American Buttercream Frosting {Recipe}

Often the most beloved element of a cupcake is the frosting.  A good frosting can elevate a simple cupcake to a delicious, rich dessert.  Classic American buttercream is surprisingly easy to make, and can be adjusted to your personal preferences using added flavorings, and adjusting the ratio of the ingredients.  American buttercream is simply a combination of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (or other flavoring), and usually a bit of milk or cream- that’s pretty much it!   The frosting I love to use the most often is my Cream Cheese Frosting, which is simply a variation on American Buttercream, with some cream cheese added.  Free free to play with this recipe and adjust it to your palate.  This is a very sweet, classic frosting that pairs well with most any flavor of cupcake.

American Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (salted, or unsalted)
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (best quality available)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream, half and half or milk.

*Optional- As mentioned above, I like a cream cheese version of this frosting best.  The cream cheese adds to the creamy texture, and cuts down on the sweetness just a bit.  If desired, for a very light cream cheese flavor add 1/2 block (4 oz). cream cheese, leaving the other ingredients (as listed above) the same.  For a more traditional cream cheese flavor, reduce the butter to 1/2 cup, and add 1 block (8 oz.) of cream cheese.  If using a full block of cream cheese, you can reduce the cream or milk to 1 tablespoon total.

Flavoring options– An almost unlimited number of flavoring options can be added in addition to, or instead of the vanilla.  Orange and/or lemon zest, citrus extracts, mint extract, coconut extract or the seeds of a vanilla bean are all wonderful options.  In most cases I’ll still add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, then 1/2 teaspoon of the other flavoring.  For zest, add about 1 teaspoon fresh zest.  For chocolate buttercream, add 1/2 cup (good quality) unsweetened cocoa powder.

Directions-
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter (on medium speed) until completely smooth (30 seconds to a minute). (If you are adding cream cheese, add it now, then beat until smooth)
* Add salt (if needed).
* One cup at time, add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating after each addition.
* Add vanilla, or other flavorings and beat to combine.
* Add about 1 tablespoon of cream, and continue beating.
* Add the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar, one at a time.
* Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons cream until desired consistency is reached.  If you want to pipe the frosting on cupcakes, the frosting should be nice and thick.  Continue to beat another minute or so.  The frosting should now be smooth and fluffy.

Troubleshooting-
* If your frosting is not smooth, it is likely because the butter was not fully smooth before adding the other ingredients.
* If your frosting will not hold up when piped on cupcakes, your frosting has too much liquid or is too warm.  Put entire bowl of frosting in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and it will stiffen up.  If it is still too thin, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, beat well.

Recipe Source-  American buttercream first appeared in cookbooks in the early 1900’s (here’s a little buttercream history)  Countless sources since then have included very similar versions, always using some combination of butter (or shortening), powdered sugar, milk and flavoring.  The recipe above is simply the proportions I like to use.

Try this classic frosting on top of my favorite Vanilla Cupcakes or Chocolate Cupcakes.

Happy frosting!

Simply PERFECT buttercream frosting! You'll use this recipe again and again!

217 comments

  1. Great tasting recipe! I was searching for a buttercream recipe that was easy to make…this was it. Everyone at my daughters 12th Bday raved about it:) It is definitely a keeper. Thank you!

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  4. Made this this morning … flavored with mint, added half block cream cheese – needed about another 2/3 cup sugar to be stiff enough (and only used 2T whole milk)… bright teal atop my daughter’s birthday cupcakes for school!

    Thanks to this and the perfect vanilla cupcakes, my search for the perfect combo is complete!!! THANK YOU! We’ll come back to this over and over through the years!

  5. hi I live in aruba. will the buttercream hold as in aruba it is very very hot. I have to make 100 cupcaks but I want to make something diffrend because here they only decorate with icing sugar but I want to make something diffrend. can you please help me. I want to make 3 diffrend flavors of cupcakes. these are for charity. pls can you give me some urg advice. thank you very mutch

  6. What is the food color formula for the aqua frosting on the glorious cupcakes?

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  11. Just made this for my daughters birthday for cupcakes, probably the best recipe I have found! Pipes beautifully! And tastes great!! I love this recipe!

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  14. Such a beautiful butter cream recipe! Those photos make me want to have a lick!

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  17. I made this frosting yesterday and used it on cupcakes, it’s great! So delicious and it didn’t have that greasy feeling from the frosting made with shortening. It held up perfect through the evening and I received many compliments on it. Thanks for a great recipe!

  18. Just made this last night, absolutely LOVED it. Before it was even on the cupcakes, my boyfriend and I couldn’t stop eating it by itself :-) This will be my go-to buttercream recipe now for cupcakes. I used milk instead of cream, and a little less cream cheese, but the consistency was perfect to decorate Easter cupcakes with. Thank you!!

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  21. How many cupcakes will this recipe cover ?

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  25. how can you post a recipe without the serving size??

    • I assume the question you really meant to ask is “would you please mind sharing how much this recipe makes?”
      When the frosting is piped as pictured I can usually frost 20-24 cupcakes. If you are spreading the frosting on cupcakes, you’ll be able to cover many more.
      You can also frost and fill a 2 layer 8″ cake with one batch of this frosting.
      Happy baking!

  26. I was wondering what you used to achieve that shad of blue in the frosting? Thank you!

  27. I am in the process of taking a decorating buttercream class and just ran into your website…. beautiful and very helpful… Thank you for all your tips…. If I may I will like to ask you a question…. For this buttercream recipe… more or less how many cupcakes does it decorate…. I have to decorate about 310 cupcakes …. Thank you in advance for your help…

    Sincerely,
    Lizette Ruiz
    A baker in training

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  29. Hi Andrea, Really nice cupcakes. thanks for the recipe ……..

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  33. Can I use this on a two layered cake?

  34. Is this frosting something I can make ahead of time? How long is it good for in the fridge? Thanks!

  35. How far ahead can this frosting be made? Thank you :)

  36. Does this icing have to go in the fridge after being made or can it sit at room temp for a day ?

  37. OMG Your cupcakes and the icing on them are so beautiful and so delicious looking…..just found your blog and I did subscribe…
    Also tried to subscribe to “The Baked Equation” for her Butterscotch Cookies , but was unable to…..it kept saying email in use !!! I have never seen this before and I subscribe to blogs all the time…..could you email her and have her to put me on her blog list ? I’d appreciate it…..I love Butterscotch anything….I did not see the cookie recipe on your blog…..did you have one ? I saw where you could purchase them on her blog……

    Thank You,

  38. Hi Glory,
    I just emailed you but have another question, do you just use blue food coloring for the color,? It is such a pretty blue……
    I did see the recipe, but nothing about blue food coloring……

  39. Hi there by any chance do you know how much this recipe will make? I have three tiered cakes I’m making a 6in, 8in and 10in. Thank you so much

  40. After putting the cream cheese buttercream frosting on the cupcakes. Can they be kept at room temperature?

  41.  I just made this frosting with my soon-to-be four-year-old granddaughter. It is the best frosting  I have ever made. I used the half portion of cream cheese and it definitely cut the sweetness.  This will definitely be my go to frosting from now on. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes.   Oh and by the way my granddaughter thinks it’s the best frosting she’s ever tasted in her life!

  42. I’m hosting my friend’s baby shower and this is the exact color theme.  How did you get the buttercream that color.  Was it by food coloring? Is so, which color and how much of it did you use?

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