This simple homemade vanilla buttercream is easy to make and results in a silky smooth frosting that is easy to pipe. Vanilla frosting only requires 3 ingredients: butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla! Whip this frosting up in just about 5 minutes and use to frost layer cakes or cupcakes! Pin it for Later »

Yellow cupcakes iced with vanilla buttercream frosting

Homemade Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Overview

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Techniques Used: Creaming Butter and Sugar

The easiest homemade vanilla frosting is made by beating together butter with powdered sugar and vanilla. This style of frosting is what is known as American buttercream and also decorators buttercream because it pipes easily to make intricate designs.

American buttercream is also sometimes referred to as crusting buttercream because a slight crust forms when it is exposed to air. This characteristic is desirable when icing cookies that will be stacked or for intricate designs on cakes.

Vanilla buttercream frosting close up

Butter to Sugar Ratios in American Buttercream

American buttercream tends to be the sweetest style of all the buttercreams. However, the sweetness level can be controlled by the ratio of butter to sugar. For a slightly sweet buttercream, use a ratio of 1:1 butter to sugar by weight. This ratio will also form the least amount of crust when exposed to air.

For a standard vanilla buttercream that is much sweeter, use a ratio of 1:2 butter to sugar by weight. This is the most common ratio used and is much sweeter than the 1:1 ratio but not overly sweet.

For a buttercream that crusts a great deal that can be used for very intricate piping work, you can increase to butter to sugar ratio by up to 1:4 butter to sugar by weight.

How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

The process for making homemade vanilla buttercream is very simple. Start with room temperature butter and beat it in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until it is fluffy. Then, gradually add in your powdered sugar and finally the vanilla.

I prefer a ratio of 1:1 butter to sugar for a less sweet buttercream with more butter flavor. I find that this ratio does not require any milk to thin it out. However, if you opt for a more sweet buttercream then you might need to add a few tablespoons of milk or cream to thin out the texture.

Vanilla buttercream frosting being beaten in a mixing bowl

Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

  • It is essential that your butter is at a cool room temperature to make the best buttercream. If your butter is too cold or too warm, it will not cream together properly with the sugar. You want your butter to be soft but not greasy looking or starting to melt.
  • Add in your powdered sugar a little at a time and taste until you get your desired sweetness.
  • If you want a buttercream that is lighter in texture, use your whisk attachment instead of your paddle attachment, and beat on high for a longer period of time. This will beat air into the buttercream for a more whipped cream texture.

White cake iced with vanilla buttercream frosting and topped with sprinkles

Ingredient Functions

  • Butter is a fat that is solid at room temperature so it works well to cream with sugar to create the structure of the buttercream. Butter also has a melting point around body temperature so it melts on the tongue and does not leave a greasy mouthfeel like frostings made with shortening do.
  • Powdered Sugar is a very finely ground sugar which is desirable when making frosting so it will not be as gritty when creamed with butter as granulated sugar would be. The sugar provides all of the sweetness for the buttercream.
  • Vanilla Extract is the flavor component of vanilla buttercream and can be omitted or swapped with a different extract to make various flavors.
  • Milk or Cream is optional and can be used to thin out the texture of the buttercream especially if a high ratio of sugar is used.
Cupcakes frosted with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

This simple homemade vanilla buttercream is easy to make and results in a silky smooth frosting that is easy to pipe. This style of buttercream is known as American buttercream and is the easiest type to make. It is also sometimes referred to as decorators buttercream or crusting buttercream because of the slight crust that forms when it is exposed to air. 


  • 2 sticks (8 oz, 227 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2-4 cups (227-454 gr) powdered, icing, or confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp milk or heavy cream (optional)


  1. If you want a traditional smooth texture for your buttercream, fit your stand mixer with a paddle attachment. If you want a lighter more whipped texture, fit your mixer with a whisk attachment. Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer.
  2. Place your room temperature butter in your mixing bowl and beat on high for about 1 minute, until fluffy. Scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  3. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar into the mixing bowl and start mixing on low until the sugar starts to combine with the butter. Turn the mixing speed up to high and beat for about 3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. Taste the buttercream and decide if you would like a sweeter texture. 2 cups is the minimum amount needed and will produce a slightly sweet buttercream with more butter flavor. Add more powdered sugar based on your taste preferences. Up to 4 cups total is standard but you can add up to 8 total cups for a very stiff and sweet buttercream. Add a bit of milk or heavy cream if needed to thin out the texture.
  5. If you are using your whisk attachment and want a more whipped texture, turn the mixer back on high and whip the buttercream for 3-4 more minutes.
  6. If not using immediately, store the buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Allow to come back to room temperature and re-whip to use.



  • Depending on the amount of sugar you used, this recipe will frosting 12-16 cupcakes, a 1- 9x13" layer cake, or an 8"- 2 layer cake.
  • To frost a 9"- 2 or 3 layer cake use 3 sticks (12 oz, 340 gr) unsalted butter, 3-6 cups (340-680 gr) powdered sugar, and 1 tbsp vanilla. 

Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0