KitchenAid® stand mixer surrounded by layer cake and ingredients for buttercream frosting

HOW TO MAKE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

An easy buttercream frosting recipe typically includes butter, powdered sugar, a little flavoring and heavy cream. With a vanilla buttercream frosting recipe in your culinary arsenal, you’ll be inspired to add twist after twist to elevate desserts like cakes, cookies, brownies and more. By adding ingredients like mascarpone, lavender or citrus to buttercream frosting – and a bit of persimmon or warm spice to batter – a basic cake becomes a showstopper.

Read on to discover tips for creating the best buttercream frosting, as well as ways to use it in desserts. See how different types of buttercream frosting are made and how they compare to icing. Find flavor ideas with buttercream frosting recipes, along with tips on how to store it.

Cupcakes frosted with buttercream frosting and decorative sprinkles

EASY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING RECIPE

A great buttercream frosting starts with a few pantry ingredients and a handful of tips and techniques. Once you’ve added a buttercream frosting recipe to your skill set, you’ll have a super useful tool in your culinary arsenal to enhance a wide variety of mouthwatering desserts. Making buttercream frosting with a KitchenAid® stand mixer helps create a creamy, smooth texture quickly and easily.

YIELDS1

A 2-21/2 cup buttercream frosting recipe will generously frost 12-14 cupcakes, a 9 x 13 sheet cake, or lightly frost an 8 to 9 inch layer cake.

1.) Exact yields will vary based on recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • Powdered sugar

  • Unsalted butter

  • Pinch of salt

  • Flavoring – vanilla, vanilla bean paste, or other flavoring of your choice 

  • Heavy cream or milk

SALT TIP:

Salt is an important ingredient in buttercream frosting because it helps keep it from becoming overly sweet and it draws out other flavors that’ve been added in. Keep in mind that the amount of salt in salted butters varies widely, so using unsalted butter will allow for more control over the taste of the final product. Start by adding about an 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt to frosting and adjust to taste. Eliminate the pinch of salt altogether for a salted caramel frosting.

TOOLS

  • Stand mixer

  • Flat beater attachment

  • Sifter

  • Medium sized bowl 

  • Measuring spoons

  • Measuring cups

PREP TIME - 1 hour

The butter should be softened to room temperature before creaming. Any additional flavorings that need cooking, i.e. caramel, should be prepared ahead of time and cooled completely.

TOTAL TIME - 1 hour and 15 minutes

A typical American buttercream frosting should take less than ten minutes to make, once butter is at room temperature.

Butter being added to KitchenAid® stand mixer

STEP 1: CREAM BUTTER

Place softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the KitchenAid® Flat Beater attachment. Beat until butter is soft. Be sure and use butter that’s at room temperature. Avoid heating the butter on the cooktop or in the microwave to speed up the softening process. This can prevent ingredients from mixing properly and may create a greasy, oily vs. creamy, buttery consistency.

Confectioner’s sugar being sifted

STEP 2: ADD CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

To help ensure that buttercream is silky smooth and creamy, start by sifting confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl. Slowly add the sifted powdered sugar to the bowl of the stand mixer then turn the mixer on low and completely incorporate the sugar into the butter.

MIXING TIP:

Always start by mixing on the low speed setting and use the KitchenAid® Pouring Shield to reduce the amount of powdered sugar particles rising into the air above the stand mixer.

Small jug of heavy cream

STEP 3: ADD FLAVORS AND HEAVY CREAM

When the butter and sugar are combined, add the salt, vanilla or flavoring of choice. Bring the buttercream frosting all together by adding heavy cream, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Mix well, scraping sides of bowl, once or twice, to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated. If buttercream will be used to pipe decorations on cakes or cupcakes, adding a little more cream will help create a texture that glides out of the decorating tip more easily.

KitchenAid® stand mixer next to piping bag with chocolate buttercream frosting and macaroons

WHAT ARE SOME USES FOR BUTTERCREAM FROSTING?

Frosting cakes, cupcakes and sugar cookies with buttercream frosting is a surefire way to create delightful, craveworthy treats. Buttercream frosting is also great on brownies. If you’re the type who loves the frosting more than the cake, scoop some buttercream into an ice cream cone to replace the ice cream. Buttercream makes so many desserts better, including these persimmon spice cupcakes with vanilla ginger buttercream frosting.

 Vanilla buttercream frosting

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BUTTERCREAM FROSTING?

In addition to classic American buttercream there are a number of other popular buttercream frosting recipes. Italian and Swiss meringue buttercream use egg whites to create light, silky frostings for smoothing on cakes. Rich, decadent and great for fillings, French buttercream is made with egg yolks. German buttercream uses pastry cream for a mussoline texture.

COMPARING POPULAR BUTTERCREAM FROSTINGS

American

Swiss

Italian

French

German

Easiest to make – sweetest & thickest Ivory in color, silky smooth and soft Similar to Swiss buttercream but slightly more stable Super rich & silky, pale yellow in color Light fluffy, not overly sweet - needs to be kept cold
Made with butter & sugar Made with egg whites Made with egg whites Made with egg yolks Made with pastry cream
Great for decorating and spreading Great for smoothing on cakes Pipes well and smooths easily on cakes Great for fillings Great for spreading
Use flat beater attachment Use whisk attachment Use whisk attachment Use whisk attachment Use flat beater attachment

Think of these different types of buttercream frostings as “blank canvases,” waiting for you to put your own spin on them with the flavors you love. Add mascarpone to American buttercream to increase the creaminess and take the edge off the sweetness. Make an elegant raspberry-flavored French buttercream – to pair with your favorite chocolate cake. Keep in mind that when making a buttercream recipe with an egg base, the KitchenAid® whisk attachment is ideal for whipping up light, fluffy meringues or yolks.

Cakes, buttercream frosting and garnishes next to KitchenAid® stand mixer

HOW DO YOU MAKE DIFFERENT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING FLAVORS?

There’s no limit to the possibilities. Consider flavorings like salted caramel, fresh citrus, spices, teas, coffees, almond, peppermint, or other less expected extracts like orange blossom and rose water. Or, make a grown-up buttercream with flavored liqueurs – raspberry, orange, coffee, coconut.  Put your imagination to the test and start creating.

Take a basic vanilla buttercream and add unsweetened cocoa powder, a little extra cream and sugar to it and you've got a rich, chocolate buttercream. Chopped strawberries or pulverized freeze-dried strawberries will turn a basic buttercream into a fruity strawberry buttercream. For chocolate cupcakes that are truly next level, try this intensely flavorful Espresso Buttercream.

Cupcake with vanilla buttercream side-by-side with festively iced donuts

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BUTTERCREAM FROSTING VS ICING?

Both frosting and icing are used to decorate baked goods, but buttercream has a butter base while icing has a sugar base. Many icings are made with confectioners sugar and a liquid (cream, milk or juice). The consistency of icing is typically more liquid and often produces a more transparent glaze, while buttercream is thicker and fluffier.

Buttercream is ideal for decorating desserts because it can hold shapes well. Icing is great for adding a sweet glaze to cookies, muffins and loaf cakes. Royal icing, which is often used to create elaborate designs on cookies, includes egg whites or meringue for stability. Many Makers love that it’s shiny and harder when dry.

HOW DO YOU STORE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING?

If you don’t use all of your buttercream frosting right after you make it, you can store it in an airtight container. Remove from the fridge, bring to room temp and mix before frosting desserts. Frosting can be stored in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then bring to room temp and mix well before using.

DISCOVER KITCHENAID® STAND MIXERS AND ACCESSORIES

Whether you’re decorating dozens of cookies for the cookie exchange, or frosting a layer cake for the next gathering, it all starts with a KitchenAid® stand mixer. Add a few versatile KitchenAid® attachments and accessories – a flat beater, whisk, scale and sifter – and you’ve got the ideal tools at your fingertips to create an endless array of delectable treats.

DISCOVER MORE RECIPES AND USES FOR YOUR STAND MIXER