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.
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (226g)
- 4 cups powdered sugar (500g)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt add more to taste, as needed
- 2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk plus more as needed (see "Tips" section in post for substitutes)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 sugar
- 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.
Hello Sam. I had an awesome idea while I was looking at your brown butter recipe and I was wondering if I make brown butter (which I have successfully done before, and it was amazing) and let the it solidify and put it in stick form, would I be able to use it for buttercream. I was trying to think of any possible problems and I wanted to have your opinion.
I actually have a brown butter frosting. It uses cream cheese as well so not exactly a buttercream, but it is sooooo incredible! It’ll be tough to not eat it by the spoonful. 🙂
This is my new “go to” frosting recipe. It is absolutely delicious, spreads easily and is so easy to make. It’s a big hit with the family.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much, Cheryl! 🙂
I checked out your chocolate icing recipe but I have a soy allergy so I can’t use chocolate chips, just 100 percent cocoa powder. Suggestions
Hi Mary! I would recommend my chocolate buttercream. It only uses cocoa powder. 🙂
Hi Sam! Can I use cornstarch to thicken this frosting? Or maybe replace half the butter with vegetable shortening?
Unfortunately, my kitchen is very warm because we only have AC in our bedrooms, not our kitchen! I am having a problem with melty frosting! They still taste AMAZING, but my designs on my cakes and cupcakes are droopy.
Hi Blair! Adding cornstarch can help make the frosting a little bit thicker, but if it’s too warm unfortunately there’s not much that can be done to keep it from becoming melty. 🙁
Your buttercream and vanilla frosting are virtually the same with the exception that your buttercream recipe has 4 cups of powdered sugar and your Vanilla frosting has 3 cups of powdered sugar. I’m trying to figure out which one is better to use or whether there is a mistake on one of those recipes.
Hi Cindy! Either one will work just fine. They are very similar recipes. 🙂
Thanks for this recipe! It’s so sweet, creamy, delicious and it pipes beautifully! It’s one of my third favourite frosting.( My favorite is your swiss meringue buttercream😋)
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thank you so much, Kaya! We’re so happy you are loving our recipes 🥰
Is this frosting stiff enough to make roses on a cake?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Yes! You can always add more powdered sugar if needed too 😊
This recipe worked really well! I put it on cupcakes and it was amazing, but now I don’t have any powdered sugar. And that’s where my question is. Why doesn’t it work with normal sugar?
Hi! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the frosting!
Unfortunately, granulated sugar is gritty and will not fully dissolve in the butter as powdered sugar does. Additionally, powdered sugar contains cornstarch, which is critical to helping the frosting thicken properly.
Some people have had success making their own powdered sugar by combining 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch to every 1 cup of granulated sugar and processing in a food processor or blender until you have a fine powder, but it can take some time and you must have a high-powered machine or you run the risk of burning out the motor.
Made buttercream frosting first time in my life after taking a look at the ingredients that go into a ready-to-use box of butter cream. This recipe is foolproof! I was afraid to try the more complicated frostings so decided to stick with the simplest one and it came out really well! I dipped the icing spatula in hot water, quickly wiped it and spread the frosting, worked like a charm. It is really really sweet for me, but the cake is for my 6 & 8 year olds for a birthday party and they loved it! I will try the swiss meringue next time! Thank you for posting this!
I am so glad you enjoyed it so much! 🙂
How long can i leave the cupcake with this icing in room temperature for birthday party ?
Hi Irene! I can’t speak for how long the cupcake will last, but the frosting will keep at room temperature for up to a week. Enjoy!
Can you add cocoa powder to this?
Hi Mary! I actually have a chocolate buttercream frosting I would recommend. 🙂
For those who want the sweetness cut, add 2-3 Tbsp of flour. My husband cannot tolerate too sweet icing. I tone it down by adding 2 – 4 TBSP of flour, it does not alter the taste of the icing, just makes it less sweet. He loves it that way. Suggestion: start with 2 TBSP and beat it in and add the cream. Check it for sweetness, if you want it less sweet yet, try adding additional flour, then check it, if it passes, go with it. It works for us!!
I have been using this recipe as my go to for over a year now. It goes on every cake we make! I always send everyone over to Sugar Spun Run for this recipe.
I am so glad you enjoy it so much! Thanks for passing along the word. 🙂
I love this recipe! My loves it too! My daughter is the one who likes her cupcakes naked because my “frosting” is too sweet lol! Is there a way to make is less sweet without taking away the amount?
Hi Faith! You could try reducing some of the powdered sugar but the frosting may be a little bit runny. 🙂
Hi, what are your thoughts about using shortening sticks with the butter? I’ve researched other recipes and am wondering if the icing for cupcakes will hold up better for an outdoor party. thank you!
Hi Lori! To be honest I have never tried using them so I really can’t say for sure. I have heard some people that shortening holds up better than butter to heat but you will compromise flavor. I’d love to know how it works for you if you try it!
Love this recipe! Tastes good and great for piping.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it Heather! 🙂
Will this recipe be good for Halloween cupcakes(if I add food gel)
Absolutely! Enjoy! 🙂
Best frosting recipe ever. Ive never been able to find the PERFECT consistency frosting recipe .. always had such trouble. and this one is just absolutely perfect.
Sugar Spun Run
I am so glad that it turned out perfectly for you, Genesis! Enjoy! 🙂
E molto interesante, cercherò di farla. Grazie
Mu ispira tanto, appena lo farò, scriverò.