How to make buttercream

How to make buttercream picture tutorial!We’re giving you another how to tutorial! If you read our previous how to bake a cake tutorial you may want some buttercream for that cake. It totally reminds me of if you give a mouse a cookie… So if you give someone a cake, they are going to want some frosting! Especially if it’s a kid :)

So let’s get started – here’s how to make american buttercream! Disclaimer: The photos show our vanilla buttercream recipe, but all our buttercream recipes follow the same exact procedure. 

How to make buttercream tutorialTo make buttercream you’ll need a few ingredients. Room temperature butter, vegetable shortening, powdered sugar, vanilla extract or other flavoring like cocoa powder, caramel sauce, mint extract, vanilla bean paste, lemon juice, etc, and finally food coloring if you want to dye the buttercream. I like to call all of those things the add-ins.

Let’s break it down by each item.

Butter – Butter is like the golden egg when it comes to making buttercream. You can’t make buttercream without buttercream. But you can’t use just any kind of butter, it needs to be room temperature. I would 100% NOT recommend trying to get your butter to room temperature using the microwave. I have and I always end up with melted butter and you do not want to make buttercream with melted or even slightly melted butter. If I am going to make buttercream I set the butter on the counter a few hours before I need it or even the night before. That way I know my butter will surely be at room temperature.

Vegetable shortening – Not all buttercream recipes call for vegetable shortening but I use vegetable shortening in all of my buttercream recipes because it provides stability. Butter by itself after it’s beaten can be kind of floppy, and you don’t want floppy buttercream, especially if you’ll be piping it onto cupcakes. It gives the buttercream a back bone. My go-to butter to vegetable shortening ratio is like this:

1 stick butter to 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 sticks butter to 1 cup vegetable shortening
3 sticks butter to 1 & 1/2 cups vegetable shortening

Powdered sugar – A small batch of buttercream will need 2-3 cups of powdered sugar. A medium batch will need 6-8 cups and a large batch will need 9-11 cups. So be sure to have extra powdered sugar on hand. Nothing is worse than not having enough powdered sugar. It makes the frosting taste sweet and it also provides stability. So be sure to have extra on hand.

The Add-ins

How to make buttercream tutorial

The flavoring – This is where buttercream comes alive. You can add pretty much any kind of flavoring to buttercream. A teaspoon of any extract is a good place to start. If you’re adding cocoa powder, peanut butter, or caramel you’ll usually start with more, with like 1/3 cup. You can also need pureed fruit to buttercream, like we did for these kiwi cupcakes. But the nice thing about buttercream is that you can taste it and always add more flavoring.

Food coloring – Using food coloring in buttercream works best if you’re making a classic vanilla buttercream or if you’re using a clear extract to flavor your buttercream. Obviously you wouldn’t want to dye chocolate buttercream or peanut butter buttercream a different color because the base of the buttercream isn’t white so who knows what color you’ll end up with if you add food coloring. My go-to food coloring is Wilton Gel Food Coloring. It comes in so many different colors and makes pretty vibrant colored buttercream.

How to make buttercream!

How to make buttercream tutorialIn a large mixing bowl, I prefer one with high sides, combine the room temperature butter and vegetable shortening.

How to make buttercream tutorialUse an electric mixer to beat them together, about 1-2 minutes. You’ll see little specks of butter/shortening in the buttercream, but no need to worry.

How to make buttercream tutorialNext, add in your flavoring. Either some kind of extract, vanilla bean paste, cocoa powder, peanut butter, pureed fruit.. whatever you want! Mix that in using a spatula.

How to make buttercream tutorialBegin to add the powdered sugar 1-2 cups at a time. I don’t like adding too much powdered sugar at one time because I don’t like when it puffs up at me and gets my clothes all white! Gently mix the powdered sugar in with a spatula. Continue adding powdered sugar and mixing with a spatula until all of the powdered sugar has been added.

How to make buttercream tutorialNow use the electric mixer to combine everything well, beating for 1-2 minutes. If you are adding food coloring, do so now, after you’ve added all of your powdered sugar, beating well to combine.

How to make buttercream tutorialTa-da! You have buttercream! The picture above shows cherry buttercream, made with pureed cherries.

If your buttercream is too firm, add a dash of heavy cream or milk and mix that in. If your buttercream is too wet, add in more powdered sugar.

Your buttercream is now ready to be piped onto cupcakes or spread onto cake!

I’ve rounded up my favorite baking products including the ones I use day after day on my amazon affiliate store.

Browse our buttercream selection to get some ideas!

Buttercream recipes at thefirstyearblog.comOreo buttercream, kiwi buttercream, and lemon buttercream.

Buttercream recipes at thefirstyearblog.comSangria buttercream, chocolate buttercream, and fresh orange buttercream.

Buttercream recipes at thefirstyearblog.comLime green buttercream, maple buttercream, and 4th of july buttercream.

How to make buttercream picture tutorial!

20 comments

  1. Thank you thank you thank you! Last time I made buttercream for my son’s birthday cake it turned into a melting mess and I think its because I didn’t use shortening! Great tips Beth!

  2. Another great tutorial Beth! Wish I had a spoonful of that buttercream in front of me right now!

  3. Love the step by step photos!  Great tutorial, Beth! :) 

  4. This is great, thanks! I have never used shortening in my buttercream, I just whip together butter/powdered sugar/vanilla until it looks right. Going to have to try your version next time!

  5. I’m OBSESSED with this post. I’m a complete novice in the baking department and this is such great info! YAY!

  6. I LOVE this series and you’ve already taught me something new! I have had ‘floppy’ buttercream in the past and now I know that I should be using shortening!

  7. I love this series and I love all your tips Beth! 

  8. So you are telling me that this is completely healthy and I should eat a whole bunch before my blood sugar test during this pregnancy, right?! Ha. 
    And Aiden just got the book If You Give A Mouse a Cookie! ;) 

  9. I love these “how-to” posts, Beth! … especially when buttercream frosting is involved. ;)

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