Vanilla buttercream frosting is a pretty common recipe-and there is no shortage of recipes available. But finding just the right balance of sweet and butter is so important. I have a couple tips to offer and some variations to easily create different flavors.
The Best Vanilla for Frosting
I think vanilla has gotten a reputation for being common and boring but I don’t agree with it. The mild, velvety flavor it adds is luxurious.
My preferred way to get vanilla flavor is of course with vanilla beans but they can be very expensive and they will be visible in the frosting. I am not a huge fan of the alcohol in vanilla extract and the beige tint it gives to soft white vanilla buttercream frosting. So I prefer vanilla powder (I use Cook’s vanilla powder). It’s sweet, it’s pale and is a perfect option for the perfect creamy white color.
Buttercream Frosting Texture
I usually make my frostings on the stiffer side so that they can easily be piped onto a cake or cupcakes. If you prefer your frosting more creamy, start by adding 2 tsps milk or milk substitute and mix. Add more if needed. This creamier texture of frosting is nice for spreading onto a gluten-free coconut cake or gluten-free lemon cake. These gluten-free vanilla cupcakes are perfect with this frosting. Or pipe some onto this ganache glazed chocolate sponge cake.
Lemon Buttercream – Add the zest of 1 lemon and 2 tsps lemon juice
Cinnamon Buttercream – Add 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon to the powdered sugar
Coconut Buttercream – Replace 2 Tbsps of butter with 2 Tbsps coconut cream and add 1 tsp coconut extract. If it is a bit too runny (coconut cream textures vary widely between brands) add an additional 2 Tbsps of powdered sugar.
Sweet and Salty Buttercream – Use salted butter in place of unsalted and add 1/4 tsp extra salt for the best buttercream you will ever make.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 2 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted*
- 2 tsps vanilla powder or vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1-3 Tbsp milk optional for a creamier texture
- NOTES:This recipe makes enough frosting to frost 2 dozen cupcakes. To frost a 2 layer 8 inch cake, double the recipe.The milk in this recipe is optional. If you are using the frosting for piping, I recommend leaving it out or adding 1 Tbsp at most. If you're going to spread the frosting on a cake or cupcakes, add 2-3 tablespoons to make it more creamy.
- Beat the butter with a stand or hand mixer for 2 minutes.
- Add half of the sugar and beat on low until most of it is moistened.
- Add the remaining sugar and beat on low until most of the sugar is incorporated.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, Add the milk (if using), the vanilla and salt and beat on high for 15 seconds. Overbeating will create air pockets in the frosting which makes less stable when piping.