Learn how to make buttercream frosting with this easy tutorial. This is the BEST recipe for homemade buttercream, it pipes perfectly, and makes a great base for other frosting flavors too!

A single cupcake topped with buttercream frosting on top of brown parchment paper.

Today we’re covering how to make buttercream frosting. Actually, we’re covering just how EASY it is to make your own frosting right at home. If you’ve been buying store-bought, you’ll want to ditch it after seeing just how easy it is to make your own.

I originally published this recipe in January of 2017, but decided it was finally time to update it with better instructions and more information. In today’s post, I’m breaking down everything you need to know about how to make the best buttercream frosting.

This recipe also makes a great base for so many different flavor variations. The possibilities are really endless, but I’ve included four different variations for you to try!

The ingredients needed to make a batch of buttercream frosting laid out in dishes on a gray surface.

Recipe Ingredients

This easy buttercream frosting uses just 5 ingredients – butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Here’s a simple overview of each ingredient:

  • Butter: I use unsalted butter in all of my recipes because the amount of salt in salted butter can vary quite a bit between different brands. By using unsalted butter, you control the amount of salt in your recipe. Make sure to use actual butter too and not a butter substitute like margarine. 
  • Powdered Sugar: Also known as confectioners sugar or icing sugar, this helps to thicken and sweeten the frosting. It’s best to sift the powdered sugar beforehand, but if I’m being honest I usually skip the extra step.
  • Heavy Cream: Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream work best in this recipe. You can replace it with milk, but keep in mind that the frosting won’t be quite as creamy. 
  • Vanilla Extract: This adds a little bit of flavor to the frosting. I recommend using pure vanilla extract for the best flavor. You can even use different extracts like mint, almond, lemon, etc. 
  • Salt: This helps to balance out the sweetness of the frosting. I stick with just a tiny pinch of table salt, you don’t need very much at all!

A glass mixing bowl filled with butter that has been mixed until it's smooth.

How To Make Buttercream Frosting

To start, set your butter out ahead of time so that it can soften. This will ensure that the frosting is smooth and creamy. You will need two sticks of unsalted butter, which is equal to 1 cup or 230 grams.

Beat the butter with a mixer for about 1 minute, just until it’s nice and smooth. You can either use a handheld mixer or stand mixer for this recipe, either one works fine!

A glass mixing bowl holding a finished batch of buttercream frosting.

Next, you’ll mix in the powdered sugar. I typically only use 3 cups of powdered sugar for a batch of this frosting. Some recipes call for quite a bit more powdered sugar, but I’ve found that 3 cups is all you really need. Feel free to sift the powdered sugar, but as I mentioned earlier, I usually skip this step.

Note: When you first start mixing the powdered sugar with the butter, mix it on low speed so you don’t end up throwing it all over the place. You may also mix the powdered sugar in 1 cup at a time to make it easier.

Once the butter and powdered sugar are mixed together, mix in the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. If needed, stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl and mix again to make sure everything is well combined.

Easy, right? At this point, you can go ahead and use this frosting to pipe onto cupcakes or decorate a cake. Or you can store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Four cupcakes on a rustic round piece of wood each topped with a different flavor of buttercream frosting.

Recipe Variations

The best thing about this recipe is that you can change it up to make different flavors of frosting. I’ve included 4 different variations below, but keep in mind that you can do so much more with this recipe.

  • Vanilla: If I’m just making plain vanilla buttercream frosting to pipe on cupcakes or frost a cake, I like to add an additional teaspoon of vanilla extract to amp up the vanilla flavor.
  • Chocolate: Sift 1/2 cup (40 grams) of unsweetened cocoa powder, then mix into the frosting base until well combined. Add 1 to 2 extra tablespoons of heavy cream if needed for a smoother, creamier frosting. If you prefer your frosting sweeter, mix in an additional 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar.
  • Caramel: Mix in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of homemade or store-bought caramel sauce. For a salted caramel frosting, you can use salted caramel and omit the salt in the recipe. 
  • Strawberry: Add a 1-ounce bag of freeze dried strawberries to a blender or food processor and process until the berries are crushed into a fine powder. Mix the freeze dried strawberry powder into the frosting until well combined.

Storage & Freezing Instructions

This frosting can be made 1 to 2 days in advance. While it’s not necessary to refrigerate it, I do recommend covering it tightly and storing it in the refrigerator so it stays fresh longer. When you are ready to use it, bring it to room temperature, and mix well before frosting cupcakes or a cake.

This will also freeze well for up to 3 months in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature and mix well before using it.

A single cupcake sitting on top of brown parchment paper topped with strawberry buttercream frosting.

Baking Tips

  • You can add food coloring to this recipe if you prefer. If using liquid food coloring, I recommend using just a few drops as it can thin out the frosting. For a darker color, gel food coloring is a great option!
  • This recipe makes about 2 and 1/2 cups of frosting, which is enough to generously frost a batch of 12 to 14 cupcakes. If you prefer less frosting, you can cut the recipe in half. This recipe will also make enough to frost a 9×13 cake or lightly frost an 8 or 9-inch layer cake. If you prefer more frosting for decorating, then I recommend multiplying the recipe by 1.5.
  • You can find my full tutorial for how to prepare your piping bag and frost cupcakes here.

Different Ways To Use This Frosting

Here are a few of my favorite cupcake recipes that you can use with this frosting:

Video Tutorial

Four cupcakes topped with different flavors of buttercream frosting sitting on a rustic cake stand.

How To Make Buttercream Frosting

4.87 from 113 ratings
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 10 mins
Learn how to make buttercream frosting with this easy tutorial. This is the BEST recipe for homemade buttercream, it pipes perfectly, and makes a great base for other frosting flavors too!

Ingredients

Servings: 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter (softened)
  • 3 cups (360 grams) powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Tiny pinch of salt

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed at first, then increase to medium speed and continue mixing for 1 to 2 minutes or until fully combined.
  • Add the heavy cream (start with 2 tablespoons and add a little more if needed), vanilla extract, and salt and continue mixing on medium speed until everything is well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Use the frosting to pipe onto cupcakes or frost a cake or cover tightly and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Notes

Storage Instructions: Frosting can be made 1 to 2 days in advance, cover tightly and transfer to the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before frosting cupcakes/cakes.
Freezing Instructions: Frosting will also freeze well up to 3 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature and mix well before frosting cupcakes/cakes.
Heavy Cream: You may replace the heavy cream with milk, but keep in mind that the frosting won't be quite as creamy.
Recipe Variations
  • Vanilla: For a vanilla buttercream frosting, I like to add an additional teaspoon of vanilla extract to amp up the vanilla flavor.
  • Chocolate: Sift 1/2 cup (40 grams) of unsweetened cocoa powder and mix it into the frosting base until well combined. Add 1 to 2 extra tablespoons of heavy cream if needed for a smoother, creamier frosting. For a sweeter frosting, mix in an additional 1/2 to 1 cup (60 to 120 grams) of powdered sugar.
  • Caramel: Mix in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of homemade or store-bought caramel sauce. For a salted caramel frosting, you can use salted caramel and omit the salt in the recipe. 
  • Strawberry: Add a 1-ounce bag of freeze dried strawberries to a blender or food processor and process until the berries are crushed into a fine powder. Mix the freeze dried strawberry powder into the frosting base until well combined.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
Did you make this recipe?Mention @livewellbakeoften on Instagram or tag #livewellbakeoften.