Vanilla American Buttercream Recipe

There are so many reasons why I love this vanilla american buttercream recipe. I love the that is only uses 5 ingredients, which most of us already have in our pantries!

It also is seriously the easiest recipe; it’s pretty much foolproof, and only takes about 5 minutes to make.

image of buttercream frosting on whisk attachment in front of stand mixer

However, as with any recipe, sometimes you need to do a little trouble shooting! I get TONS of questions about my buttercream recipe, including:

  • Can buttercream icing be made ahead of time?
  • Can buttercream frosting be frozen?
  • How do I get the air bubbles out of my buttercream?
  • Can buttercream frosting be left out overnight?
  • Which type of buttercream do you use?
  • Why does my frosting have air bubbles in it?
  • Does buttercream need to be refrigerated?
  • Why is my buttercream grainy?
  • Why is my buttercream yellow?
  • How do you get such vibrant colored frosting?
  • Why isn’t my frosting white?

I’m here to answer all of these and more! So buckle up, and get ready to learn everything (and more) about American buttercream frosting.

I’ll be sharing the fundamentals, tips for troubleshooting, and of course, my recipe!!

Can I Make My Buttercream In Advance?

A common theme in these questions involves making buttercream in advance, and storing it.

I almost always make my frosting ahead of time.

If placed in a large, sealed piping bag or airtight container, it can last in the fridge for up to a month, and in the freezer for up to three months

image of smooth american buttercream frosting in bowl

When you’re ready to use the chilled or frozen buttercream, simple take it out of the fridge or freezer, and place on the counter to thaw.

The amount of time it takes to thaw can vary based on the amount of frosting, and how it’s stored. I usually take my buttercream out the night before I need it.

Once the buttercream has reached room temperature, it will likely be riddled with tiny air bubbles!!

But fear not, you can get your frosting back to a silky smooth consistency.

Simply mix it on a low speed with a paddle attachment, or by hand with a rubber spatula. It’s an arm workout to mix it by hand for a couple minutes, but it makes a big difference. Be sure to really push the frosting against the side of the bowl to push out all that trapped air.

I do this with every batch of buttercream, to make it easier to get super smooth sides on my cake.

image of gluten free vanilla cupcake being frosted with vanilla bean buttercream

How Long Does Buttercream Keep At Room Temperature?

In general, buttercream can sit out at room temperature for up to 2 days. Most people freak out when they hear that. “Won’t it spoil??” “But this recipe has cream in it!! Won’t the frosting go bad?”

And the simple answer is no.

The high amount of fat and minimal amount of cream keep it from spoiling.

Trust me, I leave my frosting out overnight all the time, and I’ve never gotten sick from it.

I left my frosting out overnight to thaw before decorating my own wedding cake, and it tasted great.

image of wedding cake with fresh white and green florals

Do I Need To Sift My Powdered Sugar?

A lot of recipes ask you to sift the powdered sugar before adding it into the frosting. I don’t know how you feel about sifting, but to me it’s always such a pain!

It is important to sift the powdered sugar if you have trouble with it clumping when you add it into your buttercream.

However, most powdered sugar in the United States is mixed with a tiny bit of cornstarch, to naturally keep it from clumping.

Cornstarch helps absorb moisture, which can cause clumps.

I’ve never had an issue with my powdered sugar clumping, and a few years ago I decided to be rebellious and skip the sifting.

And you know what? My frosting turned out EXACTLY THE SAME! I don’t sift my powdered sugar anymore for frosting!!

If you live in a humid environment, you may have issues with clumps in your powdered sugar.

You also might run into this if you live in another country where your powdered sugar doesn’t contain cornstarch.

If this is you, it may be necessary for you to sift.

cream cheese buttercream

Why Is My Buttercream Grainy?

Some people also run into the issue of grainy frosting!

When the texture of you buttercream isn’t nice and smooth, it may be because you need to add a bit more heavy cream (1 TBSP at a time)!

If there isn’t enough liquid in your frosting to dissolve the sugar, it can throw off the texture of your frosting.

But sometimes adding additional heavy cream doesn’t solve the problem.

When you run into this, the grainy texture might be caused by the brand of powdered sugar you’re using!

Some brand are less fine than others, and in some place of the world powdered sugar is also less fine.

I usually use the Domino or Shoprite brands, which are both 10x.

When you see this on a package, it refers to the the number of time the sugar is processed to make it into the fine powder that we know and love.

Be sure to check your package when you buy it, to be sure it’s been processed to a fine enough powder!

Why Is My Buttercream Hard / Why Does Buttercream Crust?

Another important thing to note when making this recipe is that it is a crusting buttercream!

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Crusting sounds gross!!” “Why would  frosting crust?”

My recipe crusts overtime as the frosting is left exposed to air, due to its high sugar content. 

image of bitten into sugar cookie with buttercream frosting

But it’s really not a bad thing. In fact, most of the time it’s actually a great thing! I like that it firms up, especially when I use it on cookies like these buttercream cookies.

Crusting buttercream recipes are usually stiffer due to the high amount of powdered sugar, and therefore easier to smooth on cakes.

Other benefits of crusting include reduced risk of bulging sides, the ability to paint designs onto a cake, and it helps piped flowers or designs keep their structure.

I used this frosting recipe to make this winter wonderland cake, and it piped beautifully!

image of american buttercream being piped onto a detailed winter wonderland cake

What Is American Buttercream Frosting? How Is It Different than Swiss Meringue Buttercream?

Based on the minimal list of ingredients, you can probably tell this is an American Buttercream Frosting (ABC)!

The noticeable difference between American buttercream and other types of buttercream is that it doesn’t use any egg whites!

American buttercream frosting is primarily made with butter, loads of powdered sugar, and a bit of salt, vanilla, and heavy cream.

While there are tons of delicious types of buttercream out there (Swiss, German, Italian, French…), I prefer ABC! 

I don’t like to mess with eggs when it comes to frosting, and I enjoy the way American buttercream tastes.

As most of you know, I have a huge sweet tooth, and Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) honestly isn’t sweet enough for my palette. 

I ate loads of sugary candy, sweet breakfast cereals, and sweetened beverages as a kid. My brain has been hard-wired to just love sugar over the years.

IMG_1428 (2)

How Do I Make My Buttercream White? Why Is My Buttercream Yellow?

One last thing to note when making this American Buttercream!! Since this recipe is only 5 ingredients, each ingredient really counts when it comes to flavor and consistency.

With this in mind, the brand of butter you use has a huge impact on the taste and color of your frosting!!

Some brands of butter are 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!!).

frosting smoothed

My go to brand of butter is the unsalted Whole Foods brand. It is very light in color, and makes very white frosting!

If you can’t find a brand of butter that is lighter in color and your frosting is still a bit yellow, try adding the smallest (TINIEST) drop of purple gel food coloring.

It sounds crazy, but purple and yellow are opposites on the color wheel, so they cancel each other out.

The purple gel food coloring will color-correct the yellow tint, leaving you with white frosting.

Can I Use This Recipe To Make Other Flavors of Frosting?

I use this icing as the base of every frosting I make, and then make tweaks to recipe to flavor it.

I really love adding melted dark chocolate into it, like I do in my chocolate buttercream recipe.

image of chocolate american buttercream

This is the perfect frosting base for any flavor! The possibilities are limitless.

Below is a picture of my salted caramel buttercream, which also uses this recipe as a base.

caramel buttercream photo

Some of the different flavors I’ve made include the following:

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!

Some flavors require mixing in an addition ingredient, like Nutella, Oreo or peanut butter.

image of oreo frosting on a whisk attachment, after just being made in a pink stand mixer

For these, I replace 1 or 2 sticks of butter with the ingredient of choice. For example, to make Nutella frosting, I use three sticks of butter, and a half cup of Nutella.

I then add some additional heavy cream, since the Nutella makes the frosting thicker than standard buttercream.

This approach works great for cream cheese frosting, salted caramel, peanut butter, Nutella, strawberry and cookie butter frosting.

image of strawberry buttercream piped using a wilton 1m frosting tip

How Do I Color My Buttercream To Make Bright And Vibrant Shades?

Now onto coloring frosting! To make my buttercream super vibrant and colorful, I use gel food coloring.

It allows you to get vibrant colors without adding a ton of liquid into the frosting.

This can throw off the consistency of the buttercream.

My favorite gel food coloring is Americolor, and it’s the only food coloring I use. I used different amounts of the deep pink shade to decorate my small batch funfetti cake shown above.

image of funfetti cake slice made from 6 inch cake layers

While some colors are easy to make, others can be more challenging. I have separate post that share all my tips and tricks for making black buttercream and red buttercream frosting.

How Much Buttercream Do I Need To Make For A Cake?

When using this to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe , I usually make 1.5 batches. However, this can vary based on how I’m decorating the cake.

A lot of the time I have leftover frosting, but I’d always prefer to have leftover frosting, rather than run out!

I don’t mind since it can easily be saved to use on another cake.

Plus, like I mentioned above, leftover buttercream keeps in the fridge for up to a month if it’s stored correctly!

One batch of this recipe makes about 6 cups of frosting. When you’re first starting out though, that doesn’t mean much!

You’ll learn overtime how much frosting you like to add between the layers, and much extra frosting you need to create the decoration you have in mind.

img_4685

For example, a semi-naked cake uses less than one batch of frosting.

On the other hand, if you chose to decorate a cake with buttercream rosettes, you may use two entire batches of frosting!

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try out this vanilla american buttercream recipe (or any of my other frosting recipes), I’d love to hear what you think of it! Please leave a comment below.

Also be sure to tag me @chelsweets and use the #chelsweets so I can see your creations 🙂

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 6

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Chelsweets Buttercream Rosette Cake

This vanilla American buttercream recipe only uses five ingredients! It's so easy and delicious to make, you'll never buy frosting again!!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams; 1 lb box)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (907 grams; 2 lb bag)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (45 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (12 grams)

Instructions

  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds until smooth with a paddle attachment and stand mixer, or a hand mixer.
  2. Mix in the vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and salt on a low speed.
  3. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream, and mix on a low speed. I like to place a kitchen towel over my mixer to contain any powdered sugar clouds!
  4. Mix on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  6. If you plan to color the buttercream, add in the gel food coloring once the frosting is fully made, and beat on low until it reach the desired colored

Notes

This recipe makes about 6 cups of frosting.

Make your frosting ahead of time, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

If you are making frosting for a cake, mix the buttercream on the lowest speed 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.

I usually make 1 1/2 batches of frosting to stack and frost a seven or eight inch cake.

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 1074Total Fat 64gSaturated Fat 40gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 21gCholesterol 171mgSodium 207mgCarbohydrates 129gFiber 0gSugar 126gProtein 1g

617 thoughts on “Vanilla American Buttercream Recipe

  1. What did you do when you ran out of the first dowel? Did you cut another of the same type of dowel? If so, what did you use. Hope this makes sense.

    1. Haha I know exactly what you’re talking about Victoria! I should have planned ahead better and used a taller dowel, but instead I did just insert another dowel (it was slightly thinner) into the cake. This was a makeshift workaround, but it did end up working just fine 😛

  2. I add 1/4 cup all purpose flour to each pound of powdered sugar. You won’t believe the difference it makes to you frosting flavor. I make wedding cakes with my recipe and people love it. Not too sweet.

    1. Wait woah!!! I’ve never heard of anything like that, but now I’m dying to try it Christine! Thank you for sharing, I will have to play around with that 🙂

  3. T
    My wedding cakes that have the top layer saved for the first anniversary can freeze very well for a year if wrapped properly. Freeze the layer then double wrap in plastic wrap, double wrap in aluminum foil and place back in the box it was delivered in. Take out of the freezer unwrap completely and defrost at room temperature. I’ve been told they taste as good as on their wedding day.

    1. Hi Beth,

      Are you mixing the buttercream the next day with a paddle attachment, or a whisk? I mix mine on the lowest speed possible with a paddle attachment, and that usually pushes that extra air out and leaves me with silky smooth buttercream! If that doesn’t work, you can always try adding in a touch more heavy cream, to make it smoother. Hopefully one of those things helps, happy baking!

    1. Hi Kaylea,

      This frosting only uses a tiny amount of heavy cream, os it won’t spoil if it sits out overnight! I leave my buttercream out overnight all the time, and it’s always fine <3

  4. Christine I’m curious if you heat treat the flour before using it in your buttercream? I wouldn’t want to give anyone listeria but also wonder if that would alter the flavor.

    1. Hi Erin,

      I’m sure she does! It’s pretty easy to do. To make your flour safe, you can pasteurize in the microwave. If you heat it for a little over a minute, it should be good to go! Once the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s safe 🙂

  5. I cant wait to try this on a cake I am doing for a friend in a couple weeks. I did homemade buttercream for the first time a few weeks ago and it just wasnt the right consistency and I did realize I needed more liquid. I too am a self taught bake in the making ? I hope to be able to get good enough to do it full time and open my own shop. Also any good tricks on cutting back on the sweetness of the buttercream?

    1. Hi Savannah,

      It can be hard to get the consistency just right! The amount of heavy cream you need to add can vary a ton based on the temperature of your butter, the temperature of your kitchen, and even the brand of butter that you’re using. When in doubt, just add a little more heavy cream (1 Tbsp) at a time, until the frosting feels workable!

      That’s awesome that you’re self taught too! If you want to make the frosting a bit less sweet, you can add less powdered sugar or add 1/4 cup (heat-treated) all purpose flour to each pound of powdered sugar (sounds weird but it’s a tip from wedding cake makers). Hope that helps, happy baking!

  6. I tried your buttercream recipe today for the first time. The flavour is amazing! What should the consistency of the icing be? It seemed so thick and hard to spread. I kept adding more cream, but it wasn’t getting any thinner or lighter , even after an extra 3-5 tbsp. I wanted to try it because the I can never get my recipe to ice completely smooth. Any tips?

    1. Hi Maureen,

      It can be hard to get the consistency just right. The amount of heavy cream you need to add can vary a ton based on the temperature of your butter, the temperature of your kitchen, and even the brand of butter that you’re using. When in doubt, just add a little more heavy cream (1 Tbsp) at a time, until the frosting feels workable!

      I like to stick my rubber spatula into my frosting, then pull it out to check the consistency. I should come to a peak, with a slight curve at the tip! I’m not sure if that makes sense, but hopefully it helps!

  7. Thanks! That’s very helpful! Love your instagram page and the inspiration I get! (Also some frustration – that your cakes always look so smooth, and I cannot seem to master that!) 🙂

  8. Hi. This would be the first time ever I’ve made buttercream frosting and I used your recipe, procedures, and techniques. I used salted butter, watched your video, and it turned out just fine. Thanks!

    1. So happy to hear that Mary! Making frosting for the first time cane be a bit scary, but I’m so happy to took the leap! it’s totally worth it, happy baking 🙂

    1. Hi Casie,

      I increased the amount of heavy cream this past year, which I think makes it easier for people to spread! The video is from a few years ago, which is why they don’t match. Sorry for any confusion, please follow the recipe 🙂 It’s more up to date!

  9. Chel how many batches of butter cream would I need to to coat and stack a 12 and 10 inch cakes Both same height as your wedding cake you did Please thanks

    1. Hi Renee,

      It depends how much frosting you add between the cake layers, and how you plan to decorate the cake! I used about 6.5 batches of frosting on my entire wedding cake (12, 10, 8 and 6 inch), but sadly I don’t know exactly how much frosting went into each tier. So sorry I can’t be of more help!

  10. To make your chocolate buttercream, do I have to use dark chocolate chips or can I use regular milk chocolate chips? How does the taste differ?

  11. I’ve used this recipie before. Very tasty I must say. And it holds up very well. I was wondering can you use milk in a pinch instead of the heavy cream?

    1. Hi Sarah,

      So happy to hear that! You can, but milk is a lot thinner than the heavy cream this recipe calls. It will definitely give the frosting a different consistency, but it will work in a pinch <3

  12. Your recipe for the American Buttercream is the best buttercream I have ever tasted! I am a baking newbie and have been trying different recipes and was struggling to find a recipe that had a good flavor. This icing is smooth, easy to work with, has a great flavor and it’s easy to make, it checks all of the boxes. I did have to add a little extra heavy cream, but it turned out amazing. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Aw thank you Ardena, I am so happy to hear that!!! The amount of heavy cream you have to add can definitely vary, so I totally support adding a bit more if you need it 🙂 Happy baking!!

  13. Love your buttercream but it’s just a little to sweet for my kids is thee anyway to make it less sweet or use a diffrent ingredient then powder sugar? Also wanted to know if you have any whipping cream frosting recipes

    1. Hi Dalia,

      You can definitely add less powdered sugar to make the frosting less sweet, or whip your frosting on a high speed with a whisk attachment to make it fluffier and less dense/ sweet. I’m working on a whipped cream frosting right now, and am planning to share it in the next month. Stay tuned!! <3

  14. Hi Chelsea,
    I’m going to try your recipe for a rosette cake for Valentine’s Day. In the image you have attached to the recipe (the rosette cake) what colours are those? Light pink, light peach and cream? Trying to decide what colour palate I want to go with, and those 3 are lovely.
    I’m also considering trying to mix a dusty rose colour and do an ombré rosette cake. Never made that colour before tho- so just trying to decide.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I”m so sorry for the delayed response :/ Surprisingly I just used different amounts of americolor deep pink gel food coloring, even for the peachy tone!

      However I bet your plan for coloring worked great too!! Happy belated valentine’s day <3

    1. So happy to hear that jacky!! You can double it as long as you have a 5 quart kitchenaid. I make double batches all the time, but they barely fit in my kitchenaid!! Just be sure to rally slowly add in your powdered sugar and place a kitchen towel over it, to avoid any powdered sugar explosions.

      Hope that helps, happy baking!

Let me know what you think!