Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

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This delicious Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is crusting recipe that is perfect for cake decorating! This American Buttercream is similar to our  Classic Vanilla Buttercream recipe, however, it has a lighter, fluffier texture due to the shortening in the recipe.

  • What is a crusting buttercream? As the name suggests, crusting frostings like this one develop a very thin crust when exposed to air. In as little as 5-10 minutes, a cake frosted in a crusting buttercream can be lightly touched without removing any of the frosting. Beneath that thin layer, the frosting remains soft.


  • Many cake decorators love to use the "Viva Paper Towel method" of smoothing when working with crusting buttercreams. Simply frost the cake, sweep around the sides and top with your spatula (or bench scraper) of choice, and then allow it to sit for a few minutes before smoothing over it with a paper towel. 


  • (Viva brand paper towels are a popular choice for this paper towel method of smoothing because it has no quilting or impressions.) 



Helpful Hints 

  • This Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream frosting contains both butter and shortening. Because of the shortening, it is slightly more heat resistant than an all-butter frosting recipe, and it is lighter in color than an all-butter buttercream recipe.


  • If heat is more of a concern, you could switch to an all shortening (no butter) frosting recipe like this one: High Ratio Frosting. All frostings will melt if the weather is hot enough, but shortening certainly is more resistant than butter.


  • If you are looking for a crusting frosting that does not contain any shortening, we love our Classic Vanilla Buttercream recipe also. You can find it here!: Classic Vanilla Buttercream.


  • We often use clear vanilla in our buttercream frosting recipes because real vanilla gives vanilla buttercream more of an off-white or ivory color. However, this may not bother you! It simply comes down to personal preference or the design of your cake. 

Does Brand of Confectioners Sugar Matter? 

** Important note about the sugar: We’ve had great results with Domino’s confectioners sugar and US Sugar (we buy ours from Costco). Some brands of confectioners sugar don’t work as well with buttercream frosting recipes.  If a package doesn’t say pure cane sugar, it contains beet sugar which is more likely to give you a grainy outcome.

In addition to that, we’ve noticed that even some brands that say “Pure Cane Sugar” will give a grainy consistency. So frustrating! One example is Dixie Crystals (although it used to work great for us a few years ago.) Something has changed…it’s a mystery. Anyway, this recipe should not be grainy, and so if it is, experiment with a different brand of confectioners sugar.


Delicious Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe by MyCakeSchool.com. The shortening in the recipe makes it a bit more warm-weather friendly! Perfect for piping! MyCakeSchool.com


Fabulous Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream Recipe by MyCakeSchool.com. This recipe pipes beautifully and crusts for easy smoothing. My Cake School.

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This fluffy vanilla buttercream recipe is perfect for piping and works great with the viva paper towel method! Good flavor, and contains shortening which makes is a bit more heat resistant.
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  • 2 lbs. confectioners' sugar 910 g
  • ½ cup 1 stick (113 g ) unsalted butter softened (soften on countertop rather than microwave for best results)
  • 1 ½ 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
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon butter flavoring if you are leaving out the butter and using all shortening
  • ¼ teaspoons lemon or almond extract 1 g OPTIONAL
  • ¼ cup milk 57 g any milk is fine but I like milk with higher fat content. You could substitute water too (See below)
  • ½ teaspoon salt to cut the sweetness. We use popcorn salt because of its fine grain. If using table salt you can dissolve it in the milk before adding.


  • Cream butter, shortening , salt 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 a high ratio shortening (such as CK or Sweetex brand) I decrease the shortening amount to 1 ¼ cups (236 g.) and increase the milk, ¼ 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 with a simple swirl using a 2D tip)

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  1. @Judy- Glad that you made the marble cake! The frosting does crust nicely but if the doll pushes past that very thin top layer of crusted frosting, the frosting beneath that layer will still be soft. Also, placing a doll on top could work, but it will make impressions in the frosting (even if the frosting is crusted). I hope this answers your question!

  2. Can you give me an update on the best confectioners sugar you use? I have been using dixie crystals because everytime I got domino's, it seemed to have clumped up in my container. I used to use Domino's but then switched back to dixie crystals only because it didn't clump up so much in my container.

  3. Hi Tisha, We most often use the U.S. brand pure cane sugar from Costco. We also like Domino's confectioners sugar. We once liked liked Dixie Crystals, but have not used in in several years. Their package says pure cane sugar but they must have change their formulation to use more of a non caking agent because it began giving our buttercream a gritty mouth feel. Gritty buttercream happens when using beet sugar instead of cane sugar. We always sift our confectioners sugar just to be sure there are no clumps. You can sometimes skip the sifting if you are using a new plastic bag of sugar.

  4. Hi Melissa. I’m trying your fluffy buttercream recipe for the first time. I assume the crisco, butter and extract ingredients will only take a minute or two to mix into a non lumpy creamy consistency as opposed to the several minutes at med high to cream just butter until it lightens in color. I need to confirm that Once the sugar and milk are combined I mix at medium speed for 8 mins and then on low for an additional 2
    Minutes which would be 10 mins of mixing.
    if I want to add food gel ( already knowing how much to use to get the desired color) does it matter if I add it right after the milk? Or would it be better to add during 8 min mixing?

  5. Thought I'd ask with a more direct question. How long does it usually take for you to cream together the butter, crisco, salt and extracts?
    Its a couple of minutes for just butter.

  6. Hello, I am making a flag cake with red white and blue layers of cake. Can I use this frosting to crumb coat before I pipe rosettes on the cake? Also, should I freeze the cake layers first, and then assemble cake and crumb coat? Or is this a bad idea? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Laura, yes you can use this frosting for a crumb coat, final coat, filling, etc.

      We often freeze our cake layers and then assemble while they are still cold or partially frozen- they are less fragile that way. It's up to you! But the frosting will be fine for that.

      The only time that you wouldn't want to frost semi-frozen cake layers is if you were planning to do the Viva paper towel method of smoothing (where you smooth over the crusted frosting). The slight bit of condensation that forms prevents the frosting from crusting as usual- or at least it takes a lot longer to crust. It sounds like you are doing rosettes though and so no problem! ;0)

  7. Hi I'm wondering if I can use dairy free butter and dairy free milk for this recipe.
    Also, if I wanted to make this a chocolate buttercream could I use cocoa powder?
    Thanks for your help.

  8. Have you guys ever tried using an unflavored non-dairy creamer (like CoffeMate) instead of milk or water? If so, how did you like it? If not, is there a reason why?

    1. Hi Suzanne- I've heard of people using creamer for the liquid frosting recipes with good results-- if we've tried it, it was many years ago! I don't really have a memory of it. If you give it a try, let us know what you think!