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.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using them. There is absolutely no additional cost to you.
This was perfect. Woke up this morning and realized i needed a cupcake for my daughter for her party at school. She cant eat the ones at school due to allergies. Had the cupcake in the freezer bur no frosting. This saved the day!
This makes me so happy to hear! Thank you!
This buttercream frosting recipe is sooooooooooo good. i was making cupcakes for my sister and she loved it !!!!!
Sooooooooo happy to hear, Carrie! 😉 Thanks for reporting back!
Lana Kuhn says
this buttercream does not work i did the exact same things in the recipe and it tastes and looks like butter my daughters don’t like it very much
Hi, Lana. So sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy the frosting! I’m not sure what you meant by the buttercream doesn’t work, but if it was that the frosting didn’t come together to look like the frosting in the photos, your butter might have been too soft or not soft enough at the start. You can see the Recipe Tips section of the post for more info, but butter temperature is really important for the texture of the frosting.
If it was just that the frosting was too buttery tasting, I’d recommend next time trying a different type of buttercream that uses eggs, like French or Italian Buttercream. American Buttercreams, which are made with just sugar and butter, are pretty buttery (and very sweet) and some people really don’t care for that. Hope that helps!
Absolutely delicious! I made a 6 cup chocolate bundt cake yesterday and wanted a frosting for it instead of the usual drizzle. The amount of frosting yielded by the recipe was perfect for spreading on top and sides. This frosting is so good, it was hard to stop eating. The beater was enjoyed immensely. My husband, who is very picky, raved about it. Thank you for sharing your recipe. This will be the only vanilla frosting I use from now on. Looking forward to checking out other small batch recipes on your site as it’s just me and the Mr.
Hi, Beverly. Yay! I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed it!
Do you think this recipe would work well with piping? I am hoping to just do a few flowers and freeze them for a later time but don’t want to make a big batch of frosting! I just found your website last night and I love it. I’ve already tried one of your recipes and it tasted awesome! Thanks for all the hard work you do. It’s very appreciate.
Hi, Holly. Thanks so much! And yes, American buttercreams like this are great for piping. Just make sure when you are adding milk at the end you don’t add too much. You want your frosting on the stiffer side so it holds its shape.
Do you have a simple strawberry frosting recipe? These look like absolutely delicious recipes!! Thanks so much for posting these. I cannot wait to try them ALL!
Hi, Kristina. Thank you! I don’t have a strawberry frosting recipe on the site yet, but it’s on my list. Hopefully within the next month or so…
Hey Kristina, use some strawberry milk syrup instead of vanilla extract. That’s what my Mom used to do and so do I.
Love this idea. Thanks, Tina!
Elliana Dailey says
Ohhhhhh my gosh. This was so, SO, SO amazing!! Though it didn’t make as much as I was expecting, it was still delicious
Yay! So glad you enjoyed it.
This was perfect! So glad I came across your recipe as I was hoping to find an alternative to constantly buying frosting. So excited to now be able to make it myself!!!
Thanks, Missy! I’m so happy you enjoyed it!
I made this earlier but it was a bit too sweet. Is there any tweaks to reduce the sweetness?
Hi, Kate, you can try cutting the sugar to 3/4 cup. Any less than that and it gets pretty buttery, texture-wise. Unfortunately American buttercream is really sweet because the sugar helps make up the structure of the frosting. For a less-sweet frosting, you might want to try a cooked frosting where other ingredients like eggs help with the structure. Here’s a good article on different types of buttercreams with recipes to go along with them ( https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/12/buttercreams-frosting-how-to-make-the-best-buttercream-icing-cupcakes-swiss-buttercream-italian-german-styles.html ). I don’t have any small-batch cooked frostings on the site yet, but I’d like to add some in the future. Hope that helps!
Bonnie Williamson says
Does this taste like the store frosting they use in the bakery?
Hi, Bonnie. Not quite. I think most bakery frostings usually use at least some crisco/shortening since it’s more stable/cheaper. You can try substituting some shortening for the butter and see if that gives you the flavor you’re looking for.
Can I do this without an electric mixer? By hand?
You can! Just make sure your butter is room temperature when you start. If the butter’s too cold, you’ll have trouble getting it to mix. It might take a little while to come together, but it will, so just keep whisking it.
Anna Miles says
Can you substitute the butter with vegetable shortening?
Yes. You can also do half butter half shortening if you find you miss that buttery flavor.
It tasted great just that liquid
Glad you enjoyed it, Dominique! What did you mean by liquid?
The frosting us a little yellow but tastes awesome.
So happy you enjoyed it! And, yeah, buttercream made with butter will never be pure white. If you want a snow-white frosting, you can use shortening instead and clear vanilla extract.
Thanks for sharing small batches of frostings.
You’re welcome! 🙂
Amber L says
Thank you so much! You saved the day, Tracy!! I was on a very strict time budget, needed frosting for cake pops, and your recipe was not only the perfect amount, but tastes great!!
A little back story– today is Saturday. From 9-10 kid 3 has a soccer game and directly after has swim lessons. Then, kid 1 and kid 2 have a birthday party. Directly afterwards, we drive out of state for another birthday party, which is the party that the cake pops go to. When I say you saved the day, I mean you saved the day!!!!!!!!
LOL, sounds like you were in total supermom mode this weekend! So happy this recipe could help even a little!
Is it 100 calories per serving? So so good. I ended up adding a little peanut butter.
Hi, Alli. Yes, it’s 100/serving. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and love the idea of adding peanut butter!
I loved this…don’t have to sift pwd. sugar if you put in deep bowl and wisk by hand first. Also, I used Tablespoon cream cheese and mixed almond and vanilla for flavor.
Put on my cherry cake. did thin layor on 9×13
Excellent frosting. Thank you!
Great tip! And love the idea of adding cream cheese and almond extract, especially for a cherry cake. My mouth is watering thinking about it! 😉
Thanks, works well when you don’t want a huge batch because this stuff is high calories!
Too true, Ben. Glad the recipe worked out for you!
Tastes great and just the right amount!
Thanks, Sonja! I’m so happy you enjoyed the frosting!
Wow this worked so well for my cakes. I will never stop using this recipe. Thanks!
Thanks, Trisha!! I’m so happy it worked out for you!
This frosting is fantastic! Perfect for a single layer 8 inch cake. Delicious!
Thanks, Betty! I’m so glad this worked out for your cake!
Adriana Trujillo says
I double the recipe. Used 2 tbsp of milk and didn’t sifted the powder sugar 🙁 It came out runny. How can I fix it?
Hi, Adriana, you can try beating more powdered sugar into the recipe and it should start to firm back up. Hope that helps!
This came out really great. I doubled the recipe to make enough frosting for a double 6 inch cake. It was just the right amount. Initially I softened the butter too much so I put it in fridge to hardened it so that it was just a little soft. I only had salted butter so I used that instead and omitted the pinch of salt of course.
This Is The Second Time Ive Made This Recipe,Being Its Just Me An My Hubs An I Make A 8×8 Wacky Cake An This Is Perfect Amount For The Cake An Its Sooo Much Better Then Bought 2 Thumbs Up! ♥
Thanks, Vivian! I’m so glad you both enjoy it!!
This was amazing, I made it twice in one night. I made it for home made mug cakes and it was perfect!
I recommend this it tastes way better than store bought icing.
So glad you enjoyed it, Clary!!
Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!! My mother and I didn’t have heavy whipping cream so we used this recipe. Came out wonderful!
This is my monthly go to recipe for cupcakes for 2, depression cake no eggs (8×8 pan) and half loaf pan carrot cake ..although for that I add cream cheese. Thank you so much. This recipe rocks! A serious Baker applauds you.
If I wanted to double the recipe, would I add 8 tablespoons of butter, 2 cups of sugar?
Yup, that will work!
Debbie McGlathery says
I have a grandson that will only eat white, white cake and white icing. I had a small white cake recipe and now I have a GREAT white icing recipe. Thanks
So thrilled to hear it, Debbie!
Hayden Renfro says
A wonderful frosting recipe, very tasty and loved how it was so easy to make, definitely recommended for anyone. Can’t wait to see what you have next!! 🙂
Thank you, Hayden!! I’m so happy you enjoyed it!
Was looking for a quick and easy recipe to ice about 10 cupcakes and this was perfect! Finally a homemade icing recipe that my kids actually like (and I didn’t even have any vanilla extract!)
So thrilled to hear the kids enjoyed it!!
Michelle Epstein says
My grandson requested a giant chocolate chip cookie with strawberry frosting for his 8th birthday. I used your recipe and added pulverized freeze dried organic strawberries to the frosting (trying to keep it all organic) and it was so delicious! The tartness of the strawberry was perfect with the sweetness of the frosting. Thank you!
What a wonderful idea! I love this!!
Wanda Meade says
Not even going to pretend I make this for something special. I make this for me..to eat..with a spoon! I love this recipe. I don’t change a thing.
LOL! You go, Wanda!!
thanks for the recipe!
If I want to make it chocolate frosting, what should I do? how much melted chocolate or cocoa powder should I use?
For chocolate frosting, I recommend giving this recipe a try: https://bakingmischief.com/small-batch-chocolate-frosting/
Sarah Gilbert says
I added a couple tablespoons more of softened butter to make it more of a “buttercream” and less sweet and it was perfect! Just the right amount of frosting we needed for our mini-batch of coconut cupcakes.
Does this need to be refrigerated after frosting the cake?
Nope. American buttercreams like this can be kept at room temperature. The only time you need to worry is if it’s really hot and the frosting starts to get too soft and melty.
I absolutely love this frosting recipe! It makes the perfect small batch amount and it’s super creamy and delicious. I’ll definitely use this recipe again!
So happy to hear it, Lana!!
Tiffany Garrick says
Ugh I cannot thank you enough for this recipe. This was so good and simple, considering I only had 1 cup of powdered sugar left.
I used the ingredients and added around 1tbsp of lemon juice to make Lemon frosting.
So bomb. Thank you so much, God bless you and stay safe. <3
So happy it worked out for you, Tiffany!!
DIANA KRITINAR says
YUM! I doubled the recipe and used Fruity Pebbles creamer to make Fruity Pebbles macarons and it turned out amazing! I used half salted and half unsalted butter and omitted the salt, only because that’s all I had on hand! 🙂 WONDERFUL recipe!!! 😀
Fruity Pebbles macarons sound sooooo good!! So glad this frosting worked out for you and got to be a part of something so yummy! 😉
Husband asked for a cake tonight , I live in house that icing goes missing found this and double the recipe it taste amazing. Thanks for saving the night❤️
LOL so glad to help!!
Jhada McKie says
can I make this ahead of time? like make it today and put it on my cheesecake tomorrow when cool instead of making it tomorrow?
Yes. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge and then let it come to room temperature or until it’s spreadable before using on the cake.
I made this for a graduation cake last minute. This was the perfect amount, thanks so much.
So glad it worked out, Robert!!
This was so so good! Thank you for this recipe!
You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Do i have to add vanilla?
I probably wouldn’t skip it. You want to add some flavoring to American buttercreams like this, otherwise the butter flavor can be a little overwhelming.
Linda Manuszak says
My husband wanted a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, but I wanted to write “Happy Birthday” on his cake and give it a more finished look with some white frosting. This was the perfect amount and was DELICIOUS!! Thank you!
Thanks for doing the Math for me! EveryTime I Bake Cookies or whatever Treat My Hubby Always Digs into them before they cool but who doesn’t. When he’s done I finally want to put Frosting but I was left with Extra. This recipe was Perfect!
Lol so happy to help!