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!!), which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers, 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 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 🙂




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

  1. Hi if I’m not able to buy the whole foods butter, which other brand would you recommend for it to not be so yellow? Also is there a difference between brands of powdered sugar?

      1. If i want to make half a batch for a dozen or a little over a dozen cupcakes do i just split all the ingredients in half?

  2. I love watching your tutorials and live streams, and I enjoy making cakes for fun for friends and family. I recently made one where I tried your buttercream recipe, and it was wonderful!! I wish I could share a picture on here. Thank you for sharing your beautiful work and tips with everyone! 🙂

  3. Just made both the vanilla cake and buttercream frosting and Omgosh let me tell you… they came out amazing! It is on the sweet side but I would just use a thin layer of the frosting if you do not have a sweettooth. I love it just the way it is.

  4. Hey! Should I freeze my cake layers before frosting?
    Also Should I make my frosting a certain amount of time in advance to frosting the cake?

    1. I like to, to make it easier to frost but you don’t have to! You can make your frosting whenever, i usually make it the day before just to make it easier to assemble and decorate the cake the following day!

  5. Hi Chelsea!
    How would you exactly incorporate white chocolate into this buttercream recipe ? Or do you already have a recipe for it? 🙂

  6. Can I make my buttercream and cakes 2 days in advanced? Or would you recommend only one. So If I make it Thursday night would it still be ok and taste as good being assembled and eaten Saturday night?

  7. Hello, thanks for the recipe, for Nutella buttercream, the ingredients are only butter Nutella and heavy cream? No icing sugar?

  8. I have never been very successful at baking, but this weekend I am going to try your buttercream base and make peppermint buttercream. Wish me luck!

    1. you can create a reduction of strawberry puree, and add it to the frosting! Just be sure you cook out a lot of the water, so that the frosting doesn’t break when you add it 🙂

  9. Hi,how exactly do you make your Nutella buttercream. You say to use 2 sticks of butter and 1 cup of Nutella. But how much sugar? 4 cups?

    1. yup! the ratio of 1/2 cup of fat (butter or nutella) to 1 cup of powdered sugar still stays true! I also add in an extra TBSP or 2 or cream, as the nutella makes the frosting pretty thick 🙂

    1. These layers can be made in advance, and can be stored in the freezer for up to 5 days! If you do plan to freeze them overnight, be sure to either place them in an airtight container, or wrap them tightly in saran wrap.

  10. Hi,
    I’m trying to make this butter cream red but I’m having trouble getting it vibrant enough without the awful food colouring taste. I’ve seen a lot of your vibrant colored cakes and was wondering if you have any pointers.

  11. hello, I have a business of cakes, but usually use shortening in my buttercream (or half and half), because Im always afraid my cake could be melting with the hot temperatures, do you recommend something , add more sugar? add another ingredient, I don’t want to put all the time in the fridge I think if the party is outside could be a risk if the cake is cold and the weather hot, what do you think?

  12. love your cakess..I will definitely try some as I love to bake.. just one question regarding frosting.. does it really need so much sugar? Or could I put less? Thanks and have a nice day :))

    1. Definitely!! It’s great for piping flowers! You can also reduce the cream slightly if you want to use russian piping tips (buttercream has to SO stiff for those!)

  13. How much buttercream do I need if I want to make a semi-naked cake ( 2 8′ cakes and 2 6′ cakes)? I am hoping they look like your semi-naked cake tutorial.

    1. if you’re only using 2 layers for each tier, you shouldn’t need a ton! I would say about 1.5 batches should be enough! but it can vary based on how thick your cake layers are, and how much frosting you add between the layers ❤

  14. What do you change when you make chocolate frosting? Do you add cocoa, chocolate squares, chocolate chips…? And do you make different types of chocolate frosting? Such as devils food cake frosting, black forest cake frosting, milk chocolate frosting…?

    1. Depends on you taste! I prefer the taste of american buttercream over swiss meringue, but if you don’t have a big sweet tooth or aren’t used to american desserts, this recipe will probably be too sweet for you!

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