This perfect BUTTERCREAM FROSTING is light and fluffy, yet smooth and creamy, and holds its shape beautifully for piping and decorating cakes and cupcakes! Along with the recipe, check out my tips and tricks for getting the perfect consistency every time.
While it is super fun to experiment with different types of cakes, everyone needs a tried and true, basic buttercream frosting recipe. Actually, scratch that! This buttercream is NOT basic. It is PERFECT! It’s light and fluffy, yet smooth and creamy at the same time. And it’s melt-in-your-mouth, ridiculously delicious.
Not only does it taste incredible- it is also smooth and holds its shape beautifully for decorating cakes and cupcakes. And this is the perfect base recipe for a wide variety of flavors- Cookies & Cream, Peanut Butter, Mocha, Salted Caramel, just to name a few! 🙂
Getting the perfect consistency of buttercream is crucial when you are frosting a cupcake or cake! If it’s too thin, it won’t hold its shape or the cake together. If it’s too thick, it is difficult to work with and will pull crumbs off of your cake. Keep reading for my tips on getting the perfect buttercream consistency every time!
Butter & Shortening Ratio
This is where a lot of recipes differ. Some use only butter, some use only shortening. I’ve found that a mixture of the two yields the best results. In my opinion, the fat from the butter is crucial for the flavor, and the shortening makes the frosting more stable and allows it to hold its shape better. I use a 1.5 butter : 1 shortening ratio (so for my three layer cakes, I use 1.5 cups of butter and 1 of cup shortening). Another note: this is one of the few times I use SALTED butter!
You need a liquid to lighten your buttercream and get it to a workable consistency. A lot of recipes use milk or heavy cream, but hot water is my favorite addition. It seems to dissolve the sugar a little more, and to me, it yields a smoother texture. And it’s all about the texture for buttercream! 🙂
I use the paddle attachment to beat my buttercream as it incorporates less air than the whisk attachment. When I have used the whisk, I find more air pockets. And when you’re trying to frost a smooth cake, ain’t nobody got time for air pockets in their buttercream!
I mix my buttercream on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes, instead of high speed for just a few minutes. Again, I’ve found that this method incorporates less air and creates a fluffier yet still smooth texture.
An easy trick on how I know my buttercream is the perfect consistency- the finger test! I just dab a finger on the buttercream. If its too thick, there will be barely any on my finger. If it’s too thin, my finger will be completely covered. It is perfect when my finger is slightly covered but not completely (see photo below!). If it’s too thick, add more water, one teaspoon at a time. If it’s too thin, you will want to add more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time.
Notes: This buttercream can be refrigerated for up to 1 week in an airtight container. Before using, bring it to room temperature and beat on low to medium speed it for a few minutes. This buttercream will last for up to 3 days at room temperature when on a frosted cake and covered.
Now let’s make some buttercream!
15 minTotal Time
Yields Frosting for 8-inch 3 layer cake, or 24-36 cupcakes
- 1.5 cups salted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup shortening
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons hot water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Using your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium-high speed until smooth, about one minute.
- Add 4 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Add another 4 cups and mix on low speed until mixture comes together in a clump.
- Add vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Mix on low to medium speed until smooth, for about one minute, then check the consistency. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time. If it is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time. You can also add flavorings, coloring, or any other add-in at this point.
- Beat on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes, or until your buttercream is light and fluffy.
This buttercream can be refrigerated for up to 1 week in an airtight container. Before using, bring it to room temperature and beat on low to medium speed it for a few minutes. This buttercream will last for up to 3 days at room temperature when on a frosted cake and covered.