In this baking tips post, I will teach you 10 Tips for Making Perfect Buttercream. Follow these tips and I promise you will make the absolute best buttercream, perfect for cakes, cupcakes, or eating with a spoon.
Just like shoes can make or break an outfit, frosting can make or break a cake or cupcakes. To make perfect cakes and cupcakes, you need perfect buttercream. If your buttercream game has struggled, this is the post for you!
Here, I will share with you 10 simple tips and tricks to making the best buttercream frosting. Making the best buttercream frosting is all about the process, and these tips will help you become a buttercream making machine in no time at all!
1. Use room temperature butter
For the butter to whip up well, you want to use room temperature butter. I recommend removing your butter from the refrigerator about an hour before you are going to be making the buttercream. The butter should be slightly soft, but not super mushy.
The best way to see if your butter is ready is the “poke test”. With a clean finger (let’s not be gross), press into the buttercream. You will be able to squish your finger into the butter while it maintains shape.
If you are like me and almost ALWAYS forget to take the butter out of the refrigerator, I use the microwave to help me out. A word of caution – do NOT use this trick if your butter is wrapped in any type of aluminum or other metal-based wrapping.
Place the wrapped butter into the microwave and heat for 5 seconds. Flip the butter on a different side and repeat. Once you have microwaved the butter it on all four sides of the stick of butter, it should be ready to go!
Using room temperature butter allows for easy creaming. The butter will become light, fluffy, and pale in color which is what we are looking to achieve for the perfect buttercream.
2. Use a stand mixer to make perfect buttercream
If you have a stand mixer, I HIGHLY recommend using it to make buttercream. I feel that it makes for a better consistency buttercream, and it also reduces arm fatigue. I’m all about less work!
I love my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. It is an investment, but I have had mine for over a decade and it works perfectly! Any stand mixer will do! You can also use an electric hand mixer with a little bit of elbow grease. My personal observation is that making the buttercream with a stand mixer leads to lighter and fluffier buttercream.
3. Whip the butter before adding powdered sugar
Before adding the powdered sugar, whip your butter for a few minutes. The goal is to whip the butter to be light, fluffy, and pale in color.
By whipping the butter first, we are adding air into the butter. This causes the butter to become a pale yellow color. The butter becomes smooth and creamy which leads to smooth and creamy buttercream frosting.
A little bonus tip! There are a few things you can do to prevent your kitchen from turning into a winter wonderland!
- Add the powdered sugar in two batches, mixing in between. If you add too much powdered sugar all at once it can cause a big POOF of sugar.
- Mix the butter and powdered sugar on the lowest speed – you may want to even “pulse” your mixer until the powdered sugar is mostly incorporated into the butter.
- If you have a mixer shield, use that. If you don’t, throw a tea towel or dish towel over your mixer to prevent the sugar from coating your entire kitchen.
4. Use the best mixer attachment for the type of buttercream you are making
All bakers have their personal preferences for whether to use a paddle attachment or whisk attachment to make buttercream frosting. My perspective is – do what works best for you! Here are my general rules for what attachment to use to make buttercream frosting.
To make American buttercream frosting, I recommend using the paddle attachment. The paddle attachment helps the buttercream whip up without adding excess air to the frosting. This creates a light, yet smooth and creamy frosting.
For emulsified buttercreams, such as Swiss meringue buttercream or ermine buttercream frosting, I recommend using a whisk attachment to make the frosting. The whisk attachment helps create an emulsion between the fat and liquids to make a silky smooth frosting.
To make cream cheese frosting, I prefer to use the whisk attachment. I like to have a light and fluffy cream cheese frosting as opposed to a dense frosting, so the whisk attachment helps to aerate the frosting.
5. Use pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Vanilla extract can be a bit pricey these days. Imitation vanilla extract is a lower cost option that can also be used to flavor the buttercream. My recipe for Vanilla American Buttercream calls for one tablespoon of vanilla extract. That may seem like a lot, but the full tablespoon of vanilla extract makes the buttercream taste like vanilla ice cream.
If you use vanilla bean paste, you will have small flecks of vanilla bean throughout the buttercream. I love the way that looks, but if you prefer to have pure white buttercream, stick with the extract.
6. Use heavy cream to achieve perfect consistency
Adding heavy cream to the buttercream is a KEY step into making the perfect buttercream frosting. Before you add the heavy cream, the buttercream may appear very thick and yellow in color. The heavy cream will create the perfect consistency of light and fluffy buttercream that is a beautiful off-white color.
The heavy cream helps to dissolve the powdered sugar and create a smooth texture. Even thought its “heavy”, it really lightens things up!
You can use any type of dairy that you have on hand. Half & half and milk work great as well! However, I personally find that the heavy cream creates the best texture and consistency of buttercream. You’re eating frosting, you might as well just go for it!
7. Switch to a paddle attachment to smooth out the buttercream
If you are making an emulsified buttercream with a whisk attachment, once the buttercream is made, you can switch to a paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for several minutes to make the buttercream very smooth and creamy. You can also use this trick with American buttercream made with a paddle attachment as well.
Mixing the buttercream on low with the paddle attachment removes the large air bubbles and pockets in the buttercream. Although we want our buttercream to be light and fluffy, we also want it to be smooth and creamy. This helps that process!
Another way to achieve this is to mix the buttercream with a spoon or spatula by hand for a few minutes. I usually do a bit of both to ensure that there are no air bubbles in the buttercream.
The benefit to this extra step is that when you are spreading or piping your frosting, it is smooth and does not have bubbles which cause frosting your cakes or cupcakes to be a bit more difficult and take more time. Promise this will make all the difference!
8. Use gel food coloring to color the buttercream
To color your buttercream, gel food coloring is a MUST!
Gel food coloring is highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way! The color of gel food coloring is rich and bright. Also, the gel does not change the consistency of the buttercream. If you use liquid food coloring, it can cause your buttercream to have a loose consistency. This causes problems with spreading, piping, and maintaining shape.
If you are coloring the whole batch of buttercream, you can add it to the mixing bowl after you have added the heavy cream. Start with a small amount and add more to darken as needed. Be aware that the color of the buttercream will deepen a bit over time.
If you want to make several colors, then divide the finished buttercream into smaller bowls, add the gel food coloring, and mix with a spoon.
9. Add a tiny amount of purple gel food coloring to whiten the buttercream
This tip is OPTIONAL, but if your buttercream is very yellow, it’s a game changer.
Butter is yellow. When we whip the butter to mix in air, the yellow color lightens up a bit. When the remaining ingredients are added, it lightens up a bit more. Although the buttercream gets pretty close to white, it typically is more of an off-white color.
To whiten the buttercream even more, add the TINIEST drop of purple gel food coloring. For all of my blonde buddies out there who know about purple shampoo, purple cancels yellow. The are opposites on the color wheel. The addition of a tiny bit of purple gel food coloring mutes the slight yellow color.
Now when I say TINY, I mean TINY! I recommend using a toothpick to add the smallest amount of purple gel food coloring to the buttercream. You can add a little more if needed, but it is easier to add than to take away.
The best time to add the purple gel food coloring is after the buttercream is fully made, prior to using the paddle attachment to smooth it out. Simply add and mix on medium speed until it is completely dispersed throughout the buttercream.
10. Make the buttercream ahead of time
Buttercream frosting can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks! You can also freeze buttercream for several months.
I love making buttercream a day or two before I am baking cakes or cupcakes. I find it streamlines the process and with my lifestyle, I often have to break down tasks into smaller parts because I am chasing around a three year old and one year old.
Here is the process to make the buttercream perfect for using the day you need it.
- Remove the buttercream from the refrigerator or freezer (1 to 2 hours ahead for refrigerator & 6 hours ahead for freezer). It should be soft and easily mixed with a spoon.
- Once at room temperature, scoop the buttercream into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer.
- Using the paddle attachment, mix the buttercream on medium speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and continue to mix until the buttercream is light, fluffy, and smooth. If you are coloring the whole batch of buttercream, now is the time to add gel food coloring.
- Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and mix for 5 minutes to remove the air bubbles.
The buttercream will be ready to use and as perfect as the day you made it.