Buttercream icing: How to make cake frosting

Buttercream icing is a type of frosting that is made from powdered sugar, butter, and a little milk or cream, it is a mixture of whipped butter and sugar used for the filling and decoration of cake or cupcakes. There are many colorful varieties that can be made by adding different food coloring; the common type is white buttercream frosting. It can be used to frost cakes, cupcakes, cookies, or any other type of dessert. The buttercream icing recipe can be decorated with a variety of ingredients, including edible flowers, sprinkles, and nuts.

There are a number of ways to flavor buttercream icing recipes, with vanilla being the most common flavor used in buttercream frosting. Other flavors that you can try out include, almond, banana, strawberry, mango flavors, and any other fruit flavor available. Liquid extracts and chocolates can also be added as flavors in buttercream icing recipes especially when it is being used as a color and a flavor at the same time.

Buttercream icing can spread evenly using an offset spatula on cakes and can also be piped in decorative patterns and designs on cakes or cookies using a piping bag and a nozzle. Also, it can be combined with other ingredients to create new flavors and textures.

There are many recipes for buttercream icing, some common variations are Swiss buttercream, American buttercream, and French buttercream. Others may include Flour buttercream (or flour icing), German buttercream, and Italian buttercream. Each of these has its own unique properties that make it perfect for a specific type of cake or frosting. 

If you’re looking for a fluffy and creamy frosting that’s perfect for covering cakes or designing cupcakes, try making this easy buttercream icing and skip the store version which is sometimes filled with lots of unpopular ingredients. 

See also: Protein Bars

Types of buttercream icing recipes

  1. American buttercream
  2. French buttercream
  3. German buttercream
  4. Italian buttercream
  5. Swiss buttercream
  6. Royal icing
  7. Cream cheese frosting
  8. Buttermilk frosting
  9. Garnache frosting
  10. Chocolate frosting
  11. Fudge icing
  12. Flour buttercream

American buttercream

American buttercream is a very popular and easy buttercream recipe made from butter, powdered sugar, and cream. It has a pale ivory color and is light texture, fluffy, and obviously sweet, making it the perfect frosting for chocolate cakes or cupcakes. American buttercream frosting is also a popular icing for cake pops, this buttercream frosting is very easy to make.

It requires beating soft butter until it turns pale yellow, powdered sugar is then added and beaten until a smooth consistency is achieved. You can gradually add cream to thin it out and finally add any flavoring that you want. The addition of cream to this buttercream icing helps to create a thin and smooth consistency, you only need about 1 to 2 tablespoons to help thin down the frosting and if it appears to be runny, more powdered sugar can be added to help thicken it.

Since this buttercream frosting has a higher percentage of fat (butter), it can’t hold its fluffy shape for a very long time especially when exposed to sunlight or a high-temperature environment.

French buttercream

French buttercream also known as pâte à bombe is an egg-based icing with a natural bright yellow color, it is specifically made with an egg-yolk foam and is often used for frosting cake tiers or to make a meringue cream filling for tarts. This type of buttercream has a smooth, rich and velvety texture and has a tart flavor, making it perfect for cream puffs or éclairs, Because it’s made with purely egg whites, it doesn’t hold much shape when left in a warm environment.

German buttercream

This is also known as custard buttercream or custard icing, it is made with four basic ingredients, milk, sugar, egg yolks, and cornstarch, it has a mild taste and really great texture as opposed to other buttercream icings.

Italian buttercream

This is a type of buttercream frosting that is made with sugar syrup, egg whites, and butter. It is less sweet and silky and pipes smoothly. Italian buttercream is similar to French buttercream but has a more intense flavor. Because of its stability, it is ideal for frosting wedding cakes, summer parties, or other special occasions that may be done outdoors due to the fact that it holds good shape under a warm temperature.

Swiss buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a light and fluffy type of buttercream that is made from glucose, whipped egg whites, butter, and meringue powder. Swiss buttercream is denser and has a slightly sweet flavor, making it ideal for fruitcakes or pound cakes.

Royal icing

Royal icing is the most traditional type of buttercream and is made from powdered sugar, egg whites, lemon juice, and a little flavoring.

Cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is one of the creamiest frostings, it is silky smooth and extremely versatile. The basic ingredients for making cream cheese frosting, include cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. It has a soft consistency that makes it ideal for use on cupcakes, cheesecakes, red velvet cake, carrot cake, and other desserts that do not require a stiffer frosting.

Buttermilk frosting

Buttermilk frosting is a type of buttercream icing made with buttermilk, it has a slightly tangy flavor from the buttermilk. This frosting is also easy to make and can be flavored with vanilla, chocolate, or any other flavor.

Ganache frosting

Ganache is a type of buttercream icing that is made from chocolate and cream. It is smooth and velvety. It has a rich and decadent flavor and can be used to frost cakes or cupcakes. Ganache frosting is commonly made with dark chocolate, but it can also be made with milk chocolate or white chocolate.

Chocolate frosting

Chocolate buttercream icing
Chocolate buttercream icing

Chocolate buttercream frosting is made by combining cocoa powder, butter, sugar, and cream or milk to whip. This combination usually results in a thick, and creamy frosting that is perfect for decorating cakes and cupcakes.

Fudge icing

Fudge frosting or Fudge icing is a dense and rich icing made with cocoa powder, cream, and sugar. It’s usually cooked on the stovetop until it thickens, then spread on top of cakes or cupcakes. 

Flour buttercream

Flour buttercream, also known as flour icing/frosting or ermine frosting. This is a very easy buttercream frosting made with flour, butter, sugar, and milk. The flour is cooked in the milk with sugar to create a thick paste, which is then combined with the whipped butter to beat until light and fluffy. Ermine frosting is light and fluffy, and it’s often used for cakes and cupcakes. Other names for this frosting are boiled milk frosting or cooked flour frosting.

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Buttercream icing ingredients

  • 2 cups of icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 drops of any food color, optional
Ingredients for buttercream icing recipe
Ingredients for buttercream icing recipe

What you need for buttercream icing


Good quality butter is a key ingredient in buttercream icing, it acts as a binder and enhances the flavor of the frosting. I recommend using unsalted butter to be careful of the amount of salt that goes into your buttercream icing. However, if you must use margarine for your frosting, have in mind that you may not end up with the same texture of frosting as most menagerie have a high percentage of water in them. If you have no other option than to use margarine, go for regular margarine instead of low-fat margarine. The low fat has too much water in it and would likely affect the consistency of your buttercream.

Icing sugar

This is also called confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar, this works as a sweetener and a thickener in buttercream because of the cornstarch in it. The cornstarch in the confectioner’s sugar helps to emulsify the butter and cream into a smooth mixture. This makes your frosting sweet, creamy, and spreadable so that you can easily cover a cake or frost cupcakes with it. For this buttercream icing recipe, do not try using caster sugar or granulated sugar as it has a chunky texture and won’t give a smooth buttercream icing at the end. Before you use icing sugar, make sure to sieve it first to remove larger granules that may be inside so as to end up with really smooth and fluffy buttercream icing.

Heavy cream

Adding cream to the buttercream icing recipe
Adding cream to the buttercream frosting recipe

This is another important ingredient in buttercream. Heavy cream does not only help to smoothen buttercream but also helps to thin down a very thick buttercream making it more manageable and easy to spread over cakes. If you don’t have heavy cream right handy, be sure to use half and half or whole milk as a substitute. Never try to use water as it will eventually separate and ruin your buttercream. Whatever kind of liquid you are using make sure not to add too much at a time. You can start with 1 tablespoon first at a time and keep adjusting until you finally achieve the perfect consistency of buttercream you are looking for.


Vanilla extract adds a really unique flavor to buttercream icing recipes. There are quite a few extracts like mint, peppermint, strawberry, lemon, or almond extract that you can use to flavor your buttercream icing. However, if you are going to use a liquid flavor like vanilla, know that it can reduce the thickness of the buttercream by thinning it down, I will suggest you add 1 teaspoon first as it will go a long way.


Salt may sound like an optional ingredient when it comes to making buttercream icing, but it is not, it helps enhances the taste of buttercream, adding extra richness to the taste. Make sure to use supper fine salt if you want it to dissolve easily in the icing.

Food color

Adding color to recipes for buttercream icing is optional, it depends on what you want, if you don’t want color in your buttercream, simply leave it plain as it is. However, if you like some colors, there are a variety of food colors to use, if you like really bold colors opt for gel food color but if you like a mild color, use liquid or powdered color.

How to make buttercream icing

  • First, beat soften butter in a bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment for 5 minutes until it changes slightly into pale yellow and fluffy, as air is beaten into it you will begin to notice it turning pale yellow.
  • After that, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl, gently add in the confectioner’s sugar, I recommend 1/2 cup at a time and continue beating on low speed until you have used up all the sugar and a perfect consistency is achieved.
  • Add in vanilla extract or any extract of choice, and continue to whisk again for 30 seconds until well combined.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream and beat for 30 seconds to adjust the consistency.
  • Transfer the buttercream icing into a bowl. You can share it into separate bowls, add a few drops of color to it, and mix or you can simply leave it as plain as it is.
  • Scope into your piping bag with a nozzle and decorate your cake as you like.

How do you make buttercream smooth and not grainy?

Sieving of powdered sugar to make a smooth buttercream icing

To make buttercream smooth and not grainy, you need to use a good quality confectioner’s sugar, my favorite one is cane sugar, this is made from the sugarcane plant, it has a finer texture and results in a more uniform buttercream than beets sugar. Beets on the other hand are a type of vegetable used to make sugar. They are boiled, then the liquid is dried and turned into sucrose. It creates a crunchier texture when used for baked goods. If you’re having trouble getting your buttercream to come out smooth and grain-free, here are steps on how to fix it.

  • Make sure to sift the sugar first to remove the larger sugar crystals.
  • Beat the soft butter first for a couple of minutes (3 to 5 minutes), until it turns out light and fluffy before adding the icing sugar. Go in with the sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. This step is crucial because it gives the sugar enough time to mix with the creamy butter and dissolves evenly. 
  • Beat the buttercream a bit longer for the sugar to have enough time to dissolve.
  • Add a few tablespoons of cream or whole milk to help smoothen it out as you beat.
  • If the buttercream is still grainy after doing the above, leave it to sit a bit longer on the counter for the crystal to dissolve on its own, then beat again.

Difference between buttercream icing and regular icing

Buttercream icing is made of creamed butter and confectioner’s sugar, it is softer and smoother than regular or basic icing which makes it ideal for filling, frosting, decorating cakes, creaming pies, and cupcakes. While regular icing is made by combining icing sugar with cream or milk and lemon juice, the combination usually results in a thin icing; with a light consistency that is ideal for glazing donuts, muffins, cookies, and other baked foods that require light coating. Another difference is that buttercream icing is softer and smoother than regular icing.

What icing is best to cover a cake?

Best buttercream icing for covering of cakes

There are many types of icing for covering a cake, and each has its own unique properties that make it perfect for certain types of cakes. Buttercream icing is the most common type of icing used for covering cakes and it’s perfect for wedding cakes or cakes that are made for casual events where it will be consumed that same day or in a few days. One other popular way to cover your cake is to use fondant icing, it is good for covering cakes in a smooth, shiny coating manner. 

Fondant is made from water, sugar, gelatine, food-grade glycerine, and vegetable fat or shortening. It can also be used to create decorations such as flowers, leaves, stars, and other shapes. If you are using your rolled fondant to cover a cake, it is best to lightly coat the cake with buttercream frosting first, this will help create a smooth finishing on the cake.

There are two basic ways of making buttercream icing one way is by combining sugar with a small amount of butter and solid vegetable shorting to whip until a frosting consistency is achieved, this method is usually preferred if you want to decorate your cake with flowers and you want the designs to hold a good shape and remain firm and not melt away.

Another way of making buttercream icing is to combine butter and icing sugar to beat until a fluffy consistency is achieved, this type of icing is very soft and requires much attention so that the icing doesn’t get damaged during the process of transporting it. This type of icing only lasts longer in a cold environment, but where the place is hot and humid, it can easily melt and make a big mess.

How do I stop buttercream from melting?

No one likes a melted buttercream frosting cake. It’s annoying, messy, and time-consuming to clean up. This often happens as a result of hot or humid surroundings, in case this has happened to you, here are a few tips to stop your buttercream from melting. Mixing an equal amount of butter with an equal amount of solid vegetable shortening to whip helps to increase the melting point of butter, and therefore, stops buttercream from melting.

If you are planning to leave your cake at room temperature for a very long time, be sure to add a bit of pure vegetable shortening to the frosting and mix. Shortening helps the frosting remain stiff, making it easier to create beautiful designs like roses, and borders without the frosting melting over time.

Another tip to stop buttercream from melting is to add more confectioner’s sugar to the buttercream and mix until you have a stiffer consistency.

Does buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?

Buttercream frosting like most frosting should be kept refrigerated to prevent it from spoiling. This is because the frosting is made up of butter and cream or milk and these ingredients are perishable and they need to be kept cold in order to prevent them from breaking down.

Without refrigeration, the butter and cream will start to spoil and the flavor of the frosting will change. If the buttercream is properly stored, it can stay in the fridge for to 2 weeks and in the freezer for about 2 to 3 months and still remain fresh. When you are ready to use it just take it out of the freezer and thaw it overnight in the fridge for easy pipping. You can quickly whip it again to return to it its smooth and fluffy structure.

How long does buttercream icing last in the fridge?

Buttercream icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature, after that, the icing will start to lose its flavor and consistency after a few days. If you really want your icing to last longer, put it in freezer bags or airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks, and if you have a very large quantity that you are not going to use any time soon simply freeze it for up to 3 months after storing in an airtight container or freezer bag. This is a good way to store buttercream icing for a longer time.

Buttercream Icing Recipe

Buttercream icing is a type of creamy and fluffy frosting that is made from butter, icing sugar, and cream. It is often used to decorate cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other desserts. If you're looking for an easy buttercream frosting recipe that is both delicious and simple to make, this is the best buttercream icing recipe that you can try out. It's perfect for covering cakes or cupcakes; it can be made in just a few minutes. You can add a variety of colors to it as you like.
Prep Time12 minutes
Total Time12 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: buttercream frosting, Buttercream icing
Servings: 10 Cupcakes
Calories: 280kcal
Cost: 12


  • 1 Stand mixer
  • 1 Piping bag
  • 1 Star or rose shaped nozzle


  • 2 cups Icing sugar or confectioner's sugar sift it to remove larger granules
  • 160 g Unsalted butter, at room temperature if you are using salted butter there will be no need of adding salt again.
  • 2-3 tbsp Heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp Fine salt
  • 2 drops Any food color, optional


  • First, beat soft butter in a bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment until it changes slightly into pale yellow and fluffy. As air is beaten into the butter, you will begin to notice it turning pale yellow in color.
  • After that, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl, gently add in the confectioner's sugar, I recommend 1/2 cup at a time. Continue to beat on low speed until you have used all the sugar and a perfect consistency is achieved.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream and beat for 30 seconds to adjust the consistency.
  • Add in vanilla extract or any extract of your choice, and continue to beat again for 30 seconds until it is well combined.
  • Transfer into a bowl, you can share into separate bowls, add a few drops of color to it, and mix to combine or you can simply leave it as plain as it is.
  • Scope into your piping bag with a nozzle and decorate your cake as you like.
    Buttercream icing for piping



Variations of buttercream icing based on added ingredients

This buttercream recipe is a delicious and versatile icing that can be made with many different flavors. You can use the basic recipe to create other flavors and don’t necessarily need to start from scratch; you just have to be creative and experiment with different things to find your favorite flavor combinations. Below are other common variations that you might want to give a try.
Have it in mind that if you are going to add any liquid flavor to your buttercream, you would have to adjust any basic liquid like milk, cream, or heavy cream so that it doesn’t affect the consistency of the frosting. Just pay attention to whatever ingredients are added and make sure to add very little at a time, mix and proceed as you go.

Chocolate buttercream icing

Combine 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder with butter to mix, then gradually stir in the sugar and adjust the consistency with cream or milk. You can add the flavor of your choice at the end and mix. If you don’t want to use cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and a baking chocolate bar (broken into smaller pieces) are other great options for you to choose from.

Caramel or salted caramel buttercream icing

Caramel sauce is a great way to finish up your buttercream it adds a great flavor and bright orange color to the icing, you can use store-bought if you don’t have homemade caramel. Simply stir in 1/3 cup of your thick caramel to the buttercream or any amount you want and stir to combine. For salted caramel, you sprinkle rock salt over the top, you may not want to add salt again to the base so that you don’t end up ruining your buttercream with too much salt.

Strawberry buttercream

You can add a 1/4 cup pureed fresh strawberries to your buttercream as a natural fruit flavor. This leaves a subtle and pleasant strawberry taste in your icing. I  personally prefer freeze-dried strawberries because they are easy to blend into smooth powder and since they are already dried, you won’t be afraid to add extra liquid to your buttercream.

Mocha buttercream

To create a mocha flavor, add cocoa powder and espresso powder to create a delicious blend of buttercream icing.  

Lemon buttercream

Though I have not yet tried making this buttercream with lemon, I think lemon juice and lemon zest can be added too for a zesty lemony flavor. When adding lemon juice, make sure to use a little amount as too much could curdle the cream or milk and cause your buttercream to look curdled.

Marzipan buttercream

Marzipan is also great in buttercream; you will have to soften the marzipan first with a few tablespoons of water to make it easy to beat into the buttercream icing.

Peanut butter buttercream

For a delicious peanutty flavor, add 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of creamy peanut butter to the buttercream and mix well to combine. Crunchy peanut butter could also work but it might be difficult to pipe it onto the cake if using a small nozzle and a piping bag due to the chunky pieces. 

Vanilla buttercream icing

Though vanilla is a popular ingredient in buttercream icing, you can always increase it if you really want the flavor to stand out among other ingredients in your buttercream.
Vanilla Buttercream Icing
Vanilla Buttercream Icing

How to thicken buttercream icing

If you are looking for a way to make your buttercream icing thicker, it is very easy to achieve that. First of all, use a smaller ratio of butter to confectioner’s sugar. For instance, if you are using 1cup of butter (230g) use about 3 and 1/4 cups of icing sugar (406.2g) for your buttercream.
How to thicken buttercream icing with sugar powder
How to thicken buttercream icing with sugar powder
Secondly, reduce the amount of cream or milk you are adding to the frosting; start with 1 tablespoon first and gradually add more if necessary. Lastly, add more icing sugar if the icing is still very soft, begin with 1 tablespoon first and proceed until you get the right consistency that you want. 
Note that if you want stiffer icing, you can add more sugar. And for a softer icing, you can add more milk or cream.
The bottom line is that: If you use thicker ingredients to make your frosting, you will definitely end up with a thicker frosting as the final result.

How to make buttercream icing white

If your buttercream icing is yellow, it may be due to the brand of butter you are using, some brands of butter are obviously yellowish in color than others, and the yellow color of butter depends on the milk of the cow. Cows that are fed with grass produce richer and deep yellow milk as a result of beta-carotene found in grass. There are different ways to make your buttercream icing white, below are the three common ways to do that.

Use white butter

To save yourself the stress of changing the color of your buttercream frosting, simply make use of white butter if you have it available; it is the best way of making white buttercream frosting. However, if you don’t have white butter, then you can use the alternative ways discussed below to try to get something that is close to a white color. 

Beat the butter longer

This is one easiest tricks to make a really white buttercream. The longer you beat the butter, the whiter it will turn. I usually whip the butter first for 5 minutes before adding any other ingredient to it. Once you whip the butter a little bit longer, you will notice the yellowish color fading to white which is usually very noticeable. The stand mixer with the paddle attachment makes this process really simple because if you are to do it by hand, you will become tired and give up before the end of 5 minutes. 

Add purple food color

This method is one of the easiest ways of achieving white color icing. All you need to do is to use a toothpick or the tip of a spoon and dip into purple food color, touch the surface of the icing with the toothpick making sure the color brushes the icing lightly.
Adding purple color to buttercream icing recipe to lighten it to white color
Adding purple color to buttercream icing recipe to lighten it to white color
Once you have done that, begin to beat the icing again for about 40 seconds until the color is evenly distributed. You will notice the yellow icing fading into white until you have a super white frosting. When adding the color be sure to add a very small amount first, so that it doesn’t defeat the purpose or turn it into real purple color. You can always add a little more at a time and whip until you are happy with the result.

Add white food color

White food color is another additive that helps brighten buttercream, if you have done all options and none worked out, this will definitely work.

How to store buttercream

To store buttercream icing, scoop into a container with a tight-fitting lid, and place a cling film on the surface to keep it smooth, and prevent a crust from forming. Cover with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, When ready to use it, let it come to room temperature and then give it a good stir. You can also re-whip it using an electric mixer to get a perfect and fluffy consistency. 


Buttercream icing can be frozen for up to 3 months. To do this, scoop the icing into a freezer bag, this creates more space in the freezer.
You can also use a freezer-safe bowl with a tight-fitting lid to store it. Scoop the icing into the bowl, cover the surface with a cling film to keep it sealed from water, cover with a lid, and freeze. If you like to use a resealable bag store it, that works well too. When ready to use, transfer to the refrigerator and thaw overnight and let it come to room temperature. Whip it again to have the right consistency and it is ready to use.

Buttercream is a light and fluffy icing that is made by whipping butter, powdered sugar, and cream together, It is super easy to make and is often used to frost cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. Some additional ingredients are often added to buttercream such as flavors (vanilla, almond, pineapple. etc.) and colors to make it tasty and colorful.


Making it yourself gives you the best buttercream icing because you can decide on the type of ingredients used in it. You only need a few basic ingredients and you will end up with delicious, smooth, creamy buttercream icing that is perfect for covering your cake and for decorating your cupcakes. This was an easy buttercream recipe for you to try out. If you like the recipe or have any questions concerning it, please let me know in the comments down below.

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