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I’ve done it. And I’m sure you’ve done it once (or maybe twice) before.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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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 a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer 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.