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Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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This classic vanilla buttercream tastes so much better than store-bought frosting. It’s light, airy, and has an intense vanilla flavor. It takes under 10 minutes to make, so you can easily whip up a batch if you’re in a hurry.

I’ve been making this buttercream for over ten years. It’s one of my most requested recipes.

Vanilla buttercream frosting being piped onto a chocolate cupcake

I use this on vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, funfetti birthday cupcakes, in cake truffles and cake pops, and even as a filling in my homemade Oreo cookies. Even though it’s considered an American buttercream, it isn’t cloyingly sweet; vanilla is by far the most prominent flavor.

Ingredients

Vanilla buttercream frosting on a mixer paddle

This recipe requires only unsalted butter, confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar), vanilla extract, and salt.

Make sure that you sift your powdered sugar if it has clumps to avoid lumpy frosting.

Do not use imitation vanilla extract in this recipe! Since it’s the main flavor, splurge and buy the real thing.

Tip: If you want a really strong vanilla flavor, try using vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract. It’s like the extract, but with seeds from vanilla pods mixed in. If you use it, you’ll end up with a beautiful speckled and a strong vanilla flavor. I strongly recommend you try the paste; it’s my favorite way to make this frosting.

Salt cuts the sweetness of the frosting and enhances the vanilla flavor. I always suggest using unsalted butter and adding salt so that you can control the total salt quantity.

How It’s Made

The first step is to beat the butter for three minutes at high speed in a stand mixer or using a handheld electric mixer. Mixing for the full amount of time is very important as you’re aerating the butter. If you don’t mix long enough, the frosting will be very dense.

Tip: You will need to stop and scrape down the side of the bowl every minute or so while you are mixing as butter will stick to the edges of the bowl. While easiest way to do this is with a silicone spatula, you can avoid the scraping entirely by using a scraping paddle. Many mixers now come with scraping paddles, but you may be able to purchase one if yours doesn’t.

Butter mixed in stand mixer

Mix in the powdered sugar. Add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time and always start the mixer on low speed. If you start on high speed, the sugar will end up flying all over your kitchen!

Adding powdered sugar to vanilla frosting recipe

Next, mix in the vanilla extract (or paste) and salt.

adding vanilla bean paste to vanilla buttercream frosting

Spread or pipe onto your desserts!

Expert Tips and FAQs

Lemon Ginger Power Cupcakes
How is this recipe different than other frostings?

This frosting is an American buttercream, which means that it is made by mixing powdered sugar and butter; French, Swiss, or Italian meringue frostings all use eggs. The latter frosting styles end up being incredibly fluffy and not quite as sweet as American buttercream. I would highly suggest that you try them when you have more time on your hands. (Read all about different frostings on my post about cupcake frostings.)

What’s the best way to pipe this frosting onto cupcakes?

The easiest way to achieve the perfect cupcake swirl is to use a 1M tip.

Can I make make this recipe without an electric mixer?

While there are many frosting recipes that you can mix by hand, the best buttercream frostings require lots of air to be incorporated into the butter. To really get this job done right, I highly recommend that you use an electric mixer. A handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer will both work well.

What can I do to make sure all of my butter gets properly aerated?

You will need to stop and scrape down the side of the bowl every minute or so while you are mixing as butter will stick to the edge of the bowl. You can do this with a silicone spatula or avoid it entirely by using a scraping paddle.

Do I have to sift my powdered sugar?

Take a look at the sugar to see if it has clumps; some brands are clumpier than others. These clumps of powdered sugar will not get integrated properly into the frosting and may end up getting stuck in your piping tip. Always measure your powdered sugar before sifting.

How do I store this frosting?

It lasts for up to a week at room temperature or months in the freezer. You will need to bring it to room temperature and mix it again for a minute or two before you start piping.

Can I flavor this buttercream?

It’s really easy to adapt this recipe to all kinds of different flavors. Add a little lemon zest for a great lemon buttercream, orange zest for orange buttercream, cocoa powder for a chocolate buttercream, or sour cream for a tangy sour cream frosting!

Chocolate cream cheese frosting being piped onto a chocolate cupcake
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Vanilla frosting on vanilla cupcakes
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4.31 from 73 votes

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This vanilla buttercream frosting recipe is light, airy, and has a strong vanilla flavor!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 6 minutes
Total Time 6 minutes
Servings 24 servings
Calories 128kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar add more until it reaches your preferred consistency
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract Try using vanilla bean paste instead for a stronger vanilla flavor.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Beat butter on high speed with an electric mixer for about three minutes until light and airy.
  • Mix in powdered sugar a little bit at a time.
  • Add vanilla extract and salt and continue to beat for another minute.
  • If desired, add more vanilla to taste or more confectioners' sugar to make the buttercream frosting stiffer.

Video

Notes

  • If you plan to make a large swirl of frosting, this recipe will only cover about 12 cupcakes. Double as needed.
  • The frosting will cover two 8″ round cakes.
  • If you want to pipe vanilla buttercream frosting on cupcakes, the easiest way to achieve the perfect cupcake swirl is to use a 1M tip.
  • While there are many frosting recipes that you can mix by hand, the best buttercream frostings require lots of air to be incorporated into the butter. To really get this job done right, I highly recommend that you use an electric mixer. A hand mixer or a stand mixer will both work well.
  • You will need to stop and scrape down the side of the bowl every minute or so while you are mixing as butter will stick to the edges of the bowl. The easiest way to do this is with a silicone spatula. One way to avoid scraping down the bowl is to use a mixer that has a scraping paddle. Many mixers now come with scraping paddles, but you may be able to purchase one if yours doesn’t (e.g. the beater blade).
  • Sift the powdered sugar if needed. Take a look at the actual sugar to see if it has clumps (some brands are clumpier than others). Clumps of powdered sugar will not get integrated into the frosting and may end up getting stuck in your piping tip. Measure before sifting.
  • The frosting lasts for up to a week at room temperature or months in the freezer. You will need to bring it to room temperature and mix it again for a minute or two before you start piping.

Nutrition

Calories: 128kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 50mg | Potassium: 2mg | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 236IU | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 1mg
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Vanilla Buttercream Frosting