American Buttercream Frosting
What I love most about my simple and delicious American buttercream Frosting recipe is how perfectly smooth it comes out. It’s fluffy, creamy, not overly sweet frosting that’s so good, you could eat it with a spoon!
This recipe is a classic buttercream frosting is a tried-and-true recipe that can be easily colored and flavored and use to fill and frost cakes or pipe on top of cupcakes. It has so many different uses!
Table of Contents
Crash course on perfect American Buttercream Frosting.
Here’s the most important things you need to know about making the very best buttercream frosting.
Make sure your butter is soft! If you store your butter in the fridge, microwave it for 10 seconds at a time, flipping it over each time until it’s soft. Not melted. You want it to be soft enough that if you press on it with your finger there’s a little resistance, but your finger can make a dent.
Sift your powdered sugar.
This will ensure your frosting is smooth, has no lumps and pipes well with no lumps of sugar to block your piping tip.
Do not use the milk in this recipe if it’s a warm day. It will soften your frosting to the point where it is not pipeable. You can leave it out.
What tools to use
To make this frosting you can use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or an electric hand mixer. You won’t be able to make this frosting with a hand whisk. There’s too much whisking time.
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
This is my NEW American Buttercream Frosting recipe!
Despite this frosting being a simple recipe, it’s an ever evolving one. And there’s always new ways to make it even better. That’s why I’ve chosen to update my recipe. Because believe it or not, I’ve learned a fair bit about how to make the very best American Buttercream Frosting in the 6 years since I first posted it on thescranline.com!
In this recipe I’ll be going through:
- My top tips to getting perfectly smooth frosting.
- Answering your most asked questions like:
- What to do in warm and cool climates
- How to prevent crusting
- How to use this frosting, and
- How to color and flavor it
What does American Buttercream Frosting taste like?
Smooth, creamy and not overly sweet. I use half the amount of powdered sugar than most other people do which results in a frosting that is smoother and has a focus on flavor rather than being an overly thick and sweet paste. Although this recipe can hold it’s shape, it is a little softer than other buttercream frostings. To make it stiffer, you can add another cup / 155g of powdered sugar.
How is it different to Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting?
The main difference is that American buttercream Frosting doesn’t use egg whites!
- American Buttercream frosting is a really simple frosting to make using only 5 ingredients. It’s an all-purpose frosting that you can use to frost most desserts including cookies, cakes and cupcakes.
- Swiss Meringue buttercream is made completely differently. It starts by making a gently cooked meringue instead of powdered sugar which results in an ultra-smooth frosting. It is also much whiter in color. However, there are a fair few more steps to making Swiss meringue buttercream. This frosting is perfect for covering cakes if you want to get super sharp edges.
Both frostings work in similar ways when it comes to be being used. Both react to heat poorly, Swiss meringue buttercream frosting is much softer and will melt quicker.
What is American Buttercream Frosting used for?
- Filling and frosting cakes– you’ll get a nice smooth edge but an even smoother one using my Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting!
- Frosting cupcakes– this frosting is perfect for nice tall frosting swirls that hold their shape. If you want to try my cupcakes, check out my Chocolate Cupcakes and Vanilla Cupcakes!
- Bright Colored Frosting – getting bright, vibrant colored frosting is really easy using food gel coloring. For even brighter colors, color your frosting the day before you use it. The color deepens and intensifies!
- Buttercream Decorations – this frosting is nice and soft. But stiff enough to hold it’s shape which makes it perfect for things like my Cactus Garden Cupcakes or my Magic Mushroom Cake.
What are the ingredients I need?
There are a couple things you need to know about the main ingredient to Buttercream frosting:
- Use unsalted butter – You could use salted butter, but typically salted butter contains too much salt which is why we add salt to a recipe when using unsalted butter. It means you’re in control of the salt levels. Salted butter can also result in an over-aerated frosting which is fluffy, but not as easy to get smooth.
- It needs to be softened – Make sure your butter is softened. It’s the best way to get perfectly fluffy results. If you keep your butter in the fridge or it’s cold where you are, microwave it for 10 seconds, then flip over and microwave for another 10 seconds. It should be soft enough that if you press your finger to it, it will have some resistance but easily make a dent. You don’t want any of your butter to melt so take care when microwaving as the center heats up first.
- Brand – Use any brand you like, but like with most things, simple recipes require good quality ingredients. I use New Zealand Butter. It has a higher fat percentage which results in a creamier buttercream frosting.
I used fine salt. Using salt in this recipe is optional, but adding salt does two things. It cuts through the sweetness of the buttercream, and it helps elevate the flavor of the frosting.
Always use good quality vanilla extract when baking, it makes a huge difference. I have a great recipe here for it if you’d like to try your own! Alternatively, you can use vanilla bean paste which is perfect if you want to show that there’s good quality vanilla in the frosting because people will be able to see the little vanilla bean flecks.
Some recipes use heavy cream in their frosting, and you can certainly do that if you wish but I think milk does the job. I specifically use warm milk in this recipe as a way to smoothen out the frosting.
I use regular powdered sugar in this recipe. You can use powdered sugar with or without corn starch added. You want to make sure you run your powdered sugar through a sieve to ensure there are no lumps in the frosting. It will result in a smoother frosting that pipes better without the risk of sugar lumps blocking your piping tip.
How to make American Buttercream Frosting
1. Add your softened butter, salt and vanilla extract to a large bowl. If using a stand mixer fit it with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy.
2. Scrape down the bowl and add all of the sifted powdered sugar and begin beating on low speed. When no dry ingredients are showing, turn the speed up to high speed and beat for 10 minutes.
3. Add the warm milk and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes.
To make a smoother frosting
- Add half of the frosting into a heatproof bowl and microwave for 10 seconds or until jiggly (not melted) in the center. Add to the rest of the frosting and beat on medium speed for a couple minutes.
- Right before using or adding to a piping bag, use a spatula to beat the air out of the frosting until smooth. Alternatively, you can leave in the mixer on low speed until ready to use, up to 10 minutes.
Top Tips to making ULTRA-SMOOTH American Buttercream Frosting
I’m going to share some easy tips to make frosting super smooth. They’re my secrets to getting a lucious smooth buttercream frosting even if you chilled your frosting or made it a long time before using it:
TIP 1 – Melting your frosting
If it’s cold where you are or you’re trying to re-whip and freshen up frosting you’ve made ahead of time that was kept in the fridge, add half of the frosting into a heatproof bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. It won’t be melted, but if you shake the bowl a little it’ll be jiggly in the center. Then add it back to your frosting and beat on medium speed for a couple minutes.
The idea here is to soften half the frosting a lot by heating it slightly then adding it to the rest of the frosting and mixing in. It results in a smoother frosting.
TIP 2 – Adding warm milk
You do this by adding milk that is lukewarm (not hot!) to the frosting. This is another great way to smoothen out cold frosting or over-aerated frosting. You won’t need to do TIP 1 if you do this. Take care to not overheat your milk or you will melt your frosting. You don’t want to do this is it’s warm where you live.
TIP 2 – Beating out the air
Right before using or adding to a piping bag, use a spatula to beat the air out of the frosting until smooth. Alternatively, you can leave in the mixer on low speed until ready to use, up to 10 minutes.
SECRET BONUS MEGA TIP!
Yeah, there’s always a secret tip and this is one of my favorite ways to smoothen out frosting. This is something you do if you’ve just made fresh frosting or if you’ve re-whipped chilled frosting to freshen it up. Once you’re finished, if there are large air bubbles in the frosting, mix it in your stand mixer using a paddle attachment or using an electric hand mixer on the lowest speed until the frosting is smooth. This usually takes about 5 minutes and is easier if you have a stand mixer.
Please note: Step 1, 2 and the bonus step will soften your frosting so don’t use if it’s a really warm day.
How much frosting does this recipe make?
This frosting recipe makes one batch of frosting. One batch is enough:
- for 12-16 cupcakes (depending on how high you make the frosting).
- to fill and frost a two layer, 8” cake.
- For a six layer, 8” cake you’ll need to triple this recipe to fill, crumb coat and frost the cake.
How do I color my buttercream frosting?
The best way to color this frosting is using Food Gel Coloring. To get the absolutely brightest, deepest and most vivid colors, color your frosting the day before you frost it.
How do I flavor my buttercream frosting?
You can easily flavor this frosting and there are a number of ways to do it!
Freshly pureed fruit – you can use pureed berries to mix into this frosting. Just take care not to add too much otherwise your frosting will split.
Essences and extracts – I use the Roberts Brand flavorings and the Queen brand extracts.
Freeze dried powders – This could be freeze dried crushed raspberries and strawberries. They also help give you a natural color tint.
My Top Tips for making the very best frosting!
- Make sure you scrape down the bowl each time you stop the mixer. It will ensure everything is mixed evenly.
- Sifting your powdered sugar will ensure there are no lumps which will make piping your frosting easier.
- If you’ve chilled your frosting, you can re-whip it to make it smooth and pipeable. The best and quickest way to do this is by adding half of the frosting into a heatproof bowl. Microwave it for 10 seconds. It should be jiggly in the center but not melted. If it’s still stiff, mix it with a spoon and then microwave for another 5 seconds until it’s jiggly. Add it back into the rest of the frosting and beat on medium speed for a couple minutes until smooth.
- If you want bright, vibrant colored frosting – color it the day before you use it using colored food gel. The color soaks into the frosting and becomes deeper and brighter the next day. This is the best way to get vibrant red frosting for valentine’s day. If you’re after a red cupcake, give my Cherry Cherry Boom Boom Cupcakes a go!
Commonly Asked Questions about making Buttercream
How to get smooth buttercream frosting:
Warm your milk
Tip 1: When making fresh frosting, add some warm milk to the frosting as you’re making it to help soften it and smoothen it out.
Beat the air out!
Tip 2: After having made fresh frosting, having re-whipped frosting that was made ahead of time and if it’s a warm day, Use a spatula to beat out air from freshly made frosting by hand until smooth.
Warming your frosting
Tip 3: If using frosting that is chilled from the fridge or if it’s a cold day, add half of the frosting to a heat proof bowl and microwave for 10 seconds or until it’s jiggly in the center (not melted).
How do I make Chocolate flavoured buttercream?
- Add 1/2 cup (50g) cocoa powder in with the powdered sugar. Make sure it’s sifted.
- Melt 1 cup (210g) of dark cooking chocolate. Allow to cool to room temp before adding.
- Add to the frosting once you’ve completed this recipe.
- Mix on high speed until mixed in well.
- Try not to eat it all with a spoon! XD
Why is my Buttercream Frosting really soft?
- It’s a warm day. If it’s a warm day and your frosting has softened too much (but not melted) pop it in the fridge for an hour. Chilling it is the only fix to soft frosting
- You’ve mixed it for too long on low speed and it’s over softened.
- It’s a warm day and you added warm milk. Don’t warm your milk or skip it altogether to prevent it from softening too much
Why is my frosting melting?
The simple truth is that frosting is primarily made up of butter which is a fat. In cool temperatures it stays solid and keeps it’s shape, in warm temperatures it will melt. There’s nothing you can do in the process to stop it from melting other than to keep your dessert in a cool spot or in the fridge. If you do refrigerate your dessert to stop it from melting, let it thaw a little before serving
Can I use a hand mixer?
Yes! You can use a hand mixer. This frosting takes a while to make so if you’re using an electric hand mixer it’s really important to make sure your butter is soft.
Why is my buttercream so stiff?
It’s cold! I film my videos in my garage where I built a kitchen filming studio and during the cooler weather it get’s really cold in there. You want to warm your frosting up. See the next tip below to soften your frosting again so that it’s at a piping consistency. The other reason could be because there is too much sugar which will thicken frosting. You want to add 1-2 tbsp of warm milk if it’s a cold day, room temp f it’s just a regular or warm day and beat on medium speed until it’s smooth and has come to a piping consistency.
How do I make my chilled buttercream soft again?
This is easy! Simply add half of the chilled frosting into a heatproof bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. Use a spoon to mix and microwave for another 5-10 seconds. If you gently shake the bowl, the frosting will be jiggly in the center (not melted!). Add it back to the rest of the frosting and mix on medium speed for a couple minutes or until smooth like freshly made frosting!
Why do you use milk instead of cream for your frosting?
You can use either. Some people use cream because they say it makes their frosting extra fluffy. That may be the case, but I like to have fluffy frosting that’s smooth. So I do this by using warm milk.
Why is my buttercream grainy?
Look, as smooth as this frosting recipe is, it’s going to be slightly grainy. That’s American Buttercream Frosting. There’s no way to make it completely smooth in texture. If you’re looking for an ultra-smooth frosting that is not grainy at all, give my Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting a go!
The other reason could be because the sugar wasn’t sifted, or that there’s too much sugar in the frosting.
Does Buttercream need to be refrigerated?
Yep. Anything with dairy needs to be refrigerated. If it’s a cold day though, I’m talking winter or anything below
How can I make my buttercream less sweet?
Typically, American buttercream frosting is really sweet. Hey, you’re making a dessert here, it’s going to be sweet. One fix to this is to use less powdered sugar. I’ve already done that in this recipe. I’ve almost halved the amount of sugar typically used in other recipes. Adding less sugar to this recipe would be disastrous and would result in a really soft frosting. Powdered sugar is what gives American Buttercream Frosting structural integrity. Using the right amount is what helps it hold its shape when being piped on cupcakes of used to fill a cake.
Why is my frosting yellow?
There could happen a couple reasons why frosting remains yellow.
- You under whipped it. Make sure you use softened butter and whip it using the times in this recipe.
- It could have been chilled and needs to be re-whipped. Let it thaw and then re-whip for 5 minutes on medium speed.
- Your butter was too yellow. Some butter, believe it or not, have food coloring in them. If you use a buttercream that is overly yellow it will be hard to get a super pale frosting. Begin by using a pale unsalted butter.
Will this frosting recipe crust?
Yep. This frosting will crust when it’s left out in the open air. The best way to prevent this from happening is to store it in an airtight container. That way it stays nice and fresh.
If you’re after a buttercream that doesn’t crust, try my Swiss my Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting.
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American Buttercream Frosting Recipe
Serves 1 batch
American Buttercream Frosting
- 2 cups (500 g) unsalted butter softened
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbsp milk warm (see notes)
- 2 cups (260 g) powdered sugar sifted
Learn How To Make it! [VIDEO]
American Buttercream Frosting
- Add your softened butter, salt and vanilla extract to a large bowl. If using a stand mixer fit it with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy.
- Scrape down the bowl and add all of the sifted powdered sugar and begin beating on low speed. When no dry ingredients are showing, turn the speed up to high speed and beat for 10 minutes.
- Add the warm milk and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes.To make a smoother frostingAdd half of the frosting into a heatproof bowl and microwave for 10 seconds or until jiggly (not melted) in the center. Add to the rest of the frosting and beat on medium speed for a couple minutes.Right before using or adding to a piping bag, use a spatula to beat the air out of the frosting until smooth. Alternatively, you can leave in the mixer on low speed until ready to use, up to 10 minutes.