Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream frosting is probably the most commonly used frosting out there, mainly because it is extremely versatile and pretty simple to make.  If you start with a vanilla base, you can add extracts, melted chocolate, frozen lemonade, mashed fruit, and even maple syrup to customize the flavor to you or your client’s liking.  My most common requests have been for the classics – vanilla and chocolate.  I recently made a batch for the cake I made for my family to celebrate Father’s Day so I even have some pictures to share.  Here’s the recipe:

You will need:

3 sticks unsalted butter

2 – 2 1/2 32oz bags of powdered sugar (depending on how stiff you want it)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

about 3/4 c of milk or heavy cream

This recipe yields about 7 cups.  Depending on how you plan to decorate, this should be plenty for a 8″ round, three layer cake.

**I recommend at the very least an electric hand mixer, if not a stand mixer.  There’s a lot of beating involved!

*** A note about the butter:  be sure it is UNsalted! If you use salted butter, it will taste different!  If all you have is salted or you bought it by accident, simply omit the addition of the 1/4 teaspoon of salt or you will have super salty frosting!

All Ingredients

First things first, lay out all of your ingredients to make sure you’ve got everything you need.  Luckily, the recipe does not have all that many to keep track of.  I also recommend leaving your butter out on the counter about a 1/2 hour before you’re going to use it to let it soften up a bit, although you can just microwave it if you forget to take it out ahead of time or it needs a little help.

Directions:

1. Place the sticks of butter onto a microwave safe plate.  Pop the butter in there for 15 second intervals.  The butter is soft enough when you can press your finger into it and it leaves in indent, but it doesn’t totally implode at your touch.  If you happen to melt your butter by accident, stick in the fridge for a couple of minutes to firm up a bit.  You need it to be stiff enough to whip up.  Add the butter into your mixer and begin whipping until it is light and fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Whipping the Butter2. Once the butter has whipped up, begin adding powdered sugar.  I recommend sifting the sugar before adding it to the butter.  Most lumps will come out while you beat it, but I think it combines better with the butter when it is sifted first.  I use my Bushia’s old school sifter.  Every time I use it, I remember what an amazing woman she was.

Sifting Powdered Sugar3. After you’ve sifted about half of the first bag, add it into the mixer on LOW speed.  Some of the sugar will fly out, but the lower speed helps keep it to a minimum.  After the first addition of powdered sugar, add about a tablespoon of milk with each new addition to help the sugar and butter continue to blend together so your mixer doesn’t work too hard.  You can also use heavy cream in place of milk; I find it creates a silkier texture and a slightly richer flavor.

Adding Sugar

4. After you’ve added the first bag of sugar, start on the next one and add the vanilla extract and salt. NO salt if you’ve got SALTED butter!  This is also the time where you can add the other extracts, fruit, syrup, or melted chocolate.  I don’t recommend adding food coloring until after the desired consistency is reached because adding more sugar will dilute the color.

5. Continue adding more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.  If you want frosting that will hold its shape when piped, a good rule of thumb is to stick your large offset spatula straight up in the center of the frosting without the tip touching the bottom of the bowl.  If the spatula stays put, your frosting is ready.  If not, add more sugar and keep on beating.

6. After you add the color, you’re done!  It does take quite a bit of color to get it good and saturated.  I actually ran out of green food coloring while I was making this frosting so it wasn’t quite as dark as I wanted.  Luckily, with buttercreams, the color always deepens a bit so even if you’re not sure it’s quite dark enough, it will get a little darker by the next day, even after you put it on the cake.

Final Consistency

The frosting is ready to use as is.  Keep it in an airtight container on the counter out of direct sunlight.  Has a shelf life of about a week to ten days.  You can make it ahead and freeze it or stick it in the fridge if you’re worried about it being too hot in your house.  However, just make sure it comes completely to room temperature before you use it.  DO NOT MICROWAVE!  You will melt the butter and ruin your frosting!  You must have patience; leave it out a whole day or two before you want to use it.  After it warms up, re-beat the frosting to fluff it up to the right consistency again.

Voila!  Classic Vanilla Buttercream.  It’s not super sugary (despite the huge amount of sugar, weird huh?) and it tastes 10 million times better than the stuff that comes out of the can or the store bakery.  Give it a shot!  It’s pretty much impossible to mess up.

Go on!  Get your aprons dirty!  I want to see some powdered sugar hand prints on the fronts of those things!

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