The Best Vanilla American Buttercream Recipe

Vanilla American Buttercream Recipe

American buttercream is a sweet frosting made from creaming together butter and confectioners sugar. It is our typical classic birthday cake icing and is an essential recipe for every baker. It is the go to icing for cake decorators.

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how to make American buttercream

How do you make American Buttercream?

American Buttercream gets its name from, you guessed it, butter! It is made by creaming together, which means working into a creamy paste, butter and confectioners sugar. You can add any flavoring of your choice and you can add small amounts of milk to get different consistencies of buttercream depending on if your icing a cake or piping details.


A crusting buttercream for cake decorating.

American buttercream is known as a crusting buttercream. When American buttercream dries the sugar hardens and forms a crust. This makes American buttercream great for cake decorating because it forms a barrier on the cake and keeps piped details stiff and sturdy.


American buttercream vs. frosting.

Did you know there was a difference between buttercream and frosting? There actually is! Buttercream recipes only use butter and frosting recipes use shortening. So what are the differences and when should you use one over the other?

Buttercream in my opinion has a better flavor. The butter gives it a richer buttery taste. But, butter also melts a lot easier and faster than shortening. So that means if you are making a cake or cupcakes for an outside event in the middle of the summer, you probably want to go with the frosting. You can also use half butter and half shortening. This will keep some of the butter flavor of buttercream, and keep it a little more stable in the heat.

american buttercream

American buttercream vs. other buttercreams.

American buttercream is not the only buttercream used in cake decorating. There are 4 other buttercreams that are sometimes used in cake decorating, Swiss meringue buttercream, Italian buttercream, French buttercream, and German buttercream. These buttercreams are known as non crusting buttercreams.


What’s the difference between crusting buttercream and non crusting buttercream?

When non crusting buttercreams dry they do not form a crust like American buttercream does. However, piped details made with non crusting buttercreams do stay firm and stable even though they are non crusting.

They are made from mostly butter so you’ll still have some melting issues in the summer. The major difference between American buttercream and other buttercreams is the sweetness. American buttercream is definitely the sweetest.

buttercream recipe for piping details on cake


How do you store American buttercream?

I’ve had lots of questions about storing buttercream, so I’ll answer them here.

Can buttercream sit out?

Buttercream can sit out, but it will form a crust. If you will be using it again you’ll want to remix it to get it smooth. If left out and in an airtight container, buttercream is good for about 3 days.

Does buttercream need to be kept in the fridge?

Buttercream decorated cakes or cupcakes do not have to be refrigerated, but it won’t hurt them either. If it is hot then you will want to refrigerate your goodies to prevent the icing from melting. If leftover buttercream is kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it will be good to use for about 2 weeks.

Can you freeze American buttercream?

Yes, you can. Store your buttercream in an airtight bag or container and it should last for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, simply let if thaw on the counter. When completely thawed you can remix it to make sure it is at a consistency you want.


How far can you make buttercream in advance?

If you store it correctly in one of the ways we’ve talked about above, you could make your buttercream in advance anywhere from the day before icing your cake to 3 months before! Just make sure you store it correctly.


How can you make American Buttercream less sweet?

If you are looking for a way to make American buttercream less sweet you should either try one of the non crusting buttercreams or you can use less confectioners sugar than the recipe calls for. Use the same amount of butter and flavoring, but add less confectioners sugar. This will make your buttercream less sweet and also less crusting.


How can you thin out buttercream?

Just like royal icing, buttercream can have different consistencies. You achieve these different consistencies by adding milk to get a thinner consistency, or by adding powdered sugar to get a thicker consistency. You will use a thinner consistency for icing a cake or piping cupcakes and a thicker consistency for piping details that you want to stay put.


The recipe.

Now that you know all about American buttercream, let’s move on to the recipe! It’s a super simple recipe. One key tip is that you will want ROOM TEMPERATURE butter. This is a must for smooth buttercream.

room temperature butter for American buttercream


Cream the butter. Creaming means to mix your butter with a mixer until it forms a creamy paste. Doing this before you add your sugar makes creaming the butter and sugar together an easier task.

creamed butter for American buttercream


Add your confectioners sugar a little at a time. Another key tip for super smooth buttercream is to sift your powdered sugar first. I know this is time consuming and a step we all seem to skip, but for super smooth buttercream you’ll want to sift your confectioners sugar before adding it to your butter. You’ll also want to avoid adding all of your sugar at one time or you could end up with a big mess! If you’re using a stand mixer you can’t drape a towel over it to avoid a big sugar puff!


American buttercream recipe


Add milk to get the right consistency. Your buttercream will be a stiff consistency after mixing. This consistency will be good for piping details, but if you are icing a cake or piping cupcakes you’ll want to thin it out. You do this by adding small amounts of milk until you get the consistency you want.

American buttercream

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american buttercream birthday cake

Delicious and Simple Vanilla American Buttercream

This American buttercream is delicous, simple to make, and the go to recipe for cake decorating.
Course Dessert


  • 2 cups salted room temperature butter
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla flavoring
  • 2 pounds powder sugar (1 large bag)
  • 2-4 teaspoons milk


  • Beat butter and vanilla together with a mixer until butter is light and creamy.
  • Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, with mixer on low, into creamed butter.
  • Add milk with mixer on low until your buttercream is the right consistency for what you will be using it for. Add more milk for crumb coating and icing cakes. Add less milk for piping details.



*Make sure to use room temperature butter.
*For smooth buttercream be sure to sift powdered sugar before adding it to the butter.
Keyword cake, cupcakes,

Did you make this buttercream recipe? I’d love to know how it turned out! And as always leave any questions you have in the comments.


Happy decorating!


American buttercream recipe

The best American buttercream recipe





A Happy Baker
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