Buttercream Frosting Recipe

January 16, 2009 53 Comments

Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Making a Bakery Style Buttercream Frosting

I received the following email from home cook Rhonda requesting a recipe for a buttercream frosting that would taste more like she has experienced at a bakery. Here is what she said,

“I am a stay at home mom that has looked everywhere for the real sweet buttercream frosting that the bakery uses.  I have looked on-line, cook books and none of the recipe’s are right.  The kids love helping me make cakes but they only like to decorate them.  They do not like the frosting.  If you have a recipe I would love it.  I will keep trying until I get the right one.  I hope you can help. Thank you, Hi Rhonda!”

I immediately sent her request to my friend Chef Jenni Field, a professional pastry chef who graduated from Orlando Culinary Academy with her own blog called Pastry Methods and Techniques. Jenni asked for her original recipe that you can see below and offer her the following comments and recipe.

Hi Rhonda,

I’m sure it must be frustrating to have fun decorating a cake with your kids only to have them refuse to eat it because they don’t like the frosting! I personally like almost all kinds of frosting, but I will do my best to give you some recipes that your kids will enjoy.

You said that you are looking for a recipe that tastes like bakery frosting. Unfortunately, there are many bakeries, and most of them use their own “special recipes.” It might be difficult to pinpoint the style of frosting you’re looking for, but I’ll give it a shot. Thank you for sending in the recipe you used. This gives us a place to start.

  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/8 salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/8 almond extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-6 teaspoons half and half

This recipe is your basic Wilton-style American buttercream. The texture can be kind of fluffy but a little bit gritty since it is based on powdered sugar. Powdered sugar contains some corn starch to keep it from clumping, and sensitive palates can pick the raw starch flavor up. Even if you don’t taste the raw starch, the texture is unmistakable””barely gritty if you rub a little between (clean) fingers.

Many icings are based on this basic American fat + powdered sugar + flavoring formula, including one of my favorites, cream cheese frosting. So, I won’t even linger at the standard American counter. Let’s wander over to another counter.

I found a modification of the standard American buttercream in The Whimsical Bakehouse by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen. I’ve made this before, and it is pretty tasty. The use of boiling water cooks out some of that raw starch flavor, and the resulting texture is much smoother.

I hope that one of these two frosting recipes will get you close to your goal of having your children eat what they decorate!

Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 min for Italian BC

Total Time: 45 minutes

Buttercream Frosting Recipe


For the House Buttercream

3 cups confectioners' sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup boiling water

1 and 1/3 cup shortening

3½ ounces (7 tablespoons) cool butter, cut into pieces

For the Italian Buttercream

5.25 oz. sugar (3/4 cup), divided

2 oz. water

4 large egg whites, at cool room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons lemon juice

3 sticks unsalted butter at cool room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla or other extract

How To Prepare At Home

To Make the House Buttercream

Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Put sugar and salt in the bowl. Add the vanilla and boiling water and whisk on medium-low speed until smooth and cool. Then add the shortening and the butter. Whisk until smooth. Then, increase the speed and whip on medium-high speed until the frosting is very light and fluffy and has doubled in volume. This could take up to 15 minutes, so be patient. You can flavor this with other extracts, as well"”almond, butter, even peppermint.

If you are looking for a completely smooth and silky buttercream, look toward the European bakery counter. Europe is the home of egg-based buttercreams. The texture is light and ethereal, and the flavor of pure butter comes through. These frostings are a bit rich and not always considered "kid frostings", but since I don't know your kids' taste, I'm offering these as possibilities, as well.

All of these frostings are based on whipping either egg whites, whole eggs or egg whites together with a 240-250 degree, F, sugar syrup until cool. Then, butter, salt and flavorings are whipped in. As you can imagine, the yolk-based buttercreams are the richest, and the lightest are the egg-white based buttercreams, also called meringue-based buttercreams. I think that this last type is the most kid-friendly version. Here is a basic recipe.

To Make the Italian Buttercream

Over medium heat, bring water and ¾ of the sugar to a boil. Cover the pot and let boil for 2-3 minutes to wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot. Remove cover and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees, F.

Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. On medium speed, whip egg whites, salt and lemon juice until foamy. Add the reserved sugar and beat to medium-stiff peaks. Try to time this so the sugar and the whites are ready at the same time.

When the sugar has reached 248 degrees, F and the whites are at medium-stiff peaks, with the mixer on medium-high, carefully pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl. This will prevent the syrup from hitting the whisk and getting spun around the sides of the bowl instead of into your frosting. It will also cool the syrup just a bit so you don't risk curdling your whites. Whip until cool, about 5-10 minutes.

Once the meringue is cool, add the butter, one piece at a time. Whip until each piece is completely incorporated before adding another piece. The icing might start to look a little curdled, but it should come together nicely by the time you have added all the butter. Feel the mixing bowl. It should feel somewhat cool.

If it doesn't, cool the mixture down by either putting the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes before continuing to whip or by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a bag of frozen peas while mixing. Guess which one I do?! Whisk in the vanilla, and you're good to go.

This icing will get spongy on standing, so re-whip before icing. Italian buttercream keeps nicely in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you do refrigerate it, make sure to bring it up to room temperature before whipping, or it will curdle. I have successfully saved buttercreams (when I've been too impatient to wait) by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a hot, wet towel. Don't be like me, though. Let it come to room temperature.

You can also make a lovely chocolate variation by whipping in 2-4 oz. (this depends on how chocolaty you like your chocolate frosting) good quality chocolate, melted and cooled.

Last modified on Thu 17 July 2014 8:47 am

Comments (53)

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  1. Rhonda Dulay says:

    I cant thank you enough for all your help. I’m looking forward to baking our cake this sunday. My kids are always asking to help out in the kitchen and I have enjoyed how fun and creative they get when they take turns decorating the cakes we make. This time I hope the little ones actually eat it. Of course the older kids and myself have no problem.

    Thanks again

  2. Rhonda Dulay says:

    Thank you for all your help! I cant wait to try out the new buttercream frosting. The kids and I will be baking this sunday.

    Thank you again,

  3. Jenni says:

    Hope it turns out great and the cake gets consumed by everyone–frosting and all!

  4. Lynda says:

    I have the old fashioned buttercream recipe with the confectionery sugar. The problem is the bakery frosting doesn’t taste like confectionery sugar but mine does. What can we do to eliminate or minimize that confectionery sugar taste.

  5. Elise says:

    I made a swiss buttercream recipe that had egg whites, sugar, butter and vanilla, and it came out great. I refrigerated it overnight and then took it out of the fridge the next morning to bring it up to room temperature so I could frost the cupcakes I made. I decided to re-whip it and all this water came out! It ended up all watery and weird. I still used it because I didn’t have anything else to use, but it was really tough to pipe it with all the drops of water. I’ve always heard you can re-whip buttercream so I was really surprised. Any ideas on what I did wrong? Thanks!

  6. jfield says:

    Elise, Swiss buttercream is made w/uncooked egg whites, so when it sits, even when it has butter whipped into it, the liquid will seep out (as you unfortunately discovered). To avoid this, make Italian buttercream instead–add sugar syrup heated to 240 degrees to whipping egg whites and whip until cool. Then add the butter. The syrup will cook the proteins in the whites and you shouldn’t have a seepage problem.

    Lynda, bakeries use ingredients that home bakers can’t get their hands on, so that’s why it’s really difficult to make a homemade frosting that tastes exactly like bakery frosting. Having said that, I assume that you don’t want to taste that sort of chalky/raw corn starch flavor that confectioners sugar can have. Here’s a link to a pretty good buttercream in which you dissolve the confectioners sugar in boiling water. This helps to minimize the raw starch flavor: http://www.pastrychefonline.com/Simple_Buttercream.html
    Hope this helps:)

    • Lisa says:

      Swiss Buttercream is actually made by whipping swiss meringue into butter. Swiss Meringue is made by whisking the eqq whites and sugar together, cooking over a water bath while whisking constantly until mixture reaches 160F. Remove from heat and whisk until cool with stiff peaks. I make mine using my stand mixer, once I achieve the stiff peaks, I turn the mixer to low until the bowl is cool to the touch.

  7. Gwen says:

    Thank you very much for posting this easy-to-make recipe! It really helped me, and it is very much like a bakery-style frosting…tasty, too! I made an adult themed cake for a bachelorette party and needed something that was easy to spread; this was it!

    Tip to other users: I made flesh-colored frosting by mixing food dye in a separate, small bowl then slowly adding a few drops of it at a time to the basic white frosting from this recipe. My concoction was 8-drops Yellow, 6-drops Red and 1-drop Green…mixed in a small bowl by itself. Again, add a little of the mixed dye, at a time, to the white frosting to achieve the desired flesh-tone richness.

  8. Hannah says:

    Yum! The Simple Buttercream recipe is wonderful! I can’t count how many different frostings I have tried and never used again. I am hooked on this one!

  9. Tiina says:

    I read that the Italian buttercream will get spongy on standing. Will this still happen if I frost my cupcakes the day before I serve them?

    Hi Tiina, I’ll have to ask my friend and pastry chef Jenni to come answer this one. RG

  10. Jenni says:

    Italian buttercream can indeed get spongy on standing, Tina. It’s really only a problem if you let it sit before you ice whatever-you’re-icing. If you do have to let your buttercream sit for a day or two, re-whip it to bring back the creamy, dreamy texture. If you don’t, it will be very hard to spread and look kind of clumpy and stupid.

    Once you spread it, though, it will maintain that look. The flavor and mouthfeel will be fine, even if you ice your cupcakes well in advance. They might even be a little less messy to eat since the icing will have had a chance to “cure” a little.


  11. Kristie says:

    Does the simple buttercream form a crust? I have been searching for a frosting that tastes like a bakery and I would love to try this one. I prefer to use a BC that crusts though. Thanks.

  12. Jenni says:

    Good question, Kristie. To make the Wilton-style simple buttercream frosting form a crust, you need to add some meringue powder. Guess who makes it? Wilton! You can also use powdered egg whites. Use 1 tablespoon per cup of fat (shortening/butter). It will work better w/shortening since butter will tend to leach liquid at room temperature. Use butter flavored shortening to get the best of both worlds. Just know that your frosting will be pale yellow and not white.

    Thanks Jenni for this explanation – RG

  13. karina says:

    HI! I wanted to ask if you could make a video on how to make the frosting you use for your cakes. I’ve searched all over but i can’t seem to find a good frosting on my cake. All the ones I’ve used usually are too sweet too thick or not thick enough.I would really appreciate it!

    I will ask Chef Jenni. – RG

  14. missy starr says:

    Oh my gosh, the tip given by Gwen on how to make flesh coloring for white frosting was AWESOME! It really works, could not have found this site at a better time,needed to have flesh colored frosting for a baby shower cake. Thanks so much for sharing your tip!!!!!!!

    You are very welcome Missy – RG

  15. kim says:

    how much icing do these recipes make? I need to do a wedding cake.

  16. Jenni says:

    Hi, Kim–These recipes are all roughly scaled for a 9″ cake. The best resource I know of for scaling up and having enough frosting for a wedding cake is in The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I believe Wilton has a chart as well.

  17. Margie says:

    The cake in the picture above looks like it was covered in fondant not buttercream frosting? I’m baking a cake right now and am going to try one of these for the frosting, I’ve been looking for a bakey style buttercream frosting for awhile.

    Hi Margie, please let me know how it turns out. – RG

  18. Debra Bergeron says:

    Have you ever tried the House Buttercream forgoing the shortening and using butter alone?

  19. Chef Gary says:

    Thankyou. I’m looking for a rich, thick and creamy frosting for a Chocolate Kahlua cake I’m making

  20. Leigh says:

    In reply to those that hate that cornstarch flavor in powdered sugar: I bought a brand I had never tried from Wal Mart once and when I tasted it, I noticed it had a strangely good flavor (in comparison to others like Domino). It had no cornstarch, and while it will still be grainy if you are using the American buttercream recipes, it will have a better taste. It came in a blue bag, and I do not remember the brand, but I know I bought it at Wal Mart. Hope this will maybe help someone?

    Thanks Leigh – RG

  21. Jenni says:

    @Debra–no I haven’t, although I can’t imagine that it would hurt anything. The only thing to remember when subbing butter for shortening is that butter has some water in it (up to 18-19%, I believe), and shortening is 100% fat. So, a buttercream made w/all butter is going to be “slumpier” than one made w/all or part shortening. The trade off is that it will taste much better.

    @ChefGary Sounds like you’re going for rich and lovely. I’d go with a whipped ganache followed up by a ganache glaze. You can even use the same mixture for both. Make a 1:1 (cream to chocolate) ganache and reserve 1/3 of it. Take the other 2/3 and bring to cool room temp–I’d cool it in an ice bath. Then, whip on medium-high until fluffy and icing-y. Fill and frost smooth w/that. Then, take the rest of the ganache (have it around 80-85F) and pour over the top of the iced cake. It’s your call whether you want some of the whipped ganache to show through on the sides or not:)

    @Leigh–great tip! I thought all powdered sugars had at least a wee bit of corn starch in them. Good to know that at least one does not!

    Thanks Chef Jenni. Anyone interested in baking and pastry must go visit Jenni’s web site, Pastry Chef Online. It is a wonderful resource. – RG

  22. Linda Penny says:

    I’ll try the frosting with eggwhites, but I would love to know what ingredient bakeries have that I can’t get. I don’t believe there is such a thing since the internet was invented. You can bet I’ll be out there looking.

  23. Jenni says:

    You’re right, Linda–you can find almost anything out on the Internet these days! I guess my question for you is what kind of bakery frosting are you trying to duplicate? Maybe then we can figure out what specific ingredients you’ll need.

    Bakeries (and now the general public, if they know what to look for) have access to a lot of fats with added emulsifiers in them. This enables them to hold onto a lot more water than grocery-store bought ingredients, like Crisco and vegetable oil. More emulsifiers allows the whatever-you’re-making to hold onto more sugar (since sugar is hygroscopic, it’ll pull in moisture).

  24. Archana says:

    any names out there of fats with added emulsifiers that can be bought in stores/internet. Please let me know. Thanks, Archana.

  25. Carol says:

    I love all the advice given here! I have been trying to find out a way to make a butter cream frosting like my local supermarket has in their bakery. It is soooo good. Would love to make it at home. Anyone with any info on it would be great! Thanks!

    Hi Carol, why not just ask them. I’m sure they would be happy to share it with you. – RG

  26. Patti, NJ says:

    I made the first buttercream frosting. It was delicious, not too sweet. However, I would decrease the amount of almond extract. Nice consistency. Thank you.
    PS Very easy to mix up, and quick.

    Hi Patti from New Jersey, thanks for letting us know about your first buttercream frosting. – RG

  27. Denise says:

    Hi there,
    May I know what is “reserved sugar” in the Italian Buttercream recipe ? Thanks !

    Hi Denise, in the instructions just before this, it says to use 3/4 of the sugar to boil meaning 3/4’s of the total amount. Reserved just means the remaining 1/4 amount. – RG

  28. Amie from the Philippines says:

    Hi! good thing i came across this site, I have been looking for a buttercream that is almost like its from a bakery. Thank you so much for the info.

    FYI: I read in an article if you don’t want to have the “gritty” feel from the sugar, look for a confectioners’/powdered sugar that is made from “pure sugar cane” they say it will melt more. I tried it and it did.

  29. Nicole says:

    i was wondering what the 10x sugar was i am making a bachelorette party cake and would love to use that recipe but don’t’ what what that is!

    Hi Nicole, I not seeing “10x sugar” on the page. Can you tell me what paragraph you see it mentioned?” – RG

  30. Nikki says:

    I used the House recipe for my roommate’s birthday cake (triple-layer lemon cake with strawberry jam filling) and oh. wow. It was AMAZING! Just the right amount of sweetness, super smooth, and it was the easiest frosting I’ve ever applied onto a cake in my life! I don’t use shortening, so I ended up using almost 4 whole sticks of butter, but the flavor was just absolutely perfect. This is OFFICIALLY my new frosting recipe! Thank you! 🙂

  31. Deana says:

    I am trying the House Buttercream as I type here. Waiting for an icing transfer to set up. Tasted the frosting though and it is tasty! Very buttery and smooth. I think I actually like a little texture to it, but we will see how this sets up on the finished cake. One thing though.. I am having a very hard time adding food coloring to the mix. I am using the drops, but they bead up on the frosting and don’t mix in well. Making a now – pastel- buzz lightyear for my son. Yes I used all butter -no shortening as I am just not a big fan of that.

  32. Jenni says:

    Hi, Deana. Glad you like the frosting–I find it to be lovely, especially the texture.

    Have never heard of having a problem w/getting food coloring to mix in, although I’ve never tried it w/that particular frosting. I suggest using the paste colors–they are too thick to bead up and should blend in nicely. You could also try mixing the liquid coloring that you have into just a bit of the frosting using an immersion blender (or just whisking really well) to get a uniform color and then whip that back into the rest of the frosting.

    Good luck with it. 🙂

  33. fik says:

    hi dear…i’ve tried this recipe and the taste was delicious and creamy smooth texture…but i couldnt make a flower out of it..did i over beat it because the batter seems to split out..it became a bit watery..i dont know what when wrong…please advise me on this

  34. Jenni says:

    Hello, fik. Which recipe did you make? The Italian buttercream or the house? I tend to use more sturdy decorator-type frostings to make flowers because they just hold up better. Italian meringue buttercream is the most forgiving of all the buttercreams, but it will weep since there is no emulsifier in it to keep it from doing so. Also, overbeating could add to the problem. I suggest using delicate egg-based buttercream to do base frostings and then decorate with something slightly more sturdy. I hope this helps.

  35. mylou says:

    Dear Jenni,
    I have tried the Italian buttercream recipe and love it. It was amazing. I also would like to try a chocolate version; my question is at what point I should add the melted and cooled chocolate into buttercream. Thank you!

  36. Jenni says:

    I’m so glad you like the frosting–it’s simply amazing how smooth and light it is!! I would whip in the chocolate at the very end, after you whip in all the butter to the meringue. Enjoy!

  37. Sax says:

    I tried the House Buttercream and when I put in the boiling water all of my sugar turned to liquid. I have not read any other posts where this has happened to anyone???

  38. LUMA says:


  39. Laveta says:

    Would the Italian buttercream be okay under fondant for a few days? I know the the fondant should keep it fresh, but will it leach into the cake and make it soggy?

  40. Jenni says:

    Laveta, As long as your cake isn’t too wet to begin with, the slight amount of leaching, should it occur, would just lend some moisture to the cake. I wouldn’t let it sit like that for more than 2 days tops, though. In culinary school, we never refrigerated Italian buttercream, so unless you’ve got a perishable filling, you should be fine at cool room temp.

  41. Anabel says:


    i have a recpie for italian buttercream, and its awesome, but i have a problem.

    after it stays in the fridge for a while, it gets really hard. i dont know how to fix it.

  42. Jenni says:

    @Anabel, your frosting gets really hard in the fridge because of all the butter in it. To remedy this, take the buttercream out of the fridge at least an hour or two before you plan to use it. Once it has reached cool room temperature (about 67-68F) re-whip to achieve a smooth, fluffy consistency. If your icing breaks and looks like cottage cheese when you try to rewhip it, it just means that it is still too cold. I usually remedy this by wrapping the bowl of the mixer in a hot towel or even whisking (by hand) over a pot of hot water just until the temperature rises enough that the butter reincorporates smoothly. Finish beating on your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

  43. Krista says:

    I’ve been having issues finding a good icing recipe. The traitional buttercreams that I have tried taste like nothing but powdered sugar. I have a bakery by my house that has the best icing. Their website describes it as “signature buttercream, an Italian-style meringue that is impossibly light.” It makes me think of your Italian buttercream above. What do you think? Also, I see the eggs are not actually cooked. Does the icing need to stay refrigerated? Thank you!!

  44. Jenni says:

    Krista, they probably are using an Italian meringue buttercream. The eggs get cooked–the temp rises to at least 160F–when you pour in the sugar syrup, so you’ll be fine. You don’t have to refrigerate it, although if you want to hold it for a few days, it’s best to put it in the fridge. Just make sure it comes all the way back to room temp before rebeating to restore its consistency. Also, if you want to use it for decorating, you’ll have to manipulate the consistency by manipulating the temperature. Cool enough to hold its shape well but not so cool that it won’t pipe smoothly. If you do use it for intricate piping, you’ll want to keep the finished cake refrigerated, taking it out of the fridge an hour or so before serving so the icing has a chance to soften up again. Hope that helps.

  45. Fredo says:

    Jenni. Hi. Just finished making this, and it turned out wonderfully.Very similar to the recipe my baker gave to me, but I thought I’d use these measuments,since his were for alot more than I needed, and I was way too lazy to do calculations. Initially after adding the butter, it did curdle a bit,, but I kept mixing,and it came out great. My daughter even said it was great. No small feat. Thanks.

  46. Elisa says:

    I am trying to find a recipe which mimicks the amazing silky smooth and light buttercream made by Kara Lind of Karas Cupcakes. I have never tasted any frosting like it!

  47. karen says:

    I used the meringue recipe for white wedding cake frosting but the meringue had an unwelcome flavor – any way to get a crust on a buttercream without the flavor of meringue?

  48. Candice says:

    Would either of these recipes be strong enough to hold any kind of liquor in it without destroying the consistency?

  49. Carri says:

    My MaMa gave me my Grandma Wyatt’s Butter Cream Icing given to her by her mother Great Grandma Norie & so on & so on
    Pure and Simple

    1 stick of softened butter (margarine is ok Imperial has the best consistency)
    1 ts PURE vanilla extract
    1 lb or so confectioner sugar (I sift it in directly until I reach the correct constancy)NEVER use BEAT SUGAR i CAN TASTE A BIG DIFFERENCE 🙁
    3 to 4 TSP Milk as required
    every now & then they added a teeny bit of salt

    We (the Ladies of our family) beat the butter until smooth, then add the vanilla
    The powder sugar is next added gradually and when needed we add the milk into the rotation 1 TSP or less at a time

    If I am using my counter top mixer I change to the whisk at some point close to the end other wise we just use a hand mixer until the end. We never ever use shortening. can taste & feel it everytime

  50. Bee says:

    if I use the italian buttercream on a light vanilla sponge and the refridgerate the cake (frosted), how will the buttercream react when the cake is then taken out of the fridge and brought to room temp for serving? Any sweating or separating or anything else I should be aware of?


  51. Chanin says:

    I am probably doing something wrong, but every time I have attempted to make buttercream, it just tastes like butter. How can I make it taste like the yummy frosting I would get if i went to even the walmart bakery and got a cupcake? thank you..

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