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The Best Buttercream Frosting Recipe

This is the best buttercream frosting made with only 4 ingredients. It’s so light and creamy and is perfect on cupcakes, cookies and cakes. 

Looking for more frosting recipes? Try my chocolate buttercream, cream cheese frosting or strawberry buttercream.

Buttercream frosting topped on a vanilla cupcake.
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Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream frosting is a creamy, sweet icing made by beating butter and powdered sugar together. It goes perfect on my vanilla cupcakes or vanilla cake.

This frosting has been a staple for me over the years and can be used on so many different desserts.

Key Ingredients

There are really 4 key ingredients: butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and heavy cream.

Buttercream frosting ingredients on counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  1. Butter: Use salted real butter. If you only have unsalted butter on hand, add in about 1/4 teaspoon salt for every stick of butter. You also do not want the butter to soften before adding it in.
  2. Powdered sugar: AKA confectioners’ sugar. Make sure to sift the powdered sugar before mixing it in. This helps get rid of any lumps.
  3. Vanilla extract: Add in vanilla for extra flavor. If you want your buttercream to be a bright white color, use pure white vanilla. If you love vanilla frosting, add in a little bit more for a bolder vanilla flavor.
  4. Heavy cream: You only need a few Tablespoons of cream to help thin out the frosting. I’d start with 1 Tablespoon, then add more in if needed.

TIP: You can make different variations if preferred, like my cinnamon buttercream frosting. Or try switching out the pure vanilla extract for almond extract or lemon zest for a fun twist.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting

Showing how to make buttercream frosting in a 4 step collage.
  1. Whip Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and whip for about 1-2 minutes until creamy.
  2. Mix. Slowly add in 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix until combined. Then pour in the vanilla and add 1 more cup of powdered sugar at a time and continue mixing. Depending on the consistency or sweetness level, you may want to add a few Tablespoons of cream to thin it out. Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed.
  3. Beat. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the buttercream for a few more minutes to give it a light and airy consistency. Then stir with a spatula and frost your dessert.
  4. Frost. Use a 1M piping to frost cupcakes or on top of cake layers.

Decorating Tips

  • If I’m frosting cookies, I like my buttercream a little thinner. If frosting cupcakes, I like it to be pretty thick so that it holds a point.
  • I use a 1m tip to frost my cupcakes. If using a tip, the recipe will frost between 12-15 cupcakes. If spreading with a knife, it will frost about 24 cupcakes.
  • Add sprinkles on immediately after frosting so that they stick.
  • Feel free to add in a few drops of food coloring if desired.
  • If you have any leftover frosting and cake/cupcakes, try making my easy cake pop recipe.
Buttercream whipped in a glass bowl.

Recipe FAQs

How long can homemade buttercream frosting sit at room temperature?

This is a personal preference, but I let my frosting sit out at room temperature for up to 48 hours. If it’s not going to be used before 48 hours, then I’ll store in the refrigerator. Before serving, I’ll take it out of the fridge and let it sit out for at least an hour to soften.

What can I use if I don’t have a piping bag and nozzle?

If you still want to pipe, simply fill a zip-top bag with frosting and cut the tip of the corner the size tip you want. This works in a pinch and can produce some pretty neat results.

What is the difference between American buttercream and Swiss meringue buttercream?

American buttercream is typically easier and quicker to make because Swiss meringue buttercream involves a double boiler to heat the egg whites and sugar. After this becomes a meringue, butter and flavorings are added. It’s usually less sweet than its American counterpart.

What’s the best butter to use for buttercream frosting?

Using unsalted butter helps control the amount of salt in the recipe. I also lke to start out with cold butter.

Can I use margarine instead of butter to make this buttercream?

Yes, you can! Simply use the same amounts and then add powdered sugar or heavy cream to get the desired consistency.

Does the frosting need to be refrigerated?

No this frosting does not need to be refrigerated. It will stay fresh at room temperature up to 48 hours. However, if you refrigerate it it will stay fresh about 7 days.

What should I do if my frosting turned out too thick?

Simply mix in an extra Tablespoon of milk or heavy cream and it will thin it out.

Storing + Freezing

  • Does it need to be refrigerated? I only refrigerate my buttercream after 48 hours. If I’m using it before that, then I’ll let it sit out at room temperature.
  • Will it melt at room temperature? It will not melt if stored at room temperature. If the temperature gets warm and humid, that’s when it will most likely begin to melt.
  • Can it be frozen? Yes. Store in an airtight container (I prefer a freezer bag) in the freezer. To thaw, stick in the refrigerator overnight.

5 star review

“Absolutely the BEST buttercream frosting recipe, ever. Silky smooth, spreadable and delicious. This will be the only frosting recipe I ever make.”

– Kathy
Buttercream frosted on a vanilla cupcake.

Some of my favorite desserts to frost with buttercream are my chocolate cupcakes, sugar cookie bars and my strawberry cake.

More frosting recipes

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Buttercream Frosting

5 from 131 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
This light and fluffy buttercream frosting will become one of your staple recipes when baking! It's made with only 4 ingredients and is perfect on cupcakes, cookies, cakes and more. 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 12



  • 1 cup salted butter , cold (2 sticks)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (use clear if you want it pure white)
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar , measured then sifted
  • 1-3 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk , more or less as needed


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, whip the butter 1 to 2 minutes on medium speed, or until smooth and creamy. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Slowly add in 2 cups powdered sugar. Mix until combined. 
  • Add 1 cup powdered sugar at a time and continue mixing until you get the right consistency. At this point you may need to add 1 to 2 Tablespoons heavy cream to thin the frosting. You want the frosting to be thick, creamy, and to be able to hold a point.
  • Beat frosting for a couple more minutes on low speed to help it become light and airy. Stir with a spatula and then frost.


Piping: If using a tip, the recipe will frost between 12-15 cupcakes. If spreading with a knife, it will frost about 24 cupcakes.
Storing: I let my buttercream sit out at room temperature for up to 48 hours. If it’s not going to be used before 48 hours, then I’ll store in the refrigerator. Before serving, I’ll take it out of the fridge and let sit out for at least an hour to soften.
Freezing: To freeze, store in an airtight container (I prefer freezer bags) in the freezer. To thaw, stick in the refrigerator over night.


Calories: 136kcal | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 134mg | Potassium: 4mg | Vitamin A: 470IU | Calcium: 5mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

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