The Best American-Style Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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I’ve done it. And I’m sure you’ve done it once (or maybe twice) before.

Make a classic vanilla buttercream frosting right at home. We share our recipe:

What could be more delicious than eating store-bought frosting, straight out of the container?

Just you, your spoon, and that creamy manufactured concoction of sugar and other mystery ingredients.

Xanthan gum, polysorbates, mono and diglycerides…


Despite the long list of crazy additives, you and I know it’s still irresistible. No sharing, of course.

Throw away your store-bought icing, and make a quick, easy, and fresh batch of American-style vanilla buttercream frosting at home:

Well, believe it or not, I actually can think of something more delicious.

Homemade vanilla buttercream frosting!

If you enjoy frosting as much as I do, especially traditional American-style vanilla buttercream, you’re going to love this recipe.

You can make it at home in minutes, with just a handful of simple and fresh ingredients. And that’s about all I have patience for – I can only stand to wait a little while before I need to lick that paddle!

We can't get enough of vanilla buttercream frosting, flavored here with cocoa powder. We share our recipe now, plus all the different ways to vary the flavors:

If you are able to restrain yourself from devouring the entire bowl, this thick and fluffy frosting is perfect for decorating sugar cookies, cakes, and cupcakes. And it serves as the perfect blank base if you want to add any food coloring or other flavors (chocolate’s my personal favorite!) to it.

And if you need some extra help with choosing the right tools for decorating, read our guide on the best decorating tools every baker should own!

Keep on reading below to make this perfect icing from scratch. No weird additives necessary! And be sure to check out our suggestions for variations – the possibilities are endless, no matter what flavor you like.

If you want to learn how to make fresh frosting, get our recipe (and variations!) for American-style vanilla buttercream frosting:

The Recipe

Freshly whipped vanilla buttercream frosting |
The Best Buttercream Frosting
Votes: 18
Rating: 3.33
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Do you love vanilla buttercream frosting? Follow our recipe to learn how make this classic companion to all of your favorite cakes. Read more now on Foodal.
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 15 minutes
Freshly whipped vanilla buttercream frosting |
The Best Buttercream Frosting
Votes: 18
Rating: 3.33
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Do you love vanilla buttercream frosting? Follow our recipe to learn how make this classic companion to all of your favorite cakes. Read more now on Foodal.
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 15 minutes
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or flavoring extract or oil of choice, adjusted to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons citrus zest (optional)
Servings: cups
  1. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the softened butter on medium speed until it is smooth with no lumps.
  2. Sift the confectioner’s sugar in a separate bowl. Add one cup at a time to the butter, beating very well after each addition.
  3. Add the salt, vanilla, and heavy cream. Mix on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Decorate immediately, or refrigerate for storage. Store for up to one week. Let it come to room temperature and re-beat in a stand mixer for a few seconds before using.
Recipe Notes


Chocolate: Add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder after Step 3. Mix until well incorporated. You may need to add another teaspoon of heavy cream if it is too stiff once the cocoa powder is mixed.

Extracts: Replace the vanilla extract with your favorite flavor extracts or oils: peppermint or almond flavorings are great choices.

Citrus: Add two tablespoons of orange, lime, or lemon zest to the finished product.

Nutritional Information*

Nutrition Facts
The Best Buttercream Frosting
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1740 Calories from Fat 1053
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 117g 180%
Saturated Fat 75g 375%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 313mg 104%
Sodium 248mg 10%
Potassium 466mg 13%
Total Carbohydrates 175g 58%
Dietary Fiber 10g 40%
Sugars 153g
Protein 6g 12%
Vitamin A 83%
Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 7%
Iron 22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Whip the Butter

Soften the butter before adding it to the mixing bowl, either by microwaving it for a few seconds or leaving it out on the counter at room temperature.

Whipped butter, a basic necessity for vanilla buttercream frosting |

Mix the butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. This helps to evenly distribute and soften all of the fat in order to better incorporate it with the sugar and other ingredients.

Step 2 – Add the Sugar

Sift the confectioner’s sugar before adding it to the butter, being sure to sift out any large lumps or hard pieces.

Adding powdered sugar to a bowl of whipped butter for American-style vanilla buttercream frosting |

Add the sugar to the butter one cup at a time. Mix on medium-low speed after each addition.

Add the next cup only after the previous addition has been fully integrated into the mixture. Scrape well with a spatula after each cup is incorporated.

Step 3 – Combine with Other Ingredients

Once all of the sugar has been well incorporated, add the salt, vanilla, and heavy cream.

A bowl of freshly whipped American-style vanilla frosting, straight from the mixer |

Mix on medium-high speed until very light, fluffy, and creamy. This will take about 5 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl with a spatula, and mix for another 30 seconds.

Step 4 – Use and Store

Add your choice of food coloring, if using. Decorate with your finished frosting immediately.

A delectable dollop of vanilla buttercream frosting |

To store for later use, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week.

Leave the Store-Bought Container Behind

The next time you are craving frosting, ditch the premade tubs at the grocery store and make this recipe instead.

Once you’ve tried this amazing alternative, I have a feeling that you will never want to go back to that shelf-stable plastic container. You’ll want to put it on everything: chocolate cake, vanilla cake, and whatever else you decide to cover in this tasty creation!

It’s even perfect on cookies, like our German-style Amerikaner cookies!

Read our recipe for classic American-style vanilla buttercream frosting, and learn how to make yummy variations, like chocolate:

For another all-American delight to cover your desserts, try my recipe for old-fashioned cocoa fudge frosting! It is outrageously thick and fudgy, and has a deep chocolate flavor you’ll love. You might also like my easy, frosting-free technique to decorate!

Let us know what you think of this recipe and share your ideas for tasty variations in the comment section below!

Don’t forget to Pin It!

Love vanilla buttercream frosting? Follow our recipe to learn how make this classic companion to all of your favorite cakes. It’s so easy to whip together and only a few simple ingredients are needed to make this sweet and fluffy treat. We’ll also provide a few variations to change up the base recipe, like chocolate and citrus. Read more now on Foodal.

Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.

*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Nikki Cervone

Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

4 thoughts on “The Best American-Style Vanilla Buttercream Frosting”

  1. This looks absolutely scrumptious, I can’t wait to try this! Thanks so much for all of your fabulous recipes!

    • Becky, it’s a delicious recipe even on its own! I confess that I just made a bowl of this the other day…with no intention of decorating a cake! Hope you like this recipe, and let us know what you think!

    • Thanks, Ellie, I’m SO pleased you enjoyed the recipe. Did you use this recipe for a cake? Cupcakes? Cookies? Eaten right out of the bowl? I’d love to know!


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