A simple recipe for American Buttercream Frosting! This recipe is arguably the easiest of the buttercreams. It’s simple with just a few ingredients, 5 minutes of prep, and no eggs required. Great for decorating and can be used under fondant! While I think you’ll have no trouble making it, I’ve included a how-to video below the recipe for those of you who like visual guides!
While there are a lot of different varieties of buttercream frosting out there, American buttercream frosting is probably the one that you are most familiar with. It’s a sweet and simple icing that was the first of its kind that I ever learned to make.
American buttercream is a bit different than my Swiss meringue buttercream recipe that I recently shared in that it:
- Crusts, meaning the exterior becomes firm and almost crisp. This can make it great for decorating. You can add even more sugar to the frosting to make a very stiff icing that’s great for piping into decorative shapes like flowers or roses.
- Is much sweeter but less buttery than Swiss meringue buttercream.
- Does not use eggs
- Is much simpler to make
There are other varieties as well, but American buttercream is the simplest I’ve ever encountered. It’s also quite sweet, and I’ll admit it’s never been my favorite (my favorite will always be my less-sweet but equally pipe-able cream cheese frosting) but it’s a great frosting for beginner bakers and is essentially impossible to mess up! It’s also the frosting melt and I use to drape over my petit fours.
What You Need:
You only need a few ingredients to make classic buttercream frosting.
- Butter. We use unsalted and then add a pinch of salt to best control the flavor. Make sure it’s softened almost to room temperature before you begin.
- Powdered Sugar. Granulated sugar will not work in this recipe. Weigh or measure the sugar the same way you would measure flour (don’t pack it into the measuring cup).
- Vanilla extract. You can also play around with adding other flavors/extracts!
- Salt. Salt deepens the flavor and cuts the otherwise overwhelming sweetness of the icing. Start with ⅛ teaspoon, but taste-test and add more if needed.
- Heavy cream. You may substitute milk instead. The cream helps this buttercream frosting become silky smooth and pipe-able (it will be quite dry before you add the liquid). Whip it into your frosting with your mixer on medium-high speed.
- Optional: Food coloring. If you want to color your frosting, stir in your food coloring at the end. I prefer to use gel food coloring (this is the gel coloring set that I have).
This recipe can be doubled, or even tripled if you have a bowl that’s large enough!
- If using salted butter, omit the salt.
- When you first combine the sugar and butter the mixture will be very dry. This is OK! Once you add your cream it will thin to the proper consistency. If you’re struggling to get everything combined initially, you can go ahead and add your cream early to make it easier for you.
- Heavy cream, whipping cream, double cream, half and half, or any kind of milk (whole, 2%, coconut, etc.) will all work for this recipe. If using milk, start with less as it is thinner and you will not need as much to reach the right consistency.
- A hand mixer or stand mixer will work for this recipe.
- If using a stand mixer you can drape a clean towel over the head of the mixer and the bowl before combining your butter and sugar. It will allow you to quickly beat the ingredients together and the towel will keep the powdered sugar from going all over your kitchen! I demonstrate this in my video below the recipe.
- If you want a chocolate buttercream, see my chocolate frosting recipe. It’s very similar but made with melted chocolate.
- For a peanut butter version, see my peanut butter frosting recipe (great on my peanut butter chocolate cake!)
- If your frosting is too thin, add additional powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
- If your frosting is too thick/stiff, add additional cream until the desired consistency is reached.
Buttercream frosting is probably the easiest frosting to make so I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with it, but please leave me a comment if you have any questions!
If you don’t intend to use your buttercream frosting immediately, cover it tightly with plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container. It will keep for 2 days at room temperature or up to 7 days in the refrigerator. It may also be frozen for up to 3 months. Before using, thaw in the refrigerator (if frozen) and bring to room temperature. You may need to re-whip the frosting with your mixer before using.
As with most frostings, this one does not hold up particularly well to high temperatures.
More Frosting Recipes You Might Like:
Enjoy! Are there any other frosting recipes you’d like me to share?
This buttercream frosting is great on:
Are you more of a visual learner? Check out my YouTube channel where I show you exactly how I make this frosting step-by-step in my own kitchen.
- Stand mixer (or use an electric hand mixer)
- Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and an electric mixer) and beat on low-speed until creamy and smooth.1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
- Add 1 cups (125g) of powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt and turn mixer to low speed¹ and stir until combined. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar until completely combined. Mixture will likely look very dry.4 cups (500 g) powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Add heavy cream or milk, one tablespoon at a time. Start with mixer on low-speed and gradually increase speed to medium-high, beating on this speed for several seconds to whip the liquid into the batter and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Add additional cream until desired consistency is reached. If you accidentally add too much liquid and make your buttercream too soft, you can usually salvage the icing by adding more powdered sugar2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk
- If using food coloring, stir it in here at the end. Gel food coloring is my preference for vibrantly colored icing.
- I recommend piping icing over your cupcakes or frosting your cake immediately. See notes below or in the post on how to store buttercream and use at a later date.
Storing:If not using immediately, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Before using allow to come to room temperature, you may need to mix it again to reach proper consistency.
Freezing:May be frozen in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Let thaw in the refrigerator for 1-2 days then bring to room temperature and re-whip with mixer before using. Once you have iced your cake or cupcakes, this icing will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days (unless you are in a very hot/humid environment) or will keep in the refrigerator for a week. As with most frostings, this recipe is primarily butter and sugar and will not hold up well to high temperatures (ex: being served on a cake outside in the summertime). It can be used under fondant.
Chocolate Version:See my chocolate buttercream.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.