot in buttercream frosting, can I add melted white chocolate to make it more stiff? Also I saw in you tube using CMC to stiffen whipped cream. I live in India and it’s hot climate. My clients prefer less sweet frosting. SMBF is less sweet but cannot hold for long. Please help

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Monmi, I am not familiar with product available in India, but if you have some type of lard, that would have a higher melting temperature than butter, that might help with the heat. Regarding the sugar, if you add less sugar, it will be less sweet but it will not be as stiff.

  2. Michelle

    Omg! The best frosting I’ve ever made! I used Smart butter and Oat milk to make it lactose free and it was still great!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thank you for sharing Michelle! I’ve never tried those products but it makes me so happy that you can still enjoy this buttercream lactose free!

    2. Maureen

      Will this buttercream crust over as I have a layer cake to make soon and I’m worried about the heat we have at the moment melting it.

      1. Beyond Frosting

        It does crust but in a warm climate, I do recommend refrigerating it. The other option is to use part Crisco shortening which has a higher melting temperature.

  3. Kike O

    Found your page yesterday (March 19 2021) with the help of google. Tried out your moist vanilla cake and moist chocolate cake recipes. Turned out super amazing !!!! Looking forward to trying out more recipes. Thank you!!!!!! 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

  4. Margaret

    Hi, I noticed you said “For a 3 layer, 8-inch cake, I usually use 2 ½ cups of butter (6 sticks) and 10+ cups of powdered sugar.” Just wanted to clarify. I believe 2 1/2 cups of butter is actually five sticks, not six, right?
    Thanks.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Ahleen- no my recipe specifically uses cold butter. This is discussed in the blog post along with some helpful information about how to make this frosting using cold butter

  5. priyanka

    My sprinkles melt and leave colour on the whipping cream same happen when I give a drip of neutral gel on whipped cream frosting there are water droplets dropping down after few minutes. How can I fix it ?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I am not sure why type of sprinkles you are using but nonpareil which are the little round colorful balls, those will bleed when they come into contact with liquid. Regarding gel, I am assuming you mean gel colors for coloring it? I would try coloring the liquid heavy whipping cream before you start, as opposed to adding the gel to a finished whipped cream. When you say whipped cream frosting, I assume you mean actually whipped cream, not buttercream frosting.

  6. Shantel

    In the last 24 hours I’ve tried 5 different icing recipes and I am so pleased to say I’ve FINALLY found the recipe I like. It’s not overly sweet, the consistency is wonderful, and it doesn’t taste overly buttery either. Thank you!!

  7. Rimsha Tahir

    Hello. Can you give some tips on grainy buttercream? I feel no matter what I do its ALWAYS grainy. I use cane sugar confectioners and follow tutorials religiously. Do you recommend lowering the amount of sugar to 1:2 ratio for butter:sugar? I’ve ever tried whipping it for ages and adding sugar tbs by tbs

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi there- Do you sift the powered sugar first? That might help. For my recipes, every 1/2 cup of butter is about 1 1/2- 2 cups powdered sugar.

  8. Coco

    Can I use a blender instead of a electric mixer of I don’t have one?? Or I just go ahead to use my hand to do the job???…..
    😑

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I’ve never used a blender, as long as the butter can be be really well whipped. You may need to reduce the capacity based on the size of the blender.

  9. Nazneen Khambatta

    Hi

    i want to use this frosting for cupcakes and then place a topper on top. will the fondant color bleed on to the frosting? should i refrigerate the cupcakes with frosting and then place the topper?

    also, whats the proportion if i want to use shortening?

    please help.

    thank you

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Nazneen- I don’t work with fondant enough to comment on that. If you are just making fondant toppers, than I would add them prior to serving, I think these cupcakes are best when stored at room temperature. However the frosting will crust slightly. Regarding the shortening, it would be a 1:1 replacement.

  10. Nisha

    Hi there!

    My buttercream came out gritty 🙁 I attempted it 3 times. Do you think it could be my mixer?? What else could it be please/

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Nisha, you could try sifting the powdered sugar. What type of mixer do you use? You may also need to spend more time mixing and incorporating the powered sugar, at each step before adding more.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      As long as the margarine is firm, like a stick of butter instead of the spreadable kind. You can also make it with Crisco shortening.

  11. Brenda

    Hi. I’m going to make a 1/4 cake and for the first time and I was wondering what type of frosting would work and also to decorate with.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Brenda, that would depend on what you like. This buttercream recipe is great for cakes and also works well for decorating.

  12. priscilla

    The BEST buttercream recipe! My whole family loves it. Thanks for all the tips and an easy to follow recipe.

  13. Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina

    I used to have a woman bake my kids’ birthday cakes when they were growing up in AZ. The buttercream frosting was out of this world and unforgettable! I’ve been searching for the buttercream frosting recipe she used on those cakes ever since. I’ve never found the recipe and am hoping that this is the ONE!!! Thank you for sharing your recipe!
    Ciao,
    Roz

  14. Pie

    Hi, Miss Juliana! Can you please tell me what brand of light or heavy whipping cream do you use? I’m so confused, I really don’t know the difference between the ordinary cream and heavy cream. I’m sorry for my question, I’m just a beginner. Thanks in advance! 🙂 <3

    1. Beyond Frosting

      The products are similar and both contain similar amounts of milk fat. Heavy cream will whip better and hold its shape longer

  15. OLUWASEUN

    Thanks Juliana
    Please, I want to ask if I can use butterscotch flavour as an alternative for vanilla in making butter cream.

  16. Nova

    I wanted to ask why you cannot use salted butter when making Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I’ve been making a Swiss buttercream for many years and on occasions when I haven’t had unsalted butter I’ve used salted and I haven’t found it made that much of a difference except perhaps in the sweetness but tbh it wasn’t that big of a difference. The texture, the taste, the appearance remained the same. I got my recipe from a professional baker who actually said you can use salted butter if you didn’t have unsalted available.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Nova, you can certainly make any frosting with salted buttercream. The reason I don’t make American buttercream with salted butter is because I like to control the salt content. By using unsalted butter, I can add as much or as little as I want. With salted butter, you don’t have that same control. In regards to Swiss Meringue Buttercream, personally I don’t recommend it for the same reasons. I made the mistake once and my frosting was WAY to salty,

      1. Nova

        I suppose it comes down to taste but I actually find the salt regulates the sugar and takes away that over sweetness that buttercream can be known for. I don’t find my buttercream salty at all but then I also use an amount of vegetable shortening the Spectrum brand which is far healthier, so the buttercream is more stable. I live in Australia where the heat is quite intense in summer so perhaps that also regulates the saltiness.
        I was just curious so thank you for your reply.

        1. Beyond Frosting

          You are totally correct. I often add a pinch of salt to offset the sweetness. Vegetable shortening is a great alternative for warm weather climates!

  17. Cristel

    Thank you very much, Julianne for sharing your passion for baking and for the awesome tutorials! I am super excited to make your buttercream frosting recipe as I usually make a cream cheese frosting. ??

  18. Nicol

    This is perfect for my daughters unicorn cake. Added a few from of orange oil to it. Made it into orange-dreaminess unicorn frosting. Thank you for sharing your recipies.

  19. Jonne Millar

    Hi, I have only used one buttercream recipe for years but I’m now finding it a bit too sweet so I’m trying yours. Are you able to tell me how much in grams is a stick of butter? Thank you.

  20. Terri Blackburn

    I made this frosting for a baby shower bee hive cake and it was fantastic . Today I am going to make it for a birthday cake and I can’t wait to decorate with this icing. Going to try chocolate

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Gloria, yes. You’ll need to mix it for longer, and I probably would put the butter in the microwave for 10-12 seconds to make it a little bit softer and easier to work with

  21. Tiffany Curtis

    My daughter loves this- any recommendations to this without using milk? I bake specifically for allergy related cases, Most allergies I’ve come to find are egg & dairy, my daughter being the egg… I would love to know of a substitute for this whipping cream. Thank you! Ps. Taste Great!

  22. Kia

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I will be trying this recipe soon! Which tip did you use for the white cupcakes with the teal liners and white polka dots? The frosting is piped beautifully and looks like flower petals. Thank you!

  23. Linda Daniels

    I am new to baking, even though I am 70, I am a home cook and always been afraid of baking knowing how precise the recipes and measurements are,however, I have been trying to bake for the first time. I’ve been reading many “how to” posts and found your website very informative and the most helpful and easy to follow. I appreciate your advice and tips. Thank you for the help.

  24. Rita

    This recipe is very similar to my regular go-to Buttercream recipe – my biggest concern is how to get those really brilliant/rich colors without completely altering the delicious taste of my Vanilla Buttercream? I have seen the “all 100% natural” food colorings derived from pure vegetable juices and spices – but I haven’t tried these. Does anyone know if these are less likely to alter the taste of the Vanilla Buttercream? Thanks in advance for any comments! <3

    1. Beyond Frosting

      HI Rita, thanks for sharing. I’ve never tried the natural food coloring myself. I like the food gels which are more concentrated than liquid food color.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I am not a health professional, so I would recommend doing more research if you’re concerned. If you live in a hot and humid environment, I would definitely recommend refrigerating and butter frosting recipe. Personally I don’t like in a hot and humid climate so I store it in an airtight container.

  25. Peggie

    OMG this is the best buttercream frosting ever. I made it for the first time yesterday and my family raved. We used to get our birthday cakes from a bakery and my grandson said the frosting tasted just like theirs I agree. You cannot go wrong with this recipe. Thank you for publishing it.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thank you so so much Peggy! I am so glad you liked it! It can easily be adjusted for different flavors to!

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