Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

by Amy Bradley

Welcome to part one of a sweet series of blog posts…

I have been a chocolate lover for most of my life. I’ve just never gravitated towards vanilla. I found it boring and kind of bland. It was only recently that I started to make vanilla treats and I figured out the missing piece all those years… I wasn’t eating homemade vanilla treats. When you can control the recipe you can achieve anything you want. I am happy to say I have found the most perfect Vanilla American Buttercream ever and I’m ready to share my secrets with all of you.

American buttercream is probably the sweetest of any type of buttercream, and one of the easiest ones to make. In the past, I’ve made buttercream that used all butter, which was good, but honestly I think using half vegetable shortening creates such a creamy texture that cannot compare.

I use a healthy dose of vanilla so this frosting is bursting with flavor. I also use unsalted butter. That way, you can add or leave out the salt if you want based on your personal taste.

I also like how you can vary the amount of confectioners sugar or milk to achieve the consistency you want. You should use more confectioners sugar if you want a stiffer icing consistency, which is needed to create very detailed decorations like flowers. Using more milk and less powdered sugar will give you a creamy texture which is what I always strive for. It stays smooth even after being refrigerated for days! It always makes icing a cake super easy. Just be careful because you don’t want it to get runny – then the icing will hold no shape and may slide right off or worse – melt!

If you have avoided vanilla frosting in the past, I encourage you to try this recipe. You won’t be disappointed. It’s perfect on almost any flavor cake or cupcake… like my very vanilla cupcakes (recipe coming soon!)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe


This makes enough frosting for a 3-layer 8 or 9 inch cake, or about 4 dozen cupcakes. Divide the recipe to achieve your desired amount.


  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 10 to 12 cups of confectioners (powdered) sugar*
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup whole milk*
  • Pinch of salt, to taste (optional)
  • Gel food coloring (optional)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until mostly smooth.
  2. Add 4 to 5 cups of powdered sugar. I typically add 1 cup at a time, mixing in between each. Otherwise, you may have a sugar explosion!
  3. Add the vanilla and about 2 or 3 tbsp (roughly half) of the milk and beat until combined.
  4. Continue to add the powdered sugar, mixing between each cup.
  5. Add the last half of the milk – about 2 tbsp. Whip on medium-high for a few minutes. You’ll notice the frosting turn more white and fluffy as you beat it.
  6. Test your frosting taste and consistency. If it is too sweet, add a pinch of salt and mix thoroughly. If the consistency is too thick, add more milk (I usually stop at 1/3 cup). If it is too soft, add some confectioners sugar to thicken it up (don’t exceed 12 cups total or it will be way too grainy).
  7. If you wish to color your icing, add a small amount of gel food coloring and mix well. Add more to achieve your desired vibrancy and hue. Gel color is best as it won’t impact your icing consistency like liquid color does. I like Americolor gel colors the best.

*It is important to know what consistency of icing you need ahead of time. I’ve found, in general, using the 10 cups sugar to 1/4 cup milk OR the 12 cups sugar to 1/3 cup milk provides the creamy consistency without being too runny. This is what you want for most cases. It keeps its shape pretty well for minor decor, and is perfect for frosting cakes. Use the 1/4 cup milk and 11 or 12 cups sugar for a thicker consistency, best for flowers and other detailed decor. It also depends on the humidity in the air as to how much milk you’ll need.

  • You can make the frosting a day or so in advance. Place in a bowl and cover tightly in the fridge. When ready to use it, take out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then whip with your stand mixer to ensure appropriate consistency.
  • Depending on what cake or cupcake you are icing with this frosting, you should be able to keep it at room temperature for at least a day. If it’s particularly warm in your home, if you don’t plan to eat it soon, or need to store leftovers, then place in the refrigerator. Either way, keep it tightly covered in a cake or cupcake container to preserve freshness.

Did you try this recipe? Share your creations on social media by using the hashtag #sweetandsavorycouple!
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