This vanilla frosting recipe with only 4 ingredients is a silky buttercream infused with vanilla flavor that goes with everything. The perfect pairing for all your baked goods from cupcakes, to layer cakes, to sheet cakes!
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A Baking Staple
This light, creamy, and delicately sweet vanilla frosting recipe is honestly the best frosting I’ve ever had. I’ve added more vanilla to my classic buttercream frosting recipe and the results are a vanilla lover’s dream!
When piped this homemade vanilla frosting looks simple and elegant, it’s perfect for baby showers, wedding showers, or anniversary parties.
To do this, I’m going to show you a simple method on how to frost the perfect cupcakes just like a professional baker!
Why This Recipe Works
- Easy. It comes together with just 4 ingredients and couldn’t be any more simple!
- Silky smooth. The texture of this vanilla frosting recipe comes from the use of powdered sugar rather than granulated sugar.
- Versatile. It’s a simple frosting that can be used to frost a layer cake, a cupcake, or slather on a cinnamon bun!
Simple with only four ingredients, this is classic vanilla buttercream you have been waiting for!
- Salted butter: I use salted because there is no added salt in this recipe otherwise. The powdered sugar is quite sweet so the salt gives it a nice balance. Learn how to soften butter to bring it out to room temperature so it’s nice and smooth.
- Powdered sugar: Sweetness in the powdered form helps it to dissolve easily into a smooth consistency. It’s also what helps create a structure that holds well.
- Vanilla extract: The vanilla flavor! Pure vanilla extract is naturally brown and when used it can alter the brightness of your frosting. For a gleaming white vanilla buttercream frosting, use clear vanilla extract. For extra vanilla, you can add in vanilla bean paste.
- Heavy cream: The liquid needed to help turn the butter, sugar, and vanilla, into a beautiful consistency.
How to Make Vanilla Frosting
Learning how to make vanilla frosting is so easy! Just follow these simple steps for perfect results.
- Add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle or whisk attachment to whip the butter for 2-3 minutes until it’s nice and creamy with a bit of a sheen to it.
- Combine remaining ingredients. At this point, start to slowly add in the first 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Add the vanilla and remaining sugar. Beat the frosting for a couple more minutes until light and airy. Stir with a spatula to remove any pockets of air. Voila!
How to Pipe Perfect Frosting
Scoop your buttercream into a piping bag with the tip at the end of it. Sometimes it’s helpful to place the bag tip side down into a tall glass and fold the wider opening of the bag over the rim of the glass. Use a spatula to fill the piping bag with icing.
Gently push everything towards the tip so that it bulks up the bag leaving no room for air and twist the open end closed.
To pipe onto a cupcake, hold the tip at an angle and use a circular motion to pipe around the top of the cupcake.
- No stand mixer? If you don’t have a stand mixer use an electric hand mixer to get to your desired consistency.
- Too thick or too thin: If you think it’s too thick, add 1 or 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream to thin it out. Not too thin because you want it to be thick and creamy and hold a point.
- Almond flavor. Swap the vanilla for almond extract (I would start with half the amount since it is stronger) and you’ve got an entirely different flavor!
- Make sure to use room temperature butter. If it’s too cold, you’ll have clumps of butter in your frosting, if it’s too warm, it won’t hold its structure.
- Wait until baked treats are completely cooled before frosting otherwise the frosting will melt and become runny.
The best vanilla buttercream frosting is humble, classy, and elevates almost anything!
Here are just a few ideas to get you going:
- Frost a vanilla cake, a layer cake, or M&M cupcakes.
- Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate cake don’t always need chocolate frosting!
- Sugar cookies or sugar cookie bars are best enjoyed with a buttercream vanilla frosting!
- Skip the cream cheese frosting this time and instead use vanilla frosting on carrot cake cupcakes and raspberry sweet rolls.
- You can top off rainbow cupcakes with a plain vanilla frosting or jazz it up with a few drops of food coloring for a bright fun variation. Sprinkles on top wouldn’t hurt either!
- What better way to enjoy pink velvet cupcakes than with a luscious vanilla buttercream on top!
I like to use a 1M or 1A piping tip which will frost about 18 cupcakes. If you spread with a knife, you’re going to use less and therefore will be able to top 24 cupcakes. It will also frost a 2-layer (8-inch) cake.
Yes, unsalted butter can be used if you prefer. Just add a pinch of salt to the frosting.
This vanilla frosting recipe can stay at room temperature for up to 48 hours. It does contain dairy, but the confectioners’ sugar stabilizes it and will preserve it for a couple of days.
If you do not plan to use the frosting within 48 hours, transfer it to the fridge and store it covered in an airtight container. Bring it to room temperature about an hour before using it.
This vanilla frosting recipe freezes so well when stored in an airtight container or freezer bag. I find the bags a little more convenient because you can flatten them and they don’t take up much room. Plus, if you don’t have a piping bag…now you do! Thaw in the fridge overnight.
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Check out these other homemade frostings that are equally as delicious!
Vanilla Frosting Recipe
- 1 cup salted butter
- 4 ½ cups powdered sugar , plus more if needed
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract , use clear if you want it pure white
- 1-3 Tablespoons heavy cream , plus more or less as needed
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip the butter for about 2 to 3 minutes. You want the butter to be nice and creamy with a slight shine.
- Slowly add in 2 cups powdered sugar. Mix until it combined.
- Mix in the vanilla and remaining 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar. 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 able to hold a point.
- Beat frosting for a couple more minutes to help it become light and airy. Stir with a spatula to remove any air bubbles and frost as desired.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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