Vanilla American Buttercream
Originally Posted October 7, 2008. Updated on 11/12/2020
Extremely quick and easy to make, this frosting whips together butter*, milk, and powdered sugar to produce a thick, dense, and very sweet frosting.
While I prefer Swiss Meringue Buttercream in general, American Buttercream works better for my Frozen Buttercream Transfers.
* You will read elsewhere that shortening is a suitable alternative/ addition to butter. While that may technically be true, just...don’t do it. Please. Frosting should never make the inside of your mouth feel like it belongs in a “BodyWorlds” exhibit.
How to Make American Buttercream
When you make this frosting a few times, you’ll likely come up with your own order of doing things.
Maybe you’ll add the milk right after creaming the butter, maybe you’ll wait til the very end to add the flavouring. It’s all good - the order of operations on this one can be very flexible!
However you do it, you can expect that your frosting will go through a few stages of not really looking like a frosting, before it all comes together.
Here are some photos from the batch we photographed for this entry:
Flavouring Your American Buttercream
No matter which way you're flavouring your American Buttercream, follow the recipe through adding the milk and sugar and beating it into a frosting. THEN do one of the following:
You can swap out the vanilla for another flavour extract or flavour oil. Note that flavour oils tend to be more concentrated, so start with a smaller amount and adjust to taste.
Chai American Buttercream
Mix 1-2 tablespoon of Unsweetened Instant Black Tea with 1 teaspoon Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon Ground Cardamom, ½ teaspoon Ground Cloves, and ½ teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg. Add a tablespoon or so of hot water, mix to form a thick paste.
Once you've added the milk and vanilla to the mix - and have beaten it into an actual frosting - turn speed back down to low. Add the paste, beat to combine.
Chocolate American Buttercream
To make a Chocolate American Buttercream, melt a cup of chocolate chips, or about 6 oz of chocolate of your choice, and allow it to cool slightly. You want it to be cool enough to avoid melting the butter, but NOT hardened.
Once you've added the milk and vanilla to the mix - and have beaten it into an actual frosting - turn speed back down to low.
Making sure that the melted chocolate is no longer hot, slowly add it to the mixing bowl, pouring down the side of the bowl. Once all of the chocolate is in the bowl, you can speed up the mixer a little until it is all incorporated, and smooth.
Cocoa American Buttercream
If you don't have chocolate on hand or don't want to mess with melted chocolate, you can make Cocoa American Buttercream!
Once the milk and vanilla are incorporated into the American Buttercream, and it's smooth, add 2-5 tablespoon of cocoa (Good cocoa, preferably!) to the frosting. Turn mixer on low speed until powder is incorporated to some degree - to avoid getting cocoa everywhere. Turn the speed up and beat for a few seconds to fully incorporate it.
How much cocoa you use will depend on how chocolatey you're wanting it to get. Start with 2-3 Tbsp, taste, and add more if you like.
Colouring Your American Buttercream
You can use any food colouring you like for this, but I prefer to use a nice quality gel based colour, such as Americolor (what I used when I was in the USA), or ChefMaster (Which is the option more readily available here!)
Making Black Frosting
A quick tip for making black frosting: Start with chocolate buttercream!
I like to use Dutch processed cocoa and get it as dark as I can, before adding gel colour.
You’ll definitely want to use something like an Americolor or ChefMaster, rather than something like Wilton. I find Wilton is nowhere near as concentrated or vibrant.
Making White Frosting
If you’re using butter, your frosting will be more of an ivory, than a white. There are two ways around this (3 if you're having an emergency!):
1. Use shortening instead of butter. (Please don’t!)
2. Add some Americolor White Gel Paste .
3. Adding a VERY VERY SMALL amount of purple or lavender gel colour can neutralize the yellow from the butter. VERY VERY VERY small amount.
It is very easy to overdo it, so this should just be a worst case scenario. You can’t un-purple your frosting if you add too much!
Interested in making wickedly delicious cakes? You'll LOVE my second cookbook, Evil Cake Overlord!
We've long been known for our “ridiculously delicious” moist cakes and tasty, unique flavors. Now, you can have recipes for all of the amazing flavors on our former custom cake menu, and many more!
Bake your moist work of gastronomic art, then fill and frost your cake with any number of tasty possibilities. Milk chocolate cardamom pear, mango mojito.. even our famous Chai cake – the flavor that got us into “Every Day with Rachel Ray” magazine!
Feeling creative? Use our easy to follow recipe to make our yummy fondant. Forget everything you’ve heard about fondant – ours is made from marshmallows and powdered sugar, and is essentially candy – you can even flavor it!
Looking for some ridiculously delicious cake recipes that you can frost with this American Buttercream? As the "Evil Cake Overlord", I've got you covered! (Ps: Check out my instructions for making Marshmallow Fondant, as well!)
Bundt, Sheet, & Upside Down Cakes
Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake
Brandied Apple Upside Down Cake
Deep N Delicious Cake
French Martini Bundt Cake
French Martini Upside Down Cake
Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake
Pina Colada Bundt Cake
Strawberry Mango Marble Cake
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On to that American Buttercream Recipe!
- 1 cup Butter softened
- 2 lbs Confectioners / Icing / Powdered Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract or other flavor
- ¼ cup Milk
- Whip butter until smooth. Add Vanilla and mix until incorporated.
- Slowly add a few cups of powdered sugar a bit at a time, until incorporated completely. Beat on high for 1 minute - mixture will be very, very thick and probably crumbly
- Lower mixer speed to lowest setting, and slowly add ½ of the milk. Beat until smooth.
- Add remaining powdered sugar and remaining milk - alternating - and continue to beat until smooth.
- Once incorporated, check for consistency. Add more milk or sugar to achieve the consistency you want or need.