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Recipes: Basic Buttercream Icing

Today I wanted to share a basic and very dynamic buttercream recipe I have. I tweak this recipe to include different flavors such as tiramisu and orange. Food coloring can also be added for any festive needs. Buttercream icing is so versatile. I use it to coat cakes, cupcakes and cookies. It is also a great filling for macaroons and other pastries. I often will use a box cake mix and snazz-up the cake or cupcakes using this recipe to create a fun frosting.

This recipe will make about 3 cups of icing. This is enough for 2 dozen cupcakes. To coat a 2-tiered 9 inch round cake double this recipe, or even tripe it if you are feeling generous. The key to buttercream is keeping it cool. If you fear it is getting to warm and melting, place it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so between the steps.

You'll see my cost estimate excludes additions and flavorings. These will be the most expensive ingredient for the recipe. Extracts can cost anywhere from $5 to $15 per 2 oz bottle. A bottle of extract will last me about 10 recipes.

Pre Recipe Tips:
- I add the extract on top of the powdered sugar before mixing so that the extract can absorb into the powdered sugar before mixing with the butter. I have added the extract to the butter and sugar mix and accidentally split my icing. When an icing "splits" the fat and water in the mixture separate causing a grainy and lumpy icing that is not smooth or pretty in any light.
- Buttercream can be very temperature sensitive, if your kitchen is very hot I would recommend hand mixing it with a rubber spatula. This is not as hard as it sounds I promise.
- When adding in special flavors, colors or toppings (ex. nuts, cookie bits), Mix them in by hand and taste as you mix in additions. My rule is to stop adding when you think you need a little bit more, this is because it can take some time for the flavors to develop through the icing.

Basic Buttercream Icing

Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
# Servings: 3 cups of icing
Cost: ~ $10 (excluding flavoring)

2 sticks (1 cup) of salted butter at room temperature (left out the night before)
4 leveled cups of powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

The mixing required for this recipe can be done by hand with a rubber spatula or using a whisk and medium bowl or using the whisk attachment in a stand mixer. This icing is firm enough that it can be applied with a butter knife or any pipping tip and bag desired.

1. In the bowl, beat and fluff the butter, on medium speed, until it is smooth and evenly layered on the sides of the bowl.
2. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar then mix the sugar in slowly to incorporate. Once the first cup of sugar is mixed in repeat with an additional cup of powdered sugar. Salt can also be added at this time.
3. Add 1 more cup of powdered sugar. Before mixing the powdered sugar in, add the flavoring extracts on top of the cup of powdered sugar. Mix slowly to incorporate.
4. Place the mixer on medium to high speed, in this stage we add the last cup of sugar slowly as the body is built up in the icing. Add the last cup of sugar, 1 heaping tablespoon at a time while mixing on medium high speed.
5. After the last spoon of sugar is added beat the icing on high for an additional 10 seconds.
6. Gently hand mix in any solid toppings such as chips or nuts 
7. Place your icing into a piping bag, if desired, and into the fridge for about 5 to 10 minutes to firm up if needed. 
If leaving the icing in the fridge for more than 20 minutes it may become too stiff to use. If this happens leave at room temperature for 20 minutes or so, depending on the quantity of the icing. If the icing needs to be stiffer or softer pay with room temperature or the fridge. I would not recommend applying direct heat to the buttercream.

I hope you have as much fun customizing this recipe as I do! See below for the link to download the recipe. Thanks for reading!

Click here to Download the Recipe via Google Docs


  1. Thank you for sharing this recipe. This is one of the best cooking blogs I've come across recently. Looking forward to try this recipe. Great job for publishing such a nice article. Chocolate Fountain Hire Wolverhampton


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