This is my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting that’s rich, creamy, and flavored with real vanilla beans. It’s simple to make and perfect for piping onto cakes and cupcakes!

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: This bakery-worthy vanilla buttercream recipe is ready in minutes with only 4 ingredients.
How long it takes: 10 minutes or less.
Equipment you’ll need: an electric mixer and a sturdy bowl.
Servings: 1½  cups, enough to frost approximately 12 cupcakes.

Close up of a vanilla cupcake topped with a swirl of vanilla buttercream frosting.
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The Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Homemade buttercream might sound like a pipe dream, but I promise, by the end of this post, the only thing you’ll be piping is this perfect vanilla frosting! For the longest time I was on a mission for the best vanilla buttercream recipe, and I finally hit the jackpot with this one.

This buttercream is deliciously creamy with a delicate, sweet vanilla flavor thanks to real vanilla beans throughout. It pipes beautifully, making it the best all-around frosting recipe whether you’re decorating cakes, cupcakes, cookies, or just about any dessert. 

Close up of vanilla buttercream frosting with real vanilla seeds.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

If you’ve long dreamed of making your own buttercream, you’re going to be thrilled with this recipe! Here’s what makes this the best vanilla frosting:

  • A baker’s staple. Every home baker needs a classic buttercream frosting recipe to use when decorating desserts. Homemade buttercream doesn’t get better than this (if I do say so myself).
  • Quick to make. This frosting is ready in minutes with simple ingredients.
  • Perfect for piping. Buttercream is the best frosting for piping and decorating cakes, cupcakes, even sugar cookies, as it’s thicker and more stable than other types of frosting.
  • Easy to customize. Easily adapt this frosting’s consistency whether you’re piping it onto cupcakes or spreading it over cakes. You can also use this classic buttercream recipe as a base for even more frosting flavors. Don’t forget to check out my variation ideas below!

What’s the Difference Between Frosting and Buttercream?

The main difference between buttercream frosting and regular frosting or icing is in the name: “buttercream.” Unlike other frosting recipes that begin with shortening or cream cheese, buttercream starts with butter. It’s then whipped with the other ingredients to make a thick, fluffy frosting.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Below is a short overview of the ingredients you’ll need to make the absolute best buttercream frosting. Remember to refer to the printable recipe below the post with the full measurements and recipe details.

  • Butter: You can’t make buttercream without butter! Unsalted butter is best, but salted butter is also fine if that’s what you have on hand. Remember to take it out of the fridge before you start so that it softens to room temperature. It should still be firm and not melted.
  • Vanilla: I flavor this vanilla frosting with the seeds from two vanilla pods. So good! If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, however, that’s OK. Substitute one teaspoon of vanilla bean paste instead. You can also just use a teaspoon of vanilla extract, but keep in mind, the vanilla flavor will be lighter.
  • Milk or Cream: Adding a bit of liquid improves the consistency of the frosting and makes it creamy. You can use milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half, the choice is up to you.
  • Powdered Sugar: You might also know it as confectioner’s sugar. It adds sweetness and thickens the frosting to a pipeable consistency.
The ingredients for easy vanilla buttercream frosting.

How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

It couldn’t be easier to make silky smooth and stable vanilla buttercream from scratch! This frosting comes together in minutes:

  • Beat the butter. First, in a large bowl, you’ll cream together the butter, vanilla beans, and milk (or cream).
  • Add powdered sugar. Next, beat in the powdered sugar one cup at a time, until you reach a thick, pipeable consistency. 
Two electric mixer attachments in a bowl of vanilla buttercream frosting.
Electric mixer product image.

Electric Mixers

You can whip your buttercream frosting using a whisk and some muscle power, but I highly recommend using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer. It makes it so much easier and the results are way fluffier!

Tips for Perfect Buttercream Frosting

What’s the secret to buttercream frosting? It’s in the consistency! Here are some final tips for getting your buttercream frosting whipped to your liking: 

  • Measure the sugar correctly. To make sure you get the right measurement, I recommend spooning your powdered sugar out of the bag and into your measuring cup before leveling it off with the back of a knife.
  • To make this frosting thicker, add more confectioner’s sugar, ¼ cup at a time. To make frosting thinner or softer, add more milk, one teaspoon at a time.
  • If you’re planning on using a piping bag with a tip to frost your desserts, aim for a slightly thicker frosting so that it holds its shape. If you’re spreading your vanilla buttercream over a cake, the consistency should be a little softer so that it’s easier to spread.
A spatula spreads vanilla buttercream over a vanilla cake layer.

Frosting FAQs

How long should I whip my buttercream?

To ensure that enough air is whipped into the frosting, you should aim to whip your buttercream on high for a good 4 to 5 minutes.

Does buttercream have to be refrigerated?

If you plan on using the frosting right away, it can stay at room temperature (unless you’re in a very warm climate). For best results, you’ll need to refrigerate it. See further on for detailed storage instructions.

Why is my buttercream frosting runny?

This could be because your butter was too soft or melted. Try refrigerating the frosting for a bit, and then whip it again. If it’s still runny, it could be because you added too much milk or cream. In this case, add more powdered sugar, a little at a time (see my tips above).

Can I overbeat my buttercream?

Yes, and it can cause the butter to separate, or you’ll wind up with air bubbles in your frosting. Make sure that you stop mixing once your frosting begins to form stiff peaks.

A piping tip pipes a swirl of vanilla buttercream onto a vanilla cupcake.

Variation Ideas

This vanilla buttercream frosting is the perfect base for all sorts of delicious variations. Try these ideas:

  • Chocolate: Make chocolate buttercream frosting with the addition of unsweetened cocoa powder. 
  • Oreo: Beat in crushed Oreos to make Oreo frosting (perfect for frosting Oreo cookie bars). 
  • Peanut Butter: Mix in a spoonful or two of shelf-stable, creamy peanut butter for easy peanut butter frosting.
  • Extracts: In addition to or in place of the vanilla in this recipe, try adding flavoring extracts like peppermint, lemon, orange, almond, etc.
  • Coloring: It’s easy enough to color buttercream to suit any holiday (like I do for these Christmas tree brownie bites). For best results, I recommend using gel food dyes, as the colors are bolder and they don’t water down the buttercream.
Overhead view of vanilla cupcakes topped with swirls of vanilla buttercream frosting, next to a piping bag and a mixer attachment.

Ways to Use Vanilla Buttercream

This easy vanilla buttercream is ultra-creamy while holding its shape, making it perfect for piping and decorating. It’s my go-to dessert topping for everything from homemade vanilla cupcakes to this rich and decadent chocolate cake. It’s also great for piping over sugar cookies during the holidays, or you can use it to frost these vanilla sugar cookie bars and cake mix blondies. And aside from devouring this buttercream by the spoonful, I’ll often serve it as a dip with fruit and graham crackers!

An unwrapped vanilla cupcake topped with a swirl of vanilla buttercream frosting, with a piping bag in the background.

Make-Ahead & Storage Tips

One of the things I love about buttercream is how well it keeps. Here’s how to properly store or freeze buttercream frosting:

  • Fridge. Keep buttercream tightly covered in the fridge for up to 1 week. Take it out of the fridge before you use it and give it a quick re-whip as needed (see below).
  • Freezer. Store your vanilla buttercream in an airtight freezer container and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw the frosting overnight in the refrigerator when you’re planning to use it. 

Frosting that’s been refrigerated or frozen may be stiff because of the cold temperatures. Let the frosting rest on the counter for an hour or two before using, so that it comes to room temperature. If you notice that your frosting has deflated a bit, whip it briefly with your mixer to get it back to a fluffy consistency.

More Easy Frosting Recipes

Recipe

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

4.67 from 6 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
This easy vanilla buttercream frosting is rich, creamy, and made with real vanilla beans. It’s super simple to make, perfect for piping onto cakes and cupcakes!
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Ingredients 

  • cup unsalted butter, softened (see note)
  • the seeds of two vanilla beans (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Instructions 

  • Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, vanilla, and milk.
  • One cup at a time, add powdered sugar until you achieve desired consistency. You’ll want it a little stiffer/thicker for piping.

Notes

  • Yield: 1 ½  cups, enough for a 9×13 cake or 12 cupcakes. Double recipe for a layer cake.
  • Butter should be fairly firm, not melted or completely soft .

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 2tablespoons, Calories: 164kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 2mg, Potassium: 6mg, Sugar: 30g, Vitamin A: 162IU, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.67 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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31 Comments

  1. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    Can you please send me some of this? Pretty please!

  2. Brooke (Baking with Basil) says:

    You are killing me with these fluffy frosting recipes!!

  3. Melanie @ Melanie Cooks says:

    The frosting with REAL vanilla beans must be so delicious!

  4. Karriann Graf says:

    These look so yummy Rachel! Love all the black specks in your frosting.

    Happy Baking!

  5. Chris @ TheKeenanCookbook says:

    Favorited this one in my RSS for near future reference – these pictures look too fantastic. Loving the little specks of vanilla bean in the frosting.

    I have to tell you I had a buttercream frosting party for one as well. It was over the summer and by accident. I misread (can I blame it on having a newborn?) and made about 6 or 7 cups of strawberry buttercream frosting. Ugh! Half of its still in my freezer ;)

  6. Geni says:

    The buttercream sounds fab and I love the little flecks of the vanilla bean in it. Kinda of rustic and beautiful. Your piping is really good…so jealous. Where on earth did you get those adorable pink and black straws? They are irresistible! You are still wife of the year if you baked any cookies for the hubs AND decorated them with your homemade vanilla bean butter cream. Mmmmm.