I know you’re here because you want to learn to make American Buttercream, and you are in the right place! Once you learn the basic proportions and method, you won’t even need a recipe to make all sorts of variations on American Buttercream. So let’s get to it!

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American buttercream frosting on cupcakes on a silver platter. Frosting is white and blue sprinkles are on top of each cupcake.
American buttercream made with half butter, half cream cheese and buttermilk as the liquid.

This is the frosting of my childhood. Butter, 10x, vanilla. Maybe a couple or 3 squares of Baker’s chocolate melted and added. Maybe a little cream or half and half. But simple and homey.

You probably won’t find a butter frosting on a cake at a fine dining restaurant, but it sure is comfort food at its best.

No real recipe needed–just make this to taste. This freezes just fine for a month or so, so if you make too much, it’s okay.

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I promise–this is much more of a technique than it is a recipe. Get to know the components and how to mix them, and you’ll do great!

If you’re looking for a buttercream with a silkier, smoother mouthfeel, you may want to take a look at my Italian buttercream and Swiss mint buttercream recipes, both of which you can flavor in many different ways.

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American Buttercream

Jennifer Field
Classic butter and powdered sugar American-style buttercream. The frosting most Americans grew up with, especially if their moms made their birthday cakes!
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Icings, Frostings and Fillings
Cuisine American


  • cool room temperature butter
  • powdered sugar sifted (3-4 cups per stick of butter)
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of vanilla
  • Liquid of choice to thin to spreading consistency (see Options below)

Optional Ingredients

  • melted and cooled chocolate
  • cream or half and half (or other liquid: orange juice, lemon juice, liqueur, etc)
  • food coloring
  • other extracts such as lemon, orange, mint, etc
  • dried spices (cinnamon, ginger, etc) or citrus zest


  • Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Add the pinch of salt and then add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time, until you are happy with how sweet it is. Figure around 2 cups of powdered sugar per 4 oz. butter, but just do it to taste.
  • Add your vanilla and chocolate, if using. Or, omit the vanilla and add your other extract along with some zest, if you’d like.
  • Thin to spreading consistency with the liquid of your choice.

Did You Make Any Changes?


This frosting is incredibly versatile. Stir in mini chocolate chips, toasted and ground nuts, coconut–almost anything you can think of. Substitute some peanut butter or other nut butter for half the butter to make a peanut butter frosting.
For Cream Cheese Frosting
Use 4 oz cream cheese (half a block) and 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter and 6-8 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Cream cheese frosting is excellent with a bit of orange or lemon zest mixed in. Use buttermilk for the thinning liquid to get a nice tangy flavor.
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  1. Trying to reconcile the picture of American Buttercream with the text below the picture that says “half butter, half cream cheese, with buttermilk as the liquid” but I don’t see any reference to those ingredients in the recipe.

    I have made buttercream several times and find it is not as good as the frosting at a bakery. Just trying to figure out what I need to do differently??

    1. The “recipe” for American buttercream is very versatile and open to all sorts of substitutions and variations, Patricia. For that particular buttercream, I did use butter and cream cheese with some buttermilk as the liquid.

      You’ll notice my recipe doesn’t even have measurements, because it really is more about personalization. In the case of the buttercream pictured, where a very basic buttercream would call for butter, 10x, vanilla (or other extract) and a pinch of salt with milk used to thin it, I wanted more tang so I made that happen by subbing cream cheese for half the amount of butter and using tangy buttermilk as my liquid to thin it to spreading consistency.

      I hope that helps, Patricia.

  2. I’m making a wedding cake for some members of my church and I was wondering what is the best buttercream to frost a wedding cake and what is the best recipe for piping on decorations and flowers, I’m having a hard time finding recipes that actually work out the way I hope they will. Maybe I’m doing something wrong ๐Ÿ™

    1. Hey Angel. I hope I can help. First of all, making a wedding cake is a huge undertaking, so you are The Best to make one for church members. They will love it, regardless. If you don’t bake and decorate a lot, I’d stick with Wilton’s basic frostings. They have really perfected the art over the years, so I would definitely defer to them. Ideally, for icing you’ll want a bit thinner consistency than for piping. Here is there recipe for buttercream w/directions for changing the consistency: http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing and also, here’s their main wedding page. Tons of great information here: http://www.wilton.com/wedding/wedding-cakes/ I hope this is helpful to you, @facebook-1485399130:disqus . If you have more specific questions for me, please don’t hesitate to ask! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. I just wanted to say thank you for your suggestions, I did find a great buttercream recipe in the baking with the cakeboss book, and I managed to make my very first wedding cake! The bride and groom loved it, even with all the flaws ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Okay I was trying to post a picture of the wedding cake, but it didn’t work ๐Ÿ™ if you would like to see the wedding cake I am so very proud of, just let me know how to post it for you!

      3. I would *love* to see your cake, @facebook-1485399130:disqus !! Please post it to my fan page so all my fans and I can see! I’m so glad it turned out well (and I bet that you are the only one who noticed the flaws)! ๐Ÿ™‚ http://www.facebook.com/PastryChefOnline If you aren’t on facebook and don’t want to set up an account, you can email it to me at onlinepastrychef at yahoo dot com

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