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 extract 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 additions, 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. If that doesn’t do the trick, continue to repeat this process until it thickens up and comes together.

On the other hand, 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 consistency.

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.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

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

Instructions

Russian Buttercream

  1. Whip the room temperature unsalted butter on a medium high speed with a whisk attachment of a stand mixer 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 10-15 minutes to thicken it.

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 292Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 57mgSodium 107mgCarbohydrates 26gFiber 0gSugar 26gProtein 4g

216 thoughts on “Russian Buttercream

  1. Thanks much for this.i love that it is not too sweet unlike the american buttercream.it is easy to make and takes less time, effort and resources.it is not as stable as the American buttercream specially when the cake ‘s first coating of frosting has been chilled. The decoration made of the same will not stick to the cake as much as the American buttercream.BUT i love the taste.probably just needs more practise.thanks much again!

    1. Hi Theresa,

      So happy to hear you love this recipe! If you swap out half the butter for shortening, it makes the frosting a lot more stable and easier to decorate with. I’d say try that next time, it might make it easier to work with. Hope that helps, happy baking!!

  2. Hello, just a quick question. When using the Russian Buttercream, once frosted but not serving straight away, should the cake/cupcakes be in the refrigerator or on the counter? Thank you!

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      Unless you plan to eat it a couple hours after making it, I recommend refrigerating it because the sweetened condensed milk is perishable. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  3. Hi! I just tried this and it tasted delicious although the texture was super runny 🙁 I tried piping it onto cupcakes and it just didn’t work at all. What did I do wrong? Maybe didn’t whip the butter long enough..?

    1. It sounds like the frosting is too warm! I would suggest popping your frosting into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to help the butter cool down, and then try piping again. Hopefully that will fix it. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  4. Hi
    I just made this frosting. And it’s so amazing! It’s like giving me an eggless version of SMBC. Sooo smooth and dreamy! Lovely! Thank you for introducing this into my life!

    1. I have been meaning to for the longest time but haven’t yet!!! It’s at the top of my to do list though, and I will definitely share the recipe once it’s fully tested 🙂

    1. Hi Megan,

      If you want to pipe rosettes, I’d suggest swapping out half the butter for shortening in this recipe! It makes it more stable and easier to pipe with 🙂 Hope that helps, happy baking!

  5. Hi Chels,

    I’ve made this frosting twice now, oreo cookie for cupcakes and recently for a tiered cake, both times it was softer than a more stable buttercream. I saw your comment about using shortening but will it have that ‘shortening taste’ like grocery store cakes? Can I use a butter flavored Crisco?

    I’m not real sure what happens…my kitchen isn’t warm and I keep my sliding doors open, I use my hand mixer, because my KitchenAid doesn’t seem to hit the bottom of the bowl and it pools down there. I set a timer and whip up my butter for about 6-7 mins aggressively and follow your recipe to a T.

    I love this frosting, its everything you describe and more!!! Its just that I’m hesitant to leave a cake out for too long for fear of the frosting melting or softening too much and the decorations will fall off. Yikes!!

    Love your work Chels, you’re an inspiration!!!

    1. Hi Wendi,

      haha you’re too sweet! I totally get what you’re saying. I think using butter flavored shortening would work great, I def recommend trying it! I hope that helps, happy baking!!

  6. This frosting is a revelation! I had never heard of Russian buttercream before thanks for introducing me to it. It has a much smoother texture compared with American buttercream but so much easier to make than Swiss or Italian meringue buttercreams and I think I prefer the flavour. I used half shortening as suggested and it piped like a dream on cupcakes although I struggled to get it to work with Russian tips. I coloured mine using purple gel colouring and couldn’t really get a dark or vibrant tone. I might try oil-based colours next time. Thanks for all you do Chelsea, I love your blog and videos!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that Kate 🙂 Yah I could see how it might be a struggle with russian piping tips though :/ Hopefully the coloring will be brighter with oil based colors!!

Let me know what you think!