Fluffy, sweet and perfectly pipe-able Vanilla Buttercream Frosting for all of your baking needs! We love it on a birthday cake, spread on cookies, cookie bars, and of course cupcakes! Read on for the method and tips for perfect buttercream.
Ever since I shared my recipe for mini vanilla cake for two, the comments about how delicious the frosting is have been flooding in. It's super rich, thick and heavy on the vanilla. Yet, it's still perfect for piping and holding shape of any designs. Truthfully, that recipe makes a bit too much frosting for that small cake, but I love decorating and making roses with the vanilla buttercream, so I kept it.
What to Pair with Vanilla Buttercream:
- This small batch vanilla cupcakes topped with buttercream and sprinkles makes a great birthday gift.
- These wedding cake cupcakes have this frosting, but with a splash of almond extract.
- I think vanilla buttercream goes well with lemon cake. Perfectly sweet and tart.
- If you're not a cream cheese frosting fan, try vanilla buttercream on red velvet cake.
- Break the rules and put vanilla buttercream on mini chocolate cake.
Before we get into making this recipe, let's talk about some basics when it comes to buttercream in general.
In short, not all frostings are buttercream, but all buttercreams are frosting. Frostings can be any type of glaze, syrup, decoration put on top of a cake. It can be a simple mix of powdered sugar and a splash of milk, or made richer with melted butter, icing sugar and milk. A frosting can be anything. However, buttercream is a whipped mixture of plenty of butter, powdered sugar, flavoring, and a splash of something liquid to bind it all together.
First, before you attempt to pipe anything, be sure to let your cake cool completely! Even the sturdiest buttercream will melt on a warm cake. Of all types of buttercream (Swiss meringue, Italian meringue, and American), American is the sturdiest for piping flowers and such because the butter can be firmed up with cold temperature. In fact, I recommend piping any flowers ahead of time and freezing them before decorating.
The answer to which brand of butter is best for buttercream in my kitchen has always been salted European-style butter. This can be actual imported butter (like the Kerrygold you see in gold packages), or it can be American butter in the European-style. This means the butter has less water and more fat in it, making for a creamier consistency. However, it's important to say that this recipe will work with regular grocery-store brand butter. I test my recipes with both high-end and regular-priced ingredients.
How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
With such few ingredients, preparation is key here! Make sure your butter is at the proper temperature, and have everything pre-measured and ready to go.
You will need a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer to make fluffy vanilla buttercream. I like this smaller profile stand mixer (since I typically cook for two-three people), and this hand mixer has lasted me over a decade.
Please also note you can cut this recipe in half if you only need a small amount. Or, you can double it for a full-size 8 or 9-inch layer cake.
- Butter. Let's use salted butter for supremely delicious buttercream frosting. The butter needs to be softened at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. When its ready, you will be able to make a fingerprint indention in it, but it will not go all the way through the stick. No overly warm or melty butter here! The best way to get the perfect temperature is to open the stick, slice it into tablespoon pieces and let it rest exposed to room temperature air.
- Powdered Sugar. Also called confectioner's sugar. There is no substitute for this; do not use granulated sugar.
- Vanilla Extract. Amazingly delicious, super fragrant high-quality vanilla bean extract is the best here. You will taste it!
- Heavy Cream. I really recommend heavy cream for ultimate fluffiness; however, you can use regular milk and your frosting will be just fine. You can also use a small amount of sour cream, since it contains 40% fat.
- Gather all ingredients for the vanilla buttercream. Add the softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and heavy cream (yes, all of the ingredients) into a bowl together.
2. Using a hand mixer, beat until very fluffy. However, do not over-beat and create bubbles in the buttercream.
3. Scrape the buttercream into a piping bag, or simply spread it on any kind of cake or cupcake using an offset spatula.
Now that you've made a delicious bowl of fluff, you might have some questions! Give your creation a taste before piping or spreading it onto a dessert and let's dig into some frequently asked questions.
Also, check out my recipe for chocolate buttercream, just in case you're wondering if you can add chocolate to this.
Well, that's because there's a lot of sugar in it. Jokes aside, I believe whenever buttercream tastes too much like one thing, it's because it's lacking balance. The best way to balance is to add more salt (especially if you used unsalted butter), or a splash more heavy cream.
Probably because you didn't use salted butter. Since buttercream is made of such few ingredients, the most of which is butter, is can be overwhelming. This is why we recommend salted butter and plenty of vanilla extract for balance. Do not be afraid of salt in desserts.
You can absolutely just use a splash of milk to make this recipe. Heavy cream makes it super fluffy, but it will still come together and work with half and half or just plain milk.
- 1 stick (113 grams) salted butter, softened at room temperature
- 2 cups (260 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) heavy cream
- Combine the softened butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla and heavy cream in a bowl.
- Beat everything together using a hand mixer until light and fluffy, but do not over-mix. Add more heavy cream, if it seems dry.
- Scrape the frosting into a frosting bag fitted with a piping tip, or just use a butter knife to spread onto cupcakes, cakes or between two cookies. Decroate with sprinkles and serve.
**To store desserts frosted with buttercream, it's best to store them in the fridge. Remove them from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before serving so the frosting softens. Since buttercream has butter, it shouldn't sit out at room temperature for very long.
Butter: Salted butter is my choice here.. The butter needs to be softened at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. When its ready, you will be able to make a fingerprint indention in it, but it will not go all the way through the stick. No overly warm or melty butter here! The best way to get the perfect temperature is to open the stick, slice it into tablespoon pieces and let it rest exposed to room temperature air.
Powdered Sugar: Can also be called confectioner's sugar. Do not substitute granulated sugar.
Vanilla Extract: Use the most fragrant, delicious vanilla bean extract you can find. If you want to use a vanilla bean, use half of a bean, with the vanilla caviar scraped out of it. Drop the seeds (also called vanilla caviar) in the bowl, and beat with everything else.
Heavy Cream: I really recommend heavy cream for the fluffiest frosting. You can use regular milk or half and half, in a pinch. You can also use a small amount of sour cream, since it's 40% fat. You might need slightly more or slightly less than 2 tablespoons of heavy cream total. Add more if your frosting seems dry. Start with 1 tablespoon and work up from there.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 59Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 18mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g