Vanilla Buttercream

  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 10 min
  • Active: 10 min
  • Yield: 2 1/3 cups (enough for 12 cupcakes)
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2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar (1-pound box) 

Pinch fine salt 

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

2 to 4 tablespoons milk 


  1. Cream the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld electric mixer). On low speed, beat in the powdered sugar and then the salt. Add the vanilla, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 tablespoons milk; adjust the consistency with extra milk as desired. Use immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature and beat on medium-high until smooth.

Cook’s Note

Variations: Peanut Butter: Omit the vanilla and increase the milk to 2/3 to 3/4 cup. Substitute 3/4 cup peanut butter for an equal amount of the butter. Milk Chocolate: Fold 4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate into the buttercream. Coffee: Omit the vanilla. Dissolve 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder into the 4 tablespoons milk before adding to the buttercream. Lemon: Omit the vanilla and reduce the milk to 2 tablespoons. Beat 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest into the buttercream. Strawberry: Omit the vanilla, milk and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Beat 1/2 cup strawberry jam into the buttercream. Champagne: Omit the vanilla and milk. Beat 3 to 4 tablespoons Champagne into the buttercream.

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