Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream (this is a crusting buttercream)

This is a lighter texture of frosting than the all-butter buttercream version.  I love the way that it crusts.  It works great with the Viva and Roller methods of smoothing.  The shortening makes it more resistant to heat, but if we’re talking “pool party in August” conditions, you may want to use substitute shortening for the 1/2 cup butter.  

2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar  910 g

1/2 cup (1 stick)   (113 g ) unsalted butter softened (soften on countertop rather than microwave for best results)

1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening (such as Crisco or Trex)  286 g. or 10 oz. by weight if using hi ratio shortening, see below)

2 Tablespoons  clear vanilla extract  24 g

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring (if you are leaving out the butter and using all shortening)

1/4 teaspoons  lemon or almond extract  1 g (OPTIONAL )

1/4 cup milk  ( 57 g)  any milk is fine but I like milk with higher fat content.  You could substitute water too (See below)

Add a pinch of salt to cut the sweetness….we use popcorn salt because of its fine grain…..you should dissolve your salt (if using table salt) in the liquid before adding

Cream butter, shortening and extracts until creamy and smooth.  Add powdered sugar and milk.  Mix thoroughly on medium speed for approximately 8 minutes.  For the last two minutes decrease the mixing speed to VERY SLOW  ( number 2 speed on a KitchenAid)  until creamy and smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally during the mixing process.

***If  I use Sweetex (a high ratio shortening) I decrease the shortening amount to 1 1/4  cups  (236 g.) and  increase the milk to 1/4 cup plus 2 to 3 Tablespoons milk or enough to make it the consistency you like.

***I used to always use water for this recipe, but I switched to milk for flavor &  also because when you use a higher fat milk for your liquid, the buttercream still has a nice crust to it, but it doesn’t crust quite so quickly or so hard as if you use water.

**Makes about 6 cups of frosting– you can half it, or freeze the leftovers if you don’t need this much! (One cup of frosting frosts about 12 cupcakes.)



Category: Frostings and Glazes, Recipes


  1. Avril Pretorius says: #201

    Thanks BeBe! :)

  2. Avril Pretorius says: #202

    Sorry BeBe, I have another question. I will be finished with the cake the day before. What is the best way for me to store it, because it won’t be covered in fondant. Will one night outside be ok. Or should I keep it in the fridge cause of the butter and milk… And how do you cover it if you put it in the fridge. My cake is pretty high so I can’t put it in a container… And cling wrap will damage my buttercream.

    Thanks again :)

  3. BeBe says: #203

    Hi Avril, because of the amount of sugar in the buttercream your cake should be fine for 3 days if not refrigerated. I would keep it in the coolest part of your house. It would also be good to put it under a cake cover. If you do not have one that is tall enough, maybe some other type container could cover it. If you want to refrigerate but don’t have a container, chill your cake uncovered in the refrigerator until the buttercream has firmed up, then you will be able to cover it with plastic wrap without damaging your buttercream……..wrapping it loosely without pressing tightly against the buttercream. It would be fairly airtight. When bringing back to room temperature, remove the plastic wrap before the buttercream softens up.

  4. Avril Pretorius says: #204

    Thanks – really appreciate you guys always getting back to me so quickly! That helps a lot :)

  5. Pamela Cohen says: #205

    I made this last week and forgot to freeze my leftovers. Can I still freeze it?

  6. Pamela Cohen says: #206

    Also, forgot – how many cups does this make? Is it enough to frost a 10″ round with 4 layers of cake and 3 layers of filling, plus crumb coating or should I double it?

  7. BeBe says: #207

    Hi Pamela, if you have kept it in the refrigerator and the ingredients used were not near expiration date it should be fine.

    This is a link to the Wilton Party Serving Chart link to wilton.com The recipe makes 6 cups. According to Wilton’s chart you would need 5 cups of batter for a 2 layer four inch tall cake. We tend to use a lot of frosting on our cakes so I would probably double the recipe and freeze the leftovers.

  8. marlene says: #208

    BeBe…I plan on making this for cupcakes for a reunion on August 3, 2013. Can I say make this on Monday, refrigerate it until Thursday or Friday, and then ice the cupcakes. Please advise and Thank you so much


  9. Krislyn Porter says: #209

    Hi Melissa & BeBe,
    How many cups are in 2 lbs?
    Thank you!!

  10. BeBe says: #210

    Hi Krislyn, if the powdered sugar is unsifted 3 1/2 cups = l pound
    if it is sifted, 4 cups = l pound.

    Sifting adds air and increases the volume of the powdered sugar

    This one reason why you often need to adjust the amount of liquid to get it to the consistency you like to work with.

  11. kelly thompson says: #211

    HELP… I can not get this buttercream to crust.. even over night it didn’t crust! I followed the directions to the letter! I live in Arizona so not humid, its only 90 and I keep my house temp at 79,80 degrees! any ideas?????

  12. Melissa Diamond says: #212

    Hi Kelly– I’m sorry, that is strange! The most common cause of the frosting not crusting is if the final coat of frosting was applied while the cake was cold. Was this by chance the case with you? Even if it was, I am surprised that it didn’t eventually crust overnight.

    You can try placing in front of a fan, or you may have to move to plan B and use the hot knife method of smoothing in which case you would freeze or chill for a few minutes, take a hot knife and glide over the icing. (If doing this method, I like to have a little bit of fresh buttercream on hand also to glide over any imperfections with the hot knife.) –

  13. anon shine says: #213

    I live in Hawaii where it is very humid n around 80 degrees most of the time. Does anyone live in a similar climate and have experience w this frosting?

    I’m wondering if it will crust despite the humidity and of it could b suitable for a wedding cake that will be displayed outside for an hour or so. I plan on not doing any heavy techniques that will slide or droop…

    Mahalo! (Thank you!)

  14. BeBe says: #214

    Hi Anon, if there is high humidity it could take it longer to crust, you could increase the amount of confectioners’ sugar and that would help give you a firmer crust. It should be find to be outside a few hours, preferably in a shady area. The High Ratio Buttercream recipe would also be a good one to use if you have access to high ratio shortening in Hawaii.

  15. JeanF says: #215

    Hi, Melissa! I enjoy all your videos and use many of your recipes – especially this one! But I have such a hard time getting my cakes as smooth as yours look in the videos. When I push the frosting across the top of the cake, I get what looks like popped air bubbles. It takes SO long to smooth, and I wonder if I am doing something wrong. Perhaps the icing is too thick . . .? Do I beat it too long when mixing it . . .? I so want my cakes to look as smooth as yours! Any suggestions? (I do use the viva towel method, but somehow it never is as smooth as yours). Thank you!

  16. BeBe says: #216

    Hi JeanF, when we are making this recipe we let it mix around 6 to 8 minutes, during the last 2 or more minutes we slow down the mixing speed, this will greatly reduce the popped air bubble look. You also may need to add more liquid if you feel it is too thick, adding it a teaspoon at a time, this will help with the popped bubble look also. Let us know if the problem improves.

  17. Ellen says: #217

    Hello ladies! I’m looking to make a raspberry buttercream that will crust. Could I just make the Fluffy Buttercream and add raspberry extract? Thank you! I love this site!!!

  18. BeBe says: #218

    Hi Ellen, yes, you can add raspberry extract to the Fluffy recipe. You can also add a very small amount of pink color if you want it to have a raspberry look. We have tried adding raspberry preserves for the color and it just does not work…..just gives a brownish color. Thanks for your nice comment about the site.

  19. Ellen says: #219

    Thanks BeBe! Should I still use the almond extract in addition to the raspberry or replace the almond with raspberry?

  20. BeBe says: #220

    Hi Ellen, I would replace the almond with raspberry. Do a taste test until it is what you like.

  21. yummy23 says: #221

    Hello, will you possibly think about doing a video tutorial for this recipe? Thanks in advance for your response.

  22. Jessica Scanlan says: #222

    Hi can I use this fluffy buttercream under fondant? or just fondant accents? Sometimes my fondant pieces pull the buttercream away from the cake or run down the sides???

  23. jessbake78 says: #223

    Hi there,
    It’s very humid here (Hawaii) so I use this recipe for piping flowers as it’s more likely to hold shape. However, I have been experiencing jagged edges on my petals. Any tips on how to fix? More shortening or milk maybe? Corn syrup?

  24. BeBe says: #224

    Hi Jess, If your frosting is too stiff it can cause the jagged edges. If you feel that the consistency of your buttercream is right, then I would add a small amount of light corn syrup. You will also want to rule out that there is not a small bit of dried frosting in the piping tip because that can cause problems also. Because this is a crusting buttercream, you can also tap down any jagged edges with your finger or a dry paint brush…..but if you are doing a lot of roses this would be too time consuming.

  25. Joan says: #225

    Tried this recipe on my Thanksgiving cake and it was very good. I made the adjustments you suggested when using high ratio shortening. Came out perfect.

  26. BeBe says: #226

    Hi Joan, that’s great, thank you for your post!

  27. OxyJenAndTonic says: #227

    Hi, Melissa and BeBe! I have a question for you or any fellow cake makers with a possible answer. Have you ever turned this recipe into a strawberry buttercream and if so then what do you add to it? Thanks!

  28. Melissa Diamond says: #228

    Hi OxyJenandTonic 😉 I have not turned this into strawberry buttercream. I think that there are some strawberry buttercream recipes floating around out there that use strawberry puree (from frozen strawberries), but if I were trying to convert this one, I would probably experiment with strawberry extract so that the flavor will be more intense without adding too much additional liquid.

    Just as a side note, I also like to spread the inner layer of my cakes with pureed frozen strawberries and then use a cream cheese filling when I’m looking for a subtle strawberry flavor, it’s a good combination! ;0)

  29. carolina bass says: #229

    could you please think about making a video making this buttercream.? thanks!

  30. Anna Jovanovich says: #230

    Hi, Melissa can you tell me what to use instead of crisco, we do not have it here in Australia . Thankyou Anna

  31. scott kelly says: #231

    Hello Melissa. Can I use this for my piping also? This is Scott your humble new student.

    And greetings everyone.

    Scott in Texas

  32. Sue Knott says: #232

    Hi Melissa and BeBe,
    I made this frosting today, but did not add the lemon extract as I had run out! Although it tasted delicious, I found that it did not crust as much as I’d hoped and I wonder whether the missing ingredient was the cause?
    Regards, Sue

  33. BeBe says: #233

    Hi Sue, leaving out the lemon extract would not have been the cause. Were you having higher humidity than usual, that could have been the cause. Did you use milk with a higher fat content than usual? Using whole milk or whipping cream will give a softer crust than using 2 % or skim milk.

  34. Sue Knott says: #234

    Thanks BeBe, I did use high fat content milk so I’ll try it with skimmed next time. I was also pushed for time and I’m not sure I left it for long enough to crust if I’m honest – loved the flavour though and have never made frosting with shortening before. Just another tip from this super site which I’m so glad I happened upon!

  35. katie torres says: #235

    Hi ladies. Can I use this frosting to do some scroll work? As I have it right now it doesn’t seem smooth enough to do it. What can add to get it a smoother consistency ?

  36. BeBe says: #236

    Hi Katie, Yes, you can. If it seems to stiff, add additional milk a teaspoon at a time, mixing it in until it reaches the consistency needed for piping the scrollwork.

  37. GuppyLove says: #237

    This is the best buttercream, YUM!

  38. BeBe says: #238

    I’m so happy you like it!

  39. Tracy Duncan says: #239

    I am going to crumb coat and let it settle Saturday. Then Sunday frost and decorate.. I am going to dye the frosting orange. Two questions, does the frosting do okay with a dye? Second, is it okay to let the frosting sit overnight? Covered on the counter or covered in the fridge? Thanks!!!!!

  40. HollyLE says: #240

    Hi Tracy…This is my go to recipe for crusting buttercream and it colors very well. I use gel colors (I’ve never used regular food coloring and since you didn’t specify what type of ‘dye’ you’re using, I just wanted to clarify) and the gel colors work beautifully. This frosting can sit out for up to 3 days. IT’S IMPORTANT that you cover it quickly after making it so it doesn’t begin crusting on you in the bowl. I cover with a large piece of plastic wrap gently pressed down onto the icing all the way to the edges of the bowl, then cover the whole bowl once again with another sheet of plastic wrap. I freeze it this way as well.

  41. nora losier says: #241

    I want to know what is the better icing recipe for a wedding cake

  42. Linda says: #242

    Hi, what’s the difference between using butter instead of margarine for butter cream frosting. Or can you use margarine. Thank you.

  43. BeBe says: #243

    Hi Linda, it is a matter of preference, you can use margarine but I think you will get better richer flavor with butter. I have heard that the brand, “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter” margarine is a good substitute but I have not tried it.

  44. HollyLE says: #244

    Hello Melissa and BeBe!
    I was wondering about the taste when substituting all shortening for butter? I’m doing cupcakes for a ‘party boat’ birthday party. The cupcakes will be in the shade, but the bottom deck of this boat is open air. I’m in Texas and the temps are easily hitting the mid 90’s and the humidity is around 75%. I’ll take ANY advice you have to give! :o)

  45. BeBe says: #245

    Hi Holly, I think with those temps and humidity I would use all shortening in this recipe. If you have access to high ratio shortening, I would use that rather than Crisco. It has a lighter fluffier feel. You can add butter flavoring to replace the butter you are leaving out, I am not a fan of the butter flavoring but you could add a bit at a time to see what you think. I think you will still like the taste minus the 1/2 cup butter.

  46. Caroline Thomas says: #246

    Hi Melissa, can you tell me if the shortening is at room temperature or am I ment to heat it a litttle first?

  47. BeBe says: #247

    Hi Caroline, the shortening we use (Crisco or Hi Ratio) does not need to be refrigerated, so it is at room temperature.

  48. deb kroger says: #248

    What is your preferred icing for piping including roses. Thanks Deb K.

  49. BeBe says: #249

    Hi Deb, This recipe (Fluffy Buttercream) is the recipe that Melissa uses most often. The Classic Buttercream (all butter) and Hi Ratio are good for piping also, it becomes a matter of personal preference on which one a decorator likes to use.

  50. Cheryl Pulice says: #250

    I have searched for sweetex high ratio shortening where I live but I am not able to find it. I looked at Walmart, Sams Club & Kroger. Are there specific chains that carry it or do I need to order it online?? Thank you for your recipe, I am going to try it. Thank you also for the tutorial, I always wondered what created the piping effect. I can’t wait to try it on my next cake! Love this site!!!

  51. BeBe says: #251

    Hi Cheryl, if you have a bakery supply store in your area you may be able to buy it there, otherwise you will have to buy online. You can find it at globalsugarart.com, shopbakersnook.com, amazon and others…….compare prices the shipping is often high

  52. Veronica Morales says: #252

    What is the best way to get bright vivid colors using this recipe? I always have trouble getting bright purple usually comes out as lavender, I dont like to put so much color gel due to the bitterness.

  53. Lani Faulkner says: #253

    I just made this using whole milk but the buttercream is not smooth. I take a spatula and run it on the surface of the buttercream and it has ridges and not smooth at all! Is this how this fluffy buttercream is supposed to look like?

  54. BeBe says: #254

    Hi Lani, Is the buttercream spreading consistency? You may need to add more milk, a very small amount at at time. I also would suggest beating it at low speed for several minutes, it should take on a smooth look. Let me know how things go.

  55. suzanne williams says: #255

    I just want to say I tried this Buttercream, 1st with milk coudnt get the sweetex to smoothe, so I threw that out I made this with my hot water and coffee creamer I LOVE THIS RECIPE, its smooth crusting and have been looking for this or years…….I am happy Thank you Thank you

  56. Charise Cortez says: #256

    is this good for cupcakes? Im looking for a buttercream that doesn’t crust as much. I also live where the weather is really warm so I need a buttercream that can stand the heat.

  57. patricia reed says: #257

    cash and carry has the sweetex so much cheaper than the shipping , 50lbs is a lot but i paid 75.00 wont run out to soon love this sight and the both of you are amazing. Malissa you are so talented perfect for cake making. pat

  58. Ally says: #258

    Hi! Is this recipe best to use when piping shell borders and letters on a cake? Thanks:)

  59. Melissa Diamond says: #259

    Hi Ally, this works great for piping shell borders & letters, etc. Our “Classic” vanilla buttercream recipe works well also (if you prefer a recipe that does not contain shortening).

  60. Ana Flavia Gattass says: #260

    hi ladies,i heard that the butter on buttercream wont make it as white as snow…i know you’ ve used half shortening and butter…how did you get it tobe so bright white like that? love the color of it…

  61. BeBe says: #261

    Hi Ana, You will find that some brands of butter are a lighter color than others and that will affect the color. Some bakers will add Americolor Bright White gel color to their frosting and that will whiten it, we do not do that very often. On our videos the white of the frosting probably looks whiter than it is because of the contrast to the colored piping on the cake.

  62. cakerjoy says: #262

    Do you not sift your powdered sugar,in this recipe or any of yours?

  63. BeBe says: #263

    Hi Cakerjoy, The safest thing to do is sift but sometimes when I am opening a new bag (and if I know that brand is reliable for not having lumps) I do not sift. I always sift the powdered sugar from a previously opened bag.

  64. Nora says: #264

    Hi Bebe!

    I’m living in a humid country, the temp can hit up to 95 deg. Is this frosting suitable for an outdoor wedding cake? Should i substitute any ingredients?

  65. amber says: #265

    instead of using butter flavoring what if I use all butter flavored Crisco?

  66. Melissa Diamond says: #266

    @Nora, I’m sorry that we didn’t see your question earlier! While this recipe is more heat stable, even an all shortening based frosting will suffer in extremely hot conditions. It’s best to keep frosted cakes out of the heat of the day–at least, keep them indoors until absolutely necessary, and out of the direct heat of the sun.

    @Amber- I’ve never tried it with butter-flavored Crisco but it seems that it would work fine! I imagine that it would have slightly yellowish tint though with the additional coloring in the butter flavored crisco.

  67. Julie Brown says: #267

    When using this recipe or the other buttercream recipe, they both call for milk. If using milk Can I leave the cake out, or should it be refrigerated? It’s close to 95 degrees here in the northeast mountains of Georgia and I don’t want the icing to spoil if it’s too hot

  68. BeBe says: #268

    Hi Julie, If you are serving the cake outside, I would keep refrigerated until about 1 hour, keeping it inside until just before serving outside. The amount of sugar in the recipe keeps the buttercream from spoiling, but 95 degrees is just too hot. We think it is best if eaten within 3 days in a normal air conditioned home. It is also fine to refrigerate the completed cake, letting it come back to room temperature before serving.

  69. Julie Brown says: #269

    I used the fluffy buttercream recipe yesterday on my granddaughters watermelon cake. The tutorial is on your site. When I made the buttercream it was very stiff, so I added extra milk. I believe this made it softer and runny. Could the temperature inside the house (78) have played a part in it being softer than normal? It didn’t crust and I even refrigerated it before using.
    The ruffles just mushed together and were wet looking.
    Everyone loved the decoration of the watermelon and loved the buttercream icing. I just wasn’t happy and thought I could have done a better job.
    Thank you both for doing this for us starting out in cake decorating. I am a hands on person, and watching the videos have helped me tremendously.

  70. BeBe says: #270

    Hi Julie, I am sorry you had a problem. I don’t think the temperature of 78 degrees was a problem. You were correct to add additional milk if the buttercream was too stiff. The milk should be added a teaspoon at a time because a small amount of liquid can soften up the buttercream quickly. In the future, if the buttercream consistency becomes too soft, just add additional powdered sugar to get back to a consistency you like. Also, a crusting buttercream such as this one will not crust ( or will take forever to do so) if the cake is cold when frosted. The cake should be room temperature before the final coat of buttercream. Hope this helps. You are just starting out so please be too hard on yourself.

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