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American Buttercream Frosting

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Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, this American buttercream frosting recipe is the perfect all-butter buttercream to top cakes and cupcakes. This classic vanilla frosting recipe always receives many compliments!

cupcake topped with a swirl of white American buttercream frosting and red, yellow and blue sprinkles

Let’s make some amazing frosting, darlings. This American buttercream frosting recipe will leave you thinking, “that’s it?” while also making you feel like a super accomplished baker. There’s something really special about a good homemade vanilla frosting. It’s beautiful and easy to pipe, flavorful, and most importantly, NOT too sweet. This recipe has made converts out of frosting haters and is hands down my most requested frosting for birthday parties.

I’ve had so many friends over the years request this recipe, and I’ve explained it to them gladly. But after a recent round of rave reviews on the frosting, I knew it was time to post. Sometimes the simplest recipes take the longest to post.

american buttercream frosting in the mixing bowl

Maybe it’s worry that it won’t be “food blogger-y” enough. But really, who cares? We want simple recipes sometimes. Solid recipes that work well, we can memorize easily, and make almost blindfolded. This recipe will be that for you.

I learned how to make this without a real recipe (before smart phones) when I was a newbie baker. If you’re new to baking and just getting into making things from scratch, this is a great frosting recipe to start with. American buttercream frosting is a classic because it holds up well, tastes great, and crusts slightly. This one takes a little longer to crust than some because I use all butter and not shortening.

Why use all butter and not butter and shortening?

This is purely personal preference. Butter tastes better. If you’re like me, you also feel a sort of aftertaste after eating the shortening buttercream frostings. You don’t get that with this all butter buttercream, so hooray! There’s really not much difference in the final product except that the all-butter buttercream is a little more sensitive to heat.

I will say that when I’ve made cakes for say, warm weather outdoor birthday parties with no refrigeration, I’ll substitute up to 25-50% of the butter with shortening. So I’m not against it if the situation requires. For the best flavor and texture though, I’m team all butter, all the time.

Which ingredients do I need to make American buttercream frosting?

This is seriously one of the easiest frosting recipes to make. You need just four ingredients! To make your new favorite vanilla frosting recipe, you’ll need:

  • unsalted butter – we’ll talk about this below
  • powdered sugar, also called confectioner’s sugar
  • salt
  • vanilla extract

That’s it. But there are a few tips I have for you to keep this frosting from getting too sweet. A cloying sweetness is the biggest concern most people have about buttercream frostings, and I have a work around. We use salt. It doesn’t make the frosting salty at all, just adds balance to all the sugar. Which brings me to the note about the butter…

top view of the cupcakes frosted with the American buttercream frosting

I buy unsalted butter. It’s what I use in most of my recipes, and keeping both salted and unsalted butter in the house in the quantities I need for baking just takes up too much room. So in the recipe, I give you a measurement for salt and call for unsalted butter. If you’d like to use salted butter, omit the salt. I will use a 50/50 split of salted and unsalted butter and omit the salt when I have salted butter on hand. Use what you have, adjust accordingly. This basic vanilla buttercream recipe is very forgiving.

Don’t you use milk in your buttercream?

I don’t usually. I will add milk if I accidentally added too much sugar and the frosting is too stiff. I will add liquid if I’m using for flavoring. But you don’t really need milk in the frosting to get a creamy finish. The trick is to beat the frosting long enough. This is easy with a stand mixer and takes a little patience with a hand mixer. If you’re really ambitious, this can absolutely be done by hand too. I’ve done it, and really don’t recommend mixing this by hand if you can avoid it, but it can be done!

The resulting buttercream is creamy, doesn’t have too many air bubbles, not too sweet, and perfectly flavored!

A classic vanilla buttercream pairs with a variety of cake flavors, but if you need a few ideas to get you started, why not check out one of the following recipes:

Any extra frosting can be refrigerated up to a week or frozen up to three months.

And finally, for my audio-visual learners… a video!

I hope you love this frosting recipe too, darlings! Enjoy!

cupcake topped with a swirl of white American buttercream frosting and red, yellow and blue sprinkles

American Buttercream Frosting

Yield: about 5 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, this American buttercream frosting recipe is the perfect all-butter buttercream to top cakes and cupcakes.

This recipe makes enough to frost 1 dozen cupcakes, or frost and fill 1 8-inch layer cake.


  • 1 pound unsalted butter, softened (see notes)
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Cream your butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. You may also use a hand mixer and a large mixing bowl. Once the butter looks light and fluffy, scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the salt and vanilla.
  2. Add the powdered sugar about a cup at a time. Stir on low until just incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and
    repeat until you've added 4 cups of the powdered sugar.
  3. Beat the frosting on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until the air bubbles have mostly disappeared and the frosting looks nice and smooth.
  4. Check the consistency. If you’d like a thicker frosting, add more powdered sugar. To thin, add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Use the frosting immediately. Otherwise, refrigerate in an airtight container with a piece of plastic or parchment pressed across the top of the icing to prevent crusting. You may make the frosting up to a week in advance, or freeze up to 3 months. Allow the frosting to come to room temperature and re-whip before using so it's nice and smooth.


    • You may use salted butter and omit the salt, or a 50/50 mix of unsalted/salted butter and omit the salt
    • I don't really measure my vanilla... I just pour what feels right. When I measured a few times for the recipe, it comes to about 2 teaspoons each time. If you'd like to substitute another extract for vanilla to add flavor, go ahead! My only caution comes if you are using peppermint extract. It's very potent, so start with a 1/2 teaspoon and work up from there.
    • 4 cups of powdered sugar are usually enough unless it's particularly humid. You will find your preferred frosting consistency as you work with this recipe.

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