Buttercream Frosting Recipe

With Variations

Buttercream Frosting in a bowl with a spatula, and cupcakes on a cooling rack

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 20 to 40 servings
Yield: 5 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
135 Calories
8g Fat
17g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20 to 40
Amount per serving
Calories 135
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 24%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 6mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 17g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 5mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A fluffy buttercream frosting is a perfect choice for most cakes and cupcakes, and it is versatile enough to frost or fill cookies and whoopie pies. Whether you need stiff, spreadable frosting for a cake or a thinner icing for cookies, you can't go wrong with this recipe.

There are three main types of buttercream: Italian meringue buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, and American buttercream. This frosting is a classic American buttercream and is one of the best choices for piping, and it spreads beautifully. It's also easy to add flavor and color to this type of buttercream, and it's one of the easiest frostings to prepare. Homemade also means you know what's in your frosting—most canned frostings include oils, artificial colors and flavorings, preservatives, and emulsifiers. And homemade frosting tastes so much better than canned!

The recipe makes about 5 cups of frosting, enough to pipe on 24 cupcakes—or spread on 48—or frost and fill a three-layer cake. Feel free to scale the recipe down or freeze the leftover frosting if you can't use it all at once.

"This is a very easy buttercream frosting that would work perfectly for nearly any cake, cupcake, or cookie. I love that you will probably have all the ingredients ready at home whenever you want to whip up a batch of homemade frosting. Plus, all the flavor variations can make for a great finish to any cake!" —Tracy Wilk

buttercream frosting tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Buttercream Frosting ingredients

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

    Buttercream Frosting ingredients in a metal bowl, mixed with a hand mixer

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the salt, sifted confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of cream or milk; beat until blended. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating for about 4 to 5 minutes. If too thick, beat in more milk or cream, a teaspoon at a time, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency for spreading or piping.

    Buttercream Frosting in a metal bowl

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Buttercream Success Tips

As simple as this recipe is, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure this buttercream recipe is successful.

  • Make sure the butter is at room temperature before beating it and that it is smooth and creamy before adding the sugar.
  • The butter and vanilla will create an off-white colored frosting; if you need a pure white buttercream, use half or all shortening and clear vanilla extract.
  • If you want to add color to the buttercream frosting, gel-based food coloring is the best option. Liquid food coloring is not as concentrated and can change the consistency of the frosting.
  • If you would like a less-sweet buttercream, you can tone it down somewhat by adding more butter to the mixture or adding some cream cheese or shortening.

Buttercream Flavor Variations

You can always vary the flavor of your buttercream with different extracts or flavorings, or you might try one of these variations:

  • Chocolate: Add 8 ounces of melted unsweetened chocolate to the buttercream mixture.
  • Strawberry: Add 1/2 cup of strained pureed fresh or thawed frozen strawberries.
  • Mocha: Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons espresso powder.
  • Lemon: Replace 2 tablespoons of the cream with fresh lemon juice and add 2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest.
  • Peppermint: Add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract and, if desired, 3/4 cup of crushed candy canes or peppermint candies.
  • Pumpkin Spice: Add 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
  • Nutella: Add 1 cup of Nutella to the butter; beat until smooth and creamy, and proceed with the recipe.
  • Irish Cream: Replace 1 tablespoon of cream with Irish cream liqueur.
  • Cream Cheese: Add 12 ounces of softened cream cheese to the butter and beat as directed. Reduce the vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons and add 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract.

How to Store

The buttercream should be stored in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container for about one week. Make sure to bring the frosting to room temperature and re-whip it before using it.

For longer storage, you can freeze the frosting in a zip-top bag or airtight container for up to three months. To use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, bring to room temperature, and whip again to a fluffy consistency.

What is the difference between buttercream frosting and icing?

While the terms "frosting" and "icing" are often used interchangeably, icing is generally thinner and shinier than frosting and can be thinned enough to use as a glaze. Frosting is usually thick and fluffy and can be spread or piped.

Why is my buttercream gritty?

If the butter is cold, the confectioners' sugar might not blend in as well, leaving the frosting grainy. Also, some confectioners' sugars—particularly organic sugars—don't include cornstarch, an anti-caking agent that helps keep the sugar soft and free-flowing. Always sift the confectioners' sugar to ensure a smooth and creamy frosting.

Is icing sugar the same as powdered sugar?

Confectioners' sugar, 10x, and icing sugar are all powdered sugar.