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

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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

619 thoughts on “Vanilla American Buttercream Recipe

  1. I just made this buttercream and tried to frost your small batch funfetti cake. As I was trying to smooth it on the cake it kept pulling off and my top rated of cake would not stay in place during my crumb coat. I literally had to do my crumb coat by pushing the buttercream into my cake with my finger. I’m assuming the buttercream was too thick. I already had 3 Tbs of cream in there, but would it ruin it if I add a little more? I also added a tiny bit of color to the buttercream. How much would be too much cream?

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      You can definitely add in a few more Tbsp of heavy cream if needed! 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!

      You can also chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before frosting them to reduce crumbing and make them easier to stack.

  2. How many batches would you recommend for a 6 inch two layer cake. With a good bit of frosting in between the layers and a “grass” or “fur” type effect as the final layer of frosting? With pipes eyes and a mouth? To make it look like Elmo from Sesame Street? Making my nephews first birthday smash cake and Sesame Street is the theme of the party? Also how many batches would you recommend for 24 cupcakes using the same effect but using two different colors?

  3. Hi.. I just love your cakes. I want to know if you make cakes with whipped cream too. I use whipped cream but am not able to get a good red color without the cream tasting bad. Any suggestions to get a bright red whipped cream without coloring the mouth and without the bitter taste. I use Americolor gel colors

  4. HI! I’m doing a trial run of my wedding cake and baked 3 10″ cakes and 3 6″. I plan on frosting them in the next day or so – do you think 2 batches of buttercream will be enough? I’m not planning on doing rosettes or anything, just a plan frosting and then using the spatula to do the rippled affect on the edges. The cakes came out great btw! Thank you!

    1. Hi Michele,

      So happy to hear the cake layers turned out great! I feel like I always use a ton of frosting on 10 inch cakes, but if your second tier is only 6 inches that might be enough! I’d make 2.5 or 3 batches just to be safe!! There’s nothing worse than running out of frosting while making a tiered cake.

      Leftover frosting lasts in the fridge for weeks, and you can always use it on another project. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  5. Chels, I have been making your cakes for a while. I love them! But I would like them to be a bit less sweet, specialy the frosting. How can I make the frosting to be a bit less sweet?

    1. Hi Roci,

      You can try adding in a bit of extra cream, and whipping the frosting on high with a whisk attachment! It will increase the volume of the frosting by whipping air into it, which will make each bite of frosting a bit less sweet. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  6. This recipe tastes delicious! I have tried it twice now. However, both times I have had some issues when smoothing out the icing. I love that seamless, smooth surface your icing has when you ice cakes in videos. Mine usually looks 80% there, but when I tug my spatula along slowly, there are still tiny holes or air bubbles that disrupt the surface in some places. Almost like a whipped icing would have, even though I used the paddle attachment on my mixer. Is this an instance where i need to add more of a certain ingredient? It even happens when I make sure I mix on low for a few minutes to get the air out at the very end. Thanks in advance for your input and inspiration!

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Sometimes that can happen as the frosting sits out on the counter. I always give my frosting a really good stir by hand with a rubber spatula, pushing the frosting back and forth for a couple minutes to get it super smooth. I do this before. I start assembling the cake, and before I add the second layer of frosting. I find air bubbles usually develop as the frosting sits on the counter while my crumb coat chills.

      Hope that helps and will fix that problem going forward 🙂 Happy baking!

  7. Hi Chelsea, absolutely love your videos thanks for sharing. Question regarding the consistency of American buttercream. I’ve always used swiss meringue but have recently been using ABC a lot when making vegan friendly cakes. It’s delicious but no matter how slowly I add the icing sugar it always seems to appear grainy on the cake and yet yours looks so smooth. Any ideas why?

    1. Aw thank you sammy! It might be the brand of powdered sugar you’re using, or you may need to add a touch more liquid to help dissolve the powdered sugar. I’d suggest trying a different brand of powdered sugar, hopefully that will help. Happy baking!

  8. I should also add, in Australia we have limited brands available for pure icing sugar. Some people use icing mixture which has the cornflour in it too, but I was always told this makes the icing too soft?

    1. That’s super interesting, I had no idea!! I’ve never really tried a powdered sugar that didn’t have cornstarch in it, but I haven’t had issues with that. The ratio of cornstarch might be different in the US and Australia though!

  9. Hey!

    I’m trying out your vanilla cake recipe, and I’m planning to do 4 layers (all 6″ in diameter). How many batches of this icing will I need in order to frost the outside and fill the layers of my cake??

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Ellen,

      It depends on how you plan to decorate it, and how much frosting you like between your cake layers! I’d say make 1 1/2 batches to be safe and ensure you have enough. You can also refrigerate any leftovers for future baking projects. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  10. Hi I have made this frosting before and I use milk instead. It turns out normal but every time it comes out it’s too sweet. What should I do?

  11. Hi! I was wondering if there are alternatives to heavy whipping cream in this recipe. It’s been very scarce around me ?

    1. Hi Josie,

      You can whipping cream or whole milk! Whole milk will make the frosting a bit thinner, so only add a little at a time until the consistency is just right.

    1. Hi Vincent! Either works / is the same! I make my buttercream in advance all the time, and as long as you give it a really good stir with a rubber spatula right before you plan to use it, it should be perfect! I’d recommend chilling it if you make it more than 12 hours in advance. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  12. I’m allergic to corn and have to use organic brands for powdered sugar that don’t have cornstarch in it. The frosting is a little softer but still stable enough for piping flowers. You can also add a little bit of meringue powder to the frosting if it’s too soft. I definitely prefer using normal powdered sugar if I’m not going to eat the cake. Hope this helps!

  13. Hello. Is there a way to maybe cut this recipe in half for smaller cakes? or to make a smaller batch? I only have 1 cup of unsalted butter on hand.

    1. Hi Sam,

      You can totally cut this recipe in half / make a half batch with 1 cup of butter. You can also use salted butter and omit the salt. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  14. SO glad to find someone who’s not keen on SMB! Tried making it once–what a pain! It had the taste and texture of a stick of sweetened butter. I do have to use half shortening here in the South since it will melt off the cake if it’s the least bit warm, but I’ve found that a palm oil shortening has a buttery mouth feel. Unfortunately, only one store carries it in my town, and with the pandemic they’re out. So back to Crisco for this cake I’m making. Thanks for the recipe and tips!

    1. Haha I feel you Donna! That’s great to know, I get asked about shortening swaps all the time. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon, happy baking!!

Let me know what you think!