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This vanilla frosting recipe is light and fluffy and only takes 5 minutes to make. It uses simple pantry staple ingredients and is the buttercream frosting to frost on top of your favorite cakes and cupcakes! This easy recipe is perfect for beginners and will frost 12-15 cupcakes or fill and frost a 9″ 2 layer cake or a sheet cake.
This vanilla buttercream frosting will make you ditch the frosting in a can asap! It tastes WAY better than anything you can buy and takes only 5 minutes to make with ingredients you probably already have at home. As a trained pastry chef, I am telling you this is going to be your new go to icing recipe!
It is also seriously perfect for any type of cupcake or cake because it is sturdy enough to be piped and decorated with. There is also no need to refrigerate it! Try it on this delicious vanilla cupcake recipe, slathered on this 6 inch chocolate cake, frosted on these confetti cupcakes or piped on top of these mini vanilla cupcakes.
If you need to go dairy free, try this vanilla dairy free frosting recipe!
I also use this frosting as a base recipe to flavored frostings like mint frosting, and Oreo buttercream frosting!
You can also make this frosting as thick and fluffy as you want. Learn how to thicken frosting quickly!
What is vanilla buttercream frosting?
Vanilla frosting is just the combination of fat (usually butter), powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and cream or milk. There are no heating utensils or eggs required like in some other kinds of buttercream frostings.
This type of frosting is also called American buttercream frosting. It is white and fluffy and has a high fat content. If you have ever had a birthday cake from a grocery store, this is the type of frosting you are eating.
There really is no difference between buttercream and frosting. Other buttercream recipes like Swiss, Italian, and French have ingredients like eggs but they are still used as frosting for cakes. Icing usually tends to be thinner, but in Canada they call frosting icing, so we’re using all the words interchangeably here.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It literally takes 5 minutes to make.
- It’s super versatile and can be used to decorate cupcakes, cake, or cookies.
- The recipe can be flavored in virtually any other way.
- Softened butter– I use unsalted butter here. It must be used at room temperature or it wont cream with the sugar. If you forget to soften your butter, learn how to soften butter quickly.
- Powdered Sugar– Powdered sugar is used to make the frosting fluffy. It’s combined with the butter to make the base of the frosting.
- Vanilla extract– Extract give the flavor to the buttercream.
- Cream, or milk- Cream is used to thin out the frosting and make it silky smooth.
How to make vanilla frosting
Combine the butter and sugar- You’ll first need to whip the butter in a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Start on a medium-low speed for about 30 seconds. Stop and add the powdered sugar and mix for another 2 minutes until pale and fluffy. Make sure to start on low speed and work up from there to medium.
Add in the liquid ingredients– Add in the vanilla and cream and continue whipping until the buttercream has stiff peaks and holds it shape about 1-2 minutes.
- If the frosting it too thin, add 1/4 cup more powdered sugar at a time and remix.
- If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more cream 1-2 tsp at a time and remix until it’s consistency is right.
- Start with the mixer on low when you add the powdered sugar so it doesn’t explode all over the kitchen.
- If your icing is lumpy, whip it on high speed for 2 minutes to smooth it out.
- If you are using a butter substitute that melts easily (like Earth balance) and faster than butter, you may need more confectioners sugar than what’s listed to keep its hold. Try an additional 1/4 cup of sugar at a time. I also use Earth Balance straight from the fridge when making this dairy free.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can pretty much flavor it any way you want. It is extremely versatile as a base layer. You can substitute the vanilla extract for any other extract flavoring you have. Or play around with adding things like:
- chocolate syrup
- freeze dried fruit- make sure to grind this up first into a powder
- jellies or jams
- cooled coffee
- Melted white chocolate
- peanut butter
- caramel sauce
- cocoa powder
The only thing to stay away from when flavoring buttercream is fresh fruit. It will have too much moisture which means it will make the frosting super liquidy and wont combine well with the rest of the ingredients.
This recipe makes enough icing to ice 12-15 cupcakes or fill and frost a cake with 2 9″ round layers or a sheet cake.
Storing and freezing instructions
Storing- Store the buttercream in a bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap. Make sure to press the plastic wrap down on top of the frosting when sealing otherwise the air between the plastic and the buttercream will cause it to harden. You can also lay a damp paper towel down on top of the buttercream and then cover it with plastic wrap. It can last at room temperature for 3 days or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Rewhip if it got too hard.
Freezing- To freeze homemade buttercream, simply pop it into a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Alternatively you can wrap it in plastic wrap and then put it into a freezer safe zip top bag.
When you’re ready to use the frozen buttercream, set it in the fridge to thaw overnight, and then let the buttercream come to room temperature before icing your cake or cupcakes.
Is this a good frosting to decorate with? Absolutley!
This recipe is really great to use for frosting cakes because it will form a crust. The inside will still be fluffy though. It’s also really great for piping because it will hold it’s shape! You can also color it easily with different food coloring to customize it for birthday cakes or use it under fondant.
Do I need to refrigerate cakes with this icing?
Nope! The great thing about this is that it can be left at room temperature if you want.
Can I double the recipe?
Yes! No problem at all.
Can I make this vegan or dairy free?
Sure! Use a vegan butter substitute like Earth Balance straight from the fridge. Vegan butters tend to melt a lot faster than butter so theres no need to soften. Because it also has a higher water content you may need to use more powdered sugar.
Need more frosting recipes?
5 Minute Easy Vanilla Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons cream or milk
- In the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add the 1 cup butter and mix on low-medium speed for 30 seconds-1 minute.
- Stop the mixer, add in the 3 cups of powdered sugar, and turn the dial to the lowest mixing setting so powdered sugar doesn't blow up in your face. Move to a medium speed when the sugar is more incorporated. Mix for 2 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and add in the 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp cream. Mix on medium-high speed for 1 minute-2 minutes.
- The icing should have stiff peaks, and hold its shape, not runny at all.
- If you forget to soften butter, learn how to soften butter quickly.
- To make this vegan, use a butter substitute straight from the fridge.
- If you want the buttercream thicker, add in 1,4 cup more sugar. If it is too thick, add in 1/2 teaspoon more milk at a time until you reach the right consistency.
- This will frost 12-15 cupcakes or fill and frost 2 9″round cakes
Kasey Goins says
OMG Sam these photos are STUNNING! these cupcakes look incredible. And I am uber in love with the floral backdrop you have going on- so pretty!!
Ahh thank you so much Kasey!! I tried to dry the backdrop to see if it would look cool but it didn’t 🙁 Oh well, it was solo pretty whiles it lasted!
The best buttercream!
Sam Adler says
Omg thank you so much Meg!!!!
Jula Buchwitz says
that looks so incredibly good!
I looooove your style, colours and blog!!!
A huge fan! 🙂
Just started my own smoothie good blog 8 months ago, because I also used to work in fashion, as a garment technologist in London, but my company went bankrupt (due to covid)
and I felt it already during 2020, that I needed to start something for myself, as a backup…
then I fell in love with food blogs and smoothies and started researching on the side. 🙂 not having an audience yet, but this takes years… you are a big inspiration for sure 🙂
Lots of love,
Jula from the-rainbow-recipes.com xxx
Sam Adler says
Hey Jula! AHH you are so sweet! Thank you so much for all your kind words! Im wishing you much luck with your new blog, it will be all worth it!! XOXO
Is it salted or unsalted butter?
Sam Adler says
I always use unsalted butter unless specified!