There seems to be two types of people in the world: those who are the frosting people and those who are the cake people, we are the former. It’s the reason we eat cake and cookies.
In our home growing up, it was a race to kitchen for who would lick the beaters clean. If the frosting wasn’t at least the height of the cupcake, you might as well not bother eating it.
Our family uses an EXTREMELY simple recipe for buttercream frosting, consisting of only 4 ingredients (and one optional ingredient which I will talk about): butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (or other extract flavors) and cream.
This frosting has been on the cupcakes at bridal showers, baby showers, memorials, weddings, birthday cakes, holiday cookies and on our just-because-I-felt-like-it baked goods. Let’s get into it.
How to make the best buttercream frosting:
- 2 sticks room temperature salted butter
- 4 cups or 1 lb powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
- 1-4 tablespoons half & half, milk or heavy cream
- Electric mixer
- Measuring cups
- Rubber spatula
Step 1: Put your room temperature butter into the mixer. Start the mixer on low and work up to a high speed. Mix your butter for a couple of minutes until you see it lighten into a very pale yellow and look slightly fluffier. Working air into the butter and making sure it is super creamy ensures a delicious result!
Step 2: Sift your powder sugar directly into your bowl of butter. Start on a very low speed so that you don’t create a sugar cloud that coats your kitchen. I like to throw a clean dish towel over my mixer to trap the sugar. Once the sugar is incorporated, turn your mix-speed up and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Step 3: Add your vanilla extract. Beat until incorporated. Test how thick your frosting is. You usually will need to add in some half & half until it is the desired consistency. Add the cream 1 tablespoon at a time, beating in-between to make sure you don’t make your frosting too thin.
Tip: If you want a sturdier buttercream for decorating, you can substitute 1 stick of butter for ½ cup of Crisco. This does impact the flavor of the frosting noticeably. I like to add extra vanilla when I do this. But the frosting has more structure if there is Crisco in it.
To make a chocolate buttercream, follow the instructions above, but before adding any cream to your sugar and butter mixture, you need to make a mixture of ⅓ cup cocoa powder and 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil that you will drizzle into your butter and sugar mixture. Before mixing the cocoa and oil mixture into your frosting, ensure that all of the cocoa powder is completely dissolved into the oil. Mix this on high and add any cream if needed to thin out the frosting.
Another option is to make a cream cheese buttercream by substituting one stick of butter for half a block (4 oz) of cream cheese. This is delicious on carrot cakes, pumpkin flavored cakes, chocolate cakes…pretty much any kind of cake!
One of my favorite versions of this frosting is simply adding some peppermint extract and using this on top of brownies or chocolate cookies. Below is a box brownie that I baked in a spring-form pan, and topped with a load of peppermint buttercream and finished off with a glossy layer or ganache. This is decadent, beautiful, delicious and EASY to throw together for a holiday event!
How to make the best chocolate ganache:
- About 1 ⅓ cups chocolate chips
- 1 cup heavy cream
Heat your cream in the microwave until scalding hot. The time varies for everyone’s microwaves, but heat the cream in 30 second increments until it is almost too hot to touch.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips. Stir continuously until you get a glossy ganache.
If you plan to pour the ganache onto the top of something, as I did with the brownies, do this while it is still warm. As the ganache cools, it becomes stiff. You can pipe the ganache when it is cooled down, if you choose.
Buttercream ingredients are a staple in our house and our mom and grandma’s houses. Topping off some cookies, cakes or brownies with buttercream will make your dessert next level!