This is the most basic, and classic American buttercream recipe you’re going to find out there. It has simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry!
I have had a lot of people ask me in the past how I make my icing. Usually it’s because American buttercream has a bad rep of being too sweet. Sometimes it’s the consistency they are asking me about and how I achieve such a silky, smooth texture. Sometimes people want to know how to get the icing color white without having to use any gel coloring or they simply want to tell me how amazing it tastes. Read my tips at the bottom of the post to learn how I achieve all of these and get so many compliments on my buttercream icing recipe!
The secret to a good buttercream is technique. It works best if you have a stand mixer, but a hand mixer will do just fine!
Here is a walk-through on how I make my American buttercream
1. Sift your powdered sugar
The first thing you’re going to do is sift your powdered sugar. By sifting it, you get all the clumps out which will get in your way later on while decorating. Honestly, if I am just using the icing for the outside of a cake or something simple, I will just use a whisk and whisk the confectioners’ sugar really well. If you are going to be using the icing in a piping bag this step is crucial! If there are clumps in the frosting, they will clog the piping tip. Check out my post if you would like to learn How To Use A Piping Bag And Tip!
2. Whip the butter
Once your butter is room temperature you can whip it in your mixer. If your butter is not soft enough you will get lumps of butter in your final product, and if your butter is too soft, it will be harder to get the right consistency of icing. I like to poke my finger in the stick of butter to see if my finger will press into the butter, while the stick still “holds its shape”. If you poke the stick of butter and the whole bottom of the stick pushes away then its too soft. Does that make sense? You are going to whip the butter on medium-high speed. In my kitchen-aid I use between 6 and 8. Once you’ve mixed for a few minutes you will see the butter start to lighten up and turn white. This is important to getting a white colored icing as an end result and it will also result in a silky, smooth buttercream! This step usually takes about 3 minutes, give or take.
3. Add the sugar
Next, add in your confectioners’ sugar one scoop at a time. I usually just use my rubber spatula and slowly but consistently add in all the sugar. As you add in more powdered sugar it will become very stiff and your mixer will really have to start working. This is okay. If you are too afraid of breaking your mixer, you can add in the vanilla extract before all the sugar is in the bowl.
4. Time for the vanilla and salt
Once all the confectioners’ sugar is in your mixing bowl, add in your vanilla extract (if you haven’t already) and the salt. The salt is your best friend if you are looking for a less sweet buttercream. A lot of people complain that American buttercream is too sweet. If you add in salt, it will cut the sweetness.
5. Scrape your bowl
Once your ingredients are well incorporated, stop and scrape the bowl. You will most likely find sugar on the bottom of the bowl that wasn’t incorporated while the mixer was on.
6. Add in heavy cream
Turn your mixer back on slow speed and add in your heavy cream. You can also use milk, or half & half. Whatever you have on hand will work fine! I always start with 2 Tablespoons. If I am making the buttercream for filling and icing the outside of a cake, I will add in an additional tablespoon. If I am going to be using the icing for piping, I won’t add in anymore cream.
7. Whip it good!
After all of the ingredients are in the mixing bowl you are ready to whip it up! This step is SO important. You will want to put your mixer between speeds 6 and 8 again and whip for about 5 minutes. I know that will seem like a long time, but you will see why this step is the most important. The icing will become so soft and silky, and turn into the whitest color you will naturally get with icing. Have you ever had American buttercream that tasted good but was too thick and pasty? That is because it wasn’t whipped long enough at the end. (I have heard of people taking store bought frosting in a tub and whipping it in a mixer for a few minutes and it transforms into smoother consistency and adds volume.)
Check out this cake I made using this buttercream recipe
Note: Once you make this recipe a few times, it will be easier for you to whip up a batch and alter the ingredients and time depending on what you will be using it for.
Another side note: If you use high quality ingredients, you will get a better tasting buttercream, especially using a good brand of butter and vanilla.
- Rubber Spatuala
- 4 Sticks Butter (softened) 2 cups
- 6 Cups Confectioners' Sugar sifted
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- 3 Tbsp Heavy Whipping Cream up to 5 Tbsp depending on desired consistency
- Place softened butter in bowl of mixer with paddle attachment
- Slowly add in confectioners' sugar (will be very thick consistency)
- Add in the vanilla extract, then the salt
- Add in the heavy whipping cream (start with 3 tbsp and add more for desired consistency)
- After the cream is incorporated, stop and scrap the bowl
- Lastly, whip for 4-5 minutes at speed 6-8 on stand mixer or high speed on hand mixer
- Don’t skip the salt! this will cut the sweetness of the icing.
- When you scrape the bowl, make sure to get the very bottom!
- Whipping the buttercream for 5 minutes at the very end will make your icing fluffy, silky, white in color, and increase the volume of the batch.