Cake Decorating Blog

Stabilizing American Buttercream

American Buttercream, simple buttercream or icing, can be made many different ways using a variety of ingredients. Today I am going to share with you how to make American Buttercream.

buttercream cake

First, there is a huge discussion about which buttercream is best and in many circles American style buttercream is not really considered a buttercream. In my bakery we offer both American Buttercream and Swiss Meringue Buttercream and I have found that my clients are split about 50/50 when it comes to which of these buttercreams they choose for their cake. So for those that prefer American Buttercream, here is Wendy Woo Cake‘s award winning recipe along with a few tips to help stabilize your buttercream. If you’d rather Swiss Meringue Buttercream, enjoy in-depth instruction, including a recipe, in Joshua John Russell’s free Craftsy mini-class Modern Buttercream.

buttercream ingredients

American Buttercream

  • 1 ½ lbs. butter (the real stuff) at room temperature
  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. Meringue Powder

Before getting to the instructions, let’s talk a little bit about butter versus shortening. I prefer to always use real butter because I live and decorate cakes in Central Florida where it is hot and humid most of the year. If you feel more comfortable using shortening, it is definitely an option. If you need perfectly white buttercream, I find it is best to use hi ratio shortening. Crisco has taken all of the trans fats out of their shortening, which is better for your health, but can make the buttercream slightly gritty. Hi ratio shortening holds up better than Crisco and won’t make your frosting gritty, but does contain trans fats. Now we’re ready to begin!

making buttercream 1

Step 1: Cream the butter and vanilla for 1-2 minutes.

Note: While we are creaming the butter, I am going to go out on a limb and confess a small secret: I use salted butter. My grandmother always added salt to her buttercream as it helped take the greasiness away and enhanced the flavor of the butter. Though, I noticed that her buttercream was slightly grainy. So I tried making buttercream with salted butter and discovered that I loved it! The salt is already dissolved in the butter, so you don’t get the graininess and it really does enhance the flavor.

making buttercream 2

Step 2: Add ½ of the powdered sugar and all of the meringue powder. Then mix until incorporated.

Step 3: Add the remaining powdered sugar.

making buttercream 3

Powdered sugar can make a huge mess, so I have found that wrapping a large piece of plastic wrap or a paper towel around the bowl and mixer will help reduce the mess when it is mixing.

Step 4: Beat on high for 6-7 minutes.

Once the first half is added, add the remaining powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. The buttercream will go through a stage where it looks dry and almost curdled, just keep mixing!

making buttercream 4

Do not add milk or whipping cream. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer on high and let it whip for 6-7 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but believe me, you will be glad you did!

Now, while we are waiting for the buttercream to be finished, let’s talk about meringue powder. I have found that adding the meringue powder to my buttercream helps stabilize it and makes for a melt-in-your-mouth texture. I have also discovered that not adding liquid to the buttercream helps it hold its shape.

In the heat and humidity of Florida this recipe has held up well. The other thing I love about butter-based buttercreams is that when they are chilled, the icing becomes cold and hard which makes the cakes much easier to work with, and when at room temperature they are soft and silky.

making buttercream 5

Now we have a creamy, smooth buttercream that will hold up well and tastes delicious!

30 Comments

Aimee

I’ve tried many different versions of American buttercream and keep coming back to this one. It’s my go to recipe. Is there a way to make a chocolate version of this?

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Lisa

This was the most amazing frosting! I put it on my gluten-free chocolate wedding cake and everyone raved over it! It was a wonderful smooth, soft consistency that had just the right amount of sweetness. It was perfect!

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Leigh

What size cake will this recipe cover? I want to fill and cover a 2-tiered 9×13″ cake, plus additional decorations on top… Thank you!

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Candy

Best recipe ever Craftsy has best information and many thanks to the author.

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Nadine

Hi Wendy, I know this is a bit late after this post to be asking but any help would be great. Is there a dairy free alternative, other than shortening, that would work for this “buttercream”?

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Melissa Weiby

I substituted 2 teaspoons of lemon extract for the vanilla. It was TO DIE FOR!!! Thanks for the great recipe!

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Kim

Will this hold up if the cake is sitting out for a number of hours? What about if decorated witht his buttercream, with the flowers hold up if sitting out?

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Sarah D

Yes it will!!! I made a cake for a wedding. Used this recipe. Made the cake, frosted it and let it sit in the fridge over night . Transported the cake an hr in an air conditioned vehicle. The cake sat out in 90° heat with 60% humidity. I didnt have any issues with the frosting melting. The frosting how ever did get very soft . I used artifical flowers on the cake.

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Andrea

Just wanted to give you my praises on this buttercream!!! After weeks of troubles with my previous go to recipe, this is now 100% my go to recipe! I’ve been having terrible air bubbles, sides falling off (I’ve been doing cakes for 8 years and have never had these issues, the humidity and heat are killing me here!!!) this recipe tastes AMAZING! It’s velvety smooth, and goes on like a dream! I’m getting my cakes iced faster! Girl I cannot say enough good about this recipe!!! I bow down to you!

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samina c

Does this buttercream crust? Can I freeze piped flowers?

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Louise

If I may in cups what is 2lbs, as I live in South Africa and am new to baking

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Sandra Rekemeier

1 pound equals 2 cup, I googled measurement and conversion chart. Happy baaking!

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Mia

When using powder sugar appropriately 4 cups is a pound.

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Violeta Villarreal

I live in Mexico, it’s 8 cups or 907 g.

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Mother Dave

3.7 cups per pound of 10 X confectionary sugar.

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Elaine

I can’t find meringue powder in the UK – I can find meringue complete mix from Lakeland but I would suspect this is not the product I need. The only other product I found looks like some kind of protein supplement for muscle building !! any ideas anyone? Please …

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jeany

meringue powder is powdered eggs. just desiccated eggs in powder form.

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Martha

The merengue powder is egg white powder, which is used to make the frosting firmer. You may want to try adding more powdered sugar until you get a nice firm consistency.

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Kimberly

Try amazon or something like that.

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Olivia

Can I make this recipe with a hand mixer? I don’t have a stand mixer. 🙁

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Kuria

I came across this recipe looking for a good frosting to use with my new Russian piping tips. I made half the recipe as a test — you’re one of the few who doesn’t use Crisco/shortening — and ended up frosting cookies with it.

It’s a lovely recipe for cookies as well as cupcakes. I added more confectionery sugar to make a stiffer frosting and it held up well when making grass (regular frosting tip) and flowers (Russian tips).

Thank you!

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Lora

Try popcorn salt it’s finer and will make for smoother frosting. It’s now my go to!

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Heather

Thank you so much for this recipe! I tried it on my granddaughter’s birthday cake this weekend and everyone loved the flavor. It piped and held up beautifully. This buttercream recipe is a game changer!

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Becky

Does it freeze well?

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Anita

Wow. This is a must try for me. Butter is expensive in Nigeria and hard to come by..can margarine be used in its place? Will we get the same result?

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Grace

Godsend!! I used to live in the Mississippi Delta where I had air conditioning. Heat and humidity was never really an issue. If I had to transport frosted items, i just pulled my truck close to the door and left it running with AC on and all was fine. Now I live in the Netherlands where it is moderate most of the time. I have an order for cupcakes and tried to make my roses ahead and simply could not work fast enough to keep my buttercream from melting! Will give this recipe a go!! Fingers crossed!

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Cara

Does this buttercream crust???

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Barbarainnc

Do you use the flat paddle or wire whip to make this frosting?
If there are pictures, they are not showing up on my tablet. 😊

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Catherine

The paddle is used . 😉

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Terrie

I made this today. I used half salted, half unsalted butter because I was worried about it being too salty after some of the comments. It’s delicious. I piped in on chocolate cupcakes. My husband may not like it because its not as sweet as standard buttercream but I love it!

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