Basic Creamy Butter Frosting and Variations

Frosted Cupcakes
Frosted Cupcakes Diana Rattray
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
202 Calories
6g Fat
38g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 202
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 71mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 37g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 6mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 10mg 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.)

This basic butter frosting recipe is the perfect topping for a cake or cupcakes. I love this frosting on chocolate cupcakes or to frost a layer cake, tube cake, or sheet cake.

You can add different flavorings to this frosting and you can easily color it to suit any occasion. The ingredients can be scaled up easily for 2 cakes or 2 dozen cupcakes.


  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk or light cream

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter, salt, and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

  3. Add confectioners' sugar a little at a time, beating after each addition.

  4. Add 3 tablespoons milk or light cream, beating until smooth.

  5. Beat in more milk or cream until desired spreading consistency is reached, and the frosting is spreadable.

The recipe makes about 2 1/3 cups of frosting, enough to frost the tops and sides of an 8-inch 2-layer cake or a 10-inch tube or bundt cake. Or frost or pipe it onto about 1 dozen cupcakes.

Tips and Variations

  • Small Batch: For a small cake, use 3 tablespoons of butter, a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, 2 cups of confectioners' sugar, and about 2 tablespoons of milk, or enough for a good spreading or piping consistency.

  • Almond Butter Frosting: Substitute 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract for vanilla.

  • Coffee Frosting: Replace milk with strong brewed coffee.

  • Chocolate Frosting: Add 1/4 cup of unsweetened powdered cocoa to creamed mixture and use less confectioners' sugar.

  • Peppermint Frosting: Replace vanilla extract with 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Add a few tablespoons of crushed peppermint candies to finished frosting or use crushed candies to top frosted cupcakes or cake.

  • Lemon or Orange Butter Frosting: Replace milk or cream with fresh orange or lemon juice and add about 1/2 teaspoon of finely shredded lemon or orange zest.

  • Browned Butter Frosting: Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat until golden brown. Let butter cool and then continue with recipe. 

  • Creme de Menthe Frosting: Replace some or all of the milk with creme de menthe liqueur.

  • Nut Frosting: Add about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped walnuts or pecans to frosting.

  • Spiced Frosting: Add 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch each of ground nutmeg and ground cloves.