Learn how to make the best creamy vanilla buttercream icing recipe with this easy recipe. Just a few ingredients and an easy prep and you have a yummy, classic frosting for cupcakes, cakes, and other baked goods.
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We do a lot of baking in this house.
While we will take a lot of short cuts and use box mixes for brownies and cupcakes, we almost always make homemade icing.
It’s a million times better than anything you’d buy in a can.
We’re talking lick the beaters , kids fighting over it kind of good.
And this creamy vanilla buttercream icing is an easy recipe that is a delightfully sweet finishing touch to almost any baked good.
Once you know how to make the basic vanilla frosting, it’s easy to jazz it up with different flavors so you can get a creamy, dreamy frosting with almost any flavor your little heart desires.
Ingredients and Kitchen Supplies
To make this you’ll need:
- Butter– Two very important things: you need to use unsalted butter and you must let the butter come to room temperature on your counter. Don’t microwave it, melt it, or try to use refrigerator cool butter.
- Heavy whipping cream– Do not use a lower fat dairy product. You want to use heavy whipping cream to both make the frosting fluffy and give it the best, most luxurious texture.
- Vanilla extract– You want the real stuff here, not imitation since the vanilla is what gives the icing the best flavor.
- Powdered sugar– In some area’s it’s confectioner’s sugar. Whatever you call it, you need to use this and not granulated sugar so you get that silky smooth texture.
- Salt– Just a pinch of sea or kosher salt to balance out the sweet flavors
Then you’ll need a few kitchen supplies to make this including:
- A hand mixer and bowl or stand mixer with the whisk attachment
- Rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl
- Measuring cups/spoons
- Piping bag and tips to frost your creations (optional)
How to Make Vanilla Buttercream
1. Beat the butter.
With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the softened butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the powdered sugar.
Turn the mixer off and add in half of the powdered sugar. Turn the mixer back on low and beat it in until it’s incorporated. Scrape down the sides as needed. Repeat this with the rest of the powdered sugar.
3. Beat in the whipping cream.
Beat in the whipping cream tablespoon by tablespoon until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. Scrape down the sides as needed. When your frosting reaches the right consistency, beat in the vanilla extract and salt. Frost your creations and enjoy!
How to Decorate with Buttercream
Buttercream frosting is amazing stuff.
Not only does it taste delicious, but the texture is perfect for so many decorating applications.
You can put it into pastry bags with different large piping tips and make everything from dollops that look just like ghosts or pretty petals that look like flowers.
Basic icing tips I like to use:
- Large round piping tip like Wilton 1A– this makes dollops similar to those on my ghost cupcakes
- A grass tip– Perfect for making grass for things like bird’s nest cupcakes
- Writing tips- Any of the tips in this set would be great for writing words like happy birthday or piping vines like I did on these pumpkin patch brownies
Not feeling like piping? That’s fine too.
It just won’t give you that pretty from a bakery look.
Why isn’t my vanilla buttercream whiter?
Sometimes vanilla buttercream is sort of cream colored or slightly yellow tinted instead of being pure white. The color will vary based on the brand of butter you use and the vanilla. You can experiment with different brands of butter to find the one that gives you the lightest white. If you really want pure white frosting, substitute shortening. If you do this, technically you are making frosting and not buttercream.
What’s the difference between frosting and buttercream?
Most of us use the terms interchangeably but the difference is in the ingredients. Buttercream has butter, while frosting doesn’t and uses another type of fat like shortening instead.
Does buttercream hold up well in heat?
No! The butter will melt at 98.6 degrees but the frosting will start drooping and running at lower temperatures than that. So if you are making buttercream on a hot summer day, plan to keep your cake refrigerated until you are ready to eat.
Why does my buttercream have bubbles in it?
You might have overwhipped your buttercream and incorporated too much air. If this happens, just take a sturdy spatula or spoon and fold the buttercream in on itself for a few minutes until all the bubbles are gone.
How can I make my buttercream different colors?
Add a couple drops of food coloring to make your desired color. Gel food coloring works really well.
What to Put Vanilla Buttercream On
Honestly, you could just eat it off the spoon and it would be delicious! But if you actually want to use a baked good as a vehicle for getting the buttercream into your mouth then it pairs well with:
- Honey Vanilla Cake
- Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- Chocolate cake or cupcakes
- Even in between The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies for cookie sandwiches
- Speaking of cookies! Use it to add some deliciousness to this Easy Giant Heart Shaped Chocolate Chip Cookie for Valentine’s Day
- Boozy Pumpkin Sheet Cake
Tips and Tricks
- Vanilla buttercream is a great base recipe. You can use the same basic ingredients to make other flavors of buttercream just by switching out the vanilla extract. See also Boozy Pumpkin Spice Buttercream.
- Add the heavy cream slowly to get the consistency you want. If you plan on piping intricate flowers you may want less heavy cream than if you want to smoothly spread the buttercream out on a cake.
- The cooking conditions (temperature and humidity) can also impact how much heavy cream you will need. In a more humid environment you’ll need less than in a dryer environment so best to go slow.
Did you make this recipe? Leave me a comment and let me know!
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- 1 cup (2 sticks) of room temperature unsalted butter
- 4 cups (plus more as needed) of powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
- Beat the room temperature butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until the butter is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
- Beat in the sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt on low speed until the sugar has started to combine into the butter and cream.
- After about 30 seconds, keeping the beater in the buttercream, turn the speed up to medium high. Continue beating until the frosting is creamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Adjust if needed, adding more powdered sugar if the frosting isn't sweet enough or if it is too thin for your liking. If you need to add more, beat in half a cup at a time until it reaches your desired taste and consistency. If your frosting is too thick, thin it by beating in a tablespoon of heavy cream at a time until it reaches the consistency you'd like.
- Spread onto cake, between cookies, or onto another baked good. Enjoy!
See post for notes