Cupcakes/ Frostings & Sauces

Basic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

February 8, 2018

This is my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting – fluffy, creamy, velvety, and not way too sweet. It’s the perfect buttercream icing recipe for cake decorating and cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcakes

A good classic buttercream recipe is essential to have. It’s easy to add other flavors to it without losing its fluffy texture, like fruit jam, lemon curd, orange zest, dulce de leche, chocolate, and more. That’s why I tested more than 50 recipes in the last few years and I really think that this is the perfect buttercream icing recipe for cakes and cupcakes. All recipes use only a handful of ingredients, but the quantities differ from recipe to recipe. I consider buttercream to be a bit too sweet so I add a pinch of salt and lemon juice to cut down on some of that sweetness, and it really makes a difference. It’s still sweet though, just as it should be.

To make buttercream frosting that is light and fluffy, beat the frosting for several minutes. I use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. If you want an even lighter frosting, you can switch to the whisk attachment and whisk for a couple of minutes more.

To get a smooth frosting, sift the powdered sugar, and add it to the butter in 2 additions, beating well after each addition. Beat until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth, and stiff enough to pipe.

Does buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?

If you want to make the frosting ahead of time, store it in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 3-4 days. Before using, bring to room temperature and mix it up with a whisk or electric mixer.

If you’re making cupcakes, frosted cupcakes can be made one day ahead, covered, and stored at room temperature. It’s safe to keep it at room temperature because the butter and cream are stabilized by the large amount of sugar. If you intend to keep cupcakes or cake for longer than a day, store in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.

More Recipes:

5 from 9 votes
Basic Vanilla Buttercream Recipe
YIELD: 2 .5 cups
The amount of buttercream in the recipe is enough to frost 16-24 cupcakes, depending on how generous you are with the frosting. For a 9-inch layer cake, multiply the recipe by 1½.

  • 1 cup (225 g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups (480 g) powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat until combined, then add another 2 cups, and beat until completely smooth. Add cream, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until fluffy. Beat in more sugar as needed, until desired consistency (thick enough to pipe).
Recipe Notes

*Salt and lemon juice are added to cut sweetness and are optional. Depending on your personal taste, you can add more or leave out entirely.

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  • Reply
    March 5, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    I made this buttercream and it came out perfect for piping. I would like to use this recipe but with chocolate. Can I add cocoa if so how much?

    • Reply
      March 6, 2016 at 6:37 am

      Hi Marta! For my favorite chocolate frosting click here. It’s a bit softer but also great for piping. If you still want to try using this recipe – add to it unsweetened cocoa powder or melted dark chocolate (and I suggest to also reduce the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon and skip the lemon juice).

  • Reply
    March 27, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Will the lemon juice make the frosting tangy?

    • Reply
      March 28, 2016 at 4:06 am

      Both salt and lemon juice are added to cut sweetness and are optional. You won’t be able to taste the lemon juice in the frosting.

  • Reply
    April 24, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I want to use this frosting recipe for a two layered cake, but I’m not sure if this quantity will be enough. Should I double the recipe?

    • Reply
      April 25, 2016 at 6:56 am

      Yes, you should double the recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    October 4, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    I will be trying this recipe tomorrow night with your chocolate cupcakes. I’m doing a test run for my son’s birthday party in two weeks. Do you have any other recipes where the frosting isn’t too sweet. I find buttercream way way too sweet so I’m excited to give this a try. Also, can cupcakes sit at room temperature once frosted with this?

    • Reply
      October 5, 2016 at 6:10 am

      Hi Yolanda, classic buttercream is indeed sweet, but I add a bit of salt and lemon juice to cut down on some of the sweetness. My recipe for cream cheese frosting is a bit less sweet and tastes amazing if you prefer to try it.

  • Reply
    December 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    hi just out of curiosity how do you get the little black specks in the icing ?

    • Reply
      December 21, 2016 at 8:00 am

      Hi Korina, sometimes I use vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. The seeds are these little specks.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Should I double the recipe if I’m making a 2 layer 8 inch round cake?

    • Reply
      April 14, 2017 at 6:40 am

      Yes, you should double the ingredients.

  • Reply
    Iqra Aslam
    August 18, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Hi Shiran
    I am using your chocolate cake recipe to make a 3 layer 6inch cake. Would you recommend that I double or triple this recipe to fill and frost my cake?
    Thank you! Love your recipes
    Iqra x

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 6:20 am

      Thank you so much Iqra! I suggest to triple this recipe so you’ll have enough frosting. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply
    October 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    How long will this stay in the fridge….need to make a few days ahead for convenience

    • Reply
      October 29, 2017 at 6:41 am

      Hi Elena, the frosting can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Before using, bring it to room temperature and mix until smooth.

  • Reply
    Jillian Dee
    June 9, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Hi! I was curious as to how long this recipe could be frozen. I made it too soon and it’ll be a week until I need it

    • Reply
      June 10, 2018 at 7:58 am

      Hi Jillian , cover it well and freeze it. Place it in the fridge the night before you want to use it, then place at room temperature for 1-2 hours until it’s at room temperature. Then whisk it well until smooth.

  • Reply
    Lillian Leidner
    June 24, 2018 at 4:28 am

    I’d like to try the vanilla buttercream with lemon juice , as I think mine is too sweet. How is it that you can add lemon with cream and it doesn’t curdle? Also, would this work in hot weather if I added some meringue powder?

    • Reply
      June 24, 2018 at 11:19 am

      Hi Lillian, the frosting won’t curdle, it should be smooth and creamy. I haven’t tested it with meringue powder, but this frosting is quite stiff, and you can always add more powdered sugar (that’s why buttercream is sweet). I make these cupcakes in summer, and the frosting holds its shape well unrefrigerated. Just try to avoid direct heat or sunlight.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2018 at 2:56 am

    Hello whay can i substitute for heavy cream? Thank you.

    • Reply
      July 31, 2018 at 6:22 am

      Heavy cream is my favorite, but you can use a bit of whole milk instead or leave it out completely.

  • Reply
    October 26, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Hi Shiran,

    How many cupcakes can this recipe frost? I need to make 36 cupcakes.


    • Reply
      October 28, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Hi Anne-Marie, it’s mentioned in the recipe. 16-24 cupcakes, depending on how much frosting you use.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    I just made this for pumpkin whoopie pie filling and it is wonderful! I did add cinnamon to it and it worked really well; I think this will be my new go to filling. Thank you for the recipe!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Hello Shiran

    I am planing to make 24 cupcakes with buttercream frosting and use fondant to make some unicorn decorations for my friend kid ‘s birthday. The party is on Saturday but my friend wants to pick them up Friday at 6pm , now is it okay for the cupcakes to be in the refrigerator till the party starts?

  • Reply
    November 13, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Hi shiran

    I am planing to make 24 cupcakes with buttercream frosting and some fondant unicorn decoration for my friend kid’s birthday party. The party is on Saturday but I am going to frost the cupcakes on Friday because she wants to pick them up on Friday night. My question is if is okay for her to keep the cupcakes in the refrigerator till the party starts?

    Thank you, hope to hear from you

    • Reply
      November 17, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Antonio, it’s ok to keep the cupcakes in the fridge for a day or two, but I recommend adding the fondant later (when they’re at room temperature), because it’s not recommended to keep fondant in the fridge. It will be ok if you’re adding it as a small decoration.

  • Reply
    Tricia Poitras
    December 6, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Shiran,
    I made Red Velvet cupcakes and Cream Cheese frosting last Sat but did not get to frost them. I would very much like to use the frosting that has been refrigerated. It would be 11 days surely cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar would last and be usable? Thank you

    • Reply
      December 9, 2018 at 11:15 am

      Hi Tricia , the frosting will keep for 3 days in the fridge. If you want to keep it a while longer, you can freeze it, and then thaw it overnight in the fridge.

  • Reply
    March 1, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    So perfect! This recipe has become my go-to for all of my baking. Thank you!!

  • Reply
    April 30, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    How much cupcakes can this recipe frost, i need 20 cupcakes

  • Reply
    May 17, 2019 at 9:19 am

    I am going to make a 2 tier cake, 3 layers each. 6 in on top and 10 for bottom. It will be a naked cake. Should I triple it or more.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Hey Shiran, I’m thinking about doing a bake sale and I’m wondering if I can add orange juice to the frosting to make it orange sickle flavored, will it make it too watery? Looks good!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2019 at 9:40 am

    I’ve used this recipe previously and it was amazing! I’ve since gone dairy free, do you have any experience substituting the dairy ingredients for non dairy?

    • Reply
      July 1, 2019 at 4:10 am

      I don’t 🙁 Sorry!

  • Reply
    July 7, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Great recipe! I made it as a present with the vanilla cupcakes and everybody loved it! Thank you!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    What is meant by “heavy cream”?

  • Reply
    August 29, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    I made this basic frosting with the vanilla cupcakes and the frosting came out great! I changed it to lemon flavoured frosting by adding some lemon juice( more than what was written in the recipe). It was super easy to make!!

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