Buttercream Frosting

Sometimes the buttercream frosting is the best part of any cupcake or cake, so let's make sure it is delicious.

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Four-Ingredient Frosting

There are only four ingredients in buttercream frosting, so it’s really important that they be the right ingredients. What does that mean? It means that you should use good-quality, unsalted butter. After all, it’s not called “buttercream” for no reason. Butter is the most important ingredient and it should be fresh, delicious and unsalted. We’re going for sweet, not salty frosting. Using the right ingredients also means using pure vanilla extract, rather than artificial. This plain buttercream recipe is only flavored with vanilla, so let’s make sure it’s the best vanilla flavor we can get.  

Ingredients on a counter - powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and light cream.

Creaming the Butter and Sugar

Creaming the butter is the most important step in this process and doing it properly starts with having the butter at the right temperature. It should be room temperature (or around 65ºF) and soft enough to hold your fingerprint indentation before you start beating it. Leave it out on the counter for at least 30 to 90 minutes so that it can soften properly. Then, cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer on medium speed (stand mixer or hand mixer) until it is truly light and fluffy. It should have increased in volume and be pale light yellow in color (how pale depends on the color of your butter).

A spoon pushing powdered sugar through a strainer onto a piece of parchment paper.

Powdered Sugar

Use powdered or confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated sugar for buttercream frosting. Granulated sugar will leave you with grainy frosting. Powdered sugar will melt into the butter evenly, sweetening it to perfection. Sift your powdered sugar before measuring it to get the most accurate measurement and to remove any lumps.

Looking down on a bowl of buttercream frosting with a spatula sticking out of the bowl and a blue and yellow towel next to it.

Flavored Buttercream

If you want to flavor your buttercream frosting with something other than vanilla, you can beat in different flavored extracts or some cooled melted chocolate at the end. 

A blue spatula lifting buttercream frosting out of a bowl.

Making Buttercream Ahead of Time

You can make buttercream frosting ahead of time. Store it in the refrigerator, but remember to remove it from the fridge at least an hour before you want to frost your cake or cupcakes. Cold butter cream frosting just won’t spread evenly and will break your heart. Once it has warmed a little, beat it again to loosen it up before using it. Of course, if you’re just enjoying the buttercream on a spoon… you don’t have to wait any time at all. 😉

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Buttercream Frosting

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 15 m
  • Servings:
    Makes 2 1/2 cups


  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light cream 2-4 tablespoons more as needed
Chocolate Buttercream
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate melted and cooled


  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer and beat until it is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly. This should take at least 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  2. Sift the confectioners sugar to ensure there are no lumps at all. Add the sugar, one cup at a time, to the whipped butter, beating well between additions.
  3. Add the cream slowly until the right consistency is reached. For chocolate buttercream, beat in the melted chocolate.
  4. Store in the refrigerator, but make sure the frosting comes to room temperature before trying to ice a cake. Room temperature frosting will spread more easily. Also, give the frosting a stir before trying to ice your cake. That will also make it fluffier and easier to spread.
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Comments (20)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    Oh wow! This is a terrific frosting. Tastes great and easily spread. Topped off my cupcakes with this recipe tonight. Another winner. Thanks for all you do for your fans, friends, and followers.

    1. Hi Lynn. To make chocolate buttercream, add cooled melted chocolate after the cream. Once you add the cream, beat for a minute or two until the icing starts to come together then slowly pour in the chocolate and continue to beat until the desired consistency.

  2. Have you ever made a dairy free version? My daughter is allergic to dairy,egg, and nuts and always looking for a safe alternative. A challenge for you 😁Thanks

    1. Hi Amy, I have not tried a dairy free frosting recipe. You could try making this with vegan butter and dairy free milk such as almond or coconut milk, but I’m not 100% sure the texture and flavor would be what you’re looking for. Give it a try!

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe for years with milk. Next time I’ll try it with the cream . Can you post more flavor variations ?

    1. Hi Monica. Because this version of buttercream is made with butter, you do need to refrigerate the cake afterwards. Sometimes buttercream is made with shortening instead of butter and that frosting can stay at room temperature for up to 2 days (but it’s not as tasty!).

  4. I do not like sweet frosting, how is this recipe? I normally buy the Betty Crocker whipped which I just love cuz it’s not at all sweet!

    1. You can store it in the fridge up to a week or in the freezer for 3 months. It is best to whip it again after storing so it gets light and fluffy again.

  5. I can taste the difference between granulated sugar and powdered sugar. I was wondering why granulated sugar isn’t used in frostings. Which is my flavor preference. Will the granulated sugar not dissolve?

    1. You could use granulated sugar but the texture of your frosting will not be as smooth. You only need 1 cup of granulated sugar for every 1 3/4 cups of powdered sugar, so you would need 2 1/2 cups of granulated sugar for this recipe.

  6. Is it possible to replace the cream with lemon juice or would it be a different consistency and not spread well?

    1. You could use lemon juice, but it might give it a slight lemony flavor. The lemon juice might also cause the butter to separate, but since it is a small amount, you should be able to beat it a little longer until it comes together. You could also use milk or water instead of the cream.

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