Russian Buttercream

I’ve decided that 2020 is going to be my year of frosting. As much as I love using my American buttercream on my cakes and cupcakes (AND cookies), I am ready to play around with other types of frosting. I’m kicking off this year with this Russian buttercream recipe.

While doing a bit of research, I learned about sweetened condensed milk frosting. There are a lot of different versions out there.

Some simply add in a bit to an American or swiss meringue buttercream base, but other recipes take it further.

That’s when I stumbled upon Russian buttercream. When I first read about it, I was pretty shocked. It is pretty much JUST butter and sweetened condensed milk.

image of russian buttercream piped onto a cupcake

Sweetened condensed milk seems so sweet and thick. The thought of adding it to buttercream didn’t seem very appetizing, let alone being the flavor of a frosting.

Much to my surprise, Russian buttercream frosting isn’t overly sweet or heavy. It’s surprisingly smooth, with a fluffy texture.

I know it sounds crazy, but you’ll understand once you try it. Trust me on this one!

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

What Is Russian Buttercream?

Russian buttercream is a frosting that’s used on a lot of Russian and Eastern European cakes. It’s an insanely simple recipe that really is just butter and sweetened condensed milk.

I like to add in a touch of vanilla and salt for kicks, but that part is optional.

ingredients for russian buttercream recipe

The process of making it is even easier than my American buttercream recipe, which I didn’t think was possible.

You simply whip the butter up until it’s light and fluffy, then slowly incorporate the sweetened condensed milk.

And voila! I love that there’s no powdered sugar involved, because it makes the process a lot less messy.

Do I Really Have to Whip the Butter for That Long?

The key to creating that delicately fluffy texture is to beat the heck out of the butter.

I’m talking at least 5 minutes at a medium-high speed with a whisk attachment or hand mixer. This incorporates a ton of air into the butter.

The butter should actually change color by the end of the whipping process.

It should be very white in color before you try to add in the sweetened condensed milk.

All the air that’s incorporated into the frosting gives it that silky smooth texture, and a very light mouth feel.

image of butter after being whipped with a whisk attachment

This also helps the frosting taste a lot less sweet and rich. If you’re used to American buttercream, get ready for an entirely different texture and taste.

It’s kind of like a hybrid between Italian meringue buttercream and American buttercream.

Reasons Why Your Buttercream Might Separate

While it is insanely easy to make a batch of this Russian buttercream recipe, that doesn’t mean that things can’t go wrong.

The main issue that I ran into while recipe testing was having my frosting separate.

Too Warm of Butter

This can happen for a few different reasons.

If your butter is too soft/warm, it won’t whip up as well and will have trouble incorporating all the sweetened condensed milk.

Too Cold of Butter

On the other hand, if your butter or kitchen is too cold, it might also throw off the texture of your frosting.

The key is that the butter and the sweetened condensed milk are at the same temperature.

Adding in the Sweetened Condensed Milk Too Quickly

Your frosting might also separate if you try to mix in the sweetened condensed milk too quickly.

It’s super important that you gradually mix it in.

I like to pour it in over 4 installments, to allow the butter lots of time to incorporate all that sweet goodness.

image of adding sweetened condensed milk into sweetened condensed milk frosting

Your best bet at having your frosting seamlessly come together is using butter that is actually at room temperature.

This doesn’t mean that it’s super soft to the touch.

It should be somewhat firm when hold it, but you can make an indent in the side of the stick with your finger.

I find that taking my sticks of butter out of the fridge about an hour before I need them gives me the right consistency.

How to Fix Separated Russian Buttercream

If your frosting does separate, it’s ok. We can easily fix it!

My kitchen is usually pretty warm, so a lot of time my frosting separates because my butter gets too soft.

If my buttercream is broken after I add the sweetened condensed milk, I pop my mixing bowl into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to cool it down.

Then I whip it up again, and it usually comes together right away.

However, if you think your butter might have been too cold or your kitchen is cold, I suggest taking a different approach.

Scoop out about a half cup of frosting and place it in a separate bowl. Heat it up in the microwave for 5 second, then give it a good stir with a rubber spatula.

Repeat until the little bowl of buttercream is smooth again. Be sure to heat in small increments, so that the frosting doesn’t get too thin!

Add this back into your bowl of frosting, and try whipping it again. Repeat this process until your frosting comes together and is smooth.

Making this Buttercream in Advance

While I am all about making buttercream in advance, this frosting can be a bit more finicky.

It can be made in advance, but you will need to re-whip it with your stand or hand mixer once it comes to room temperature.

Be sure you don’t let it sit out for too long before adding it to a cupcake or cake, or else it can get too warm and lose its silky smooth texture when you try to stir it.

I let my frosting sit out overnight, and found it had developed air bubbles overnight. When I went to restir it to make it smooth again, it separated :/

But don’t panic, mine only separated because my kitchen was too warm, and I aggressively stirred it!

image of russian buttercream colored pink with gel food coloring

To keep things simple, I suggest just making it the day of.

It comes together so quickly, and you’ll spend pretty much the same amount of time trying to re-whip it the day of.

Adding This Frosting to Cakes or Cupcakes in Advance

While adding this buttercream to a cake or cupcake the day it’s made is best, once the frosting is on the cake or cupcake, it will stay silky smooth!

This frosting only separates when it’s too warm AND you try to re-stir it.

If you add it to a cupcake or cake ahead of time and chill it in the fridge, it will keep its shape and won’t separate.

It will also be fine once it’s set out and brought to room temperature.

image of easy mirror glaze cake

I made this layer cake with Russian buttercream, and let it sit in the fridge for 2 days before pouring a mirror glaze over it. The frosting tasted great, and didn’t change in texture at all.

This frosting is amazing on cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and even with fruit!

Tips for Making the Best Russian Buttercream:

  • Use room temperature butter! I suggest taking your sticks of butter out of the fridge about 1 hour before you plan to make the frosting
  • Whip the butter until it becomes lighter in color
  • Slowly add in the sweetened condensed milk to prevent the frosting from breaking
  • Use the frosting shortly after making it
  • If the frosting seems a bit soft, pop it into the fridge for 10 minutes to make it easier to spread on cakes or pipe with
  • If you want to color this buttercream, use gel food coloring to get a vibrant shade without throwing off the consistency of your frosting
  • This buttercream is stable enough to be piped onto cupcakes, to fill and frost a layer cake, or to pipe onto cookies!
image of russian buttercream in a mixing bowl

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this Russian buttercream recipe, I’d love to hear what think of it!

Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment.

Yield: 3 cups

Russian Buttercream

Russian Buttercream

This Russian buttercream is made with just 4 ingredients!! It's secret ingredient is sweetened condensed milk, which gives it a silky smooth consistency

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • Russian Buttercream Recipe
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (396 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature - 2 sticks (226 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
  • ¼ tsp of salt (1 gram)

Instructions

Russian Buttercream

  1. Whip the room temperature butter on a medium high speed with a whisk attachment or hand mixer for 5-7 minutes. The butter should lighten in color as you incorporate air into it.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and salt, and mix on a low speed until incorporated.
  3. Slowly mix in the sweetened condensed milk, adding ¼ of the can at a time, mixing on a medium speed.
  4. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula throughout the process. The sweetened condensed milk sometimes pools at the bottom of the bowl, so be sure to scrape all the way to the bottom.
  5. Use to frost layer cakes, pipe on cupcakes, or even to ice cookie. It tastes amazing on just about everything!!

Notes

Use room temperature butter! I suggest taking out your sticks of butter from the fridge about 1 hour before you plan to make the frosting.

Slowly add in the sweetened condensed milk to prevent the frosting from breaking.

If your frosting seems too soft, pop it into the fridge for 10 minutes to make it easier to spread on cakes, or pipe with.

If you want to color this buttercream, use gel food coloring to get a vibrant shade without throwing off the consistency of your frosting.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12 cupcakes

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 292 Total Fat 20g Saturated Fat 12g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 6g Cholesterol 57mg Sodium 107mg Carbohydrates 26g Net Carbohydrates 0g Fiber 0g Sugar 26g Sugar Alcohols 0g Protein 4g

147 thoughts on “Russian Buttercream

  1. I made this today but I added crushed oreos and it worked perfectly but today here in South Carolina it go unusually warm today for the 12th of Jan its 70 degrees outside and it got warm inside so i had to keep it in the fridge…I miss the crusting American buttercream but the Russian one is new,tastes good just not meant for warmer weather….Thanks for the recipe Chelsea

    1. Thank you for sharing Linda! Oreo russian buttercream sounds incredible 🙂

      That’s totally fair, I could see there being issues with this frosting in warm weather, since it’s consistency is pretty much solely based on the temp of the butter!

      Happy baking!! <3

    1. Wait that’s wild!! Do you do that to thicken it, to make the frosting more stable?! How long do you cook it for? I’d love to hear more about that 🙂

  2. I absolutely love your cakes!! I’m planning on making a Lion king cake for my brother this weekend and definitely trying this recipe out! After layering the cake and doing a crumb coat would adding fondant mess with the structure of the cake?

    1. Hi Marissa,

      That’s so fun, I hope it turns out great! I haven’t tested this recipe out with fondant before, so sadly I’m not sure! I feel like it should, but it is a tiny bit less firm than my usual American buttercream. Sorry I can’t be of more help!!

  3. So excited to try this out! I know you said you can put it in the fridge and re-whip it, but for you think freezing any extra buttercream would be okay as well??

    1. Hi Leah,

      I haven’t tested it out (I’ve used the full batches each time I’ve made it), but I think it should freeze just fine! I’d suggest transferring the buttercream from the freezer to the fridge the day before you plan to thaw it, to help it gradually thaw.

      I hope that helps, if you do freeze it please let me know how it goes, and if you’re able to re-whip it back to it’s smooth and fluffy consistency 🙂 I’d love to know!

    1. Hi Abeer,

      So sorry to hear that! It sounds like your butter might have been too warm. I usually put mine in the fridge for 10-20 mins if it seems too thin, then try to rewhip it.

      If that does fix it, I’d recommend only taking your butter out 1 hour before you plan to make this frosting. That way the butter will be a bit firm when your start the process, and hopefully it will work the first time you try it next time.

      I really hope that helps, happy baking!

  4. Would love to try this on a cake, would you think I’d need to double for a four layer six inch cake? Also do you think air brushing would work with a frosting that doesn’t crust?

    1. Hi Amy! It depends on how much frosting you like you add between the cake layers, and how you plan to decorate it! You should definitely have enough if you make a double batch. I’m not sure about airbrushing, I haven’t tested it out! But people airbrush SMBC, so I’d like think it should work on this too (the texture is similar). Hope that helps, happy baking!

  5. I love the flavor of this buttercream, but mine stayed soft and wanted to slide off the cake. I chilled it overnight and it formed some but still slid after assembling the cake and frosting

    1. So sorry to hear that! I haven’t run into that myself, is your kitchen pretty warm, or do you live in a humid environment? This frosting is not the most temperature stable, and sometimes it doesn’t keep its shape well in warm climates :/

  6. I can’t wait to try this out! My mother used to make a very similar version, but instead of butter, she used crisco. It was my favorite frosting growing up!

    1. Yup! Just like I discuss in my blog post, it it seems a little thin or like it’s separating, chill it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, then try to mix it again. Repeat that until the buttercream is smooth. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  7. I tried Russian Buttercream tonight. It was super soft during the crumb coat so I put the cake in the freezer and the BC in the frig for about 45 minutes. I was able to whip up the RBC to make it workable. It’s still softer than American Buttercream.
    The flavor was a creamy, milky flavor. We did a side-by-side taste test with American Buttercream. Frosted two dark chocolate cakes; one with AB and one with RBC. It was a tie!
    Although the AB was super sweet still, I prefer working with it. The RBC was less sweet, but I wasn’t crazy about the flavor.
    I am still searching for a less sweet BC that works as well as AB. #thehuntcontinues
    Thanks, Chelsweets!

    1. Hi Bridget,

      It definitely is softer, I agree! I love that you guys did a taste test!!! I actually feel the exact same way about the two. I like the change of pace / playing around with a different frosting, but I like decorating with american buttercream better. I actually do like the taste of RBC though, but it being less stable makes me like it a tiny bit less than ABC 🙂

      A random thing I just learned about (actually from the comments on one of my posts) is to add 1/4 cup all purpose flour to each pound of powdered sugar. It sounds crazy, but it’s a tip from a wedding cake maker who swears by it. I say maybe give that a try?? Hope that helps!

  8. Hi Chelsea! I’d love to give this a try! Is this sweeter than American buttercream? Does it taste better? Also, how much does this recipe yield?

    1. Hi Takwa,

      One batch of frosting yields about 3 cups of frosting! I think this frosting is slightly less sweet than american buttercream, and it has an almost caremly taste from the sweetened condensed milk. I like it a lot, and it’s a lot fluffier than my american buttercream. I prefer decorating with my american buttercream recipe though! Hope that helps, happy baking!

  9. I live in Houston so it’s basically always hot sooo curious question, if I use this frosting and then do a mirror glaze or fondant on top do you think that will help it last in our type of climate?

    1. Hi Angela,

      That is a great question! Sadly the butter in this recipe just doesn’t do well in hot/humid weather. You can actually swap half or all of the butter for shortening though, which will help make it more temp stable! Hope that helps, happy baking!

Let me know what you think!