Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

If you're making a cake of any kind, you could always serve it up naked or perhaps with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, but if it's for a "company's coming" situation, a party, or a bake sale, then you may want to upgrade it with frosting. There are many types of frosting, such as the rather ephemeral whipped cream one (eat this quickly before it deflates) or the hard-to-get-right boiled frosting, but there's a reason why buttercream frosting is, as recipe developer Jaime Shelbert describes it, "a classic." As she explains, "It's easy to whip up with just a few ingredients, it pairs well with most any cake flavor and it's sweet [and] fluffy."

While the recipe here is for plain vanilla frosting, it's pretty easy to give it a different color or flavor. For color, just add a few drops of food coloring to tint it any shade you like. As for switching up the flavor, Shelbert suggests add different flavor extracts such as mint or almond in place of the vanilla. Nothing beats that classic vanilla flavor, however, and the frosting pairs wonderfully with just about any flavor of cake that you can imagine.

Gather the ingredients for this vanilla buttercream frosting

The ingredients you'll need to make this frosting are all things you may have on hand already. Check your pantry for powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, then check the fridge for butter and milk or cream.

Beat the butter until fluffy

Beat the butter until it's light and glossy, something that should take about 90 seconds if you're using an electric mixer.

In this recipe, Shelbert prefers to use unsalted butter because, as she explains, "That way you can control the salt." Since you'll be adding a little bit of salt to the frosting anyway, it's best to stick with the unsalted variety when it comes to butter.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the frosting

Once your butter is beaten, then beat in half of the sugar. Once it's thoroughly mixed in (about 30 seconds using an electric mixer), add the rest of the sugar and beat that in, too. Now add the rest of the ingredients and beat those in for about a minute, or until the frosting looks creamy, thick, and, well, frosting-like. If it's too runny still, add in a little more sugar. If it's a bit too thick, add in a little more milk, until you reach the desired consistency.

Put the frosting to use

This frosting is best if you make it right before you intend to use it. As Shelbert tells us, the amount of frosting in this recipe is enough to cover 12 cupcakes or 24 miniature cupcakes. She also says it will cover an 11x13-inch cake, and will probably be enough for a layer cake, as well. "Other ways you can use buttercream besides cakes and cupcakes are to frost sugar cookies for decorating or to use as the filling for cookie sandwiches," she adds. More unexpected ways to employ this frosting include using it to rim the glasses for sweet cocktails before dipping them in sprinkles, stuffing it into hollowed-out strawberries, or even enjoying a heaping spoonful straight from the bowl — we won't tell anyone!

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe
5 from 71 ratings
This classic vanilla buttercream frosting adds a perfectly sweet and creamy layer to cakes or cookies.
Prep Time
Cook Time
frosting on mixer
Total time: 10 minutes
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  1. Beat the butter at high speed for about 90 seconds or until light and glossy.
  2. Add half of the sugar and beat in for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the remaining sugar and beat for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt to the frosting and beat for another 60 seconds until thick and creamy.
  5. The batch of frosting will cover 12 cupcakes, 24 miniature cupcakes, or an 11x13-inch cake.
Calories per Serving 254
Total Fat 15.4 g
Saturated Fat 9.7 g
Trans Fat 0.6 g
Cholesterol 40.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 30.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
Total Sugars 29.5 g
Sodium 15.5 mg
Protein 0.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe