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Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe: Follow my chef-tested technique to making the best ever icing recipe!

How To Make The Best-Ever Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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Make the Best-Ever Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe with my chef-tested tips and techniques for the perfect buttercream icing every time!


Hi Bold Bakers! 

Working as a professional chef I have learned a lot of tips and tricks over the years. Now I’m going to show you a Bold Baking Basic recipe that I get the most requests and queries for: How to Make the Best Ever Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. Watch my step-by-step video below and get all my best tips on how to make icing (along with a complete recipe below!):

How to Make Buttercream Frosting?

How do you make fluffy buttercream icing? The secret ingredient in my buttercream frosting is time.

Most people whip their butter for a few minutes then start adding in sugar and expect a light and airy result, but it’s never achieved. This frosting recipe takes its literal sweet time to really incorporate as much air as possible into the butter. This means allowing your butter to whip to perfection for a full 7-8 minutes. Only then do I add in sifted powdered sugar one spoon-full at a time.

While this takes a bit of patience, follow my steps and you will have the best buttercream frosting every time:

  1. Get Some Air: Use an electric stand mixer or hand mixer. For the stand mixer, use the whisk attachment because this will get all of the air into your frosting.
  2. Soft Butter is Everything: The most important thing that you need is to have soft butter. If you leave your butter out at room temperature for around three hours, it will be a lovely texture for you to start whipping. This is super important and the base of your frosting.
  3. Whip it Good: Turn your machine on a medium high speed and beat the butter by itself for around eight minutes. Get your butter light and fluffy before you add in any sugar.
  4. Sift your Sugar: While the butter is whipping, sift your your icing sugar (powdered sugar). It is really important to sift it because you want to get a lot of air in there and make sure there are no lumps. This will give you a lighter frosting as well.
  5. Spoonful by Spoonful: Once your butter is pale and light, add in your sugar spoonful by spoonful. Add in a spoonful, let it fully incorporate, and then add in your next one. Make sure your machine is on medium high speed here because we want to incorporate all of the lovely air that is going to give us a soft, fluffy frosting.
  6. Finishing Touches: When all of your sugar is added in, add in vanilla extract and a little bit of milk. What that does is it just lightens up your frosting. Turn the machine back on high speed and let everything incorporate. In just a few few minutes, you will have perfect frosting.

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WHAT IF MY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING ISN’T STIFF ENOUGH?

What do you do if you’ve followed my tips but you find your frosting just isn’t stiff enough? The first thing I’d suggest is to chill the buttercream frosting. By bringing down the temperature, the frosting should tighten up immediately. This is a great trick for buttercream frosting that may have been over mixed, or made at too warm a temperature. If this does not seem to do the trick, try adding more sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons at a time. With just a few extra tablespoons of sugar, your frosting will transform and be so much easier to work with, saving you from wasting ingredients.

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WHAT IF MY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING IS TOO THICK?

If your frosting feels too thick, there is no reason to start over from scratch on a new batch. Simply add milk 1 tablespoon at a time to your Buttercream Frosting until you reach your desired consistency. From there, simply pipe or frost as normal. You’ll be surprised how little milk you actually need to fix this problem. This will not at all affect the flavor of your frosting, regardless of what is in it.

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4.23 from 444 votes
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Gemma's Best-Ever Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (Master Recipe)
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 
Learn how to make my easy, Best-Ever Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe, which is perfect for my Vanilla Birthday Cake and any of my cakes & cupcakes.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12
Author: Gemma Stafford
Ingredients
  • cups (12oz/340g) butter, softened
  • 6 cups (1lb 8oz/680g) icing sugar (powdered sugar), sifted
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean pod (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using an electric hand mixer whip the butter until light and creamy for about 7-8 minutes on medium/high speed.
  2. Once the butter is pale in color and light slowly add in the icing sugar one spoon at a time on medium speed. Let the sugar fully incorporate before adding in more sugar.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, salt and cream or milk.
  4. Whip on high speed for another 3-4 minutes until very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  5. Use the buttercream straight away or keep it refrigerated for up to 4 weeks. Before use, make sure it comes to room temperature.

Watch the Recipe Video!

Recipe Notes

I have updated this recipe to add more sugar to the frosting. This is the new, improved version.

 

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Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I’m passionate about sharing my years of experience to show you how to make game-changing baking recipes with over-the-top results! Join more than 1 Million other Bold Bakers in the community for new video recipes every week!

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983 Comments

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  1. Austin on May 19, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Hey! how much frosting is this good for? When I make a cake, I usually use one can of Dunkin Hines icing (just to compare), for each layer of cake. I am going to make a 4 layer cake, so in that case, I would use 4 cans of Dunkin Hines, how much will this recipe get me?

    Thanks!

    • Gemma Stafford on May 21, 2019 at 2:12 am

      Hi Austin,

      If that is the case you might want to multiply this recipe by 1 1/2 times. Just to make sure you have enough.

      Best,
      Gemm.

  2. Faz Ali on May 8, 2019 at 8:33 am

    hi can i use margarine instead of butter to get the same consistency?

    • Gemma Stafford on May 9, 2019 at 1:45 am

      Hi Faz,
      it depends on the type of margarine you use. The ration of butter to sugar in buttercream is 1:2. That is one portion of butter to two of sugar.
      If you are using hard baking margarine you can proceed as per the recipe.
      If you are using a spreadable one, from a tub, then I think you should not add any milk or cream as this is so soft already.
      I told you it is proportional so that you can make a little sample to test it. 1oz butter to 2ozs of powdered sugar wil ltell you what you want to know!
      Gemma 🙂

  3. Amy@RidingWithEsther on May 6, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Soo… Is it okay to have a bowl of this for dessert (or breakfast) tomorrow? Not sure if that’s allowed or not…

    Awesome buttercream recipe Gemma!

    <3 <3 <3

    • Gemma Stafford on May 7, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      There are no rules, Amy! We are grown ups who can eat what we like when we like 🙂

      Gemma.

  4. fourthkid on April 20, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    I absolutely LOVE this frosting! I am not a fan of buttercream frosting, but I will make and eat this any day and twice on Sunday!

    I got the new Kitchenaid sifter scale for Christmas. It makes this frosting a breeze. No need to sift first, it does the work for you. Just a quick turn of the knob to release a little bit of powdered sugar at a time. It sifts and adds slowly. I live it!

    • Gemma Stafford on April 21, 2019 at 4:25 am

      Hi there fourthKid, haha! I am the fourth kid too, end of the pecking order <3
      Delighted you like the buttercream, and the KitchenAid appliance too, how amazing is that? (https://amzn.to/2GuIbEn) link here for the curious bold bakers,
      Gemma 🙂

  5. LadyIreland on April 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    I have a delicious addition to this frosting. I added 1/3 cup of your salted caramel sauce and frosted chocolate cupcakes. YUM YUM!!!

    • Gemma Stafford on April 18, 2019 at 3:08 am

      Hi Karen,
      well, you are a genius! I love that idea for caramel frosting too. Thank you for telling us, I will add it to my list of things to do.
      thank you as usual for your kind input,
      Gemma 🙂

  6. Vanessa on April 6, 2019 at 8:25 am

    My icing came out so runny, what did I do wrong?

    • Gemma Stafford on April 6, 2019 at 3:43 pm

      Was your butter melted at all?

      it really shouldn’t be runny if your butter is room temperature. You can add more sugar and that will stiffen it up 🙂

      Best,
      Gemma.

    • Lew on April 11, 2019 at 6:16 am

      How much sugar was in the original recipe? You said you added more to this recipe. I like recipes that are less sweet. Please e-mail me.

      • Gemma Stafford on April 12, 2019 at 3:23 am

        Hi Lew,
        the issue with buttercream is that it works best with more or less a 1:2 proportion, that is one measure of butter to two of powdered sugar.
        I know some people do reduce the sugar, but then it really is just a sweet butter, eventually.
        A fudge frosting may suit you too. (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/chocolate-fudge-frosting/) for some applications. A ganache for others, which can be whipped too as required.
        I think the secret with buttercream is to reduce the amount you use, a little goes a long way!
        I hope this helps, Vanessa may pitch in too,
        Gemma 🙂

        • Lew on April 12, 2019 at 7:34 am

          You said “I have updated this recipe to add more sugar to the frosting. This is the new, improved version.” What was the previous amount of sugar used in the original recipe. I am holding your feet to the fire because this recipe is too sweet for my taste. Please give me the original amount of sugar used in the original recipe.

          • Gemma Stafford on April 15, 2019 at 4:14 pm

            Hi, you can just cut the sugar by 1/3 it will still come out very well!

      • Lew on April 12, 2019 at 7:41 am

        By the way, I am trying this recipe as soon as you give me my update to try and I will let you know how I like it.

  7. Gemma Stafford on March 25, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Hi, yes you can!

  8. Gemma Stafford on March 25, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Hi yes you can double the recipe.

  9. Laura on March 12, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve tried buttercream a couple of times but never with great success. Part of the problem is how different recipes seem to be from one another. Is there a proper, no fail proportion of sugar to butter?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 13, 2019 at 4:18 pm

      yes, double the weight of sugar to butter. Weight it in grams or ounces.

      Hope this helps,
      Gemma.

  10. K.Ray on March 5, 2019 at 8:22 am

    This recipe looks perfect; but, I only need about one cup of frosting. If I make 1/4 recipe do you recommend any proportion changes? Thank you!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 7, 2019 at 2:15 am

      Hi there,
      good question!
      Buttercream frosting is a proportional recipe, you can easily make as little or as much as you want. A cup will mean about 4ozs/113g butter, and 8ozs/226g powdered sugar with vanilla and a little milk. So, 2:1, sugar to butter, and a little milk. Use real butter for best results,
      Gemma 🙂

  11. Bill on March 4, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Hi Gemma! Just discovered your site and it’s absolutely amazing!

    I love your frosting recipe but for the next time I’d like to add some ingredients just like you suggested in your Crazy Cupcakes video (e.g. colour, Oreo, peanut butter). At what point during the process am I supposed to add in those things? At the end of it all? Thanks so much in advance for your answer!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 6, 2019 at 2:40 am

      Hi bill,
      Thank you for your kind words.
      At the end of the process for the added ingredients, this allows the rest to whip up well for you.
      I hope this is of help, now let us see the results!
      Gemma 🙂

  12. Doreta on March 2, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Gemma, this recipe is just like the one my mum used to make but she heated the milk and added it slowly which made the buttercream really fluffy and creamy.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 2, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      I’m delighted to hear that! Yum!

  13. Jesuisunique on February 24, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for all the tips! My daughter’s cake cake out awesome. I doubled the recipe but I added a couple extra pinches of salt to cut the sweetness. Awesome!

    • Gemma Stafford on February 25, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      YAY, i am delighted to hear that!

  14. Christina on February 18, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Gemma! This recipe is amazing – I use nothing else!!! I’m trying to plan for cake and cupcakes for a wedding, and I was wondering how many cups this recipe yields. Thanks!

    • Gemma Stafford on February 19, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      Hi this will make roughly 4-5 cups of frosting. Enjoy!

  15. Bigger bolder baker on February 15, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Gemma, can you please show us how to make ermine frosting,ive seen many recipes on the web bt the methods are different and I only trust ur recipes as they hav never failed me,pretty please with a cherry on the top?

    • Gemma Stafford on February 16, 2019 at 4:15 pm

      Hi,

      So this is a new one on me! I have never heard of ermine frosting before but I’m thrilled you told me. I’m going to look into it.

      Watch this space 🙂
      Gemma.

  16. Jennifer on February 15, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Hi I was wondering how many cupcakes this recipe would frost. I need at least 30 cupcakes

    • Gemma Stafford on February 15, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      This will frost 12-14 cupcakes depending on how much you use. Best to triple the recipe to make sure you are covered 🙂

  17. Bigger bolder baker on February 12, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Gemma, hope u well! Would like to know if u make half the recipe , do u still beat for 6-8 min or less? Thanks for all ur flop proof recipes

    • Gemma Stafford on February 13, 2019 at 5:44 am

      Hi there,
      It may be quicker with the smaller amount, you will know, the color begins to change, it looks more white, and will be fluffy in texture.
      If you are halving a recipe do write it out, to be sure you get it right. In measuring for buttercream the butter amount is usually 1/2 the amount of the powdered sugar, when it is weighed. It is different if you measure using cups.
      I hope this will help,
      Gemma 😉

  18. Karen on February 12, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I love to watch all your videos they always make me so happy (and hungry)!

    I am going to try this today for a Valentines day party at my sons school. Will it crust over once i pipe it onto cupcakes? If so, how would i avoid it?

    • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 9:30 am

      Hi thank you so much! It should not form a skin the day of, after that can happen.

  19. Shirly on February 11, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Hi,
    Just wondering if I could add cocoa to half of the buttercream frosting?
    Thanks
    Shirly

    • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 9:40 am

      Hi, yes that would be great!

  20. Amy on February 5, 2019 at 4:51 am

    Hi,

    I’m just wondering is it unsalted butter that you use? Some recipes say unsalted butter.

    Many thanks

    • Gemma Stafford on February 5, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      Hi there, i use salted but you can use whatever you have on hand.

  21. Asher on February 4, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Hi there gemma….sorry this might sound silly but this is gona be my first try on making frosting…. So what would be the best option of cream to use for a fluffier and creamier frosting… As i could only find milk, whipping cream and cooking cream at nearby stores. Or could i thicken the milk? Tq in advance

    • Gemma Stafford on February 5, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      Hi there, i like to use regular whole milk here as the butter is already so rich, you’re really just looking for something to loosen the frosting.

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