4-ingredient vanilla frosting, or American buttercream, is made with just butter, icing sugar, vanilla, and a splash of cream. Easy, sweet, and perfect for icing just about anything!
A classic for a reason, all-butter American buttercream is the easiest vanilla frosting in town. Just four total ingredients for a perfectly pipe-able topping or filling for cupcakes, cake, cookies, and more.
The butter is whipped until fluffy before adding the sugar – this lightens the end product and makes everything more smooth and silky. Make sure to add the cream a tablespoon at a time because you might not need all of it.
Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top, or scroll to the bottom of the post to see the printable recipe card with full ingredient measurements and complete instructions.
Step by Step
Tips and Notes
For white buttercream, you can use a couple drops of white food colouring (yep, it’s a thing!) to brighten it up. American buttercream is always going to be an off-white, creamy colour, as it’s made with all butter. It’s part of the charm.
This does take colour very well, but we recommend using gel food colouring for best results.
Mix the buttercream until very smooth. If you rub a little between your fingers, it shouldn’t feel textured or gritty at all – if it does, keep mixing.
To make this in a standing mixer, simply follow the same directions but use the whisk attachment on your mixer. You’ll have the same results but save your arm a bit.
While whipping or heavy cream will give the best texture and taste, you can substitute coffee cream (half and half) or full-fat milk. In a pinch, even plain yogurt will do the trick.
If you don’t have icing sugar, you can try making your own. Blend regular white sugar in a food processor or high speed blender until powdered, sifting through a fine mesh sieve before using.
Vanilla paste and powder can be used instead of extract. Reduce the amount by half.
For a vegan option, try our vegan vanilla buttercream.
Recipes Using American Buttercream
Easy Vanilla Frosting (American Buttercream)
- Mixing bowl
- Stand or hand mixer
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- ½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
- 3 cups icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons whipping, heavy cream
- Add the butter to a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of your standing mixer). Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until lighter in colour and fluffy.
- Add the sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of cream. Mix again, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high, until the frosting is light and smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Add the second tablespoon of cream if the buttercream is too stiff.
- Rub a little bit of the frosting between your fingers. If it feels at all gritty, keep mixing. It should be very smooth, a light cream colour, and fluffy when it’s ready.
- Store the buttercream in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.