This is my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting – fluffy, creamy, velvety, and not way too sweet. It’s the perfect buttercream icing recipe for cake decorating and cupcakes.
A good classic buttercream recipe is essential to have. It’s easy to add other flavors to it without losing its fluffy texture, like fruit jam, lemon curd, orange zest, dulce de leche, chocolate, and more. That’s why I tested more than 50 recipes in the last few years and I really think that this is the perfect buttercream icing recipe for cakes and cupcakes. All recipes use only a handful of ingredients, but the quantities differ from recipe to recipe. I consider buttercream to be a bit too sweet so I add a pinch of salt and lemon juice to cut down on some of that sweetness, and it really makes a difference. It’s still sweet though, just as it should be.
To make buttercream frosting that is light and fluffy, beat the frosting for several minutes. I use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. If you want an even lighter frosting, you can switch to the whisk attachment and whisk for a couple of minutes more.
To get a smooth frosting, sift the powdered sugar, and add it to the butter in 2 additions, beating well after each addition. Beat until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth, and stiff enough to pipe.
- 1 cup (225 g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups (480 g) powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat until combined, then add another 2 cups, and beat until completely smooth. Add cream, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until fluffy. Beat in more sugar as needed, until desired consistency (thick enough to pipe).
*Salt and lemon juice are added to cut sweetness and are optional. Depending on your personal taste, you can add more or leave out entirely.
What are the different types of buttercream frosting?
- AMERICAN: Powdered sugar + softened butter + milk + vanilla
- SWISS: Egg whites + light corn syrup + white sugar + softened butter
- FRENCH: Egg yolks + homemade sugar syrup + butter
- ITALIAN: Homemade sugar syrup + egg whites + white sugar + softened butter
When you consider how perfectly smooth, rich, creamy, and heavenly this buttercream frosting is and how incredibly easy it is to use for decorating, it will soon be one of your favorites. Whether you use it for a dry crumb frosting base only before adding fondant and fancy decorations, or you cover the entire cake in buttercream frosting, it truly is one of the most gorgeous things you can put on a cake.
How to make Perfect Buttercream Frosting:
- You must get your sugar to the soft-ball stage which is 235 degrees F. I live close to sea level, so this is the temperature I go by. At high altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature. For example, at 4500 feet above sea level, water boils at 204° F. If candy is cooked until it reaches the soft-ball stage on a candy thermometer, it will have cooked too long.
- I add a bit of corn syrup because it adds a beautiful sheen, but this can be omitted if you want to make a pure Italian buttercream recipe.
- When you whip your egg whites, you want them to have a lot of air and a beautiful sheen, but do not let them get to the stiff peak stage.
- Remember to be patient. I’ve had a lot of readers who had this recipe turn out perfectly and others who couldn’t get it to work. Once you start adding the butter, it will look awful, but you just have to keep mix and just like magic, you will end up with the best buttercream frosting.
I’ve talked before about my fear of boiling sugar. I’ve since gotten over that fear because I’ve found making homemade marshmallows is worth it, and am so proud that I’m not longer afraid to face boiling sugar because that’s how you make this buttercream. If you follow the directions exactly, you’ll watch magic happen right before your eyes. To think, whisking in melted sugar at the exact right temperature into whipped egg whites and then adding an obscene amount of butter yields absolute perfection – its like a chemistry class right in your kitchen!
What else you can make with boiling sugar besides buttercream icing?
Some of the tools I used to make this Perfect Buttercream Frosting:
Stand mixer: This is a kitchen must-have. I use mine almost any time I bake. It’s one of the few appliances I will allow to always remain on the counter rather than be put away.Silicone spatula: Any time you’re working with a frosting, you’ll need a good quality scraper. These are the ones I use because they do the job right and don’t leave a nasty silicone taste when I like the batter off at the end!Icing decorating set: You can always use the old snip-the-corner-off-the-ziplock-bag method, but using a real bag and an official frosting tip makes it oh-so-pretty. I know it’s wasteful, but I prefer the disposable bags for easy clean up.