The Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

The best and easiest vanilla buttercream frosting, this is my go-to for cookies, cupcakes, and cakes. Light and creamy, it is fluffy and deliciously perfect.

The Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

The Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting


  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) butter, softened to room temperature (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream


  1. In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter and vanilla extract until the butter is light in color and creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  2. Add the powdered sugar gradually, about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing completely after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl often.
  3. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and continue mixing while adding the heavy cream (start with the lesser amount and add more as needed until the desired consistency is reached). Add more powdered sugar for a thicker frosting.
  4. Whip until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. If using food coloring, add it now (gel coloring is preferred so it doesn't thin out the frosting), and mix until combined.


Because this is an all-butter frosting recipe (the only way to go!), it's hard to get it completely white, but it will definitely whiten more as it is whipped and mixed. Using clear vanilla extract in place of the pure vanilla extract can also help if you are after a whiter frosting.

It's important to beat the butter by itself in the first step to lighten it in texture and color, and it can also help prevent a grainy texture in the frosting. The butter should be soft enough that it "gives" to pressure with a finger but not so soft that your finger can slide all the way through easily. And no melty spots (you microwave-softeners, you!) - butter that is too soft will lead to greasy frosting.

I prefer using heavy cream in the frosting but you can sub in half-and-half or milk (it will be slightly less rich and creamy). The frosting pipes really well (but stays soft; doesn't harden like royal icing) and works great on cakes and cookies. For cookies, I like adding slightly more heavy cream (upwards of 6 tablespoons) so the frosting is extra creamy. 

A lot depends on how heavy handed one is with frosting, but this makes enough to lightly frost a two layer 9-inch cake, but I double or triple if I'm piping decorations or the cake is bigger. 

Often I'll make this a cream cheese-style frosting by eliminating one stick (8 tablespoons) of butter and adding 4-6 ounces softened cream cheese (beating it with the butter in the first step).

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