The only thing that can make a delicious cake or cupcake recipe even more delicious is the perfect frosting. American buttercream is a fantastic option! It has great texture and flavor and can be (quite literally) the icing on any cake you prepare in your kitchen. 

Not sure how to make American buttercream? Now is the perfect time to learn. Keep scrolling for more information about American buttercream frosting, troubleshooting tips for first-timers, and an easy American buttercream recipe to add to your baking rotation. 

What Is American Buttercream?

If you don’t have a lot of personal experience preparing cakes, cupcakes, and frosting on your own, you may not be familiar with the multiple types of frosting out there. In fact, you might just assume that all frostings are basically similar (and similarly delicious). But that’s not exactly true! There are multiple varieties of frosting, and each one differs in taste, texture, and preparation. Certain frostings may go better with specific types of cake or cake flavors.

American buttercream icing is one of the best-loved types of frosting. It’s known for being creamy, fluffy, and extremely sweet. Thanks to its high butter content, the texture is a bit firmer than other buttercreams. It typically has an ivory color. 

One of the best things about American buttercream is that it’s incredibly easy to make. There are only a few ingredients, and you should be able to master the technique with just a little bit of practice. 

In terms of ingredients, American buttercream frosting is primarily made of butter and sugar. What is the best flavor to add to American buttercream? Vanilla! It pairs well with the consistency of the frosting and will taste perfectly with almost any cake. You’ll get all of the details about an American buttercream frosting recipe below. 

In the meantime, let’s do a quick compare and contrast between American buttercream and one of the more popular alternatives—French buttercream. 

Practice Your Buttercream Technique

Master Buttercream Frostings

American vs. French Buttercream

One of the primary differences when it comes to French buttercream vs American buttercream is consistency. The texture of French buttercream is similar to custard or pastry cream, while American buttercream is thicker and fluffier. It’s also not as sweet as American buttercream frosting, so many people use it as a compliment for a rich chocolate cake recipe

Unlike American buttercream, French buttercream is made using egg yolks, so it’s also more yellow in color. 

How to Make Buttercream

Let’s get into the recipe! Once your cake is ready to go, try making this American buttercream frosting to go with it. This tutorial will walk you through all of the steps in greater detail.

All you’ll need to make the icing is:

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract 

If you opt for unsalted butter, you’ll also want to have a pinch of salt on hand. 

A stand mixer will go a long way toward helping you make the frosting, but if you don’t have one, you can also use a spatula and some elbow grease. 

Step 1: Mix the Butter 

american buttercream
Soften the butter before you add the rest of the ingredients.

The butter needs to be softened before it can be mixed with other ingredients. If time allows, let the butter sit outside of the refrigerator to reach room temperature before you begin. 

If you’re using a stand mixer, start it at a slow speed and move it slowly to a medium speed as the butter is mixed and softened. Let it mix for a few minutes until it has a soft, whipped consistency that’s easier to pull a spatula through. If you’re using a spatula, this step may take a bit longer.

Using unsalted butter? Add a pinch of salt before moving on. 

Step 2: Add Powdered Sugar and Vanilla

american buttercream
It’s time to sweeten things up! 

Once the butter has reached the proper consistency, add the powdered sugar and vanilla. When using a stand mixer, it’s best to add the powdered sugar gradually to minimize the mess and allow the ingredients to mix as evenly as possible. 

Mix the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla together at a slow speed. Once the mixture looks even and soft, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and let it mix for a bit longer.

American Buttercream FAQs

Here are a few common complaints that people have about American buttercream, along with some tips to help correct them.

I want to know how to fix grainy buttercream…

American buttercream tends to have a grainy texture when made with powdered sugar that comes from beet sugar. If you’ve had issues with grainy buttercream in the past, make sure you check the label next time you purchase powdered sugar to be sure that the product is made with cane sugar. 

You can also add water, milk, or cream to smooth out a grainy texture. You might also consider letting the buttercream rest for a few hours or overnight. Resting it has been known to soften the sugar granules that make icing grainy. 

I want to know how to make buttercream less sweet… 

If you like the texture of American buttercream but find the flavor just a little too sugary, add a pinch of salt and lemon juice to cut the sweetness. 

Learn How to Decorate With Frosting

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Written by:

Alli Hoff Kosik