Classic, Simple American Buttercream
This classic American Buttercream recipe only takes a few minutes to make and is silky smooth and flavorful thanks to butter, heavy cream, vanilla and a touch of almond extract.
If you've been hanging around here for a while, you probably know that I'm fanatic about Italian Meringue Buttercream. No offense to American Buttercream, but Italian Meringue is generally my go-to. However...
There is absolutely, positively a time and place for American Buttercream. Like when you want to make buttercream super duper fast. Italian Meringue Buttercream takes nearly an hour to make. American Buttercream takes about 5 minutes. HUGE advantage.
Also, there are certain cakes that just seem to beg for American Buttercream over every other option. Like Funfetti Cake. I'm not entirely certain why I feel strongly that Funfetti Cake should be frosted with American Buttercream, but I do. Italian Meringue Buttercream feels too fancy and formal for a cake as whimsical as one with sprinkles in the batter.
Here's what I often DO NOT like about American Buttercream: It can be so crazy sweet. Also, it can sometimes be flavorless. This recipe is also quite sweet. (It is frosting, after all.) But, thanks to the addition of heavy cream, it's not as sweet as the American Buttercream's you might be used to.
Also, this recipe for American Buttercream is most definitely not that flavorless waxy stuff we are all way too familiar with. Here's why this buttercream tastes so good...
- Plenty of salt
- A generous amount of vanilla PLUS a touch of almond extract (optional, but recommended)
- Use heavy cream instead of milk
Cream instead of milk.
Using heavy whipping cream instead of milk and beating it for several minutes is the secret to super fluffy, silky smooth buttercream. The reason is simple: Beating cream allows you to incorporate some air into the buttercream.
Anyone who's ever made whipped cream knows how this works. You can beat milk all day long and you'll never end up with airy, fluffy, whipped milk.
Using cream instead of milk does something else you might not expect - it makes the buttercream less sweet. Again, this is because of cream's ability to trap some air in there. Airy buttercream with a high fat content will not only taste less sweet, it will allow you to incorporate slightly less sugar than if you use milk.
Salt, Vanilla, and Almond extract.
Flavor, flavor, and more flavor. Flavor is the entire point of adding salt and flavor extracts to American Buttercream and many recipes, in my opinion, don't contain enough of any of them.
If you've read through other American Buttercream recipes, you might notice that this recipe has more salt than most. In general, I feel that most recipes for sweet things don't contain enough salt to balance the sweetness and bring out the other flavors. But, this is largely a matter of personal taste.
If you're skeptical about adding a whole teaspoon of salt to your buttercream, start with a ½ tsp. Taste, and go from there.
Likewise, I tend to be heavy handed with the vanilla in this buttercream because that's how I like it. If you're not sure you'll want a whole tablespoon of vanilla, start with less, taste, and add as much or as little as you like.
The almond extract is completely optional, but adds a nice subtle element that rounds out the sweeness. Like the salt and vanilla, add as much or as little as you like.
The one exception to all-butter buttercream. How to keep buttercream from melting...
I am pretty much an all-butter-all-the-time buttercream baker because butter tastes better. (How's that for a tongue twister?)
You know that grocery store buttercream that tastes like sugar and wax? That's because it's made with shortening. Or something like shortening. (Probably we don't want to know what it's really made from.)
Shortening scores a big zero in the flavor department while butter is delicious. There is one big exception to this rule: When you know your cake is going to have to spend some time in very high heat and humidity.
Replacing half the butter with shortening will help keep the buttercream from melting - within reason. Regardless of how much of the butter you replace with shortening, it's going to melt if it's sitting out in direct sun for a couple of hours on a hot day.
On the other hand, using some shortening in the buttercream does make it more stable and less prone to melting than all butter buttercream.
Popular Cake Recipes that are delicious with American Buttercream
More Buttercream Recipes:
- Cream Cheese Buttercream
- Quick Chocolate Buttercream
- Italian Meringue Buttercream
- Apple Cider Buttercream
American Buttercream is a Building Block Recipe
Building block recipes are tried-and-true recipes that I consider foundational to great home baking. They are the kind of recipes I come back to over and over again, sometimes baking them as is, but often using them as a jumping off point to create something new. > Scroll through all Building Block recipes.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
- Add the butter and one cup of the powdered sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low just to blend, then beat on high for 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
- Add the heavy cream and another cup of powdered sugar. Beat on low speed to blend, then on high speed for another two minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
- Add two more cups of powdered sugar and the salt and extracts. Beat on low to combine, then on high for about 1 minute, until the buttercream is completely smooth.
- Check the consistency and beat in more powdered sugar if the buttercream is too thin. Taste, and add more salt, vanilla, or almond extract if desired.
One reader left a comment with a valuable suggestion that I wanted to share (thank you Janice!). Here's what she said:
"One word of caution, I just blindly added all of the ⅓ cup of heavy cream at once which made the frosting very thin and I had to add quite a bit more sugar to get the right consistency. I suggest adding the ⅓ cup of heavy cream 1 Tablespoon at time to get the consistency that you are wanting."
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: ¼ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 177Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 148mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 0gSugar: 27gProtein: 0g