If there is one frosting recipe that every baker should have in their repertoire, it’s a quick and easy vanilla buttercream.  As much as I love Swiss meringue buttercream for its silky smooth texture and rich flavor, I also appreciate the simplicity of an American-style buttercream.  It requires few ingredients and very little time.  In fact, I use it so often that I have the recipe memorized – this comes in very handy if I run short and need to whip up another quarter- or half-batch.

Most buttercreams start out with the same basic concept – combining butter with powdered sugar and beating until they are “light and fluffy”.  Even with extensive whipping, I generally find these frostings to be heavy and cloying.  The reason I prefer this particular whipped vanilla buttercream recipe and method is the addition of a bit of cream.  When the mixture is whipped, it fluffs up and transforms from the heavy buttercream into a cloud of frosting.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Later this week for cupcake Friday you’ll see the finished version of these particular cupcakes.  You’re gonna love ’em!

*The pastry tip pictured above is an Ateco #829. 


  • 1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (3 sticks plus 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract


  • 01

    Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod (if using) into the bowl and add in the salt.  Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the heavy cream and vanilla on low speed just until incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4-5 minutes.


  • I love the ateco piping tips and I also use cream in my vanilla buttercream. It gives it a creamier texture, you’re right!

  • I’m going to have to try this recipe. Can’t wait to see the cupcakes.

  • Liz N.

    Annie, this couldn’t have been more timely. I do love SMBC but I find it more time consuming. In a pinch, this recipe will work perfectly! Can this recipe be doubled using these proportions or do I need to modify the amount of butter and other ingredients? Also, will this frosting freeze well if I made it in advance like SMBC? Thanks!!

  • I’ve been looking for ages for a go-to buttercream recipe and everything I find is just slliigghtly less than perfect. I’m so pumped to give this a shot and hopefully never worry about Google-ing a buttercream recipe again!

  • Sara

    Does this frosting need to be refrigerated? If I bring cupcakes to work to share will the frosting hold up?
    LOVE your wonderful blog! We make your homemade pizza dough about once a week, cut it into 6 portions and the kids all make their own person pizza. They love it! Just made another batch of your Caramel sauce last night…mmmmmm! Thanks for all the delicious inspiration!

  • Craby

    With the addition of cream, do you typically refridgerate yor cupcakes?

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page for storage info. Thanks!

  • annieseats

    So glad you enjoy the blog, and that the pizza dough is a hit! Storage info is covered on the FAQ page. Thanks!

  • annieseats

    You can make multiple batches and should not change the proportions. I have frozen it with good results in the past. Enjoy!

  • Angela

    I can’t seem to find vanilla beans – does it really affect the taste if you don’t include it here?

  • I agree with you that regular buttercream is too heavy, at least for me! Cream is such a great, easy way to fix the problem :)

  • Can’t wait to try it as I’ve been tr;ying a lot lately. I think a big key is the higher butter to sugar ratio. I actually saw and regrettably tried one that was 2 sticks of butter and 8 yes EIGHT cups of sugar! I prefer more buttery melt-in-my-mouth frosting. I’m sure this is great and can’t wait to try it!

  • Hkoziarz

    Is this an updated version of your “easy vanilla buttercream” from your Happy 21st birthday Bro (3-8-08) post?? I loved that frosting, and this one looks similiar but perhaps updated for quantity?

    No matter, I will be trying this one next time I need buttercream!

  • annieseats

    It’s slightly different – a hybrid of two similar buttercream recipes, one being that old version.

  • annieseats

    The vanilla bean is optional.

  • Lynna Huynh

    I definitely need a handy vanilla buttercream! :) thanks

  • Karen | The Food Charlatan

    cupcakes scare me. You inspire me. I’ll have to try this one!

  • Subgirl

    Oof. I really enjoy your pictures and posts but is there anything you make that doesn’t har milk in it at some point? I know most baking has some butter in it but even the savory recipes you post seem to add even more or extra milk/cream to it.

    I am dairy free by health necessity and enjoy many of your posts because I can make substitutions but it’s exhausting that ever single recipe you post has more and more and more milk. It’s just tiring.

    Sorry for the downer comment, I love the baking and beautiful photography and don’t mind making substitutions or just wishing I could have dairy again without going to the hospital so I could try some of your recipes as-is. It’s just kind of shocking how much dairy is in most American diets and having to eliminate it you really realise how much of certain things you consume.

  • Maia

    This looks great! I will make this at the end of my month on cardiology as a treat for having made it through the rotation!
    On that note – if you ever decide to write a blog about how to survive internal medicine residency I will gladly read that too. :)

  • Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes

    This sounds easy and yummy. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Gaietta1

    I do love this frosting,vanilla buttercream is my fave one!

  • Michelle

    Would I be able to use this recipe as a base for others? For example, swap out the vanilla and add a little raspberry essence (not too much to alter the consistency) or similar?
    I have been on the hunt for both a great vanilla buttercream and one I can use as a base for others (I like to use a flavoured frosting on a white cake sometimes).

  • This buttercream looks great! Now I want a cupcake…7:45 am isn’t too early for a cupcake right?!

  • Celine

    Those cupcakes look perfect! I will have to try this frosting the next time I bake a cake.

  • jpmayo

    Can this be made with a normal hand mixer? I have a hand held whisk but that might take an hour, LOL, but do not have any kind of electric mixer with a whisk attachment (do they even make those for hand held mixers, maybe I can get some for mine?).
    (I’m always discouraged that it seems lately every recipe on every cooking blog uses an electric mixer/kitchenaid type machine.)

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page. Most things can be made just fine with a handheld mixer. Hope that helps!

  • annieseats

    Feel free to experiment!

  • annieseats

    Good luck! I’m not an IM resident though, just fyi.

  • annieseats

    I’m sorry you are going through this and I’m sure it is very frustrating. However, on my blog I share recipes that I make for my family and that we enjoy. In our house that means a lot of things that include dairy. I hope you are able to find some good sources for dairy free recipes.

  • Anxiously waiting part two for a birthday party this weekend!!! Pretty please post by Thursday. ;)

  • MandaH

    Your cupcakes look very flat on top and easy to decorate – what’s your trick to keep the tops flat?

  • annieseats

    It’s not a trick and not intentional. It just depends on the recipe you use. This one results in a flat top. I personally prefer a domed top.

  • Ciara

    Hi Annie,

    I am wondering what percentage of fat in the cream? Would it be 35% whipping cream or any heavy cream is fine 10%?

    Thank you! Love the blog,


  • annieseats

    I don’t know the exact percent. Most store-bought heavy cream and whipping cream are essentially the same thing. Especially for this recipe, it doesn’t matter much.

  • Cevyn91

    this stuff is awesome! the flavor is great and it is light and fluffy! plus, its not as sweet as the other recipe i have been using for years. this is my new go-to! thanks!!!

  • mira

    Check out “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” – it’s my favorite cupcake recipe book and has amazing results. My favorite buttercream of all time actually uses splashes of soy milk and the recipe calls for margarine/shortening (although I personally sub butter for the margarine :) )

  • Michelle

    I did Annie! I excluded the vanilla and added 1 teaspoon of raspberry essence and about 2/3 of pink colouring to really bring the colour up. I’d love to get some gel colours for this. It all worked really well and was a big hit.

  • tat223

    Clare, I’m assuming you are not in US, because you are asking about percentage of fat in the cream. You want to get whipping cream with 35% fat. 10% cream would not get thick.

  • AmyT

    I just made these as regular sized cupcakes and they domed beautifully.. so who knows!

  • andreaquist

    I have found my new go-to frosting! I didn’t tell people I made it differently (I usually follow the classic Wilton recipe, even though I don’t love it) and I got soooo many compliments! My SIL bakes cakes for fun like I do, and has several frosting recipes, and her daughter proclaimed “This is the best frosting! Even better than my moms!” Lol. I will not of course relay that to HER! :)

  • annieeatsfan

    quick question can i substitute milk for heavy cream?

  • annieseats

    Results will vary with any substitution. Please see the FAQ page for more info. Thanks!

  • BazoDee

    Is that’s Ricks Butter Cream? I really liked it. You like this one better?

  • Maureen

    Where has this recipe been all my life?!?? It is a HUGE improvement over any other vanilla buttercream recipe I’ve used.

  • MaddyCrocker

    Do you have a chocolate version of this recipe? i see you have chocolate cream cheese frosting but not buttercream.

  • annieseats

    The chocolate cream cheese frosting is my go-to chocolate frosting. I wouldn’t necessarily want a chocolate version of this since it’s just meant to be a good vanilla buttercream.

  • LaJuana

    I made this icing last night with the vanilla cupcakes for my boss. I tasted a cupcake this morning after they had been removed from the refrigerator and the icing tasted really buttery. is that normal? should I add more powdered sugar if I want a less buttery taste? Thanks for the great recipe.

  • annieseats

    It is buttercream so it will taste somewhat buttery. If you add more powdered sugar it will be sweeter, stiffer, and grainier. You can make adjustments as you see fit.

  • Jade

    Can I use food coloring with this recipe? Will it mess up the consistency?

  • annieseats

    If you use gel coloring, it should not effect the consistency.

  • never to early for a cupcake

  • This is a delicious recipe. Perfect and quick.

  • I made this frosting and it is SO delish!! Thank you for being so awesome and sharing!!! :)

  • Finally I’ve found a frosting that tastes great, looks beautiful and is sturdy enough to pipe and stand on its own! So light and fluffy! Thanks for the tip for adding the whipping cream!!

  • Samantha

    Oh my gosh!!! This is the BEST buttercream I’ve ever had!! It is light and airy and has the perfect consistency and amount of sweetness. To die for! I used pure vanilla bean paste (Nielsen-Massey, sold at Williams Sonoma) and it saved me from splitting a vanilla bean but allows for the full flavor and the specks of vanilla to show through. Note, if you’re looking for a stiff buttercream to use for decorating, this isn’t it, this is purely for taste and certainly worth it!! Thank you for sharing!!

  • Elizabeth Piasecki

    I used this as a base for a buttercream to go on the chocolate stout cupcakes I made for St. Patrick’s Day, and then I used some cake vodka and maple whiskey for my liquid – it was awesome!

  • Molly B

    This frosting is to die for! I paired this with Annie’s vanilla bean cupcakes (also wonderful) for a baby shower and I had numerous people tell me they don’t typically like frosting but they loved this. This will now be my go to recipe – thanks Annie!

  • Alisa Crovetti

    I am excited to try this buttercream. I usually really dislike buttercream because it is too heavy. I have two questions: 1) how many cupcakes will this frost? 2) If I leave out the vanilla bean, will it be a travesty? I just don’t know that I’ll have it in me to get out and find the beans…

  • Dzeneta Konjic

    I made this frosting twice already and got a lot of compliments. Thank you so much for sharing this absolutelly awesome recipe!!!

  • Winny the Elephant

    Thank you for this response. In Canada you buy either 18% table cream or 35% whipping cream-there is no heavy cream! I wasn’t sure what to buy until I saw this reply

  • annieseats

    The yield is listed on the recipe. Vanilla bean is optional. Enjoy!

  • Jasmin

    Hi Annie, I tried making this buttercream, but it turned out heavy and dense. It was also thick to eat. Do you know any reasons why?

  • annieseats

    You probably needed to whip it longer.

  • Heather Shorb

    I forgot to buy cream the last time I made this and substituted it with the non-homogenized whole milk I had and it still came out light and fluffy.

  • Erin

    Will this buttercream crust? For the decorating I want to do I need it to harden a bit in the fridge for a few hours. Will this recipe harden or stay soft? Thank you!

  • annieseats

    This doesn’t really crust. I use it for decorating occasionally, but only because I’m not a serious decorator.

  • Sabrina

    Hi Annie
    I’ve tried a few of your recipes and they always turn out so good! May I ask how is it that your cupcakes bake till it fills the sides of the paper and comes out flat on top? Mine always doesn’t rise sufficiently up the sides of the paper but forms a huge dome in the centre that is way higher. Would be very grateful for your advice!

  • annieseats

    The height and shape of the cupcake will depend on the specific recipe you use. Some bake up with domes (my preference), some bake up flat. It varies depending on ingredients, proportions, etc. As long as the cake still tastes good, the shape doesn’t matter much!

  • Tiffani

    Will this icing hold fondant shapes or do you think they would slide off the side?

  • annieseats

    I have used it underneath fondant and it worked fine.

  • stevierae5

    Never trust anyone who doesn’t like frosting–and admits it. ;)

  • Chen Arviv

    Great frosting!! Just tried it and it certainly triumphs the recipe I normally use! thnx!

  • Rebecca Jones

    Hey Annie :)
    I’ve been dying to try out this frosting and finally got around to it tonight. I used it on your vanilla bean cupcakes. It turned out just as smooth, fluffy, creamy and heavenly as I dreamed it would be! Definitely my favourite frosting ever. And now I’ve also found a vanilla cupcake recipe that I love! I’ll definitely be featuring this recipe on my next blog post.
    Thanks for a great recipe :)

  • Jessica Mitchell

    Hi Annie! I am new to gluten free and I am hosting a bridal shower where three of the people invited are celiac (cant have gluten). I’d really like them to be able to eat my cupcakes and I was thinking of using this recipie since I’ve had it before and it was sooo yummy. Do you know if all the items in this are gluten-free?

    Thank you!!!

  • annieseats

    All of the ingredients included are naturally gluten free. However, you should still read labels on the packaging of various items just to be sure they are truly gluten free.

  • Betty Neith Jackowski

    This is the frosting I have been looking for for years , thank you so much ! So creamy and taste awesome !!

  • Brooke K

    Made this frosting recipe twice this week – once to top your vanilla funfetti cupcakes, and once for your cupcake basics chocolate. So good, it’s unbelievable. Thank you for all you do in the kitchen and your blog. Annie’s Eats is my go-to. :)

  • Ms. D

    I would like to know how much cream cheese would you add to this recipe to make it a cream cheese buttercream frosting and I still want to use the heavy cream. I had a recipe but I lost it.

  • Annie