American Buttercream

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 20 min
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 2/3 cups
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Ingredients

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon table salt 

3 to 4 tablespoons skim milk

2 teaspoons quality vanilla extract

1 3/4 pounds powdered sugar (sift if there are any lumps)

Directions

  1. Beat the butter in a stand mixer until it is creamy and slaps the sides of the bowl. Scrape your bowl. Mix the salt with the milk, and then add 3 tablespoons of the milk along with the vanilla extract and blend slowly until combined. Raise the speed to medium and beat to form a smooth butter mixture.
  2. Add half of the powdered sugar and blend on low until combined. Scrape the bowl, add the remaining sugar, set the mixer to low and blend for 2 to 3 minutes. Resist the urge to add more milk right away because the buttercream will thin out as it mixes. After mixing on low for 2 to 3 minutes you can choose to add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach your desired consistency.
  3. Scrape your bowl, then set the mixture to medium-low and mix for 10 minutes. You may scrape the bowl halfway through. The frosting can be made softer with the addition of milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. The frosting will keep for 3 days at room temp, or 2 weeks refrigerated.
  4. Buttercream Variations:
  5. Add 1/2 cup marshmallow creme to the finished buttercream.
  6. Stir in a generous amount of chopped chocolate sandwich cookies for a delicious cookies-and-cream filling.
  7. Add up to 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter to the finished buttercream.
  8. Add 2 to 3 ounces of melted and cooled bittersweet baking chocolate to the finished buttercream.
  9. Dissolve 2 to 4 teaspoons of instant espresso powder into your vanilla extract for coffee buttercream. This also works with the melted chocolate for mocha buttercream.
  10. Eliminate the vanilla extract and add up to 2 teaspoons of peppermint, lemon, orange, coconut or almond extract. You may choose to add a few drops of vanilla just to round off the flavor.

Cook’s Note

When making this recipe for cakes with a buttercream finish, it is best to double it. This will make a batch of icing that completely fills a 5-quart mixer bowl. A double batch should fill the bowl beyond the beater, leaving your resulting icing smooth and fairly free of air bubbles. Adding the liquids before the sugar and mixing only on a low speed prevents the formation of pesky air bubbles that cause problems when trying to frost a buttercream cake smoothly. It is important to mix the icing for the full 10 minutes in the final step. However, if you would prefer a fluffier aerated icing for cupcakes or cakes you can simply raise the mixer speed to medium and beat the icing for 4 to 5 minutes. In warm weather, when piping flowers or peaked designs, consider replacing 25 percent of the butter with a quality shortening, such as Crisco.

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