I have one of the most popular vanilla cupcake recipes on the Internet and because of that, I’m often asked about the best buttercream frosting recipe. Friends, this is it.
This buttercream recipe is easy (my number one requirement), not overly sweet, and takes almost no time to put together. If this sounds good to you, let’s dive in.
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The Best Buttercream Frosting Recipe
Here at Ruffles and Rain Boots, I take cupcakes pretty seriously. If you were to scroll up and click on that cupcakes recipe menu, you will be scrolling a good, long while. I just love the mini cakes and think they’re one of the most perfect desserts.
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That said, I’ve never shared the best frosting recipe for cupcakes because I thought it was so easy that everyone just had it; I thought everyone learned it the same way. Until I baked with a best friend to prep for her husband’s birthday.
I’m Not a Sweets Snob, I Promise, But…
My friend added milk to the frosting per the recipe she was following. Now, I’m not a frosting foodie or anything, but heard myself say, “No cream?” I had always learned to use cream over milk.
It was a fun afternoon and the cupcakes were tasty, but I do think the cream makes a difference. The best part was showing her how to get the smooth buttercream frosting and the technique to get all the air bubbles out. We don’t want it to flatten into a sad, little lump 20 minutes after piping!
The best frosting for cupcakes and cakes is American buttercream frosting. Why? It holds its shape, it tastes great and takes flavor very well, it doesn’t taste like eggs, and it’s easier than other frosting recipes.
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Ingredients for the Best Cupcake Frosting
I make it sound all fancy, but honestly, it’s probably 90% of the same ingredients as you’ve been using. My recommendation for Irish butter is science: it has a higher fat content and fat equals flavor, my friends. Because the “flavor” of this frosting is primarily made up of BUTTER, this small change affects the finished product quite a bit.
Additionally, pure vanilla extract makes a significant flavor enhancement over the imitation version. Below you’ll see my process is a bit different, but the ingredients are as you might suspect:
- 1 cup of unsalted, butter (or sweet cream butter; my choice is Kerrygold Irish butter)
- 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (not imitation)
- 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
You’ll also need:
- a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (not a whisk attachment)
- a flexible (ish) spatula
If you only have a hand mixer, use it! It will affect the outcome because it will add more air, but that is easily fixed. You will want to do the last step with the spatula a bit longer to really push out all the air bubbles.
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Step by Step: How to Make an Easy Buttercream Frosting
If you want to wow everyone, follow the detailed steps below. Leave this page open and check the consistency with the images. For a print version of this recipe without pictures, scroll to the bottom.
Psst: though I do recommend the easiest cupcake recipe EVER, this frosting is just as tasty on store bought cupcakes.
First, leave the butter to soften at room temperature (equal to about 70 degrees). Never melt it in the microwave for an American buttercream frosting recipe… it doesn’t end well.
Next, add all of the butter and the vanilla into the stand mixer’s bowl and beat on low with the paddle attachment until combined. Don’t worry if you can still see the vanilla a little.
You will know it’s combined when you see the butter look like this.
Once combined, add in half of the powdered sugar and beat on LOW speed until incorporated which will make it look like pebbles. I know, but trust the process…
Mix in the remaining powdered sugar on LOW until incorporated. Now, some say to move to medium but I leave it right where it is: low and slow.
Adding Food Coloring and / or Flavoring
If you are using food coloring (I recommend this gel food coloring to not affect the flavor), please add it now. Additionally, if you would like to make bubblegum, peppermint, or another flavored frosting, add it in now.
Add in the heavy cream slowly and mix on – you guessed it – low until the frosting is smooth. Note: you might not need all of the heavy cream if you have added a liquid flavoring.
The Best Buttercream Frosting Flavors
The recipe above gives you the most popular buttercream flavor, but don’t stop there. As mentioned, you can use this recipe as a base to create the most popular buttercream frosting flavors. Those are:
- vanilla buttercream frosting (this one)
- cookies and cream buttercream frosting (Oreo buttercream)
- peanut butter buttercream frosting recipe (or peanut butter coconut frosting recipe)
- easy lemon cupcake frosting (leave off the blackberries)
- Marscapone frosting recipe for cupcakes and cakes
- coffee cream cheese frosting recipe
- blueberry cream cheese frosting
- chocolate buttercream frosting (leave off the cherry juice)
- cinnamon frosting recipe
- eggnog buttercream frosting recipe (leave off pumpkin pie spice)
- key lime frosting recipe
When selecting a flavoring oil to add to this cake and cupcake frosting recipe, remember quality matter. Tastebuds can definitely tell a high-quality peppermint from a low one.
Nielsen Massey is my preferred choice and I have this set of vanilla flavorings that is outstanding. McCormick flavorings, found in supermarkets, are quite decent and cost-effective.
Consistency of the Best Cupcake Frosting
Because we want our cupcakes to stay looking the way we intended, consistency is important. Whether you added flavoring or not, keep the frosting stiff enough to hold a small peak. This is tested by lifting a small amount from the mass on a spoon and tipping it sideways – if the peak slightly curves but stays in place, you are done.
How to Get Smooth Buttercream Frosting
Though we are done with the stand mixer (or hand mixer) now, we need to do one last step to get the smoothest frosting consistency. First, remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Use a spatula to press the frosting to the sides to remove the air bubbles.
I use a J-motion from the center of the bowl and run it up the sides, similar when making a macaron recipe. Turn the bowl a few times, repeating this motion. And remember: when placing the frosting into the piping bag, try to limit any space between layers.
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How to Decorate Cupcakes – Tips for American Buttercream Piping
I am asked about my ‘favorite tips’ when I share all of my cupcake recipes and cupcake designs, so I thought I would include a small bit about piping tips. I’ll also share a couple of techniques on how to frost cupcakes so they look like a bakery made them.
Remember, the TASTE is more important than the look of a piped cupcake. But let’s work on getting the best of both.
My Favorite Tips for Frosting Cupcakes (and Piping Examples)
First, I don’t believe the major brands differ, so I’ll just tell you what I use most often. My favorite tips are the Wilton 2D (flower tip) and the 4B (star tip), and any brand of a large round tip. I have both the Wilton 1A and the Ateco 809 tip (the largest) round tips and use them interchangeably.
This is some frosting piped with the Wilton 2D flower tip. It’s perfect for an all-over cupcake frosting style like these 4th of July cupcakes.
This is the Wilton 4B star tip piped and is perfect for a textured look without any fuss at all. You can see it demonstrated here (before the drizzle stage) in these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes or as a flat presentation in these easy reindeer cupcakes.
This is the large round piping tip with this buttercream icing. I LOVE this because you can make it look like an ice cream swirl. It’s also perfect for creating a layer of sprinkles as shown in this Halloween cupcake.
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Please Save or Share This Easy Cupcake Frosting Recipe
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