This is the perfect small-batch vanilla frosting recipe. It’s rich, delicious, and so easy to make.
Another Wednesday, another small-batch frosting recipe. I love sharing these small-batch frosting recipes with you because having an archive of different frosting flavors means that you can mix and match them with my small-batch cupcakes or cookies and make the small-batch dessert of your dreams.
Here on the blog so far, I’ve shared Small-batch Chocolate Frosting, Small-batch Oreo Frosting, and Small-batch Cream Cheese Frosting. This time, it’s classic, perfect Small-batch Vanilla American Buttercream Frosting.
What is American Buttercream Frosting?
American buttercream is a fabulous and convenient frosting that can be made with just a few ingredients, butter, powdered sugar, a little salt, some vanilla, and usually a bit of cream or milk.
Unlike Swiss, French, and Italian meringue buttercreams, American buttercream does not contain eggs, so there is no cooking involved. You just soften some butter, beat it until it is nice and fluffy and then beat in the rest of the ingredients.
From start to finish, it takes less than 5 minutes. I love it for small-batch baking because it’s so simple to make and easy to scale.
It’s also very tasty. This vanilla frosting is rich and buttery and quite sweet, with a smooth texture that crusts just a little.
If you’re looking for a sweet and easy vanilla frosting for sugar cookies, cupcakes (I love it on my Small-batch Vanilla Cupcakes), or maybe a little gingerbread house, this is the frosting you’re looking for.
- Softened butter: Be sure to start with butter that is softened but not melted. Melty butter can give your frosting an unpleasant, greasy texture. When butter is properly softened, you should be able to press an indentation into the stick with your finger, but the butter should still hold its shape around it. I call for unsalted butter in the recipe, but you can use salted butter if that’s what you keep on hand. Simply omit the added salt in the recipe.
- Powdered sugar: You must use powdered sugar for this frosting recipe. You cannot substitute granulated or brown sugar.
- Vanilla extract: For a more luxurious vanilla flavor, you can use vanilla beans or vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract. See the notes in the recipe card for substitution amounts.
- Chocolate frosting: Add 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Chocolate cream cheese frosting: Add 2 ounces of softened cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Cream cheese frosting: Add 2 ounces of softened cream cheese along with the butter.
How much frosting will this make?
The recipe makes ¾ to 1 cup of frosting depending on how much air you beat into it. This is enough vanilla frosting to frost:
- 4 to 6 cupcakes with a piping bag (big swirls)
- Up to 8 cupcakes or cookies with a knife
- The top only of a 7×5-inch or single-layer 6-inch cake
My frosting is too sweet/buttery. What did I do wrong?
You probably didn’t do anything wrong. American buttercream is very sweet and very buttery by design. If that’s not working for you, but you still want to try this style of frosting, make one of my flavored small-batch American buttercreams. The butter flavor and heavy sweetness aren’t quite as in your face when there are other flavors there to off-set them.
Can I reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe?
You can cut it by a little, but not much. Sugar helps provide structure to the frosting, and if you keep cutting sugar, at some point you’re just eating lightly sweetened butter.
Where can I use this frosting?
So glad you asked! My favorite things to use this frosting on are:
- Small-batch Cut-out Sugar Cookies
- Small-batch Frosted Sugar Cookies
- Small-batch Vanilla Cupcakes
- Small-batch Chocolate Cupcakes
More Small-batch Frosting Recipes
- Storage: Store leftover frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Frosting will harden significantly once chilled, so let it come to room temperature on the counter before using. If piping the frosting, re-whip as needed to return the frosting to its fluffy consistency.
- Freezing: American buttercreams freeze extremely well. Store frosting in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before using.
Small-batch Vanilla Frosting
- 4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter* softened
- 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar sifted
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon milk or cream
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract*
- Pinch of salt
- In a medium bowl, beat softened butter until light and fluffy, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of milk or cream, vanilla extract, and salt.
- Beat until smooth. Add up to 2 additional teaspoons of milk until frosting reaches your desired consistency.
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