Sometimes simple is best. When it comes to buttercream, that is definitely my approach! While there are tons of delicious variations of buttercream out there (Swiss, German, Italian, French…), I prefer American Buttercream!
Why? I don’t like to mess with eggs when it comes to frosting, and I enjoy the way American buttercream tastes. The standard vanilla frosting recipe I use only requires five ingredients, and is amazing for frosting both cakes and cupcakes! It’s also pipes well, and works great for piping flowers and other details.
I use this icing as the base of every frosting I make, and then make tweaks to recipe to flavor it (see variations section below)! A full tutorial for this recipe can be seen here.
When coloring my buttercream, I like to use gel food coloring! It allows you to get super vibrant colors without adding a ton of liquid into the frosting, which can throw off the consistency of the buttercream.
My favorite gel food coloring is Americolor, and it’s the only food coloring I use 🙂
Another thing that can affect the base color of your buttercream is the brand of butter you use! Some butter can be more yellow, either based on the diet of the cows producing the milk (cows eating a lot of grass will produce yellower butter due to the beta carotene in the grass), or if a brand adds in coloring (always check the ingredients!!).
My go to brand of butter is the unsalted Whole Foods brand. It is very light in color, and makes very white buttercream!
When using this to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers), I usually make 1.5 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake. I usually have left over frosting, but I don’t mind since it can easily be saved to use on another cake!
Leftover frosting can be stored in an airtight container, and either refrigerated or frozen! It keeps in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to three months.
This is the perfect frosting base for any flavor! The possibilities are limitless. Some of the different flavors I’ve made include: peanut butter, Oreo, chocolate, strawberry, almond, Nutella, Speculoos, salted caramel, coconut, mint, ube, lemon, cookie dough, bourbon, white chocolate, maple, and cream cheese!
When I make variations and plan to use a different extract, I usually swap out 1 or 2 tsp of vanilla, and replace them with my extract of choice. This is what I do for coconut, lemon, mint, almond, ube, and maple buttercream!
For flavors that require mixing in an addition ingredient, like Nutella or peanut butter, I usually replace 1 or 2 sticks of butter with the ingredient of choice! For example, for Nutella Buttercream, I use two sticks of butter, and one cup of Nutella. I then add a couple extra Tbsp. of heavy cream, since the Nutella makes the frosting thicker than standard buttercream. I use this approach for cream cheese, salted caramel, peanut butter, Nutella, and cookie butter frosting!
Vanilla American Buttercream Recipe
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams)
- 8 cups powdered sugar (907 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (30 grams)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12 grams)
- green gel food coloring
Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!