This simple recipe for American buttercream frosting is the perfect topping for your cakes, cupcakes, brownies, and cookies! Step-by-step photos teach you how to make this easy recipe for vanilla buttercream frosting! Only 4 ingredients are needed to make this foolproof frosting.
Probably the easiest frosting to make is American buttercream, also known as ABC. Made of four simple ingredients, you have probably made it before. This is a more beginner, basic frosting compared to ones that require egg whites.
This frosting forms a thin crust when it sits out and is exposed to air, due to the high sugar content. So some people refer to this as crusting buttercream. This can be helpful when frosting cookies or making buttercream flowers, it helps them keep their structure.
Because this style of buttercream frosting has a high sugar to butter ratio this frosting is generally quite sweet, compared to Swiss meringue buttercream or Italian meringue buttercream. Due to the high sugar, I prefer to use salted butter but you can, of course, use unsalted butter. If you use unsalted and find the frosting very sweet feel free to add a pinch of salt in to help cut the sweetness.
Let's get to the recipe
- Tips and Tricks
- How do you make cold butter at room temperature fast
- How do you thicken or thin the frosting
- Getting rid of air bubbles
- Can you dye the frosting
- Can you double
- Can you make it ahead of time
- How to make ABC really white
- Can this frosting is out at room temperature
- Can you freeze a whole decorated cake
- More frosting recipes
- Recipe Card
- Recipe Ratings & Comments
For the best buttercream frosting you will need:
- Butter. I prefer to use salted butter for this recipe since frostings have such a high sugar content I find it helps balance it out and avoid the frosting being sickly sweet. You could also use unsalted butter and add a pinch of salt! No matter what butter you use it must be softened butter at room temperature for it to be able to form into a light and fluffy texture. Keep in mind the "yellower" the butter is the more cream/ivory color you will get with your frosting.
- Confectioners Sugar. Also known as icing sugar or powdered sugar. I find it imperative to sift the sugar through a fine metal sieve. Some people skip this step but I don't want to risk a lumpy frosting so I prefer to sift it. I find it best to find your largest bowl and sift the sugar in there. Powdered sugar gets everywhere, it's my archnemesis in the kitchen but even so I sift it!
- Pure Vanilla Extract. Use good quality here. This is the only flavoring for the frosting so make sure it's great. Also, keep in mind using dark brown vanilla extract will also play a part in the color of the frosting. You could use clear vanilla flavor if that is an issue for you but I prefer brown vanilla.
- Heavy Cream. This will lighten and make the frosting creamy. I prefer a little more heavy cream to frosting, but that gives me a looser ABC. That is the beauty of ABC you can just add a little more cream to thin it out or a little more sugar to thicken it up,to find your desired consistency. If I am spreading this frosting on top of a single cake layer or two then a looser, creamier frosting is ideal but if you are piping roses then you'll want to go with a thicker frosting. You could use milk instead of cream but I love cream!!
This frosting would be perfect on a layer cake, try my best ever chocolate cake recipe.
You will be spending a lot of time letting everything mix together so for that reason I prefer to use an electric stand mixer so I can turn it on and walk away but a handheld electric mixer works great too.
The first thing we will start with is beating the butter, it must be at room temperature!!!
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or a large bowl with a hand mixer beat the butter for 5 full minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Make sure you are scraping the bowl every couple of minutes to ensure everything is evenly combined.
I know it's a pain to sift your powdered sugar but to ensure you have a really creamy, smooth texture it is crucial to sift it. I use my biggest bowl and largest sieve to make it go by quickly! If you are frosting a cake for your small family night dinner maybe don't bother sifting but for a cake for a party or a friend, I always sift!
Sieve the powdered sugar to prevent any lumps and add half to butter. Mix on low until fully incorporated then increase to medium high speed.
Beat for another 5 minutes then add the remaining powdered sugar and mix for 3 more minutes.
Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl multiple times to ensure everything is evenly combined.
Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream or milk and beat for another 3 minutes. I love to use cream for the richness and creaminess but you can use milk.
Spread or pipe frosting. Store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days in an airtight container, let come to room temperature, and mix before using.
I hope you love this buttercream frosting recipe.
Tips and Tricks
To ensure a very smooth buttercream follow these tips:
- You must whip the butter on its own first, I know this is time-consuming but it's so worth it
- Sift your confectioners sugar. I know this is a pain, I HATE doing this but I almost always do because the last thing you want in a beautiful frosting is a lump of plain powdered sugar, trust me, just sift it!
- Add your sugar in two batches and whip well in between, I learned this tip from Cupcake Jemma, and I've never gone back!
- After you've added the cream and vanilla whip again for another few minutes, this helps the cream really whip into the buttercream.
Since there is so much mixing time this recipe is perfect for an electric stand mixer but you can, of course, use a handheld electric mixer, your arm might just get tired! But the time is worth it to achieve a very soft, fluffy, smooth buttercream!
How do you make cold butter at room temperature fast
Ideally, you just take your sticks of butter out of the fridge and let them sit on the counter at room temperature for an hour or two, depending on how warm your room is.
Your butter should still need to be pushed to make an indent with your fingertip.
You can speed this up by cutting the sticks of butter into smaller cubes.
You can also slice the butter and place it on a plate and microwave for 10-15 seconds but be careful and be warned the microwave doesn't soften butter evenly so you may accidentally end up with melted butter and this frosting cannot be made with melted butter. So you take the risk!
How do you thicken or thin the frosting
If your frosting is too thick for your liking add one additional tablespoon of cream at a time and mix in. If your frosting is too thin you can add more confectioner sugar to help thicken it. I would make sure to whip really well after adding the additional frosting. Sometimes if you want a very thick frosting the flavor ends up very sweet so in that case, I would add a very small pinch of salt.
Getting rid of air bubbles
If your frosting has lots of air bubbles take a wooden spoon and mix the frosting sort of beating it against the sides of the bowl to help pop them.
Can you dye the frosting
Adding food coloring works beautifully with this recipe. I use Ameri-Color gel food dyes but you can use liquid food coloring. Whenever you are frosting a cake and adding design elements always make extra frosting- the worst thing is to start frosting a cake baby blue and to run out of frosting and try to replicate that color exactly!
Can you double
You can totally double the recipe by pressing the 2X button below just ensure your mixing bowl is large enough to handle all of the frosting.
Can you make it ahead of time
American buttercream frosting is the perfect frosting to make ahead of time. Sometimes I make the frosting the night before and leave it in the mixing bowl but cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. Then pull it out a few hours before using it. Or you can store it in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer. You can store the frosting in the freezer for up to three months or in the fridge for up to one month.
The time it takes for the frosting to thaw varies based on how much frosting you store, how large the container that you store it in is, how cold your fridge is, how long its been chilling in the fridge...etc. To make it go faster I will sometimes slice the frosting into smaller chunks.
When defrosting frozen buttercream place it in the fridge overnight to gently thaw it out. Then let it sit on the counter at room temperature to fully soften it back to room temperature.
For a full batch of frosting, I take it out the night before and let it thaw on the counter.
When your frosting has thawed whisk it and re-whip it for a couple of minutes to ensure you achieve that beautiful, smooth frosting.
How to make ABC really white
Since there are few ingredients in this recipe and each brand of butter has a different shade of yellow the shade of your buttercream can range in the ivory/cream family. To achieve a very white frosting you can try adding a very very tiny amount of purple gel food coloring, the purple will counteract
Can this frosting is out at room temperature
Since there is so much sugar in this frosting you can leave it out to sit at room temperature for a day or two.
Keep in mind buttercream will slide off cakes and cupcakes in very warm environments, so in that case store the cake in the fridge and let sit out at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
Can you freeze a whole decorated cake
Since most cake layers freeze beautifully and this easy buttercream does as well you can definitely freeze a whole cake. To do so make sure to place the cake uncovered in the freezer for a few hours, this helps it freeze as is so when you add the plastic wrap and aluminum foil it does not affect the designs. Once the cake is frozen cover it in plastic wrap twice tightly then cover it with aluminum foil.
When you want to thaw the cake remove the foil and first layer of plastic warp then loosen the final layer of plastic wrap then place the cake in the fridge to thaw overnight. Your cake might need to thaw for longer than just overnight depending on how large your cake is, how full your fridge is, how cold your fridge is...etc
More frosting recipes
I wouldn't be here today with this blog if it weren't for my love of chocolate, try my chocolate buttercream recipe next! Easily made with the addition of cocoa powder.
One of my all-time favorite frostings is my Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, this is a looser frosting so not the best for piping but dang it is so tasty!
★★★★★ Please let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a star rating and comment below!Print
- 8oz (1 Cup) Butter, at room temp.
- 438-500 grams (3 ½-4 Cups) Powdered Sugar, sifted, depending on how sweet/thick you want
- 2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1oz (2 Tablespoons) Heavy Cream / Double Cream
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or a large bowl with a handheld mixer beat the butter for 5 full minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Sieve the powdered sugar to prevent any lumps and add half to butter. Beat for another 5 minutes then add the remaining powdered sugar and mix for 3 more minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl multiple times to ensure everything is evenly combined.
- Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and beat for another 3 minutes.
- Spread or pipe frosting. Store in the fridge for up to 7 days, let come to room temperature and mix before using.
Please read the full post above to answer lots of common questions
- Prep Time: 15
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Mix
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: buttercream frosting recipe, American style frosting, easy buttercream recipe