American Buttercream Frosting

filed under: Cakes on July 10, 2018

American buttercream is the easiest style of buttercream to make with very few ingredients and steps. American buttercream is a classic with home bakers because of how quick it is to make and how versatile it is for cupcakes and cakes! Be sure to check out the perfect Cake Recipes and Cookie Recipes for all your decorating needs!

Buttercream Frosting

What is American Buttercream Frosting?

American buttercream is by far the easiest style of buttercream frosting to make and is the one most commonly used by home bakers. If you have ever made a frosting by creaming together butter and powdered sugar with vanilla or other flavorings then you have made American buttercream!

American buttercream, also known as simple buttercream or decorator’s frosting, calls for very few ingredients and steps. Typically a ratio of two parts sugar to 1 part butter is creamed together with a small amount of milk and flavorings.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

What is American Buttercream Like?

American buttercream is slightly ivory in color, thick in texture, and pipes easily. The ratio of sugar to butter in American buttercream is much higher than in Swiss meringue buttercream or Italian meringue buttercream, making American buttercream the sweetest of the varieties.

American buttercream is also sometimes referred to as “crusting buttercream” because it forms a thin crust after exposed to air for some time. This characteristic can be desirable at times such as when doing intricate piping work or when frosting cookies that will be stacked.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting

 How to Make American Buttercream

  • To properly cream the butter and sugar to form the buttercream, the butter must start at room temperature. If the butter is too cold, the emulsion might break causing a separated buttercream.
  • A lighter variation on this buttercream can be made by whipping the butter for a longer period of time to make a whipped buttercream.
  • American buttercream stands up well to being flavored with extracts, spices, cocoa powder, and jams or curds.
  • If the buttercream will not be used right away it must be stored in the refrigerator. It will firm up quite a bit and should be allowed to come back to room temperature before piping or spreading. Depending on how long it was stored you may need to re-mix it quickly. It will last about a week in the refrigerator.

Rainbow Frosting!

Can you add food color to this recipe?

Absolutely! It accepts color so beautifully. I like to make big batches of this buttercream and use McCormick food color to achieve the colors I need. I find that color matching frosting can be tricky so I like to have more on hand rather than less.

 Buttercream Flavor Options

  • Vanilla American Buttercream: Add in 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Chocolate American Buttercream: Add 1 cup of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
  • “Wedding Cake” American Buttercream: Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Lemon American Buttercream: Add 3 TBSP lemon zest and ¼ cup lemon juice. Remove the milk and increase the confectioner’s sugar to 9 cups.
  • Strawberry, Raspberry, or Blackberry American Buttercream: Fold in 1 cup of seedless preserves
4.93 from 38 votes
Basic American Buttercream Frosting
Prep Time
10 mins

American buttercream is the easiest style of buttercream to make with very few ingredients and steps. American buttercream is a classic with home bakers because of how quick it is to make and how versatile it is for cupcakes and cakes!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: buttercream
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Calories: 222 kcal
Author: Amanda Rettke -
  • 4 sticks (1 lb, 454 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (2 lb, 907 g) confectioners sugar, sifted
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1-3 tablespoons whole milk as needed
  • extracts and flavorings as desired
  1. Combine the butter, sugar, and flavorings in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Start mixing on low speed until the sugar is incorporated with the butter. Increase the mixing speed to high and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Adjust the consistency with milk as needed.
  4. Store unused buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container and bring it back to room temperature before using to pipe or frost.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

Note: This recipe makes enough buttercream to generously frost 24 cupcakes or a 2 layer 9” round cake.

Want more Buttercream Frosting Recipes? Check out these winning recipes:

Perfect Crusting Buttercream

Whipped Vanilla Buttercream

Chocolate Buttercream

Basic Vanilla Buttercream (Neopolitan Cake)

Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman is a trained chef and online baking instructor. Learn more about the “whys” of baking on!

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  • Yolanda says:

    Hi I was wondering would half shortening half butter made for a crust type frosting?
    I also have arthritis in my hands so any suggestions on how to pipe easier.
    Thank you for the recipe!

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      Yes, you can definitely do that. 🙂

  • Favour says:

    So good

  • Teresa says:

    I am going to make my own birthday cake so thank you for the buttercreme icing recipe! It has been many years since I have made any,and want the wedding cake flavor!! Thank you!💗

  • Maria Cisneros says:

    Thanks for all recipes God blees you

  • Charlotte mullin says:

    I have been wanting this recipe forever Thanks.

  • Kristin says:

    Can I make the buttercream frosting with a handheld mixer if I don’t have a countertop one?

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      Yes, you can. 🙂

  • Kristin says:

    Also, nut allergy in the house…are cut out cookies still tasty if I omit almond extract?

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      They are, but if you get an imitation almond extract there are no nuts in it. Just check the label! 🙂

  • Anne Taylor says:

    I love watching you bake! It’s always inspiring!!

  • Brittney says:

    I use this similar recipe for my buttercream. So if I start with this same base amount, about how much cocoa powder should I add for a chocolate buttercream?

  • Jennie says:

    Is it possible to freeze this buttercream? I decorated a cake but have leftover buttercream that I hate to toss away.

  • Val says:

    Hello! I have used this recipe for YEARS! It’s the best! I never need to store extra because I use it all for whatever I’m baking. However, I find myself with a ton leftover from a specific cake. I want to know how long it will hold up if I keep it in the fridge in an air tight container? In about 4 days I’ll need to make more for cupcakes. Thank you!

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Val! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. The buttercream will last about a week in the refrigerator. Have a great day!

  • Deborah says:

    I love bkaing and your recipes are truly helpful

  • Mama taj says:

    Thank you for the nice recipes may God bless you with good health and peaceful life

  • Terry says:

    Thank you Amanda, I really enjoy following you! Your recipes are easy to follow.

  • Babs Freeman says:

    I just made this using a butter vanilla emulsion instead of vanilla extract. I also thinned it out with water as I didn’t have whole milk on hand. Still worked great! Planning on using it for orange crinkle cookie sandwiches!

  • M Mustafa chef says:

    Good working

  • Jean says:

    I’ve been making butter cream frosting since I was six years old. It’s so easy I do not like canned frosting. I don’t understand why anyone would buy when you can make. But these days people pay for boiled eggs. ?? Thank you for sharing your recipes.

  • Sharon says:

    That’s a LOT of frosting! I do love a good buttercream frosting.

  • Stacey Smith says:

    Can you cut the recipe in half? This is way too much frosting for 8 people.

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Stacey! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. Sure! Have a great day!

  • Bettie Pfeiffer says:

    I’ve been making and decorating cakes for many years now, with that ratio of sugar and butter (I often do half butter and good shortening), you’ll need more milk that that to make a spreadable consistency. Also, corn syrup can be substituted for part of the milk. That will make the spreading much smoother. I lightly spray the just iced cake to make it smooth out better.

  • Felicitas says:

    Muy clara la explicación Gracias !!!

  • Jamie says:

    I plan to use this on my homemade cinnamon rolls, hope it will work well for that.

  • Polly Story says:


  • Helen Hitchcock says:

    Love your recipes. Use them often. Thank you for sharing.

  • Sharon Elling says:

    Used half of this recipe with cocoa to frost a two layer round cake. Had plenty of frosting for a few decorator flourishes too. I did beat the frosting for about 10 minutes so it was really fluffy. I didn’t have heavy cream but used commercial eggnog, some Baileys Irish Cream and a bit of vanilla extract as a replacement. Turned out really good and made up for physical flaws in the chocolate cake!