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A light, fluffy American buttercream recipe flavored generously with vanilla extract that is ready in 5 minutes! 4 ingredients are all you need for the easiest buttercream to top cupcakes, frost moist vanilla cake, or brownies!

american buttercream piped into rosettes on cake.

Every baker needs a delicious American buttercream recipe in their toolkit. This is that foolproof, easy recipe that you can make in just 5 minutes in a pinch. Frost a last minute batch of chocolate cupcakes or a Funfetti cake like a baking champion! It gets a nice thin crust but remains soft and fluffy underneath.

I love the less sweet buttercreams like Italian meringue buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream and ermine frosting, but there is a place for the iconic American buttercream. This recipe is flavored with vanilla extract and vanilla beans (if you want), but you can easily adapt this recipe to any flavor like this easy lemon buttercream!

Why This is the Best American Buttercream Recipe

  • Light, fluffy and not too sweet. The addition of cold heavy cream cuts the sweetness and adds volume!
  • 4 ingredients & 5 minutes to perfect frosting! This is an easy, make anytime recipe.
  • Versatile frosting recipe to top anything. Try this easy vanilla frosting recipe on vanilla cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, classic white cake or swirled onto my moist vanilla cake recipe. You can even use it to frost one bowl brownies or this blondies recipe. Because it is so stable, it is an excellent buttercream to use for decoration.
vanilla american buttercream in mixing bowl perfectly smooth.
Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream Closeup Featured
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Professional Tips for Making Vanilla American Buttercream

  • Add the powdered sugar slowly. It is tempting to dump it all in, but for lump-free buttercream add it ½ cup at a time and allow it to incorporate fully before adding the rest. I find using this method, you don’t even have to sift it!
  • Use cold heavy cream to make the lightest buttercream. Heavy cream whips best and is most stable when it is cold.
  • Switch to the whisk attachment and whip it up! If you want a perfectly smooth coating on a cake, skip this step, but I love to beat it with the whisk to make it light and fluffy! This make a pillow-soft topping for cupcake and bars in particular.

Ingredients & Substitutions

american buttercream ingredients on marble.
  • Unsalted Butter: Butter makes this buttercream stable and set firm in the refrigerator or freezer. I cuts the sweetness of the sugar. You can use salted butter or a mixture of both, but be careful because some brands are VERY salty! I find it best to use unsalted and add a pinch of salt if you so desire.  
  • Powdered Sugar: Powdered sugar, also called confectioner’s sugar or 10x, is essential to American buttercream. Unless yours is particularly lumpy, I don’t find sifting necessary.
  • Vanilla Extract: Choose a vanilla extract that you enjoy, it is the dominant flavor in this recipe. I love Nielson Massey’s vanilla extract.
  • Heavy Cream: I find that heavy cream will make a rich vanilla buttercream, but you can use milk instead. You can also use juice like I did in my lemon buttercream recipe.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations & Changing the Flavor of American Buttercream

  • Use juice or puree in place of the cream: Use lemon juice, orange juice or a puree to add flavor and cut the sweetness. You can purchase puree or make it yourself in a blender or food processor. Just be sure to strain it if there are seeds like with strawberry, raspberry or blackberry.
  • Chocolate American Buttercream: You can make it chocolate by simply adding cocoa powder or you can add cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and kosher salt like I did in my chocolate buttercream frosting recipe.
  • Add flavor by adding an extract or alcohol. Use coffee extract in addition to the vanilla extract or try peppermint extract like I did in these peppermint chocolate brownies. Add alcohol to taste at the end in addition to the heavy cream. I like Bourbon, Grand Marnier, or Frangelico.
  • Flavor the buttercream with a jam or dehydrated fruit powder. You can also add easy strawberry jam or mixed berry jam to add a fruit flavoring or add powdered dehydrated strawberries.  
  • Add food coloring. For vibrant colors use a gel food coloring. American buttercream holds colors very well and is perfect piping detailed flowers in deep colors.

How to use this American Buttercream Recipe

slices of moist vanilla cake with american buttercream.

How to Make the Best American Buttercream

Use these instructions to make this easy buttercream recipe! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until smooth and lightened slightly on medium-high speed.

Step 2: Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, allowing it to mix in completely before adding the next batch.

Step 3: Once all the sugar has been incorporated add the vanilla and vanilla bean seeds (optional) and mix on medium speed until light and smooth.

mixing powdered sugar and butter for vanilla buttercream.
butter and sugar before adding cream for buttercream.
perfectly smooth american buttercream.

Step 4: Switch to the whisk attachment and add cream while mixing on medium-low speed. Then increase the speed to high and whisk until light and fluffy and white.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

To remove air bubbles, switch back to the paddle and mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes. This will make the buttercream more dense and it will not frost as many cupcakes or cover as much cake but it will give a smoother finish to a frosted cake.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store American buttercream?

Store American buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 month or frozen for 3 months. Simply allow to come to room temperature while mixing on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Once smooth and light, switch to the whisk attachment and beat until light and fluffy.

Does American buttercream melt in the heat?

American buttercream is very stable because of the high ratio of sugar in comparison to Swiss meringue buttercream or Italian meringue buttercream. It stands up nicely in the heat but it is the sweetest of all the buttercreams.

Which buttercream is best for wedding cakes?

As a professional pastry chef, I prefer Swiss meringue buttercream over American buttercream for wedding cakes. I prefer the less sweet contrast to the white vanilla cake. American buttercream is excellent for using under fondant because it is more stable than the meringue-based buttercreams.

How do I fix American buttercream that looks curdled?

First you can try switching to the paddle attachment and adding a bit of cold cream like you would to ganache and mixing on low. If that doesn’t work take ½ cup of the buttercream and melt it in the microwave before adding back to the full batch of buttercream.

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

detailed view of rosettes piped with american buttercream.
5 from 1 ratings

American Buttercream

A light, fluffy American buttercream recipe flavored generously with vanilla extract that is ready in 5 minutes! 4 ingredients are all you need for the easiest buttercream to top cupcakes, frost moist vanilla cake, or brownies!
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 18 people

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until smooth and lightened slightly on medium-high speed.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, allowing it to mix in completely before adding the next batch.
  • Once all the sugar has been incorporated add the vanilla and vanilla bean seeds (optional) and mix on medium speed until light and smooth.
  • Switch to the whisk attachment and add cream while mixing on medium-low speed. Then increase the speed to high and whisk until light and fluffy and white.
  • TIP To remove the bubbles, switch back to the paddle and mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes. This will make the buttercream more dense and it will not frost as many cupcakes or cover as much cake but it will give a smoother finish to a frosted cake.

Video

Notes

Yield – Enough buttercream to frost a 2-layer, 9-inch or 8-inch cake, 9×13 inch cake, or 18 cupcakes. 1 ½ quarts.
Technique – Add the powdered sugar slowly, allowing it to incorporate before adding more. This will make a lighter, fluffier buttercream and will take less time.
Variations – Add different extracts or alcohol at the end of the mixing process, or try substituting different purees or juices for the heavy cream.
Storage – Store American buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 month or frozen for 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 4mg | Potassium: 10mg | Sugar: 41g | Vitamin A: 538IU | Vitamin C: 0.03mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 0.03mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 314
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Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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