The Best (American) Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

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. 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 using this to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which is amazing and bakes flat!!), I usually make 1.5 – 2 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake.

American Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 4 sticks or 2 cups (434 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 grams) heavy cream
  • 3 tsp (12 grams) vanilla


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 medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

NOTE: 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!


This is the perfect frosting base for any flavor! The ideas are limitless. I’ve made the following variations: 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 speculoos frosting!

For coloring, I always use Americolor Gel Food coloring, and I mix it into the buttercream once all the ingredients are fully incorporated. This is my favorite brand because of it’s coloring strength!! It’s always true to shade, and is so vibrant!

The possibilities are endless 🙂




80 thoughts on “The Best (American) Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe”

  1. Do you use the paddle attachment for mixing this? I can never get mine so smooth even for the rosettes. There always seem to be tiny air bubbles in the frosting itself (even before it’s on the cake). Also, is there a specific butter brand you usually use?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Yes, I prefer the paddle attachment! I always use the whole foods brand of butter. Hope that helps! I suggest beating the frosting on a very low setting for a couple minutes at the end of the process, which can help remove any excess air. Happy baking 🙂

      1. My buttercream always seems to be sticky and not fluffy the way yours looks. I watched the above video tutorial where you used your whisk on your kitchenaide. Do you do this only when making cupcake buttercream and then use the paddle for cake buttercream? Thank you! I love watching your videos. I made the unicorn cake and filled the center like your pinata cake with skittles. Perfect cake for my 22 year old daughter lol! 🙂

      2. Yes, i use the whisk attachment when making buttercream for cupcakes, but the paddle attachment when making buttercream for cakes! And that’s such a cute idea, I love that!!! 🙂

  2. Can I leave it in room temperature overnight? I would like to make the cake a night before and Im alfraid the cake will gethardwhen I put in the fridge. Thanks!

      1. Help! I refrigerated the icing. Will I be able to salvage it once it comes back up to room temp??

  3. What I mean I will decorate the cake with buttercream night before…the buttercream is already on the cake overnight.

  4. Hello! I have a question, I know you said that your buttercream is a crusting buttercream which I love to work with, but I usually do shortening and butter because I’ve had experiences where using strictly butter makes the frosting “loose” and not easy to work with. Have you ever had this problem with this recipe?

    1. I actually never have! I very rarely use shortening! I add very little cream, which keeps my frosting pretty study and easy to frost with! I live in NYC,and never really have problems with temperature or humidity in my kitchen though, I know that people encounter issues related to that other places in the world !

  5. I just have a quick question I made your buttercream for Mother’s Day and the consistency was perfect but it was really sweet so sweet we couldn’t eat it what could I do to cut the sweetness please help

  6. I just tried this for a birthday cake. Love it! Super easy to make and tastes great! However, mine was really hard to pipe on the cake, and it didn’t seem as fluffy as yours. Any troubleshooting tips you can offer? Thanks 🙂

    1. Hmm! If you’re having trouble piping, you can always add in a bit more cream to make it easier to pipe! I usually add in slightly more cream when piping vs. covering a cake. Hope that helps!

    1. the amount of salt in butter varies by brand, and you can’t control it! so using unsalted is best, then you can add in the exact amount of salt a recipe calls for

  7. I’m wanting to use this for my wedding cake but I did a trial run and the next day it had kind of dripped some white wax looking stuff onto the counter (I’m assuming this was butter maybe?) Have you run into this problem before or know how I could solve it? I love everything about this frosting but want to make sure it is perfect for the wedding. Would using half butter half butter shortening help do you think?

  8. This is the only recipe that I will ever use when making icing….. No more store bought icing….. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  9. Hi there! I too am a baker and I’m always looking for new inspirations and recipes and I have never heard of using salt or heavy cream in my recipe! I am making a birthday cake tonight for a friend so I’m giving your recipe a try! I hope it works! You do incredible work and your cakes make me just wanna be in my kitchen all day long baking and trying new flavors!! I have a question about your actually vanilla cake recipe though.. does it come out rather dense like pound cake or is it fluffy and soft like a sponge cake?

  10. I want to make this recipe for my sons birthday cake but I don’t have a processor with a paddle attachment. Can I use a hand mixer instead? Will it come out the same?

  11. Amazing cakes 🙂 I find your Instagram videos really relaxing! Whenever I make buttercream, between the yellow tone in butter and the colour of the vanilla, I never end up with white icing. Even using clear vanilla extract. Do you have any tips/tricks? Thanks 🙂

  12. I have used this recipe for icing before and it is perfect! Thank you! I am making a cake for the office and it will probably be sitting in the break room a few days before all of it gets eaten. Will this icing be ok left out? Or, would you put in the fridge instead of leaving it out? Thanks!

  13. I live in Mississippi where it’s a little warmer I’m concern if the buttercream will hold up with the temperature.

    1. you can always swap out half the butter for shortening, which will help make it more stable in the heat! However, my buttercream is very stiff and I’ve never had a problem with it!! But I live in NYC

  14. I want to bake the cake tonight and frost the cake. The party is tomorrow. Can the cake be left out at room temp.? Should I refrigerate the frosted cake? If so how long before he party should I removed the cake from the fridge?

      1. Thank you so much! My 8 year old son and I LOVE watching your videos! I am using your recipes but making him a cake that will look like an Oreo cookie and will be decorated with mini Oreos! Can’t wait to see how it turns out! You have inspired me to try out my baking skills! Thanks!!

      2. So my buttercream definitely did not come out like yours. It was not as fluffy as yours. I had a hard time spreading it out. There were little air bubbles. The flavor is dead on but the consistency was off. Not sure what i did wrong! Again, great flavor though!

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