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This easy, adaptable, vanilla-flavored whipped buttercream frosting is perfect as-is. Or dye and flavor it to your heart’s content. Great for piping or spreading.

an ultimate vanilla cupcake with whipped buttercream frosting
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Why we love this recipe

Sometimes it’s fun to have at it with all the bells and whistles in the world. But sometimes you’re just looking for a beautifully executed classic. When that’s your vibe, this is your frosting. This simple and simply perfect whipped buttercream frosting is:

  • Quick and easy
  • Beautifully flavored
  • The perfect consistency for easy piping or spreading
  • Flexible — works with lots of cakes and flavor variations
  • Make-ahead friendly

I first published this recipe here back in 2018. I’ve since updated the post for clarity and made a few tweaks to the recipe itself.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • I like to use a good quality cultured, salted butter to add the tiniest bit of additional dimension to the flavor of the frosting. It doesn’t taste salty at all — it just tempers the sweetness and heightens all the flavors.
  • I tend to use good old powdered sugar from the grocery store and give it a sift. However, if you like, you can use organic powdered sugar. It tends to be processed with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch and have a smoother, more powerful thickening capacity.
  • Whole milk is the classic move for buttercream frosting. I often sub in heavy cream, which whips up inside the frosting to give you a bit of additional lightness.
  • Use a high-quality pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a dreamy batch of whipped buttercream frosting. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll whip the butter.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar.
  3. Pour in the milk and vanilla.
  4. Whip until smooth, creamy, and light. That’s it!
Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting Piano Recital Style 780 | Umami Girl

Suggested variations

This flexible frosting takes well to additional flavors. You can:

  • In addition to the vanilla extract, use a teaspoon or less (depending on strength — taste as you go) of peppermint, orange, lemon, coffee, almond, or rose extract.
  • Instead of the milk, use one to two tablespoons of a liqueur like Kahlua, Baileys, Cointreau, Chambord, Poire Williams, Frangelico, Amaretto, Creme de Menthe, or any other good-quality nut-, fruit-, coffee-, or mint-based liqueur that you like.
  • Add up to one teaspoon total of ground spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom (try a 2:1:1 ratio), or ground chili.
  • Add two teaspoons of instant coffee powder.

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

I prefer to use this frosting right away, but you can make it up to a week in advance if you need to. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, bring to cool room temperature, and whisk again for a minute before using.

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an ultimate vanilla cupcake with whipped buttercream frosting
4.82 from 16 votes

Whipped Buttercream Frosting

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This easy, adaptable whipped buttercream frosting can be used as-is or dyed any color you like. Great for piping or spreading. This recipe makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes. Can be doubled in a regular stand mixer for a cake or a larger batch of cupcakes.
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 cups
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Ingredients 

  • 8 tablespoons (112 grams) salted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) whole milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
  • Gel icing color of choice, optional

Instructions 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk or a large mixing bowl with hand-held electric beaters, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Sift in the powdered sugar and pour in the milk or cream and vanilla extract.
  • Mix on low speed until incorporated, then turn up the speed to medium high. Beat until very light and smooth.
  • If dyeing, use a toothpick to swirl a little bit of gel icing color into the bowl, then mix thoroughly, adding more as necessary to achieve desired shade.
  • Spread or pipe onto completely cooled cake or cupcakes.

Notes

  1. I like to use a good quality cultured, salted butter to add the tiniest bit of additional dimension to the flavor of the frosting. It doesn't taste salty at all — it just tempers the sweetness and heightens all the flavors.
  2. Whole milk is the classic move for buttercream frosting. I often sub in heavy cream, which whips up inside the frosting to give you a bit of additional lightness.
  3. Use a high-quality pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
  4. I prefer to use this frosting right away, but you can make it up to a week in advance if you need to. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, bring to cool room temperature, and whisk again for a minute before using

Suggested variations

  • In addition to the vanilla extract, use a teaspoon or less (depending on strength — taste as you go) of peppermint, orange, lemon, coffee, almond, or rose extract.
  • Instead of the milk or cream, use one to two tablespoons of a liqueur like Kahlua, Baileys, Cointreau, Chambord, Poire Williams, Frangelico, Amaretto, Creme de Menthe, or any other good-quality nut-, fruit-, coffee-, or mint-based liqueur that you like.
  • Add up to one teaspoon total of ground spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom (try a 2:1:1 ratio), or ground chili.
  • Add two teaspoons of instant coffee powder.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 149kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 22mg, Sodium: 71mg, Sugar: 19g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sweet Spreads
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Hungry for More?
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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.82 from 16 votes (16 ratings without comment)

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