Hi! Welcome to my blog. I am a major foodie, with a haphazard cooking philosophy, currently making that transition from cooking and baking for friends and family to 'wonder if I could make this my career'. Follow me for recipes, the outcomes of a few experiments, and general lovely foodiness. Opinions, reviews and recommendations are all my own.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

How To Make The Perfect Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream is a perfect accessory to any cake or bake, due to it's versatility when it comes to colouring and flavouring it. There are several variations of buttercream, from a simple butter and sugar mix, to the more complex and delicate meringue based buttercreams, which use various methods of mixing beaten egg whites with sugar or sugar syrup, then beating in the butter. These are known as Italian, Swiss and French meringue buttercreams, and each has a slightly different preparation method to create a slightly different taste and texture. 

This post however is about the most commonly found buttercream recipe in English dishes. It is made up of butter and icing sugar, generally in a 1:2 parts ratio, and can be used to decorate cupcakes, fill and cover cakes, or form the integral layer between a cake and its fondant covering. The recipe is simple enough, but I believe there is a knack to the preparation of buttercream in order to turn it from sickly sweet butter, into a smooth, light, creamy cake topping. A smooth, well prepared buttercream will be easy to pipe, without leaving raggedy edges and air bubbles. 

Vanilla Cupcakes with a pure Vanilla Buttercream

The ingredients here make enough buttercream to top six large cupcakes, or fill and top an eight inch cake. The basic ratio is one part butter to two parts icing sugar, so you can multiply up these quantities as much as you need to for your bake. 


100 grams good quality unsalted butter
200 grams icing sugar
a little milk


Buttercream can be coloured and/ or flavoured to suit the overall look and taste of your cakes and cupcakes. 

A selection of cakes and cupcakes I have decorated with buttercream

Flavouring your buttercream should be done around halfway through the process. You can add a dash of an extract, such as vanilla, rose water, peppermint, or lavender. For a more citrus flavour, grate the zest of an orange, lemon or lime into the mixture, or for a chocolate buttercream, swap out some of the icing sugar for a high quality cocoa powder such as Green and Blacks. You can flavour buttercream even with liquids, such as champagne or coffee. The important thing to remember if you are adding a liquid is to increase the quantity of icing sugar by double the volume of the liquid, so as not to alter the final consistency, and to incorporate them gently so as not to curdle or split the buttercream. 

Equally you can colour buttercream in any shade you should wish. It will naturally be a slightly off-white colour, however if you prepare it well, it will be as good as white to the eye. When using food colouring, always try to use a gel based colour, as they will not alter the consistency of your buttercream. If you do use a liquid food colour, remember to add an extra tablespoon of icing sugar to balance out the additional liquid. 


Sift the icing sugar well into a bowl and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, add the butter roughly chopped into several chunks. Use a good quality unsalted butter here, as you will get a far superior flavour to using a spread containing vegetable oils. I always cook with salted butter, however to keep the lightness use unsalted here, plus you don't get the salt taste interfering with any additional flavour you add. I always use Lurpak for my buttercream, as I trust the taste, and it's lighter colour allows you to get an almost white buttercream. 

Now, take a hand whisk, and beat the butter for a minute...

...and another minute - can you see it getting lighter in colour? ...

...and one more - it should now have the appearance of whipped double cream, and be almost white...

Now we start to add the icing sugar. Retrieve the bowl of sifted icing sugar you set aside earlier. Now add the icing sugar two tablespoons at a time. Any more than this, and you will be engulfed in a white cloud of sugar as soon as you turn your whisk on!

Keep going now, adding a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar, beating until combined, and then adding a little more. About halfway through the icing sugar, add your flavouring if you are using one, this makes sure it gets fully combined through the buttercream.

Continue with the icing sugar until it has all been used. As you add more and more sugar, the mixture will start to thicken and get stiffer. By the time you have added all the icing sugar, the mixture may have formed a texture similar in appearance to scrambled eggs...

... carefully add a teaspoon of milk, and beat well. This is usually enough to bring the mixture back to the perfect piping consistency. If needed, add a second teaspoon of milk, but be careful as too much and the mixture may start to curdle. Your buttercream should now look like this...

If you are adding a colour to the buttercream, do it at this stage. Any earlier, and you risk diluting the colour as you add more icing sugar. Adding the colour to the finished product allows you to get exactly the right shade for your cake or cupcakes. 

Now you are ready to ice your cake. If you are planning to pipe the buttercream, prepare your piping bag and tip. Open the top of the bag wide, and fold over a good third of the bag. Use a mug or jug as a holder for your bag so you still have the use of both hands. 

Spoon the buttercream into the bag one spoonful at a time, each time, push the buttercream down into the bag, and use the side to scrape the spoon clean. Try to keep pushing more buttercream down into the bag to avoid creating any pockets of air in the bag that will affect the flow when piping. 

And now you are ready to pipe! Enjoy!


  1. Oh, this is perfect! Will absolutely try out making one this weekend. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks and good luck! Let me know how you get on with it! :-)

  2. Some great tips and lovely piping. Great reference post! :)

    1. Thanks Sue! It's just always such an after thought in recipes isn't it? And there is a knack to getting it perfect :-) hope it helps people x

  3. Hey vic,lovely informative post and comes a great time...confession time.....I have never made a successful vanilla buttercream! it has always comes out runny.
    I think its because i never use unsalted butter!(I know dnt scald me...I use flora!) I guess the unsalted butter is firmer and better suited to making buttercream. I shall now try again with lurpack and will hopefully get the results i'm after. x

    1. Hey sweetie, it took me a while to work it out - recipes always seem to skip over how to make it. Trust me, a good quality pure butter makes all the difference, a spread has additional things such as vegetable oil in which disturb the balance, which is why you might be getting a runnier mix following the quantities a recipe. Flora and Stork are great for baking with, but not so great for making frosting. Hope this way works out for you, let me know how you get on :-)x

    2. I did it I did it!!! Officially made successful buttercream yeah! I made strawberry buttercream seriously yum
      (if I do say so myself)
      will put them up soon

    3. Hurray! I'm so pleased! What did you put in to flavour it strawberry?? Can't wait to see the post x

    4. thanks! I used a strawberry puree...squashed some though my sieve

  4. Great tutorial post! I have learnt some good tips from this!

    1. Thanks Kat, I follow so many brilliant bakers that I worry about stating the obvious sometimes, but this is something it took me ages to get right and really wanted to share :-) I'm so glad people are finding it useful :-) xx

  5. This is really useful thankyou! Your butterfly cake is awesome btw!

  6. Hi, every time I make buttercream it seems to melt on my cupcake and doesn't hold its shape, what am I doing wrong? ? Cupcakes are cold when piping on them.

    1. Are you using real butter or a spread or margarine? Spreads tend to have an oil or water content that can affect the consistency of the buttercream. If possible try to use real butter and follow the method above and it will work fine. If you are using a spread, you may need to increase the quantity of icing sugar to counteract the additional wetness. As a rule, keep adding the icing sugar until you have a consistency that holds its shape in the bowl, before trying to pipe with it.


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