Our Best American-Style Buttercream

March  1, 2016
1 Rating
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

American buttercream, compared to >Swiss, and click here for some DIY natural dyes) last. Swipe American-stye buttercream onto layer cakes thinly to trap any errant crumbs, chill until firm, then frost again, more thickly, for an elegant but simple cake. Buttercream hardens in the fridge—which is great for setting your artwork—but do let the (cup)cake come to room temperature before enjoying. Our resident pastry expert, >these other five. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

  • Prep time 3 minutes
  • Cook time 7 minutes
  • Makes about 3 cups
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) milk or heavy cream, at room temperature
In This Recipe
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature butter until light and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar (to prevent it exploding upward when you turn on the mixer), and mix on medium-low speed to combine. Once all the sugar is added, raise speed to medium-high and cream until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla extract or other flavoring and mix to combine. If using milk or cream, pour it in and mix just until incorporated. The buttercream can be used immediately or refrigerated in an airtight container.

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  • Sarah O
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  • Jolie
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.

4 Reviews

Sarah O. December 21, 2017
What are the benefits of adding milk or cream? (Aka, why is it optional?) Looking forward to trying this out!
Julia C. December 23, 2016
To get rid of the taste of raw cornstarch added to confectioners sugar, I've found heating and stirring the sugar over low heat for up to a minute or two works. It completely takes away that raw or burning taste some people experience with this type frosting.
Jolie January 15, 2018
I'm confused...Why would there be a taste of raw cornstarch? Does commercial confectioner's sugar have cornstarch?
So much I don't know...
Julia M. March 8, 2016
in the last couple of years, I've started using French buttercream as my go to frosting, but I still have a little nostalgia for the American version that my mother put on our birthday cakes growing up. Her tips for a rich taste are to use the best butter you can find, like kerrygold or from a local dairy, and to beat in an egg yolk.